A Story of Woe – Postage

I often feel guilty about the rates I charge for postage.  Often I don’t worry about it, but sometimes it is called to my attention, often by customers or potential customers.  Here are two tales of my misery for you to consider.

One day, I got a call from a potential customer from California.  He asked about a small item or two that I offered and asked what the postage would be.  I replied that I ship USPS Priority and I charge a flat rate and that rate to California is $9.

(Note: a peek behind the robes – I use USPS Priority because the boxes are free.  Almost all of my shipping can be accomplished by utilizing these free boxes.  I also use leftover free newspaper for packing material.  I try to keep all my prices reasonable and low cost of supplies helps me to do that.  Back to the story…)

He was shocked.  “well, I can ship things east for about 3 and a half bucks!”  “Yes, but I ship Priority and charge a flat rate.  If you buy those two small items or a pound of rubber, it will cost you $9.  You might pay more today and you might get a bargain next time.”  He would not be soothed.  He retorted “That’s ridiculous! You just lost a $300 order!” and slammed down the phone.   Well, buddy, you didn’t say you had a $300 order, but if you had, it would have shipped for $9.  That was earlier this year.

The second story – I guess this happened this week.  Today, I got sucked down the internet rabbit hole.  I almost never go to the RCGroups site – why should I?  Well, it turns out they DO have a Free Flight section.  I was scanning through the subject titles on this FF Forum and saw one “Finally Found Some Rubber”.  Being a distributor of rubber for Free Flight models, I thought I would take a peek.

I will copy the person’s entire post here; I don’t want to misquote or spin this.  But I do know I risk the wrath of customers everywhere sharing this, maybe they feel the same way:

Finally got some decent rubber and need to get my sparky in the air so checked out 2 known FF outfits wanting to buy some come to find out the postage was as much as the item I was wanting. postage rates are bad enuff these days then individuals wanting the rediculas amount for mailing is insult to injury

But did locate an outfit on ebay for a very reasonable price that wont rape ya on postage, so finally have some on the way ”  (pasted just as posted: typos, smilies and all)  (maybe that is why I never go to RCGroups!)

More internal operating details for you to consider, especially if you are thinking of starting a mail order business (that doesn’t include brides).  I subscribe to a postage service, so I get a better price than I can get through the post office.  Even with the reduced rate, the postage you pay me is just barely enough to cover the cost of postage.  You might expect that you should pay exactly what postage costs me.  I could do that, but it would involve weighing each item I sell and annotating its weight in my online store – and I have roughly 400-500 products in my store at any given time.  So flat rate saves me more time.

The average postal charge to me for an order is something like $1-$2 under what I charge you.  Maybe you think that is unfair, but maybe you don’t understand.  The least I get charged is just under $7 for a shipment to Michigan or Ohio (where I only charge $7.50).  I have justified it to myself that that 50 cents or $1 or maybe $2 overcharge covers two things – my time and the charge for heavier packages.

My time.  If I were to hire you to pack my orders, what wage would you expect me to pay you – $1 or $2 a box?  Hmmm…. probably not.  Oh and if you pack up a heavier package, maybe that excess cost comes out of your pay?

Heavy packages.  Did you the Post Office forces Priority Mail on packages over 1 pound?  At least that is what I see in my postal service.  Did you know that a package over 1 pound shipped to California costs me about $10.50 to ship?  And yet, I still only charge you Cali-customers $9.

So heavy packages cost me money, but it is balanced out by the lighter packages that I ship (and I guess my time is free).

As a customer, you get to feel “raped” every time you place an online order.  Me?  I feel like I am forced to abuse my customers several times a day.  But I cannot change it and still provide a service to you.  So I have to swallow my guilt and click the “buy more postage?” button.

I do appreciate every one of my customers that have never even thought to mention the cost of shipping.  It’s a bitter pill for both of us and as long as we understand that the “rediculas amount for mailing” is by far one of the cheapest forms of door-to-door delivery, then the happier we will be.

P.S.  the hardest packages for me to fill are the “1 pound of rubber plus two sheets of tissue” orders.  Think about how you might pack those up so the heavy rubber doesn’t smash the delicate tissue…ugh…

P.P.S.  I am VERY close to releasing one, Two, maybe even THREE new short kits!  That is in addition to the one I already put in the store, but never announced!

P.P.P.S.  There was snow in the air again this morning – will it ever warm up?



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9 Responses to A Story of Woe – Postage

  1. Randy Ryan says:

    I fully undetstand your issue George, I hate the rates but they are what they are, I appreciate you’re efforts to minimize. The best advice I guess I could give is look around for enough stuff you need to make a big order. 9 bucks on a 9 dollar order is 100% shipping, I gag too! But 9 bucks on a 100 dollar order is only 10% shipping.

  2. BOB ISAACKS says:

    The price of a “Forever” stamp just increased to .50 cents, nearly double the previous cost. What will that do to your “fixed” rate packaging??

    • Bredehoft says:

      Hi Bob,

      From the web, the first Forever stamp was issued in 2007 at 41 cents. Now they are 50 cents. I get periodic rate increases. I have absorbed a couple over the past year or so. It is possible the next will cause me to bump my rate by 50 cents or so.

  3. Roy Courtney says:

    Having your stuff delivered to my doorstep in under 3 business days is a bargain compared to a cup of Starbucks or many other items. Your time should not be “free” because you provide hobby stuff. I’m sure most of your regulars really appreciate your service. Carry on!

  4. Mark Fineman says:

    George, you have my sympathies. I’ve been an eBay seller for over 20 years (my eBay ID is Skyboss). What is particularly galling about the cost of shipping is that the big boys get generous rates from the USPS for what they sell, and the Chinese have a rate that usually permits them to ship cheaper than cottage industry sellers here in the USA. That is why certain sellers can offer “free” shipping. Of course it isn’t really free, the cost of shipping is built into the price.

    • Bredehoft says:

      Hi Mark, I just called USPS yesterday about their “Cubic Shipping” business rate. To qualify, a business has to ship 50,000 packages a year!

  5. Mike Keller says:

    Echoing Roy’s comments, the shipping costs what it costs. It is worth the convenience of being able to shop online and have things delivered. I’m sure most of us understand this and try to order things in batches to keep the costs down.
    Thank you so much for the service you provide to the free flight community!

  6. Lincoln says:

    I sold a few things on eBay a while back, and learned that it’s not really a way for me to make money. At least, not if I didn’t have some kind of really streamlined packing methods. I was unwilling to ship without substantial, protective packaging, which took a substantial amount of time. This was beyond the issue of postage. I didn’t have any standardized products, but if you have 500 different ones, I imagine many of your orders have to be packaged in non-standard ways.
    Part of my problem was that wages and living expenses are higher here, making other options more attractive.
    I don’t think most people have a grip on what to expect from “cottage industry”. Having substantially underbid on something when I was 16, I have a certain amount of sympathy for tiny businesses. I remember going to a craft show once in New York City. Talked with a guy who made exquisite wood turnings, bowls, boxes and other stuff which can be real art when executed at his level. It was many years ago, but he was netting only $18k annually! Of course he lived in Tennessee, not some hi-falutin’ southern New England state.

    Anyway, I might wince at the $9 rate, but I wouldn’t think it was somehow unfair. I’ve had a few surprises lately when shipping things to people for non-business reasons, so it doesn’t shock me, even if my sense of prices is still stuck in the previous millenium.

    BTW, I already have more kits than I could ever build*, though eventually one of your offerings will probably tempt me. OTOH, if I’m going to fantasize about building models, as opposed to doing it, I might as well fantasize about an aircraft no one has ever done before.

    re P.S. Because I was supposed to be doing something else, I checked out some of the free Priority Mail boxes available. Unless you folded up the tissue, or took the rubber out of the FAI box, I don’t see how you could get by with only one container. If you took the rubber out of the FAI box, you could glue a bulkhead part way down the large tube. Considerably more work unless you set up a bunch of them all at once. Maybe a cut down small tube inside of a medium sized one. All requiring thought.

    P.P.S. Looking forward to the kits.

    P.P.P.S. No, it won’t warm up until the day it snows in the morning and reaches 85 degrees in the afternoon. You will end up full of cracks from thermal stress. 😉 If it makes you feel any better, it snowed here this morning. (4/19) I may be mistaken, but I think the warmest day we’ve had around here this year was in February, when it broke 70 F.

    *Unless someone hired me tomorrow and paid me to build them full time for the next few years.

  7. D. burdick says:

    Hey Volare gents! been a modeler going on 45 yrs , got burned out on all the gas/ electric stuff and just getting into rubber models for the challenge of learning and success of flight. while needing some FF stuff shopped around a lot and seen some outrageous postage prices !! I then ran into Volare which will be my supplier from here on out! alotta neat FF goodys and the $9 postage is a indeed a bargain, so keep up the good efforts and reasonable postage prices and youll always be a winner in my book.

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