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elaine clapper

How Do You Handle Online Shipping Costs?

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I have been trying to come up with a good solution for online sales shipping costs.  I don't really sell much online. most of my sales are through a gallery or festivals.  Every time  I do sell online, it seems I lose out on the shipping costs. For example I recently sold a 15" chip and salsa platter the customer wanted  shipped to Texas ( I am in Ohio). I took the platter to UPS had them weight it, they advised how to pack it, gave me an aprox quote of $36. I relayed the shipping quote to the customer. After the customer confirmed  the sale I packed and went back to UPS. The actual shipping was $45.00.  I don't want to list a shipping cost for each item and then get burned because it is too low. I don't want to make it too high and discourage sales.   Do most of you ship UPS or US post office or Fed Ex?  Where do you buy boxes? I mostly use ones I have saved from other things.

 

Please look at my website and let me know if this seems like a good solution. Maybe someone has a better idea?

 

http://elaineclapperceramics.com/images/shipping

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I think the best way to ship pottery is going to be: USPS because they have the "if it fits, it ships" in their priority mail thing. I haven't ever shipped a pot yet, but I have shipped a ton of other things USPS and everything always gets there in good condition. I have shipped glass through them and not labeled it fragile because I forgot and it still made it there perfectly fine.

 

In fact I have watched UPS just throw packages at my door when they were in a hurry, where USPS always brings it to my door, rings the bell and sets it down on the ground. I might just have a good mail person though.

 

Their boxes are flat rate no matter how much it weighs. The question is do they have a box for all your shapes I guess.

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Flat rate shipping boxes from USPS are FREE! Just go online to their website and click which sizes you want. They'll drop them right to your door. It's been years since I shipped anything, but back in my Ebay selling days, it was a godsend to have that service.

 

Something that you need to think about in your shipping: Your time is worth something as well. Packing materials, if new, can be quite expensive. Most buyers understand that it's the price of getting what they want, and are willing to pay reasonable fees.

 

It's strange, but I usually had more whining over an inexpensive shipping bill than I did over a pricey one. Some of the things I shipped were extremely fragile and therefore needed more packaging. But the item always arrived intact. My buyers never quibbled once they saw the care I took in assuring the safe delivery of their item.

 

You can't put a price on customer satisfaction, but you can certainly put a price on the time and effort you put into packing fragile items. ;)

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If you are planning to do regular shipping ....

Buy ( or get from USPS ) new shipping materials that fit your work ... The time spent messing around trying to box with random sizes is a profit eater. Also, cardboard loses strength every time you use it so they might deny a claim anyhow because you used old boxes. I keep three standard size boxes that will fit inside each other for double boxing when needed. I keep packing materials and tape on hand.

Second, get a weigh scale of your own. They are not that expensive and that way you weigh your box when it is ready to go for more accurate pricing.

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I ship stuff all the time. I use priority mail and have always had good results with them. Buy a scale do a practice pack and go to their site and see if it's cheaper to use their flat rate or the variable rate boxes for that item. The difference can be astonishing depending on the item. I will admit I ship mostly small stuff I keep about 50 of the 7x7x7 cube shaped boxes on hand at all times. This size will also fit inside their bigger boxes for double boxing if needed. Even with the small cube size my stuff goes into a gift box, gets wrapped with a ribbon and has a card attached before being boxed for shipping. I allow for all of that in my shipping charge to the customer. People really like that extra touch and I want them to know that I value the fact that they bought a hand made item of mine. I get lots of repeat customers and even have them buy gifts and have me wrap and ship it straight the the giftee since they know it will arrive in gift worthy fashion.

 

One thing I do tend to do is include the shipping in the price of the item online. I offer Free shipping on as many items as I can. I sell spoon rests for $16 including shipping and nobody has complained yet, but when I sell a spoon rest for $8 plus $8 shipping and handling I will get emails asking if I can do any better on the shipping weird but true.

 

Go to the post office website and order an assortment of their boxes and see which sizes suit most of of your stuff then order a bunch and keep on hand. The boxes are free to get since the cost of the box is figured into the shipping rate when you ship them. I have a permanent shipping area set up in my garage which makes packing sales so much easier and more efficient. I keep and recycle ALL my packing materials like popcorn, bubble wrap, and plain paper. I have already paid for that stuff once when I bought whatever I bought so I'm not about to throw it away and go spend more money to buy more. My husband does claim I am a packing peanut hoarder and have enough in giant plastic bags stacked along the garage wall to last a lifetime but I just tell him you can never have enough packing peanuts saved up they are like gold...Mohave you seen what they want to charge for those things if you buy them?

 

Since I do sell online so much I will admit to mostly only making items that will fit in the priority Mail boxes. The large stuff I sell at shows and galleries mostly or if I have online I have done a practice pack and used a Zipcode in Alaska to find out the maximum shipping cost.

 

T

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If you don't ship much and don't plan on it, you can use a bathroom scale also. Pack your box, then weigh yourself holding the box and yourself alone and take the difference. Ship USPS unless you're shipping something big, then try FedEx or ups but never go to an authorized retailer to ship from, it will be more expensive. You can get free packaging material from sites like freecycle. I buy boxes from Uline because they are cheaper than the flat rate boxes and you can chose your size. If you have a PayPal account you can go to Paypal/shipnow and print and pay for your label online where you get a discounted rate.

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Hi Elaine, I see your pretty tech savvy so one thing you could do is switch to a shopping cart script such as OpenCart. Many of them are open source and then you can set everything up with live online quotes (I do my own but I'm sure there's a plug-in for all the major storefronts) and a bonus would be a smooth ordering system that follows the order all the way through and makes the various logging and fulfillment needs easy.  

 

You might also be able to find a shipping/cart script that you could plug into your current site.

 

While the online quote may be a little off in either direction depending on the accuracy of your settings per product it's going to be close enough to not bug you too much.

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PayPal also offers a shopping cart which is what I use on my site. You just have to figure out the shipping and enter it into the formula, which I think is pretty much the same for any cart.

 

If you sell on etsy or ebay you can also get discounted shipping if you buy through their websites, I usually do this since it makes it really easy and the customer automatically gets sent the tracking numbers without my having to do anything extra to give it to them. For sales through my website I already have coded their shopping cart in use so I use PayPal shipping to get the discount there. If you have none of these sites you can buy your postage and print the shipping label through the usps website.

 

Shipping can be a hassle until you get enough boxes under your belt. Shipping overseas is always a hassle no matter what but I always charge a premium for that witha surcharge just for the hassles of doing it but I still get repeat customers even with those prices.

 

T

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Howdy neighbor

 

Oddly enough I found Home Depot has shipping supplys at a reasonable cost.

Their boxes do have the Home Depot logo.

 

My best investment for shipping was a getting a hand held box stapler. Saves a ton in the long run and minimizes the use of expensive packing tape.

 

Getting burned on shipping sucks. You really have to understand all of their policys. Ups has a lot of hidden charges and you usually find them out when you go to pay for shipping, as their quoting software sucks. If the box is to big and it weighs 8 lbs you may get charged for 20 lbs and you may get accesed a large package fee. That fee is huge sometimes tripple the orriginal cost. I found it frustrating to the point that I quit using UPS. I did have better luck when I weighed and paid for my own items on line and had UPS pick up the item. When you go to the UPS store the magical unknown fee's start appearing even after you had the store quote you a price.

Shipping out of the country was at one time prety easy and reasonable. I don't even bother with shipping to Canada anymore, because the cost is just too hard to justify. This becomes quite clear when one thing gets damaged. It's sad that things can be shipped from China and the UK for a reasonable cost yet the US shipping costs seem to be getting unrealistic.

 

If I ship it is usually small enough to ship USPS in the US or I don't bother. I like to use USPS it's quick, convinent, and the quotes are accurat. As an added bonus most all of the items ship unscathed. I make one offs and this works well. A production potter may need to ship a larger order on a rgular basis.

 

If your buisness is based on shipping daily, UPS, Fed Ex will give you a better shipping rate for volume, but to get a good deal, you have to ship a lot and often. If your just getting started shipping you will probably hit a few bumps before you figure out where and how you can make it profitable.

Good luck!

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PayPal also offers a shopping cart which is what I use on my site. You just have to figure out the shipping and enter it into the formula, which I think is pretty much the same for any cart.

 

 

T

Most of the major shippers have an API that can be connected up to ecommerce software to give real time quotes from the website. You do however have put in product dimensions and weight so it does not remove all the hassle of pricing. If you have a custom site it needs to make a call out to a server side script that communicates back and forth with the shipper when a customer is ordering and you can have it print the shipping labels at the end of the day. Check out this link for UPS:

    

http://www.ups.com/content/us/en/resources/sri/apidefinition.html

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Another nod for USPS. I used to use UPS for most - probably because it was close and convenient, but we have found the USPS is a lot less expensive. We also found their insurance to be quite silly. They broke a piece over the holidays and it was a tremendous hassle to get reimbursed and they don't reimburse you for the shipping costs. huh?

 

As for boxes - I have acquired them from Uline and Tharco(you can pick them up if there is a Tharco near you - avoid the shipping costs.

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Get a scale...very affordable on ebay...mine will weigh up to 50pounds and very accurate. Practice packing and weigh and measure your boxes go to usps.com and plug in the numbers. I find the flat rate is just too small for most stuff other than small bowls and coffee cups. I double box so their small cube will fit in the larger near cube but after bubble wrapping the object and putting it in the small cube the item can't be more than 4" or 5" to fit. Walmart has boxes if you only ship occassionally. I collect cube boxes when i am out and about and see someone unpacking them at the store so often i don't have to buy one.

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Elaine, 

 

   Several things. I have shipped over 80 pieces via Etsy sales in the last year and have shipped them all USPS, without any breakages. 

 

Here are some things I have learned. 

 

1. Get your own postal scale off of amazon for like $30

 

2. Sign up for a USPS account and use USPS's click-n-ship (online postage). If you weigh the box yourself and buy priority postage online, you can save a ton. I generally save $3-$4 per package vs. taking it down to the post office and getting a label there. I can save even more for items that would have cost over $15 to ship. It's amazing how it adds up.

 

3. If you use click-n-ship, always estimate your weight 3-4 ounces higher, to ensure you are not under-weight. USPS priority mail ships in lb classes, meaning as long as you are within the pound range you are not paying any extra per ounce.

 

3. I just get my boxes at Walmart, which is not necessarily ideal, but it works for the moment. If I ever get to the place where I am doing a lot of online sales, I'm hoping to buy from Uline, but their delivery fee is just too pricey for the small amount of boxes I would order at this point. 

 

Hope that helps! If you have any more questions, just let me know and I'm happy to help if I can. :-)

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For small items it USPS for sure

But for 98% of my functional wares that folks order they do NOT FIT if it fits it ships box.And if they do its no room for padding.

The largest size is 12x12x5.5 inches or another way to visualize it its a laguna clay box as 50#s of clay fits perfectly in that box and is good to ship clay in.

I double box most orders -I ship more than I want to and for dinnerware orders and most items that involve more than TWO items its ups all the way-fed ex also does a good job.

As to cost if you are a member of the Potters Council you can sign up your account with UPS at a great discount as well-its a benefit that pays every time you ship. Once ypu have an account you print your own labels just as with usps.

You need your own scale (amazon sell great cheap ones)

I Never buy boxes or Packing materials I hoard them from local sources (recycling is a good thing )

If your product is small go with usps if its not use another shipper .

I use them all depending on what It is size and weight wise.

My freight costs for 2014 were $1428.26 which covers USPS-UPS and Fed EX so I have packed a few items

As far as packing- they will throw the box -so pack it so its can be thrown . If you do you will not have any breakage.

Mark

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A few points I did not cover-You never get paid well for packing/shipping .

Ceramics cost 1/3 to 1/2 the cost  of items depending on where and how to ship.

Wrapping costs will not fit well into this model. I charge more for items via shipping to try to recope a small portion of this cost. It never pays enough for time spent. I have it down to a science but still its a loss of time. If The item is USPS as I'm in a rural route the item wieght if over 13 ounces I have to take it to post office and cannot use my extra junbo mailbox which sucks more time.

With UPS they pickup when I flag them as they drive by each day so thats free.

The one tip I leraned usinh old recycle boxes is uline sells spray paint that is exactly like cardbopard color so you can cover any labels and stamps on old boxes abd I do by some cans every few years for this recycle use..

Fed ex only comes up our road on a occasional basis.

With the UPS potters discount (20% if I recall its my best option)

I'm always friends with my driver so its personal sevice not like the USPS.

 

 

Mark

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Thanks for all the info.  I do have Click N ship with the US post office but most of my orders have been pieces that are too big for their boxes. So I will continue to horde sturdy boxes when the opportunity arises.  I was not aware of of UPS discount I will check that out. thanks again

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