Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Rant on Postage

If you are a modern miniatures gamer you likely have had to order from one manufacturer or another. This is increasingly unavoidable as more and more manufacturers go to direct sales and FLGS disappear like dinosaurs (that is if they stocked the minis to begin with). This isn't a problem really as I often get better service from the companies direct than I ever did from my FLGS. What does bother me is the ancient and wholey innacurate practice of percentage-based shipping.

With some companies charging as much as 40% for shipping, this practice really can border on taking advantage of the customer. The price of something has little to do with the expense of shipping it. In a day and age where the various postal routes have so many resources available for quick and accurate calculation of actual shipping or even flat rate shipping options not bothering to give your customers the benefit of real shipping costs seems almost lazy and insulting.

Shipping should be a reflection of postage and maybe packing materials. These things are caculated based on weight, distance, and the specifics of the packaging materials. Sometimes these are lumped into a flat rate to make it easier for shipping in volume. If you have an inventory that spans a vast number of weights and measurements this might actually be a valid shipping practice. When it comes down to it, most of my orders can all fit in a medium or smaller flat rate box (your milliage may vary) which means that whether I order $20 or $200 worth of minis he shipping is still going to be about $5-7 flat rate. Sure you can work the percentage system, but I'd rather not play games to get my money's worth.

One friend of mine suggested that it may be a hold over from the days where catalog ordering was something new, different and really a service wrth charging for. Is that what it is, a hidden surcharge for the convenience of ordering direct from you? If the cost of doing direct business is such that you need to sneak in an extra charge, then perhaps you need to alter your pricing structure up front.

Anyhow, rant mode off.



  1. ^5 Eli and I completely agree! FGLS are all carrying 40k and some FOW stuff but that's about it. If it is because of the seller than they will reap what they sow but I am more of the mind that it is the postal office. They wonder why we like electronic communication. If I could send my package shipped through the internet I would and if I could get my miniatures shipping through the internet I would.

    It's 11:56pm here. BTW I spent most of the night watching multitracks on youtube.. WoW these people have a lot of talent and it is really cool to hear one guy doing a barbershop quartet. Seriously check out the guy doing ghostbusters or look for danny fong.

  2. When I worked car audio, we had a price-matching program. One of the steps in checking to see if a given competitor qualified for a price-match was to check their shipping.

    A lot of companies will sell things at a very small margin - or even a loss - and then make up the difference in their shipping costs.

  3. I think it is the week for rants! I totally agree with your rant. Then again, if you have ever checked out the pricing on e-bay, they do the same thing there.

  4. I know that is what they are doing. Ebay sellers do it all the time to counter Ebay's crazy fee structure. Still not okay, but at leas I know where that is coming from.

    This whole thing started because my buddy and I needed to order about $100 worth of 2mm figs for Land Ironclads. Now, even $100 worth of 2mm will be lucky to break a pound in weight, but the company we are ordering from charges 40% to ship to the US.

    Even cming from the UK, you can't tell me the shipping will cost $40 for just shy of a pound in weight. Heck, the whle thing will likely ship in a padded envelope.

    Anyhow, it got me talking and thinking about it and thus the post.

  5. This is an old practice. It dates to the time when you sent your order with a check. Until they received your order, they didn't know what it would weigh, so the percentage was a way to cover shipping in a general manner and give you a final amount to write your check to.

    I only ran into it when ordering from overseas and figure that a high rate like 40% was to make sure overseas shipping was covered.

    But these days, with credit cards and PayPal being so prevalent, there's no reason for it. Your card or account can be charged after they weigh the package and you need only pay the actual shipping.

    So if a company is still doing percentage-based shipping, I think they're either lazy or trying to make a little extra.

  6. Yeah, that pretty much mirrors my theory and feelings about it. Of course, I pretty much have to pay it to get the stuff I want so I am am bent over a barrel a bit here.


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