SHCC WYSIWYG Article from January 2015

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This article was written by Don VanSyckel, the club president, as a part of "The President's Pen".  This article appeared in the January 2015 WYSIWYG newsletter.

"Shipping and Handling" Rip Off

by Don VanSyckel

Since we're coming off the holiday, the season of endless TV commercials for all the things you and yours simply can't live without. Smile. Let's discuss "shipping and handling" and service charges. I believe the "handling" part of "shipping and handling" is totally absurd and the shipping is questionable. In a brick and mortar store the product is shipped to the store in your area and the store handles it to unbox it, sometimes put it on a shelf in the back room, move the product to the floor, and put it on the shelf. Then the store handles it again during the check out process. They do all this and include it in the price. Image if you went shopping and when you checked out there was a shipping and handling charge added to every item. You'd be outraged.

When we shop on line we compare prices of the on line product against the in store product. Do you include the shipping and handling in your price comparison? The on line retailer has much lower cost than the brick and mortar retailer. No clerks standing around waiting to help you. The on line retailer does not worry about customer opinion of their staff and the building is a warehouse, no decorations or frills. The on line retailer sells some products they don't stock, their distributor stocks them so the on line retailer doesn't even have to invest in the product to sell it. All this is why I maintain that handling for an on line retailer is absurd and is simply a rip off.

Shipping is a little in between. The brick and mortar store and the online retailer both pay shipping to the store but the bulk freight of many or most of their deliveries is less per item. The individual to the door shipment to you from the on line retailer are definitely an extra cost. This is why I term shipping as questionable. Many products are received by the on line retailer in packaging suitable for shipping so they don't even have to package the stuff up before putting your address label on it.

Then there are other on line retailers that entice you to sign up for premium service by paying a yearly fee and then your stuff is shipped free. Well not really free, it's really a prepaid shipping insurance. The retailer gets a bunch of people to put their money in a pool and that pays for shipping to those customers. The on line retailer is betting that not every prepaid customer will use their allocation of the shipping pool and that because people have a membership that gives them a lower price per purchase (no handling and shipping), they will be incented to make purchases with that on line retailer instead of another one.

Then there are the "buy so much and get free shipping" offers. Recently I was shopping for a couple items on line and the retailer had this offer. The mark was $35. My balance was just under $30 and that would have had a $8.50 shipping and handling charge. So I added one more of one item which brought my total to $35.20. So for about $3 less I got one more item. Explain that one.

The other thing that has helped reduce prices is the competition among the delivery services. Even the US Post Office has gotten into the contest with UPS, Fed Ex, DHL, and others. The massive contracts that some on line retailer have with delivery services have cut the cost and benefited all of us.

On line service fees are much the same as handling. My parking reservation will save time checking out. I hand the attendant my printed sheet, they scan it, and wave bye bye. The parking service gets the money at the start of my parking instead of the end, I am locked into using their service, at least for the current trip, and I use less time of their attendant. So they win, win, and win; then charge me a fee for for saving them money. Shouldn't the additional web site cost to do this just be a cost of doing business? At least when you buy tickets on line they have to mail them to you with an envelope and a stamp. But then these fees are several dollars per ticket and only one envelope and one stamp; what a rip off.

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