Shipping Cost Curve Balls

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I saw an article on the internet the other night with helpful tips for internet shippers.  Number one on the list was to budget for costly shipping mistakes.  The implication was that costly shipping mistakes are inevitable and you need to have a contingency fund to cover them.

By following the process detailed in my last few posts, you should not have costly problems, period.  You might not get every dollar back for every shipment, but the losses will be minimal and you may get opportunities to make some of it back with some creative packaging (to lower weight one pound).  You also can get a leg up by initially using the process I described in my “Strategies for Using Shipping Carriers – Pricing Shipping” post.  Finally, use the correct carrier as described in my two previous posts.

So you have followed the process for pricing and selecting carriers; are there other possible pitfalls to consider? Yes.  Here is a list of exceptions:

  1. If you plan to use the Priority Mail service with your own packaging, make sure the box is one cubic foot or less.  Why?  A box 12” x 12” x 14″, for instance, will be billed at 11 pounds, regardless of actual weight.  This is called “dimensional weight” and it could be a profit killer.

What to do?  Plan to use either UPS or FedEx Home delivery for a box this size.  There will be no extra weight charge unless the box is three cubic feet or larger.  You also can price to ship a slower USPS service like Standard Mail Parcel or Parcel Select which have less stringent dimensional weight rules.

  1. You have a large item to ship but no shipping box in the necessary size.  Anticipate this scenario when you price the item.  Assume a worst case of having to buy a single box and include that cost and the resulting dimensions in your pricing.  If a free, “right size” box turns up by the time your item sells, you have the extra charges to defray packaging expense or to refund to the purchaser.
  1. You screw up badly and don’t anticipate weight, size, and/or service level required.  If the sum is significant, consider contacting your buyer to explain your situation.  Many people will understand an honest mistake and may pay a bit more for fast service or might accept a slower service for the same price.  If the buyer isn’t of the frame of mind to negotiate, consider it a shipping lesson learned the hard way….and one that you won’t be repeating!
  1. The item you intended to ship USPS is too oversized for any USPS service and must be shipped by UPS/FedEx to Alaska.  Oops!

For ANY shipment with even a chance of being too big for USPS, add a line to your listing stating shipping fee is for shipments within the continental US to a street address.  For shipments other than that, the buyer should contact you for shipment pricing.

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