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Free Shipping? Why it's a myth and why it costs you

by , MBA

You've seen it on many Web sites: "Free shipping!" For whom is this free? UPS charges for shipping, FedEx charges for shipping, USPS charges for shipping, Airborne Express charges for shipping.

In fact, everyone who does the shipping charges for it. Someone has to pay for the trucks, planes, and salaries. And the rising price of fuel.

For shipping inside the "contiguous 48" of the USA, it's usually about $8 or $9 for UPS Ground for the first couple of pounds and so much a pound after that.

How can any merchant give you "free" shipping? Answer: They don't. What they do is reduce service or pass on costs in some other way.

How did this unsavory situation come about? In the early days of "the new Internet economy," some morons got the idea that cash infusions from duped investors allowed "managers" and "executives" to ignore basic business principles.

One of those principles is covering your costs in your pricing structure. This forced some honest and competent merchants to adopt the same "free shipping" slight of hand just to be able to compete with those who started this whole mess. Those who didn't bury shipping costs in the prices of their products either gave lousy customer service (because something had to "give") or they went out of business.

But you don't pay for shipping when you drive down to the local Stuff R Us and buy something, right? Wrong. How much does it cost you in mileage (figure the current federal allowance for mileage)?

Factor in the added time to drive there, park, and drive back. The time "in store" is probably greater than the time you spend on a Website making a purchase. Plus, there's always that idiot who thinks your door or fender needs to be dented or scratched. Even if you walk to the store, you pay for shipping costs. The items at the store are shipped there. Shipping is factored into the cost of each product. But with a Website, there is no need to ship merchandise to the store or pay someone to unbox it and put it out on display.

At Mindconnection, we originally stocked only downloadable courses (Mindconnection's and Dr. Jay Prince's) and downloadable books (Mindconnection's novels and classics, plus Saber Books). So, there was no shipping involved.

Then, we began making arrangements with other merchants, such as Ectaco and Mike Holt Enterprises--to market their products if they do the order fulfillment. Plus, we began selling nutritional supplements on the mind-body connection theory. All of these have shipping costs. Someone has to pay them. That someone is always the customer, one way or another.

When a competitor flashes "free shipping" in front of customers, we really hate that because it simply isn't honest. You still pay shipping, even if they don't break it out separately. Only, you don't pay for your shipping--you pay a shipping price that covers their butts if someone remote has a high shipping charge. Or something else gives, and it's something they're not upfront about. Most folks, for example, don't consider customer service. We charge for shipping, but we also help you select the product that's right for you, straighten out warranty issues, provide product support when the factory is closed or won't do it, and usually pay your restocking fee if you return the item! A business that is doing "free" shipping can't do that.

Customers keep telling us our presale product information is the best out there. Putting that together isn't free, and we don't use "free" shipping funds to shortchange you pre-sale.

Bookmarki has always fought the "free shipping" fiasco. It's funny--a competitor who charges more with "free shipping" included than Bookmarki does with shipping shown on your invoice often gets sales based on price. Huh? Well, there's that deceptive use of "free."

What really happens is your money gets "freed" from you! To really twist the knife, a fair number of people use the excellent descriptions given by Bookmarki (and used as the basis for our own) or call them for a product inquiry, then buy from the competitor even if the price is higher because shipping is "free." And instead of getting that badly needed Code book when they badly need it, they wait four weeks and still pay more for it! Don't let false claims of "free" allow you to have a bad buying experience!

Not all merchants are being deceptive when they offer free shipping. Some merchants run specials on overstocked items, new products, loss leaders, and other items just to boost sales or turn over inventory. That's legitimate. They are trying to move product, not make a profit on it..

But, when the normal policy is "we pay the shipping," they aint payin' it! And that can really cost you.


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