Shipping is NEVER Free – A Reality Check from Small Businesses

Does everyone remember those lovely As Seen On TV commercials that were rampant in the 1990’s and early 2000’s? It seemed like no matter what channel you were watching early in the morning, or late at night, there was some product that they TV advertisers apparently wanted you to buy. At the end of all of their pitches, there would be the price listed and then casually thrown on the screen would be a tiny “plus shipping and handling” note, letting you know that the price on screen wouldn’t be exactly what you’re paying for.
As a kid, I had no idea what that meant. Shipping was fairly obvious, but what was ‘handling’ and why did it cost money? Seemed to me like a good way of getting extra money from the buyer.
Now as a business owner, I know exactly what shipping & handling is and why it cost the buyers extra money back in the day.
Blurred Shipping Boxes Stacked with Fragile Label
Through the internet shopping revolution that has occurred in the last 20 years, and especially with Amazon becoming an empire in the last 10 years, the idea of paying for shipping & handling has become revolting to most shoppers. Why pay for something that is nothing by the time it reaches you? There is always another website you can shop from, one that might have a free shipping weekend, or a coupon for a percentage off. I cannot tell you the amount of times that a friend has mentioned that they bought $20 extra worth of product just to get free shipping.
But for us who are on the back end of the orders, we see the cost of shipping and handling. And despite what Amazon & other large companies have told you, it is NOT free.
Here is a quick breakdown of items that we here at Dirty South need to process a single order: A high quality shipping box, heavy duty packing tape, newsprint to stuff inside pottery to help prevent breaking, bubble wrap, plastic wrap to keep the bubble wrap in place, biodegradable packing peanuts, heavy duty brown paper to help safely fill voids, shipping labels, a printer & ink to print labels with, and an employee to take the time to turn all those items into a safe haven for our pottery.
And that’s not including the cost of the actual shipping label (usually $8-$15 for a single mug).
I can assure you, these items cost money. A lot of money.
Most companies that offer free shipping usually have a simple solution for making up the lost money: charge a higher amount for all items across the board. That, combined with importing items from countries where labor & the cost of living is cheaper, create a nice cushion and profit for them. I don’t think I have to point out that a lot of these products are sourced unethically & take advantage of impoverished workers.
Shipping is never free.
On top of all of that, USPS & other carriers just announced that not only is the price of shipping going to temporarily hike during October, November & December, but packages will also be delayed. What used to cost us $8 to ship 1-3 days will now be $10+ for 3-5 days.
Small businesses have been hustling more than ever to survive since the pandemic hit, and this is just the latest blow that will negatively affect profit margins during the busiest time of the year for retailers.
This year I ask a few things of you:
  1. Be patient with small businesses.
  2. Order from them despite shipping fees
  3. Pickup or shop in-person if you’re within 30-40 minutes of their location.
I cannot tell you how much easier and efficient it is to package a single mug for in-store pickup verses shipping. It is quicker, cheaper & overall less stressful for our team members.  
So when you see a small business offering $5 shipping, or free shipping above $100, or some other promotion to compete with Big Business, try to do what you can to help them along. They are trying. 
Thank you to everyone who continues to shop with small businesses, even though we simply cannot offer the same discounts as the big companies. But what we do for our communities, for our patrons, for our cities is worth much, much more.
Ashley Norman

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.