Saturday, February 11, 2006

Shipping charges and other matters of cash

A discussion group to which we belong has seen a recent rash of messages about shipping arrangements. It's something attached to almost every Web transaction, whether from a web site such as ours or on purchases via eBay or other auction sites.

When posting items to eBay - we have a store their under the name "Art of the First Person" - we are confronted with the question of how to include shipping charges. Customarily we have offered a flat fee. That way the bidder knows the most it will cost to ship to anywhere in the US. We estimate the cost - even for items bought from our web site - since we don't live next to the post office and can't provide the weight and postage for each package before hand.

If we are over on our estimate, we usually include a check in the package with the goods so that the buyer doesn't pay for our overestimate. If we are under, we usually just eat the difference as a cost of doing business. There are exceptions, of course, but they are rare and based on individual cases.

We have considered factoring the shipping cost into the price for the goods and shipping "free". Of course, it isn't free because it means the cost is covered in the price for the item. But it is finite and predictable. We find those two considerations are important to some people. We do offer free shipping on web items as a special promotion at certain gift-giving times of year, in order to provide an incentive for action.

The other mode is what eBay calls calculated and we call actual cost. When we are dealing with odd-sized and shaped items from the web site, we will agree to bill the buyer the exact cost for the shipping, after the fact. We can do this if we have acquired their credit card information and they consent to that way of doing it. On eBay, we indicate that the shipping will be calculated based on the desired mode and the destination.

We doubt that anyone buys an item because of shipping charges but we suspect, at least on eBay, they may decide not to bid if they feel the shipping charges are out of line.

How do you feel about this part of buying and selling? We'd love hear some other opinions.

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We update this blog when events suggest or available time allows, usually both. We also use it as a way to alert readers to new items available at our web sites - Native American Jewelry , Native American Pottery , ZuniLink and Tribalworks .
At the first, we have just added some beautiful pieces by Calvin Begay of the Navajo (Dine') Nation. At the second, we have just reorganized the entire site according to tribal origin of the potter. At the third, we have some carvings about to go up from various Zuni artists. And at the last, we have just added a bunch of fun Australian Aboriginal pottery pieces, some at prices below $40.

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