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Two wonderings here.

Hello all! I have two slightly odd questions for you here.

1. First, I make jackets (see icon.) I have one jacket that the person made the first payment, and therefore I made the foam hood base. After that, they asked me to put their jacket on hold, as they ran into some major money troubles. This was months and months ago, and every time I think to send them a note asking if they'd like to continue, I notice a new journal of theirs outlining their money troubles, and their asking to take on commissions to help make ends meet.

While I totally am in no rush to push them to get this jacket done and out of my living space, I'm a bit concerned as to what is fair to them. I haven't contacted them yet. I'm debating on:
+ Refunding them a percentage of what they paid, and sending them the foam head.
+ Holding onto it and reminding them that I am there when they get around to it.
+ Canceling the order all together and not bothering the person beyond letting them know.

I'm concerned because they HAVE paid their first of three payments. The first part is done. I'm just... not sure what to do now, nor how to word any notes I send them. Any suggestions of any kind will be more than welcome! I don't really like the third option, as they HAVE paid, and it feels extremely dishonest.

And onto the second question.

2. I'm not very good at calculating shipping. I use the online calculator on the USPS website, and I either over-charge or under-charge for shipping. I have noticed that the self-serve kiosk and the person behind the desk will give me different charges for the same package. So, since my customers are paying shipping anyway, I was thinking of having them pay me a dollar or so for the shipping materials, and then having the package "Cash On Delivery" or "Postage Due" that way they know exactly how much their package cost to ship, and know I'm not over charging them for it.

This is NOT for commissions! This is for pre-made items. If it works, I MIGHT use it for commissions at a much later date. All I'm asking is for a feel for this idea. Do you, as a community, feel this is a backhanded, shady idea, or an honest one that might work?

I would make it very clear that the package is C.O.D. I would be making a very obvious statement concerning how shipping is handled, and not hiding it as a surprise when the package arrives. None-the-less, does this feel like an idea that works/is honest?

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( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 7th, 2011 01:46 am (UTC)
I didn't even know people still did COD... I think as a buyer it would be fairly inconvenient, having to be home when the package was delivered to pay for it.

Are the people at the Post Office taking your package for a different service than you looked at for the price online? Ex, priority mail will cost more then first class or parcel post, some post office workers in my experience try to automatically take everything as priority. Are you weighing the boxes and imputing the correct weight in the calculator?

You can pre-print labels for things through paypal, that's how I do all my US shipments. You imput the address/info (or if people pay you correctly they're already there), add the weight and service you want and it gives you a price. You pay through paypal, print out the label, put it on the box, take it to the post office and you're done.
Jul. 9th, 2011 04:10 am (UTC)
I second the Paypal shipping label method. I find it quite convenient and it comes with the tracking for free, so it's cheaper than doing it at the post office.
Jul. 7th, 2011 02:00 am (UTC)
Your second point, while not your intention; comes off as shady and doesn't work at all for international customers (and you will get them if you advertise online)

I think if you are having difficulties getting your pricing right, book an appointment with a senior postal officer and get the right pricing scale. Say you are a business and you rely on accurate charges for mailing options if the online calculator is giving you grief.
That said; overcharging by a minimal percentage (2-5%) to cover handling costs is okay; it's a bit expected, since some items require more packaging than others.
Have some wiggle room in your shipping costs, and if it's too pricey, refund the extra?

I just accept, if I purchase online, I have to factor shipping. but I factor it in when I pay. Not when I pay and have to pay again for a parcel. It's a hassle and you can't guess how much it will cost. Especially if the mail system decides to double/triple overcharge. You have one unhappy customer and it's out of your control.

COD is cost prohibitive internationally; and by having COD, I think may turn potential customers away, despite your good intentions.
Jul. 7th, 2011 02:06 am (UTC)
Adding on to that, some countries charge COD at the highest postal rate for that weight. Some countries don't even allow it anymore.

Jul. 19th, 2011 02:35 am (UTC)
Yeah we don;t have home deliveries period in The Bahamas, all mail is via P.O. Box so it's literally not even an option.
Jul. 7th, 2011 02:09 am (UTC)
1. I would definitely send them a note. Perhaps don't even mention that you've noticed their new journals, just ask if they're still interested in continuing the commission. If yes, I'd say put some sort of date out there as to when they need to pay or they'll lose their commission. While it's not fair to them, as you rightly point out, to just cancel their commission, neither is it fair for you to be left hanging.

2. Oh, shipping prices. I think COD has the potential to cause a lot of problems, even IF you make it very clear that you'll be doing that.
I don't really know what to suggest, beyond maybe just shipping everything in flat rate boxes :p. I'll just agree that shipping prices are extremely aggravating to try to figure out.
Jul. 7th, 2011 02:13 am (UTC)
they're not that tricky if you have a good scale.

sometimes those flat rate boxes are much more expensive than regular first class shipping. Say I had something that only weighed 8 oz, the smallest box would cost $5 to ship, but sending it first class would cost less than $3
Jul. 7th, 2011 03:14 am (UTC)
I dunno, I do have access to a fairly decent scale (and did at my old job) but I've yet to figure out how to consistently get an online quote that's close to what I end up paying at the post office.

True, but at least you'd be able to quote exact shipping prices :p. Of course there are situations where flat rate boxes aren't a good idea, but there are also situations where they are.
(no subject) - fenris_lorsrai - Jul. 7th, 2011 03:30 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 7th, 2011 03:35 am (UTC)
Hmm...I'll have to look at this the next time I go to ship something. Make sure I'm putting stuff in the right places and all.
Jul. 7th, 2011 02:43 am (UTC)
I love flat rate USPS boxes. I use it for almost everything. It's especially great that I don't have to worry about the price of the envelope as well as the cost of actually sending it.
Jul. 7th, 2011 03:20 am (UTC)
Yeah, for the sake of ease and not having to guess on the shipping cost, they really can't be beat. I try to use them whenever possible.
Jul. 7th, 2011 02:52 am (UTC)
No COD. It's a very, very bad idea, and will cost you and your customers way more in the long run.

Get a good shipping scale. This is the one I use: http://www.amazon.com/UltraShip-55-Digital-Shipping-Kitchen/dp/B000FSWB9K/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1310006783&sr=8-3

Print all of your shipping online. If you're getting paid by Paypal, you can print and pay for shipping through Paypal itself, which will allow you to ship First Class Parcel (assuming your package dimensions fit the allowable dimensions).

If you print/buy postage online at USPS.com, you can only print Priority Shipping or better, but that's OK if your customers are getting Priority Shipping. Plus printing it online saves you a few dollars.

Alternatively, you could also get an account with Stamps.com, if you ship a lot in a month (I think it's $15/month for an account with them, but they let you ship First Class as well as Priority, and you get the "commercial" rate - no idea how much that discounts, though, as I'm not willing to pay the monthly fee. xP).

Either way, if you're shipping with USPS, you don't even have to go down to the post office. You can have them pick up from your house/apartment/whatever.
(no subject) - fenris_lorsrai - Jul. 7th, 2011 03:32 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 7th, 2011 03:09 am (UTC)
For the commissioner who isn't responding, I would recommend sending them one last note/e-mail/message stating that due to space restrictions, their commission is taking up a valuable slot in your list and you will have to either refund them in full, keep the head and resell it to another customer, or send the head and refund them what is left over after head cost AND shipping. Tell them they have one (1) week to respond or you will choose for them.

And yes, USPS flat-rate boxes and online-postage-printing. The best.
Jul. 7th, 2011 03:30 am (UTC)
In my own opinion... Flat-rate boxes and envelopes are a great way to go. You can order, and have them delivered, in bulk to your door for free, you always know how much it is, and you don't have to fret of getting exact shipping. Plus you can stuff up to a pound of weight in them, and it all one price. (And it's a little cheaper if you order/pay for the shipping online and have the post office pick it up.)

I haven't done exact shipping in years (and I did a LOT of buying and selling over eBay), as it was too much of a hassle, and I was losing money on buying gas and packing supplies. Most of the sellers I work/ed with just had/have a flat-rate price as well. Sure, $8 for a single ACEO in a case with Priority + insurance seems high, but it's so much easier than dealing with padded envelopes and guessing postage prices. ... And even then, the shipping was around $8. (I have to chose a service that insures the mail with eBay. The system won't let you post if you have the phrase "insurance not included" or similar in the auction.)
Jul. 7th, 2011 04:17 am (UTC)
Flat-rate boxes if you can. I've used the envelopes to mail out ornaments and such and I believe I picked up a tiny box to ship my brother a belt. Plus you don't have to monkey with pricing beyond how much they charge to ship it!

As for your commissioner, perhaps send them a note asking what they want to do, but emphasize that you're in no hurry and there's no pressure on them in any way if that's truly what you feel. I know I've fallen into the trap of being polite like that when I really wasn't terribly happy with the situation... If they still want to continue, then feel it out from there.
Jul. 7th, 2011 05:11 am (UTC)
Yep, the easiest way is just use the usps flat rate boxes. No questions how much cause you get a set price.
Jul. 7th, 2011 06:50 am (UTC)
If you really don't mind holding on to the half-finished commission, In your place I'd send them a note laying out the options and asking what they would prefer.
Jul. 7th, 2011 09:10 am (UTC)
Personally if you are not in the need of space. Let them know that you are willing to hold onto what you have done and give them a selected time frame (month or two) to make another part of the 1/3 payment before you continue on. If they are still unable to do that, I would send them what is done and just let it off your shoulders.

Really cant wait to see more of your jacket work, I am still getting excited about mine. And its in good timing too because my hoody just bit the big one today with alot of holes in the arms due to me getting parts of it burnt from a hot engine of a vehicle LOL
Jul. 7th, 2011 10:34 am (UTC)
I always charge my clients "shipping & handling" with an estimate that I think will be about $2 over which I count as the handling for not only the shipping materials, but boxing it up and driving down to the shipping place. I don't think it's underhanded since I state at the time of the price quote that it is "shipping AND handling". If the customer is international I ask them to let me take whatever is being shipped down to my normal shipping place and get an estimate. The owners of the place know me so they do it for me all the time with no problems.

Since you're selling pre-made items you might look into the flat rate boxes the USPS offers. As long as what you're shipping is under 70 lbs it ships for a flat price. It's a little more expensive, but easier for you. You can order the boxes for free at USPS.com and your mail carrier will just leave them on your door step.

Edited to add: sorry about my comment being redundant. I didn't read the other comments before posting. :x

Edited at 2011-07-07 10:37 am (UTC)
Jul. 7th, 2011 01:28 pm (UTC)
Although there are plenty of comments already against using COD, I'll throw out one more. It could be problematic if someone needs something shipped to their workplace, where the shipper's involvement ends at the company mailroom and from there it goes through the company's internal mail system to reach the end recipient.
Jul. 8th, 2011 11:20 am (UTC)
I have had a few clients who paid me full price, up front, and then never got back to me after I sent them the rough sketch. I'll email people maybe once or twice if I don't hear from them, but other than that... it's their loss. The first time it happened a girl paid me $200 for a group portrait of a bunch of characters, but she didn't have all the descriptions ready and some of the characters didn't even have artwork I could use for reference. She only gave me about 2/3 the info and then I never heard from her again. Another case, the commission was $90, but the guy paid me $300! He said "I might commission you in the future..." and that was it. I never heard from him after I finished the original commissions.

My policy is; no refunds. It's not my fault people don't keep up with where their money goes. If they can't pay full price, I don't draw them anything, and if they don't respond to my emails, well, I just got a lot of money for very little work.

If that guy is obviously active online but isn't contacting you, then just set what you've done aside and do other projects. If I don't hear from someone after six months, I'll just scrap a project and assume it's dead.
Jul. 10th, 2011 01:34 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't worry about charging a dollar or two extra for shipping; as long as there isn't a $10 shipping difference, the customer shouldn't have too much of a problem with the cost. They want the item, they should pay to ship it! It's also pretty simple to refund the difference if the customer requests it.
Jul. 11th, 2011 06:22 pm (UTC)
Sorry for being late to the thread to reply. I have to put in another vote for shipping things via flat rate boxes when at all possible. USPS has a variety of new flat rate packages you can use to ship, including bubble mailer envelopes and "game board" boxes, about the size of a large board game like Risk. With some creative packing, you can fit just about anything into a flat rate box of one type or another.

For larger items, if your post office is not too far, perhaps drive up and get a shipping quote. Me personally, I use a shipping store (as opposed to the post office; this place does USPS, FedEx, UPS, DHL) because they can offer you a better price depending on which carrier has the best rate. My local shipping store also prints labels for me so the packaging is nice and neat. The cost is slightly higher than postal but it includes a variety of extra services that end up saving me time. Shipping stores can be less hectic than the post office, so easier to walk in and just get a shipping quote for something you need to mail.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )


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