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Advice - Shipping Estimates

I don't know if this is me just being paranoid, as I'm new to the business world for items needing to be shipped, and quite worried about messing up and possibly getting negative reputation.

I ship with USPS and will provide the express and priority mail shipping rate from their online price calculator when the shipping price is requested, but I'm a bit confused for when shipping is more expensive than the estimate from online I normally pay out-of-pocket with money from the sale itself, but what do I do when I accidentally overcharge the customer? (I luckily haven't done this yet, I have accidentally undercharged) Also, how can I make sure my shipping estimates are fully accurate?

I'm just really worried about keeping a good reputation for when I sell more / offer commissions more, and I want my reputation to be correct. (As I've seen overcharging on shipping being a problem in some bewares, but not the main point normally.)

I purchase the boxes at the post office when going out to ship, if that makes a difference.

Thank you in advance for any responses!

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( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 20th, 2013 12:31 am (UTC)
Are you charging for the boxes/packaging materials or just the postage fees?

I ask because I previously handled the A/R for a publishing company with online retail store. A lot of clients would nitpick shipping costs but not take into consideration packaging prices or things like company time/gas mileage to package an order and get it out to be shipped. Basically the 'handling' portion of shipping and handling. All of those should be considered when putting together shipping charges.

If it was just the postage you were considering, minor overage would be acceptable to cover your costs.
Feb. 20th, 2013 12:34 am (UTC)
You refund them the difference.

It's okay for your estimate to be $5 or so over the actual price (to account for these issues as well as your time and materials) but if you think you charged too much then you can easily go into Paypal and give them a partial refund. I often do this when they buy in bulk and I am able to fit things together more efficiently than I expected.

I also quote and ship priority only (for the tracking and insurance that I consider mandatory) except in the rare case where the item is so large and expensive that Express is actually cheaper after you count in the insurance discount.

The only way to really be accurate is to 1) ship flat rate or 2) box and weigh the parcel only after the item is totally finished and ready to go. IME USPS's calculator is pretty good as long as you don't change up what you are sending after estimating (I write what info I used right on the box).
Feb. 20th, 2013 12:37 am (UTC)
This exactly. When in doubt about the amount of your overage, always refund.
Feb. 20th, 2013 12:36 am (UTC)
I purchase the boxes at the post office when going out to ship, if that makes a difference.

Just so you know, if you go to usps.com and dig around a bit, you can actually order free boxes and certain envelopes in bulk, entirely for free. All they ask is that you actually use them for what they're made for.
Feb. 20th, 2013 12:49 am (UTC)
As a note though I'm pretty sure this is only for priority shipping boxes/mailers. With priority boxes you have to priority ship them, unless you cover the boxes up and cover up all priority labels on the package.

Correct me if I'm wrong of course.
Feb. 20th, 2013 01:13 am (UTC)
Correct, though I personally find it more than worth it!
Feb. 20th, 2013 11:21 pm (UTC)
Last time I went to the post office and got a flate rate USPS box, they said the boxes were free. I thought the shelf said $12 (which was surprisingly expensive but I just wanted to get things done) but I guess that was the flat rate to ship (even though it was more like $11 something).
The dude at the counter tried to scan it but no price came up, then the other counter dude said those boxes were free. So I wouldn't necessarily just walk in and grab some without checking in case other employees don't know about this. But looking at the USPS website it does indeed look like those boxes aren't charged for.

ETA: Just commenting to verify that you can get those in-store too, though it's not entirely obvious at first.

Edited at 2013-02-20 11:23 pm (UTC)
Feb. 20th, 2013 12:47 am (UTC)
When I'm unsure I tend to try and give a minor over estimate and then just refund the difference. Depending on what I am shipping I also may charge for the price of the shipping materials, so it's important to bring that into the calculation as well.

In the cases where I still undercharge, I typically eat the difference unless it's pretty extreme. In those cases I will typically hold on shipping out the package and contact the buyer with an updated shipping cost, and see if they still want the item.
Feb. 20th, 2013 12:48 am (UTC)
I do a lot of shipping, so this advice works for me-- if you might be doing a goodly bit of shipping, it might work for you. If not, that's okay too.

I have found that getting boxes ahead of time and having a scale on hand has greatly increased the accuracy of my quotes. Even more awesome, is that by having a scale on hand, I can print postage from USPS.com from home, for less than it costs me at the post office. A package I sent today cost me $2 less to ship from home via Priority-- that really adds up! It also automatically ties in a tracking/delivery confirm number with the transaction and so it's very easy to look up shipments and to troubleshoot when things go awry.

Anyhow, you can get a scale off of eBay for pretty cheap. Just get one that is known to be fairly accurate and can display lbs/oz. I think mine was around $18 and the brand is 'digiweigh'.

I cannot begin to tell you how much time and money that little scale has saved me on gas to and from the Post office, and electronic shipping rates are nearly always lower. Probably hundreds of dollars over the last few years. Just something to keep in mind!

On the occasion that my online shop overcharges shipping for my customer, I always refund the difference with an apology. Most people are actually very thankful for the honesty!
(no subject) - fenris_lorsrai - Feb. 20th, 2013 01:21 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 20th, 2013 02:30 am (UTC)
When I bill for shipping unclaimed artwork that bidders didn't pick up at the Anthrocon Art Show, I call it "shipping expense" which covers not only the postage, but also the cost of packaging material (boxes, packing peanuts, bubble wrap, etc.). I weigh AND MEASURE the package and use the online calculator. I've gotten bitten a couple of times by the dimensional weight -- I bought a bunch of cartons that were 24"x5"x18" which triggered it. Unfortunately it's a hassle to cut down the carton to 3" deep (which makes it cheaper) but I feel guilty about having to charge the more expensive rate if the artwork will fit in the shallower carton.
Feb. 21st, 2013 01:08 am (UTC)
Whenever I try to estimate shipping online, it always tells me WAY more than i know it should be.
Feb. 21st, 2013 08:37 am (UTC)
Wal-mart is usually more than happy to give you boxes too. Just ask your local one what time is best for grabbing boxes from the stockers. :3
Feb. 28th, 2013 07:21 am (UTC)
I honestly weigh a lot of stuff myself so I can get an accurate estimate online based on the weight of my product.

I keep a list of frequently used shipping materials (box & envelope prices and sizes, ect) so I can try to make a more accurate guess for the client before I know, if I can't weigh stuff right away.

If there's ever an issue of overcharging, as noted already, you can refund the difference. :)
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )


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