I hate paying for shipping. For anything. Psychologically, the seller would be better off charging the shipping within the price, and give ‘free’ shipping, rather than add it on–for me, anyway. I’ve desired a certain Oxalis plant for years. The only online store that sells the bulbs charges so much shipping, I won’t buy them. For three teeny rhizomes, I’m to shell out 10 bucks? Really? So, I deprive myself of that gorgeous plant.
Recently, I finally had to give into my desire for a certain book–well, the illustrations within the book. I’ve never heard of it before–a friend on flickr had scanned plates from it, and it’s weird and quirky enough for me to lust after the book. Problem–I can’t afford the prices being asked for this title. Even though under 100 bucks, that’s still to rich for me at the moment. I knew there was a copy for around 45 dollars out there, and was still listed every time I checked. I finally broke down and decided I had to have it, even though in rather poor condition, and not a first. Another crappy thing–the book is in the UK–not unusual as it was published there. And, I’m guessing, never published in the US. I expect to pay more shipping, logically that would have to be the case. When I checked the shipping price, it seemed very reasonable–I think it was 6 or 7 dollars, as opposed to US regular shipping costs–around 4 or 5. So, I’m excited. I took the plunge, ordered the book, now to wait for it’s arrival and to drool over the contents–all 16 crazy plates, plus black and whites I’ve never seen. And because the illustrations are so intriguing–I’m going to do the unthinkable–read the book too.
So, when an e-mail comes through from ABE confirming my order, I’m happy as a book reading clam. When the e-mail from the dealer arrives, it is puzzling–because it’s not really from the dealer, but some kind of automated thing requesting more shipping monies because it needs to go airmail and it weighs some heavy amount–or so I assume, since I don’t know weights and measures in other country speak. Ok, I’m thinking–10 bucks? Maybe a little more–but the sum they wanted nearly made my brain explode. 22 extra bucks!! Sure, I can blame a crappy US economy on bad exchange rates, but really–how bad could it be? Not that bad. So the book is around 37 dollars, they had some kind of discount, that’s nice considering the condition:
“Numerous lovely full-color illustrations by J Hancock. Some staining and damage to rear board; hinge between spine-strip and rear board split but still attached; corners and edges rather scuffed; largely clean internally, but some staining to the corners of some plates, affecting borders rather than illustration itself. Many pages and plates quite clean”
Add 22.00 to the cost, and it’s now way over what I wanted to pay, let alone annoying as hell to be told that this is what you need to pay if you want a package sent to you from us–and oh, if you want to mail it surface, it will take your lifetime, and the lifetime of your offspring–but if this method is something you are interested in–you will need to contact us personally. There is no option to click or write back from the e-mail sent–yes, quote me the surface rate. I have to click on an answer–yes I will accept the extra charges, or no, I won’t. Gee, guess what I decided?
Today I got the official cancellation of the order. Now, here’s my beef. Why couldn’t they send a personal e-mail explaining the options? One that was a bit warmer than an ABE rote thing? What happened to customer contact? Do the booksellers think that adding on more than half the price of the book for shipping will go unnoticed or paid for gladly?
In this case adding the cost of shipping into the price wouldn’t have worked for me either. That is too much of a jump for me to accept. What would have perhaps kept the sale for them, assuming they cared about keeping a sale–send the personal e-mail explaining costs, and give the option of surface at a much reduced price, and then let me decide. Maybe I needed the book yesterday for some reason–or–maybe I don’t need to get it for 6 weeks, it should be my call, not an automated system. One that alienated me enough to not bother trying to acquire that particular copy.
I’d have to go to the postal rates for the UK, check weight etc, to find out if their quote is correct–and maybe it is–maybe for air it is the going rate. If so, the British postal system is making a damn fortune. However, for those of us who aren’t millionaires, surface mail still works, and should always be an easily accessed option. Now I wait until I dredge up enough dough for a first mailed from the US for the princely sum of 4 bucks, or forget about the entire thing. Yeah, I know–a 78 total is far more than a 59.44–but you know what? The book is a first, in really good condition, and I know I’ll be paying for the book itself, not for its transportation from there to here. And that’s exactly how it suits me.
6 thoughts on “When Shipping Costs, Cost a Sale”
Hey Diane, This is something we agree upon. Postal rates from some book sellers do seem mighty high and I know that there have been times that they have caused me to not make a purchase or to, as you say, caused me to upgrade my purchase to a better quality copy for a few dollars more.
One thing I try to do (and I’m somewhat successful at it) is to have the personal contact that you mention. A couple recent (International – I’m in the U.S.) sales I had exemplify this. One, a lady from Great Britain wanted a copy of a book that I had that was from the 60’s and in excellent, near new condition. Before I sent the postal charge increase (through AbeBooks) I emailed her and told her of the shipping costs and the shipping discount I was giving her. Also that the book, because of its size, would have to ship in the flat rate envelope with no other protection than the cardboard envelope. Its weight would make surface even more expensive than the flat rate.
She took umbrage at my email, wrote back and demanded she receive the book in the exact same condition and shipping price as I had listed it. I could not guarantee what any postal employee would do so I cancelled the order from my end. She must have done some research on the book that showed her my price and book condition, even with the (discounted) postage increase, was better than her own country would provide. She wrote a nice letter accepting the deal and the book is, even now, traveling to her. – I did manage to stuff some protection on the ends of the envelope/book.
To other sellers: May I suggest that handling and wrapping charges (if you charge any) be placed in the book price and not in the shipping price. You are going to have to wrap the book whether you send it to the next town over or to the other side of the world. Figure the amount that it costs you and decide whether eating that cost or upping the cost of the book is the way you should go. Tacking it into the price of postage might cost you in the long run.
If a seller chooses to sell internationally, shipping charges should be part of the original price, and the standard shipping should apply. Asking customers to “pony up” extra monies for shipping sounds bogus, and is a bad selling practice. I would not buy a book where a seller asked me for more money. If the shipping charge is indicated with the sale, that should be it.
When a seller lists a book for sale internationally, they know the shipping weight, and the various options for shipping. If the shipping costs are more than the standard allowed shipping, then it should not be offered for sale internationally.
Just my humble opinion.
In defense of the bookseller, international postal rates are outrageous. I had to inform a potential buyer in Malta that his book (very large, over 4 lbs) would cost $55.00 to ship rather than the normal $16.95 international priority rate (which is what I usually charge, just what USPS charges me). If there was any way I could have worked around this, I would have, & told the client that. I understood why he cancelled the sale. Good point about the importance of communication though!
I am happy to see others in the same boat as me, and as frustrated. If the shipping cost had been upfront, then I would have passed over the book to find another in better condition with less shipping charges, and the seller could sell to someone else, in country. But anyway you look at it, not contacting me personally was a rude move, and one that they should know would cost the sale. I do realize how insane some international shipping costs are–but I have ordered books from the Uk in the past, and not gone bankrupt. Thank for all your responses!
ABE’s system does not make it easy for sellers to customize shipping charges on a book by book basis. You can vary rates by country, but not by service. So, you can set one rate for surface shipping, and another for Air Mail. But you can’t, for instance, set a surface rate for small books, and a different surface rate for larger books or sets.
We run into this problem all the time selling on ABE. Our surface rate is the cost for a USPS padded flat rate envelope. Probably 75 to 80% of our books will fit in those mailers. For the books that don’t, we either have to build extra postage into the cost of the book (which we prefer not to do, as that would drive away domestic orders), or else request extra shipping charges.
That still doesn’t explain the lack of an explanatory email. There is a field for you to explain the extra charges to the buyer. We also send a follow-up email to explain in further detail. It’s an imperfect system without any good options.
Good customer service is a thing of beauty and, well, you know the rest. It sounds like the system is broken when it comes to international sales. I see both sides where the charge is concerned but think the sellers handled the situation badly.
A few years ago I posted a painting on Illustration Friday and someone in the Netherlands wanted to buy it. We agreed on the price of the actual painting and I told them I would get back to them about shipping. The shipping charge was more than the cost of the painting (which was a small museum wrapped 11″x14″ canvas.) I explained the situation to the buyer, who was nice about it when I cancelled the sale.
The flip side to that is seeing that people are actually making money off the shipping rather than the book. When I see used books at Amazon for.01 to.99, I know they can’t be making money any other way than the shipping. It’s frustrating and sometimes I’ll go ahead and pay it because it is still the best price. I have also passed on books because they set their own shipping charge and it was outlandish.
Comments are closed.