Guest post by Annette:
"Buy more! Save more!"
That tag line has always annoyed me in its urging unnecessary consumption, concomitant with boasts like, “I bought this backpack for $250 on sale, and it was a third off, so I saved $125!” - when the buyer already owns five other backpacks. Really?
In some cases, however, the encouragement is based on truth and is not simply a ruse to trick the customer into buying more. For our international customers this is the case.
We've shipped internationally since VO began. Yes, it costs us a bit in labor, and yes, it's a headache, and yes, there are delays in getting quotes to the customer and collecting the shipping. Our procedures for international shipping have never changed: you must place an order, we tell you how much postage will cost once we've packed and weighed it, you can reject or accept the shipping options, and we'll issue an immediate merchandise refund you if you cancel. We've investigated this process time and time again, and we've always concluded that, given the weird size-to-weight ratio of many of our products, this is the fairest way of assessing postage costs.
It is usually better for international customers to order more at one time, for two reasons. First, the shipping cost per pound decreases as the total weight increases. This is especially the case for orders that we can ship via US Postal Service. Second, however, is a more complicated consideration called “dimensional weight” that kicks in when we use air express services like Fedex. Dim weight is calculated by the box measurement, and shipping is charged on the higher of the two weights, dim vs. actual. For example, the weight of a box with a single set of fenders is 4 pounds, but its dimensional weight is 24. So it is to the customer's advantage to order more items that can be stuffed in the box, since s/he's paying for 24 lbs worth of shipping. As the box size increases, obviously, the dim weight increases, until the story gets really gruesome with frames.
Thankfully, we have a very understanding and responsive team at Fedex, so when we scream that we're losing orders because shipping is too expensive to, say, Australia or Austria, we are not ignored. Effective last week, depending on weight/size/cost of your orders, international customers are receiving rate quote emails for both USPS and Fedex, with a strong recommendation for one or the other. In most cases, Fedex is beating USPS on both service and price except on the lightest, smallest packages. So, in terms of shipping costs: buy more! save more!
I had to laugh when I saw today's NewYork Times piece about major retailers and their discovery of an international market. Oh, to be a scrappy upstart (h/t Pete Campbell).