Shipping Advice

    June 18, 2003

Keep it simple! You’ve heard this from us before but, we can’t stress the point too much. Your Internet store is not for you; It’s for your customer.

The quickest way to lose a customer is to give them sticker shock by adding a large amount to the order for shipping and handling just when they’re ready to ante up with a credit card. We call this the “free tapes and records” scheme. You’ve seen it in telemarketing ads. The product is $3.95 and the S&H is … well, extra. It’s usually going to be such a hit that the advertiser won’t mention it up front. Telemarketers get away with this because once a customer is on the telephone placing the order, they are reluctant to tell the salesperson to forget it when hearing the total charge.

Don’t count on such sticky customers at your internet store. In fact a recent survey revealed that the most common reason for abandoned shopping carts was the resentment and/or shock at seeing the last minute addition of shipping and handling charges.

The best solution is to include the S&H in the item price and advertise S&H as included. Think of yourself as the consumer; wouldn’t this be a nice offer. The chances are that if you have a specialty store with an informative web site, the price alone isn’t going to make or break a sale. Sticker shock at checkout will.

The next best approach, where practical, is to try and average out costs over all orders and just add a flat charge for everyone. Do not, however, add large handling charges to make up for under priced items. The internet customer has too much savvy to fall for that one.

OK, we offer the MyStore3 storefront that will compute shipping costs at least five different, not mutually exclusive, ways and even provide zone and weight sensitive UPS charges. So why are we telling you not to do this. For one thing, your cost for MyStore3 will be more than our simpler webPeddle and PeddleGold stores and setting up MyStore3, using all of the options, is a lot more complex. MyStore products are targeted more toward the Internet catalog store with a large number of different products, varying widely in size and weight. It just makes good sense to go the simple route when you can.

How should you ship your products? As the merchant, you know better than we do the best and most economical shipping method for your particular products. You probably also know that it’s good practice to get a return receipt or at least delivery confirmation. In the past for US merchants, delivery confirmation meant using one of the common carriers.

Recently however, the US Postal service has started offering delivery confirmation and signature confirmation for Priority Mail and Parcel Post at fairly economical rates. A delivery confirmation will cost an additional 40 cents for Priority Mail and 50 cents on Parcel Post. Signature confirmation is $1.75. In all cases you can now access receipt information on-line.

For rate information:
For confirmation info:

One reason for mentioning signature and delivery confirmation is to alert you to a potential trouble area when shipping merchandise and taking credit card payment on-line. It’s a very easy for your customer to call their card issuing bank and claim they “never got the stuff”. If you shipped it to them and don’t have proof of delivery …goodby money and product. Sure this is a fraudulent claim but, it comes down to your word against the customer’s. Most of the time, the customer’s bank is going to side with their customer and charge back the payment to you. The funds will be deducted from your merchant account even before you’re notified of a claim.

The answer to this is: You MUST keep good records, which is a great intro to our next article about taking credit cards on the Internet.

Mel Davey is the creator of ImagineNation (, a full service E-Commerce Application Service Provider, offering Storefronts, Order Management Utilities, and 3rd party credit card processing.