June 03, 2020

There is abounding confusion about shipping these days. Many are confused about the difference between small parcel shipments and LTL shipments. There is confusion about the timing of shipments, where shipments are dropped off, when shipments are scheduled, why they sometimes require a signature, and the list could go on.

One of the primary questions we get is related to the cost of freight. We are often asked if a freight charge will be added on during checkout. This is a very rational question. If you want to ship a box to a friend, you take it to UPS or FedEx or the post office and pay for freight. When was the last time you got to one of those locations and they said, "All shipments are free today"? Never, of course.

Shipping items costs money; even sending a paper-thin envelope costs you a stamp. So what is going on with all of these websites offering free shipping? How is that possible?

For those with a business background the concept might seem obvious, but for many of us it leads to a lot of confusion. I will try to clear it up.

It began as an effort on the part of sales departments to complete sales. They found that many online shoppers were not completing their sales due to being surprised by shipping costs at the end of the purchase process. They thought they were buying an office chair, let's say, for $150. But then at the end the site added on $60 in shipping charges. They didn't like that, so they didn't finish the purchase.

The truth is that even though customers didn't like that, it literally did cost that vendor $60 to ship that chair to the customer. It was not a ploy to make more money, but it felt that way to customers. How, they wondered, could they combat this?

Enter the concept of "free shipping." They instead raised their price for the chair to $210 and advertised that it came with free shipping. Simple as that! The customer pays the same, but feels better about the purchase since they are getting something (that always costs money) for free! And there are no hidden charges - the price they see up front is the final price.

This is the model we use at OfficeDesk.com - all prices are final prices, and there is never freight "added on" (unless you are in Canada or Hawaii). However, we certainly pay for freight.

In fact, did you know that the average price to ship one of our medium-sized desks halfway across the country is $400? If we had to ship one of our large desks from California to New York (which happens all the time) it can cost around $1,000! Freight costs continue to climb, and they are not cheap by any means. LTL shipments (which is required for freight heavier than 150 pounds) are vastly more expensive than small parcel (FedEx) shipments, and the vast majority of our shipments go with LTL carriers.

On top of the generally high costs, it is important to remember that not all companies are the same when it comes to freight. We have a huge number of options of what LTL carriers to use on any given shipment. Many of the large online retailers do whatever is necessary to drive their prices down. They are okay losing money on many sales, as long as their overall sales volume is high (it helps their stock price to have a lot of sales).

Since they push their prices so low, they have to cut costs somewhere, and they end up doing it on freight. They use the absolute worst, cheapest carriers available, and some of these carriers take over 3 weeks to deliver shipments and have over a 10% damage rate! While this does save them money, customers hate it!

We use only the top carriers in the industry, carriers like Daylight and R&L and SAIA. These carriers have ridiculously low damage rates and are very fast. And we add on inside delivery service on every shipment, so the carrier will get the boxes off the truck and bring them to the garage or the first covered space for the customer. That costs us a lot of extra money, but our customers are very thankful.

I mention all of that to emphasize that we are often not the cheapest price on a product, but you do get what you pay for when it comes to service, higher-quality shipping, and speed. And freight is often as expensive for us as the actual product is! But it makes a huge difference...

I hope all of this is helpful information. Quick version: there is no such thing as free shipping, and make sure you're buying from a company who uses top-notch carriers.

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