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Questions requarding shipping, fellow BL sellers

Ok so I am a BL seller and I am shipping all of my items at cost. We are very open about this on our store terms. Yes we do charge a small handling fee, which we are up front about. Which we have had a few orders cancel because they claim we are charging to much for shipping. We have even had buyers tell us that other sellers (for international shipping) charge half as much. We then went to two different post offices to discuss this issue (2 just in case our main one was making a mistake). Both post offices said the same thing.

So my question for my fellow sellers is this, how exactly are you doing it? For a small bubble mailer to be shipped anywhere in the US costs $2.62. You can't ship it any cheaper than that legally. Cheapest shipping to Canada is $9.50 and most international is $13.50. I had a buyer swear up and down that another seller could ship to the UK for half of that. I don't think the buyer was pulling my leg, I think some sellers are doing it cheaper. 

So if you are using a different shipping method other than USPS what may I ask are you using. 

If you are using the USPS, then 1 of two things is happening. For one you are shipping at a loss, which I don't understand why you would do that. Or two you are shipping illegally.

Which brings me to my final point, I'm sure some of you out there are shipping illegally. Again I talked at length to two different post offices about this and they both said the same thing. So it's not us that's the problem, we are doing it 100% by the book. But if you are shipping bubble mailers as a flat in US, you are not shipping properly. I suppose it's not terrible, but again it's not the correct way. But if you are shipping internationally this way, then you are technically breaking the law. You might be getting away with it, but customs can and will seaze your package if they discover it. It is not legal to send anything internationally as a flat other than letters, just throwing that out there. 

I look forward to comments on this topic.

Comments

  • CupIsHalfEmptyCupIsHalfEmpty CanadaPosts: 537
    I think you answered your own question. I suspect as do you, that the sellers with the cheaper shipping option are using "letter" Mail to ship packages under 20mm thick. And yes you are correct, according to the TOS you aren't supposed to put anything in letter mail that isn't a letter. 

    So there lies the ethical dilemma, Do something that's not permitted because everybody else is. Or don't do something that's wrong and lose out on sales to the people who are doing something wrong. 

    There's a dark hole that people get dragged into while discussing ethical dilemmas in internet forums. Let's try not to go there and keep this positive. :D  Chose to do what you feel is the right thing to do with the information presented to you. 
    josekalelJackad7madforLEGOTheMaker37
  • CaptainPirateManCaptainPirateMan MichiganPosts: 145
    I am not going to change any of my procedures with the USPS, I will always remain on the level. But if another service is cheaper, I will look into that. 

    I also just wanted to throw it out there, that some sellers are not "on the level."
  • wagnerml2wagnerml2 Belleville, IllinoisPosts: 1,358
    Your shipping seems to be in line.  I do exactly the same thing as you and have had a few issues.  If I get any pushback from international buyers (which is very rare), I politely tell them that we probably aren't going to be doing business.
  • TheFewTheFew EnglandPosts: 428
    I think you answered your own question. I suspect as do you, that the sellers with the cheaper shipping option are using "letter" Mail to ship packages under 20mm thick. And yes you are correct, according to the TOS you aren't supposed to put anything in letter mail that isn't a letter. 

    So there lies the ethical dilemma, Do something that's not permitted because everybody else is. Or don't do something that's wrong and lose out on sales to the people who are doing something wrong. 

    There's a dark hole that people get dragged into while discussing ethical dilemmas in internet forums. Let's try not to go there and keep this positive. :D  Chose to do what you feel is the right thing to do with the information presented to you. 
    Sorty for the tangent.. but i love the fact  that @CupIsHalfEmpty says lets keep this positive ;-)

    Back on topic. Why does UPS let people get away with it? In the UK if postage was not correct the  Royal Mail would charge the recipient for any missing costs before the item could be collected.
  • When a buyer wants to cancel, do I need to do anything on my orders page, or just leave it alone?
  • khmellymelkhmellymel United KingdomPosts: 1,111
    ^^ Royal Mail also permits anything that you send under 2.5 cms to be sent as a large letter (assuming other dimensions and weight are not an issue, of course). It does not have to be paper.

    I also think that you've hit the nail on the head, some sellers just ship via the cheapest method that they can get away with.  Whether intentional or not though, I don't know.  I was totally unaware that USPS did not permit non flat items to be sent via lettermail.   When I used to take items to USPS, they would weigh and measure the item, ask me if I needed any special services and then charge me.  But they often just charged me lettermail even if the item was obviously like, a wallet or something.  I just took their word for it and charged buyers accordingly).
  • akunthitaakunthita USAPosts: 912
    edited December 2016

    Sending a package as letter is a huge risk to the seller, because it goes through a machine that can rip the package open if it gets caught on something (a.k.a. LEGO pieces inside). So unless the sellers is inexperienced, I doubt they would do it.

    Personally, I'm just a hobby seller, and I only sell parts/sets/minifigs that I don't need. I'm not in it for making a big profit, but to recoup some of the expenses related to the hobby. So if I know the buyer would be sticker-shocked if I use the actual shipping cost (especially on larger international packages), and if I have some wiggle-room with the price, I will just eat the cost of some of the shipping myself. I know many other sellers who do the same.

    So, if a buyer ask a shipping quote from you and a seller like me, our shipping quote may be lower. This is not because we are skirting the law (I would never do that - I want my packages to arrive safely and without any hick-ups), but because we are willing to cover some of the shipping fees to make the sale.

    Not every seller can do this, obviously, especially if they are running their BL store as a business. But the point is that sellers on BrickLink (and also on eBay and Amazon) follow different formulas to cover shipping. Some charge exact shipping (meaning the exact same price as what the post office charges), some have a shipping-table based on the total order value (this is what practically all big businesses use), and some offer free shipping.

    So it is very likely that the other sellers giving a quote to your buyers are using the exact same shipping method as you, but they are using a different formula as far as what to charge to the buyer.

    From the buyer's perspective, I prefer stores with a shipping-table, based on the value of the order. This is the easiest for the buyer to understand, especially if they are not intimately familiar with shipping options and charges. I have $28 worth of items in my cart, I go to the sellers Terms, see that they charge $3 for orders between $25-$50 and I'm ready to check out (in fact, I will likely add some more items as I see shipping is the same up to $50). All done.

    I don't care if actual shipping for the seller was 50 cents less. I want to check out quickly and efficiently without the possibility of surprise charges. And I don't want to read a whole dissertation about what is the seller's exact cost shipping, bubble mailers, tape, and gas. Nor do I want to read about percentage fees, and lot fees, and currency conversion fees, and PayPal fees and all that crap. Some sellers Terms Pages are just ridiculous, and you need an advance degree in math and a scientific calculator to figure out what they are going to charge. Just be upfront and charge me something reasonable and you will have my business. 

    From the seller's perspective this means that on some orders they make a bit of extra on shipping, and some they loose a bit on shipping. But if they do it right, at the end it all evens out.

    Bumblepants
  • piratemania7piratemania7 New EnglandPosts: 1,655
    It's important to note too that some sellers may intentionally charge less for shipping because they bake in their cost in the item(s) being purchased.

    if you are selling an item and are able to make a decent profit maybe you charge less for shipping to "attract" buyers.
    madforLEGOOldfan
  • Speedman29Speedman29 Brickswell ClosePosts: 418
    As a buyer I'd rather pay the proper cost and know its going to be shipped correctly and less likely to get damaged in transit.

    I had an ebay seller ship a minifigure in an envelope wrapped in a plastic bag recently. The helmet from the figure got two huge gouges in the brim ruining it. I complained and sent photos and they were most apologetic and refunded me £2, making it a cheap monsterfighters figure. Luckily a blast with the wife's hair-dryer on full blast popped the worst of the damage out.
    SprinkleOttermadforLEGO
  • ggfileggfile CanadaPosts: 11
    You CAN legally ship items in lettermail AND pay the lettermail rate, as long as the envelope is less than 20mm thickness AND as long as you have a properly completed customs declaration clearly visible on the outside of the letter. In this case, the actual shipping cost should be less than $5!
  • ggfileggfile CanadaPosts: 11
    ^ I forgot to mention, the weight must be less than 30 grams for the lowest postal rate
  • CCCCCC UKPosts: 14,107
    I regularly use bubble mailers for shipping minifigs internationally. But then, I am allowed to from the UK.
  • kiki180703kiki180703 Montreal, CanadaPosts: 963
    edited December 2016
    @ggfile That's not the case in the US as it seems.
  • One surprising thing I found is that shipping to different parts of Canada are cheaper than others. I think around $5 to some places, $9.5 to others.
  • CaptainPirateManCaptainPirateMan MichiganPosts: 145
    I don't think it "wrong" to send things in the US as a letter, it's just not "correct" if that makes sense? Its not encoraged, but it's also not recommended. My guess is because postal service can't guarantee it's safety being mailed that way. Its crossing boarders that is a big "no, no". I heard from official sources that things will be seazed at customs if discovered.
  • khmellymelkhmellymel United KingdomPosts: 1,111
    @SprinkleOtter it's cheaper in some cases  (many cases) to drive across the border and ship from the US to CAN rather than ship CAN to CAN. If you live on a border town anyway.  Shipping to northern territories will be expensive  regardless of who you use.  Everything up there is expensive.
  • JodyJody Eastern USAPosts: 104
    My local post office postmaster says as long as it is under 20mm thick, I get the letter rate- bubble mailer or envelope. What I find more amusing is how much of a fit they have if you pre-print a label and drop the parcel at a post office other than what is listed to at the "from" zip code on the label. Some post offices are very protective of this, because they want credit for each parcel they handle. Those volumes determine staffing and hours, and in some cases, can determine if they close/consolidate a location in the future. 
  • ShibShib UKPosts: 4,041
    It's important to note too that some sellers may intentionally charge less for shipping because they bake in their cost in the item(s)
    This was what I was going to point out. In the same way that technicall no online stores are actually giving Free shipping, it's just shipping is included in their item price.

    I've had similar issues with customers where I work with regard to fitting fees. The company I work for is very up front and give each item produced a price and a seperate price for fitting as some people like to fit stuff themselves to save a bit of money. But I've had customers ask if we can give free fitting because another company has, even though the total on our quote is already cheaper. People don't necessarily look at these things with much common sense!
  • bobabricksbobabricks Vancouver, BC, CanadaPosts: 1,743
    Some of these sellers that are selling in northern states might be using Canadian post offices.

    here are the costs after conversion conversion to USD:

    ----------------in USA - in Canada
    To Canada. $9.50 - $1.50

    international $13.50 - $7.50

    As you can see, international shipping costs are almost half in Canada, this could explain this situation. Also, in Canada, (I don't know if USPS does this), you are able to receive cheaper 'business' shipping costs when you use the services frequently, I think it's after you've spent $5000CAD with them.

    CaptainPirateMankiki180703
  • ryjayryjay Posts: 776
    edited December 2016
    How you incorporate your shipping cost are  huge factor in your success, and those costs can all be negotiated....USPS is the hardest, but it can be done.  

    In my "real" business I have the best rates with FedEx on packages.  They are cheaper then what ebay has negotiated for their  sellers on all carriers.  However, I'm restricted with those rates to only ship to business addresses.  If I ship to homes, the rate is much higher....and no, a business out of a home doesn't work, I get billed the additional charge which approaches the cost of USPS for the same service. But what I like to do, is if someone ships using FedEx, I give them my account number, they ship it to me at my contracted rate.

    And volume will factor in, but those limits can be waived.  Now Im just guessing here, but companies like Walmart, Target, and Amazon, I'd be surprised if their rate was more then $5/package anywhere in the US.

    BTW, in addition, your CC cost can also be negotiated...even with paypal.  Try it!!

  • ryjay said:
    How you incorporate your shipping cost are  huge factor in your success, and those costs can all be negotiated....USPS is the hardest, but it can be done.  

    In my "real" business I have the best rates with FedEx on packages.  They are cheaper then what ebay has negotiated for their  sellers on all carriers.  However, I'm restricted with those rates to only ship to business addresses.  If I ship to homes, the rate is much higher....and no, a business out of a home doesn't work, I get billed the additional charge which approaches the cost of USPS for the same service. But what I like to do, is if someone ships using FedEx, I give them my account number, they ship it to me at my contracted rate.

    And volume will factor in, but those limits can be waived.  Now Im just guessing here, but companies like Walmart, Target, and Amazon, I'd be surprised if their rate was more then $5/package anywhere in the US.

    BTW, in addition, your CC cost can also be negotiated...even with paypal.  Try it!!

    CC?
  • Jackad7Jackad7 Wisconsin Posts: 403
    So I was thinking about how you could ship it cheaper and I remembered when I used to trade trading cards of you put an extra $0.04 stamp on and write hand cancel they dont machine it. Before I am crucified for breaking the law I was told this by the lady at the post office after I told her I was shipping trading guards.
  • blogzillyblogzilly Columbus, OhioPosts: 539
    @CaptainPirateMan
    You didn't ask for a Buyer perspective, but I'd like to weigh in. I don't sell LEGO, and I've had an eBay store for 16 years so I do know about selling and shipping. But I buy a LOTTA LEGO. And I've purchased a ton of BL lots in the past 10 weeks getting parts for the Chestburster and two other builds. 

    I have favorited several stores I've purchased from. I have disliked several stores I purchased from. Not one of those decisions were based on shipping costs. Not one. Now, I don't live overseas I always buy within the US as I live in the US. And if I think a Seller is charging too much on shipping? I don't buy from them.

    Personally? I would rather get items that are not trying to skim on shipping cost. By being light on protection in all ways possible, which are: no padded envelope, no bags to protect the bricks from each other by color, no extra cushioning to protect anything extra that requires it. In addition, I respect in a HUGE way when a Seller included a packing list. I'll accept a note with the BL order number though. 

    Doing those things, and some Sellers do more as you probably already know, like including extra bricks as gifts, incentive coupons, quality of bricks (New AND Used), etc., will be what makes you stand out and grow your business, not worrying so much about how to shave pennies off the shipping. I'm not suggesting budget isn't important, it is, but transparency and customer service are probably higher on the scale of importance and are what allow the great Bricklink Sellers rise to the top.
    Johnyk668CaptainPirateMankbenjes
  • ^  I agree.
    When a seller skimps on packing materials to save money, everyone loses. He loses when parts get damaged and buyer requests a refund, and the buyer loses, well, parts.
    blogzilly
  • Johnyk668Johnyk668 Melbourne, Australia Posts: 55
    I agree as well, once a store is on my favourites they are my first port of call and none of those favourites are there because of cheap postage costs.
    They are all there because of turnaround time from placing order, how they package the parts and just like @blogzilly getting a packing slip with the parcel is great.
    For instance I ordered 50 technic track links recently and as they weren't available in those numbers in Australia I had to go overseas, I selected a seller in the US, he had the most ridiculous formula to work out postage and picking costs but I went with them anyway. A couple of weeks later I receive a regular envelope in the mail containing a zip lock bag and no additional packaging not even any bubble wrap. I can't believe none of the parts were damaged. 
    Keep your postage rates simple to work out and don't let people skimping on postage dampen your spirit.
    CaptainPirateMan
  • OldfanOldfan Chicagoland, IL, USAPosts: 545
    edited December 2016
    @blogzilly:  I remember several threads on Bricklink forums about how sellers are asked not to included packing lists in order to keep the weight of the package low enough to qualify for the next-cheaper shipping rate; some buyers (and sellers) firmly believe in the mantra "I'm not paying a penny more than I have to".  (Although this applied more to minifigure and low quantity orders). There's all sorts of opinions on the matter, apparently!
  • blogzillyblogzilly Columbus, OhioPosts: 539
    @Oldfan I did say that respect a packing list, but would accept a note with the order number. Some of the orders I got last week had a business card (actual) or similar sized such note. I was fine with that.

    I get the penny mantra, and everyone is entitled to it certainly, but as a Seller I look at the bottom line versus customer satisfaction. For First Class Postage, there are price levels starting with 8 oz but it isn't like it used to be where every ounce equals a new charge. So there is room to maneuver, and enough room in most cases for inclusion of things to make a Buyer very happy. If I go over, I just go over, because I want that Buyer remembering and coming back. But that's my business model and it won't be everyone else's.

    Like you said...there are going to be all sorts of opinions.
  • CCCCCC UKPosts: 14,107
    I never include a packing list. I pack from a screen. To have to print out a list seems ridiculous to me. Not very environmental either, and the costs will be paid by someone (the buyer).
    BuriedinBricksSprinkleOtter
  • blogzillyblogzilly Columbus, OhioPosts: 539
    Understood. Writing the order number by hand on a short note, Hell even on the package, is a great thing and hugely helpful.

    A Packing Slip is a convenience for the Buyer. But it isn't a necessity. When you buy from 20 Sellers in a clip, it's helpful to sort when you get 6-7 bubble mailers or more in a day. The order number is on the printout most people create if they make one.

    The problem occurs when there is nothing. Usually return addresses are NOT the store name or Bricklink ID and that makes it more work for the Buyer to identify the shipments in these kinds of situations.

    That's the main issues I was trying to cover when it comes to receiving packages of parts from Bricklink as a Buyer. I understand that the Packing Slip or List adds cost, but as a consumer I'd be willing to pay it for the convenience it provides me.
    Legogram
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