Free Shipping isn't Free
Humans are not infallible, we have been falling prey to snake oil salesmen since selling for money began, and he/she with the best sales pitch wins, right?
If your product is imbued with integrity and good will, why do we feel the need to 'hype' it in the first place? Don't even start me on Black Friday sales!
So much for the product, now let's talk about getting that product out to customers. We have been 'conditioned' by societal norms, to believe in certain things (some of which might be for another blog). One of those 'norms' is Free Shipping.
Yay, I hear you say, we all love free shipping, but what is it really?
Big selling platforms give free shipping, no, they really do, because they can afford to utilize it as a form of advertising, a 'loss leader' if you will. Huge conglomerates sell in such enormous volume because they know that their customers will buy more products, because they will get free shipping, the mass of those sales more than make up for the shipping costs, which due to the sheer volume of sales, is DEEPLY discounted to these platforms. This is a great help to countries that can mass produce products, it's a win win, right?
Now let's talk about the average person in the USA who is selling a non mass produced product, one that is lovingly created by hand. Perhaps an artist, a jeweler, or even a tea blender, you know, the 'Mom and Pop's'.They make enough sales to make ends meet, and that's ok, because they are the captain of their own ship, and that's the trade off, but they sure can't absorb the cost of shipping their product to you.
The only way for a small business to offer free shipping is to up the price of their product, period, it's not rocket science. Seems legit, right?
The problem with this idea is twofold.
1.....I am on the east coast, many of my orders are to California, which, due to Post Office changes, now incurs the most expensive shipping from the east coast. If I roll the cost of shipping into a product price, it makes sense that I would pick the price to ship it to the furthest distance so that I don't lose money. A product that once cost $50 for instance, will now include $12 shipping cost to California, and becomes an item that costs $62. With me so far?
So, let's assume that a return customer from the east coast goes to buy that $50 product, that they have purchased many times before, and suddenly find that it cost $62! They will know immediately that it must include $12 shipping, but they know from a previous order, that shipping is actually $6 to their location. Do you think that a customer might feel cheated at this realization, because I do. Do you want to be the customer in the chain who ends up 'subsidizing' free shipping for the west coast buyer?
2....This practice may actually be illegal. See this link for more information, but basically it states that if an item or service (shipping is a service) is offered as free, then it must actually be free and we can't increase our prices to recoup the cost of that item or service. So, in a nutshell, if you base your business on honesty and integrity, you surely cannot reconcile the idea of 'rolling' your costs of free shipping into your product. This is why I do not offer free shipping. Truth be told, it has never been an issue, I have never been asked to offer free shipping by a customer, and the short answer is, because my customers are smart and know that 'free shipping' isn't free. https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/16/251.1
In a world where trust is in short supply, I feel transparency and honesty to be integral in my business model, if a customer cannot trust me and my product, then I may as well shut up shop. I don't concern myself with what the big box boys are doing, I can't compete with them, nor do I wish to. So, if you see a small indy shop with fabulous bespoke products, and they don't offer 'free' shipping, now you know why. Buy from them, support them and help them prosper, they are the way of the future. If they go away we will be left with a world full of ordinary, and what a terrible place that would be.