Don’t waste your money on “express shipping.” #money #customerservice

I don’t know what got me on this tangent, but somehow I got thinking about my time at the call center again. This time, however, I wasn’t having flashbacks to troublesome customers. I think I finally stopped getting those. But somehow my train of thought took me to the subject of “express shipping,” or “faster shipping,” or whatever phrase mail-order companies use to get you to spend more money on their product by promising that something will be faster to you. Most of the time, it will ship faster. But that doesn’t guarantee that the item will be at your door any sooner than if you hadn’t paid the extra cost.

When you purchase a product via mail-order, more often than not you have to pay an additional shipping and handling fee. The phrase “shipping” is self-explanatory. They have to put it in the mail to you. They expect the customer to pay that cost. Most of us customers agree to do so, without questioning as to why the extra cost is higher than what we would pay at the post office to ship a similar item. That’s where the “handling” comes in.

I want to assume that most people can figure out what “handling” means but to illustrate my overall point I’m going to spell this out. “Handling” refers to getting the item ready to ship, such as packaging (which could cost extra if they have to pack something fragile), storage and the delivery to the mail carrier if necessary. If you’re buying a product from a larger company, “handling” could also refer to renting out a warehouse and paying for their employees to process shipments. So far, it seems like a legit cost, right?

Yes, but here’s where the “express shipping” cost comes to play. (For ease of use, I’m only going to use the term “express shipping,” even though I already addressed the fact that different companies use different terms to refer to the same thing.) “Express shipping” does mean that once an item gets shipped, it will arrive to you faster than if you hadn’t paid the extra cost. However, “express shipping” is not “express handling.” The item will sit in the warehouse for just as long.

In fact, there are some cases in which somebody who paid for “express shipping” could wait longer for an item than somebody who didn’t. Suppose the company that they both ordered from uses two warehouses. The order of the person who paid extra might have gotten to the warehouse in which the employees are lazy. Sure, the item might have shipped faster but took longer to get to the mail.

And once something is shipped, companies are very reluctant—very reluctant—to refund the cost of the express shipping to the customer. The money is already spent, and they are getting what they paid for. From what I remember, companies that we took customer service calls for only refunded that cost if the delay was caused by natural disaster, such as the one particular warehouse experiencing a flood or something along those lines.

My advice is to not bother with the extra cost. Even if it’s legit, is it really worth it? Do you really need your steam cleaner an extra day sooner? If you need something in an emergency, chances are you’re not ordering it through the mail. I think part of the problem is that people got used to getting their consumer goods right away instead of having to wait a while. People are impatient these days (with a lot of things, not just this). I remember when mail-order forms used to say “Please wait six to eight weeks for delivery.” I’m not suggesting that we go back to that. It still wouldn’t address my point about “express shipping,” anyway. But I am suggesting that you save your money and wait a while.

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