Friday, February 03, 2006

e-Show Stopper: Usurious Handling Fees

Some would have you believe that online purchasing raises efficiencies and lowers purchase prices. I'm sure that there's some truth in that, but there is a Big Lie hiding beneath the surface - usurious shipping, -excuse me- HANDLING charges.

Let's take a simple case. Our lab wants to order 2 (two) six-foot S-video cables, to connect video cameras to VCRs. We are encouraged to order from one of several "approved" vendors, one of which is . OK, the website lists item #4763195 at a modest and reasonable price of $4.18, so into the shopping cart it goes. We'll take two, in fact, to have one for a spare. Eight bucks well spent for better use of researcher time.

Ah, but then we proceed to the checkout process, and see that shipping and handling will be ... $16.49 ?!?!?!?! Huh? A USPS flat-rate envelope would cost just $4.05! I know we live in a time of "overnight expectations", but this is ridiculous! Why can't a well-oiled machine like the mammoth XxxConnection conglomerate offer a reasonably cheap shipping channel, rather than force you to take a next-day express service as the lowest-cost option? (Don't even get me started about Ebay sellers who list an item at $0.99 and a "standard" shipping cost of $25.)

Without a doubt, e-commerce and its fabulous long tail is a wonderful thing, but we're burning a lot of diesel fuel to make it happen, and the big-margin winner looks like the transportation company moving all those wee little boxes around. Either them or the makers of -their- fuel... Wasn't somebody talking about oil addiction the other day? Some oil guy?

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