Shipping Prices Explained

As you may already know, UPS sets its prices by three factors: 1) weight 2) container size and 3) distance traveled. One of those factors has just changed dramatically.

It used to be that packages longer than 60″ were assessed a $10.50 “Additional Handling” fee. Now that fee has now been imposed on packages longer than 48″.  That’s on top of already expensive shipping rates, which, by the way, continue to jump up every year.

“But shipping is free for purchases in the US, isn’t it?”     (I actually get this question a lot)
No.   Google and Amazon and all of the big e-commerce companies can offer that because they pay only a tenth of the regular rate. And everyone else subsidizes them.

“To return stuff,  can I just go to a place that can package and ship for me?”
Well, you can, but they charge a lot for their service, far above the actual shipping charge. The box, the tape, the packing material – those are sold to you at premium prices, as is the act of wrapping, inserting and taping. The more you do yourself, the cheaper the outcome.

On rental orders, a pre-paid UPS return label may be requested at the time the order is placed. Each label is only good for one container, which must match the size and weight of the original shipment. Just put the return label over the original label, seal the box, and drop it off at any location that accepts UPS shipment. The charge will appear as a line item on your rental invoice. (And, in case you were wondering, my rates are a little lower than what you’d have to pay at a UPS store.)

Very light shipments (under 13 ounces) and book orders are mailed using the US Postal Service. But I use UPS for everything else. The company has a superb tracking system and exceptional reliability.  (UPS and FedEx prices are usually very close, and both use variations of the same rules.)

Defining some terms:

1) the weight of the box
That’s easy: the more it weighs the more they charge. The first pound costs a lot, each additional pound costs less. It is much cheaper to send out one 12 pound box than two 6 pound boxes. If at all possible we will try to save you money by shipping out fewer, heavier boxes rather than a bunch of light boxes.

2) the size of the box
UPS and FedEX have something called “dimensional weight”.  They don’t want to ship a lot of empty air, so the volume of the box is calculated into the price. If you ship a one pound dagger in a box that is 36″ by 10″ by 10″, the dimensional weight kicks in and they will charge you as though it were 32 pounds. And simple length is also a factor: anything over 48″ can’t travel on every automatic conveyor belt, so an “oversize” dimensional weight calculation kicks in.

3) the distance that it has to travel
And that is more than just how many miles it has to go. It’s also how many distribution hubs it has to pass through, i.e. how many times it has to change hands. But that’s just for starters. Additional charges are added if it is a residential delivery and for “remote” destinations. And as fuel prices change they modify their rates accordingly. They used to do that once every two or three years. Now they do it weekly.

And so far we are only talking about standard ground service. There are also “3-day”, “2-day”, and “next-day” services, and several subcategories of each.

“Do you ship to other countries?”

 I used to, but no more.  I no longer ship to locations outside of the United States.  [After 9/11 even shipments to Canada were being turned around at the border or sometimes simply confiscated with no explanation.] And by United States I mean only the fifty states.     Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Guam, etc. require special shipping and import requirements that are too much for me.