Bramble Berry recently got a bit slammed on a soapmaking chat list over shipping charges. Ouch. I hate getting slammed over things we can’t control and shipping is one thing that we can’t control. In fact, in a clever little trick involving not charging for gas fuel surcharges that Fed Ex charges us (which varies by the day), Bramble Berry managed to lose money last month and the month before because our shopping cart underestimated shipping charges. Whoops.
This blog is a way to address customer concerns in an honest and open manner. I want feedback on the shipping conundrum. I wish there was a better way to get products to customers other than shipping.
I agree – shipping charges are ridiculous! I hate paying them on my online orders as well and it seems like they just keep going up, up, up. Getting all of our products to Bramble Berry (in Washington state!) from our different vendors is a bigger chunk of money every year as well. With gas becoming a scarcity, we have higher transportation costs to look forward to both with our commercial orders and also just getting to and from work in our own cars.
We ship all of our Essential Oils and Fragrance oils in Amber Boston Glass Rounds with Phenolic Cone Lined Caps. Glass definitely is heavy (and more expensive than plastic) to pack with but we’ve found that glass just really seems to do a better job in the long run for our customers. If we pack in plastic, the fragrance gets degraded pretty quickly from the plastic and the fragrance shouldn’t be stored in it either. It seems to be a disservice to our customers to try to pack in plastic. I know it’s insane to think, but with the box, packing peanuts, foam and the glass bottle and cap, your 16 oz. of fragrance weighs 2.5 pounds. Since Fed Ex and UPS round up, that ends up being a 3 pound box. And, a 3 pound box to ship from Washington to Tennessee costs about $11 to ship. Ouch!
It’s funny to think about, but if you order more, the price per pound for shipping drops. For example, I can ship you 250 pounds for about $110 to TN. It’s totally counter intuitive but the larger and heavier the package is, the less it is to ship, per pound. So, if you saved up all your orders from us for a few months and even got a 25 pound box, it would end up being just around $25-$30 to ship that versus the $11 to ship the one little teensy box.
High shipping costs affect everyone – especially small business owners. If anyone has any great suggestions on this, I really want to hear them. We’re thinking of everything from a second location on the East Coast to having a Bramble Berrytruck that delivers orders all across the country to getting shipping zone captains that take all the orders via pallet and then distribute them to customers in their area. We’re trying to think outside the proverbial box. Help us. If you have any ideas, however crazy, we want to hear them.
Dear Anne-Marie & Crew,
I’ve only been making soap and personal care products for two and a half years. My friends and family are urging me to market my products, and I’m hesitant because it’s far more involved than they suspect. I had a fine art business for a few years, and found that making the product took only about 50% of my time. The rest of the time was involved in “administration”–billing, shipping, purchasing, advertising, marketing, customer communications, etc.
Because of that experience, I’m nervous about shipping my products if I open an online store, so I read this blog post and comments avidly. Whenever I order, I usually have at least three different webpages with shopping carts open so I can get the most product for the least amount of money. BrambleBerry consistently has the lowest bottom line, even when a particular product costs more than their competition.
Since I am on the East Coast, I would be THRILLED if you had a distribution center closer to me, and I would get my lovely packages that much sooner!
I really respect your efforts to keep costs under control. When I order, I try to buy more than one product so I don’t run out. I would love it if your shopping cart had the ability to prompt me to buy additional products for minimal additional shipping costs. For example, if I was ordering one gallon of sweet almond oil, I would love it if the shopping cart said “Buy an additional gallon of XYZ oil for only $$$$ in additional shipping”. It would be pretty easy to figure the cost/benefit for that shipment. Or if I’m buying fragrance oil, have the shopping cart prompt with “upgrade your order from X ounces to Y ounces, for $$$ additional shipping costs”. Or offer free shipping with a minimum order amount–I can’t resist!
Maybe there’s a simple way for the shopping cart to show something like “add 10 more pounds to your order for just $$$, or add 20 more pounds for $$$$”. Your example above was enlightening.
I don’t know the incremental costs of shipping oils and heavier items, and would benefit from a cheat sheat, or a blog post on how to maximize what I spend versus the shipping costs. It’s the same amount of work for your staff to pick and pack small sizes as it is for larger sizes, and if I knew that I could “bump up” my order sizes without doubling or tripling shipping, I probably would do it, especially on staples like carrier oils and waxes.
Love your site, and the integrity of you and your staff!
Becky with Bramble Berry says
Hi Kathy! Thank you so much for your suggestions and feedback. We really do appreciate it when our customers take their time and effort to let us know what they like and what they would like to see happen! =) -Becky with Bramble Berry
P.S. I’ll pass your message onto our development team so they can see if they can make any of those things happen!
First I want to say that I really have enjoyed your products so far and I really like the Soap Queen blog. The blog and all your instructions are the main reason I decided to buy from you. You stated in a previous post that competitors that offer free shipping just add it into the price of their product. I disagree. I found another company who sells shea butter (ultra refined, just like yours); their one pound is a little more than yours (less than $1 more)but they have a three pound for $19 ($2 less than the cost of purchasing three pounds from brambleberry) and their 10 lb is $56 verses your 10 lb at $69. That is a HUGE difference. The only thing with them is that you have to have a $30 minimum purchase in order to get free shipping. Which is no big deal because I would much rather spend $30 in product then to get $20 and have to spend the other $10 in shipping charges. I’m not trying to complain, I just wondered how you can say that they charge more because they offer free shipping. I would even be willing to do a $100 minimum order to get free shipping with you. Or maybe just do a flat rate $10 shipping charge per order? Those are my suggestions.
Thanks for chiming in. Commodities, such as Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Coconut Oil etc… often have wildly varying prices. For example, I checked Shea Butter just a couple months ago and our pricing was extremely competitive. One buy (a bulk order from the refiner) can change a lot of things with pricing and it’s possible that we locked in at a bad rate or that our fellow vendor locked in at a better rate than us. In this case, at this exact point in time, for a single item, the Shea Butter at our fellow vendor’s company is a better price when the shipping is included. Thank you for letting me know so I can work on that issue.
When you take an entire shopping cart of product (10-20 items), that amount evens out and buying from Bramble Berry ends up being a similarly priced proposition. Out of the 2500 items we carry, we try to be extremely competitive and in this case, for the single item, we are not. However, shopping cart for shopping cart with a general mix of items, Bramble Berry is always a fairly priced deal. Will you and others be able to find single instances where we are not the best price in the marketplace? Probably. We do our best to price competitively and fairly while maintaining a long term outlook on running a sustainable business for the long haul. My desire is not to be the cheapest, lowest priced vendor of soapmaking supplies that is not able to provide herculean customer service and support. My desire is to be the Nordstrom of soapmaking supplies with high quality products at a fair price with incredibly fanatical customer service and support built in.
None of our fellow vendors have the level of product support Bramble Berry does – from SoapQueen.TV to this blog to TeachSoap.com to our robust and jumpin’ Facebook page to our active Twitter stream to our burgeoning Google+ page to our fun Pinterest page – all of that takes resources (and passion). I hope that our love of the craft comes through in everything we do. This isn’t just about dollars and cents to us – it’s about supporting handmade businesses throughout the US and elsewhere to reach their highest goals and dreams.
Thanks for chiming into the conversation. =)
I just wanted to comment on my last order, concerning shipping. I bought 3 bottles of products, (2) were Castor Oil and (1) of Sodium Lactate. These products were 16 ounce bottles. I paid $13.24 for these three items to be shipped.
When I got my box in, the products were in an overly large box, much bigger than needed to be. I feel honestly like I was ripped off on shipping. The box could have been packaged in a smaller box. I just don’t know if the FEDEX Ground is the best choice for every item shipped. USPS can still be much cheaper. I think options do need to be looked at. It might be that some of us small business have to go with other suppliers or ones that are closer to our location in order to save something.
Brambleberry needs to find smaller boxes for smaller orders. I love this company but do not love getting ripped off by only having FEDEX Ground as a shipping option. When I send products to my buyers they get USPS. Maybe you should show choices so at least we can see what options are avaiable to us.
Lately I have been shopping around for other suppliers and checking on the shipping as well. I hate to admit that but when you have a little small business and are trying to grow, shipping charges are just eating up any room for profit.
I hope Brambleberry finds a solution because right now it is too expensive. The items I bought only came to $13.92. Very small order.
Please check for other options I hate to give up ordering from your company.
Thanks for taking the time to write. It’s awesome that you are so great about watching your costs in your business – that will serve you well as your business continues to grow.
To answer your questions, Bramble Berry happily ships via USPS/Priority Mail. It’s a drop down box as you check out. I usually find that they’re not the cheapest shipping option anymore (when I started the business in 1998, they always were!) but it’s good to check your options. =)
Fed Ex does not charge dimensional weights unless the box size is over 5,184 cubic inches. That would be one big box! =) Thus, your box (as are the majority of the boxes that ship from Bramble Berry) was charged just for the weight of the package. That said, we do always err on the side of caution when packing a box. It’s better to go a little larger than risk damaging any items.
I did double check your package price and the actual shipping of your package (4 pounds, shipping to a residence, from zip code 98225), and the actual price for shipping was $18.20. Fed Ex charges by weight and by zone so if you were in Washington state, for example, the package would have been $11.14 to ship. If you are ever concerned about your shipping amounts or rates, you can always go to FedEx.com and enter our zip code, choose shipping to a residence, and the ‘use an already scheduled pick up’ option to get the quote to make sure our pricing is in line with what Fed Ex is charging.
One tip for shipping is that the higher the weight of the package, the lower-price-per-pound you pay. So for example, it would have been an additional $.70 to add 1 pound of oil into your box. And to add 10 pounds? Another $8 (going off the FedEx.com calculator). Our customers that order over 250 pounds at a time get even better rates per pound.
Shipping and freight costs are something all businesses deal with. It is definitely something to watch out for and make sure your vendors are on your toes with pricing. =)
Thank you again for your business. I’d love to work with you to get you larger price breaks for shipping and buying in greater bulk.
Frederick H Castle says
I know this is an old post but I am trying to understand why items with a >200 flash point can’t be shipped via USPS Priority mail, sure would save us a lot of money especially if we have a small order. Or in my case why can’t you use my UPS Shipper number?
Hi Fred =)
The Flash point of a flammable liquid is the lowest temperature at which it can form an ignitable mixture in air (simple: the lower the flashpoint the more flammable).
I wish there was a way to get around the shipping of low flashpoint oils but unfortunately, it’s not up to us. USPS and UPS have restrictions pertaining flashpoints and will not carry any low flash point oils.
Courtney from Bramble Berry
About shipping charges, one way is to offer a minimum order in turn free shipping. I worked for a major shipping company (20 years) and shipping rates are negotiable. I love your products and so do my customers, my daughter is a State Licensed Esthetician and has positive comments on your products.
My suggestion is have your shipping manager negotiate rates with UPS & FedEx. There are companies currently offering this without raising their prices.
Thanks for the suggestion. We have looked at this model and it’s not sustainable for us. With us in Washington state, we pay more to have product shipped to us and we are farther away from most of our customers than we’d like to be. Unfortunately, it’s not a program we can offer and still be in business for the long haul with. I do think that when you look at small companies (not the Amazons or Zappos of the world) that you will find the shipping freight cost built into their products (someone needs to pay Fed Ex and UPS) but that’s just my personal opinion. Thanks for being a fan and for taking the time to write.
-Courtney from BB
Sent: Thursday, June 14, 2007 2:03 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: General Comments
To Anne Marie…Re: Your Shipping Blog
Just read you latest blog on the high shipping charges and am so encouraged that you and Brambleberry are thinking of ways to address the high shipping charges. I “woohoo’d” when I saw where one consideration is opening a second location over here….on the East Coast! Keep us posted and if there’s anything I can help with, just let me know….
I just got another emailed comment and wanted to share this one as well.
From M.T. in GA
I realize that shipping costs have gone up lately for everyone. The fact that you are on the opposite end of the country obviously doesn’t help things. Other than having you offer the option of plastic versus glass for fragrances, I don’t really know that there is a solution. (as for the option, I always rebottle all my plastic-packaged fragrances when they arrive anyway…I just recycle my glass bottles this way continuously.) And I know that such an idea would be a major undertaking so I can’t expect that it would be practical just for us folks here on the other end of the country.
I’ve been getting emails about this and wanted to post a few to the comments here. Anne-Marie:
From: P Davis
Sent: Wednesday, June 13, 2007 6:45 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: Praise or Problems
When I ordered some coconut last week, I was informed that the shipping might be more than what was quoted and I fully expected it to be since when ordering the same amount (35 pounds) from other companies, the shipping is usually near half the price of the product. I was happily surprised when the oil came and the shipping was actually LESS than I was expecting. Every time I order from Bramble Berry it is a wonderful experience. Thank you so much!