An E-Commerce Journal Part 3

By Joe Burns

Shipping and its Woes

The orders began to come in after a week-long dry spell. Up to this point, all of our shipping was within the U.S. On our site, we built registered shipping and shipping supplies right into the cost of the painting. We had given international shipping some thought, but not much past adding $25 to the total.

In one day we received two orders from outside the U.S. One was from Canada, and one was from the Philippines. Now, if all was going to run according to plan, on the very first check-out page, users were to check if they were shipping within the U.S. or to another country. We had it set up so that the radio button for shipping within the U.S. was checked when the buyer arrived.

Since there weren't any checks past that page, it was easy for these two customers to simply miss the element and buy the painting, and assume that shipping was included. Of course it isn't, so now we have another problem.

The package to Canada didn't exceed the shipping cost we built into the system by a whole lot, so we simply ate the cost and sent it off. The package to the Philippines was a different story.

We were told by the U.S. Post Office that registered shipping only applies inside the U.S. Once you send it to another country, they cannot be held responsible for mismanagement. That wasn't good news, so we went to U.P.S. They were willing to guarantee tracking and shipping in other countries. That only makes sense. It is after all, the U.S. Post Office. I can't fault them for anything outside the states.

OK, we have $25 built into shipping. That should cover it...right? Nope. How about $85 to get the package to the Philippines?

That's a problem. Because of the way we set up the shipping, this customer assumed his shipping was free. Tammy and I decided to e-mail the client back and let him know what the shipping costs would be. Of course we included an explanation of why we were asking for the additional amount and why the system didn't catch it.

The client was very nice about it and agreed to the costs.

We learned a few things about shipping to other countries. First off, you need to create an invoice. Our system does that for us. You create three copies of that. You place that, along with the shipping Waybill (available at U.P.S.), and a description of the contents in a plastic envelope affixed to the outside of the package. The people at U.P.S. walked us right through the process.

Apparently, we did it all correctly. The paintings arrived a day ahead of schedule and in great shape. Ditto the Canadian package.


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