The Problem of Shipping Charges

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The issue of shipping charges is one we have to address on a weekly basis during datebook season (July-January).   We often receive emails (and now Facebook comments) like this one:   “I love Quo Vadis – but shipping costs of almost 8 bucks on a 16 dollar book???? are you kidding?   Where in CT can I just buy one without paying enormous shipping??”

She has a point, and she’s right…but there is no agreeable solution we can offer her.

Quo Vadis and Exacompta Prestige planners are sold at independents – stationery and small office supply stores that have survived, bookstores, college bookstores, art supply places and others scattered around like small paper oases.

Most people shop for office supplies at Staples, CVS, Wal-Mart and other big box stores.   They buy for convenience and price – two good reasons.   But we can’t compete on these priorities.   We tend to sell to people who like the Quo Vadis formats, and also appreciate and are willing to pay for good paper.

We do not sell at Staples because we cannot give them the profit margins they require with an American made product with French milled paper.   If we made our products in China we could afford to sell at Staples, and the shipping issue would be moot, because there’s a Staples, or Office Depot, or Wal-Mart in every town.Three major buying groups control most university bookstores, so individual store managers have little leeway with with products they can carry.

Most retailers offer free shipping on orders of $50 or more.   So if you can,   bundle all your notebook, stationery and planner purchases into one group. Our retailers tell us they lose money on under $25 online sales.   In other words, they cannot afford to sell and ship for free an $8 refill, or even a $20 refill.   They offer shipping as a service to people.

I can tell you retailers are not making money on shipping.   USPS Priority Mail is about $4.95, and add the cost of the mailer and customer service.   It adds up pretty fast. In fact, shipping may be cheaper than driving to stores with gas at almost $4 a gallon.

Many Quo Vadis customers have been customers for a long time – 5, 10, even 20 years or more.   Once people get hooked on a format, it becomes their life companion.   But the marketplace has changed, especially in the last 10-15 years, and as neighborhood retailers disappear, stiff shipping charges for refills adds to the frustration…and cost.

I’m sorry, and I can sympathize with people’s annoyance since I’m an online shopper, too.   But I don’t have a ready answer or solution to this problem.

Comments? Suggestions?

15 thoughts on “The Problem of Shipping Charges

  1. To add insult to injury – I have a (very) small mail order business and some months ago shipped prize packages to some contest winners. To add to the occasion, I used very festive shipping boxes. 10 days later I started receiving calls. Either the packages had not arrived or – worse – only the empty boxes had been delivered.

    I have much sympathy for any mail-order retailer….

  2. Karen,
    This isn’t just a QV issue. It effects a lot of other companies (dare I mention your competitors… no!) The cost of postage now of even small items from UK to France (where I live) can often be such a significant amount as to make it not worth it.

    Yet sometimes if say I order in France with ‘free delivery’ the item might come from UK or Holland or Germany.. very odd! An item sent to me recently from UK to my home address in France was sent via DHL, They routed it via Germany! It was still here the next day though. No sense…

    Where possible I try to buy from stores rather than via mail order, or if I do use mail order I wait until I have a decent size order to make the postage not as significant.

    Another increasing trend is some UK retailers to only offer UK only mail order service.

    But living in France means I can buy QV planners and inserts at my local newsagent… lucky me I suppose..


  3. Karen,

    Have you thought of putting a list of Mom & Pop retailers on your website? You might already do this (I read via RSS) but there again you may well be competing with yourself. Online purchase is about the only way we can buy Clairefontaine stuff here in the UK. We don’t have a great variety of choice here either, but buying stuff in the US and getting it shipped over is prohibitive.

    One of my hobbies is pushing toy soldiers around on a tabletop and there are some great ranges manufactured in the US. However, I never buy them because of the ridiculous shipping costs. We’re talking lead or pewter here! Instead, I stick to home grown ranges. I’ve learned that contacts in the US experience the same problem in reverse. They often say that the shipping costs effectively double the price of the order once they convert from pounds to dollars.

  4. I think you have to look at the planners the same way you pay for organic or local produce….You basically pay for what you get…Prorated over 365(6) days, even with shipping, to get an American product (or wherever it’s made) with really the best feeling, best looking paper is worth it. Hands down….

    I keep my planners as a yearly record of what has happened in my life. I am getting an IPAD2, but it won’t replace my planner.
    I also had a PDA a long time ago…it died on my one day…my planner won’t do that. I still have my old planners.

    PS: Some of the planners are assembled in my home town of Hamburg, NY. (I haven’t lived there in years, but visit yearly). Go Quo Vadis.

    Buy American, Buy Canadian, Buy Quo Vadis…PS: My son was a “jumper” for UPS one Christmas, my bro, a Vietnam decorated Vet works for the PO…think of it as putting Americans to work….

  5. I think you have to consider the shipping a part of the cost of buying a really nice planner with wonderful paper that works for you and your life. It is worth it! Bundling helps a lot also–if there are Clairfontaine notebooks that I need, I buy them with my planner once a year and can get free shipping that way from The Daily Planner. This year I used Classic Office Products where every order ships for $ 5.99 and got wonderful customer service besides. Times are tough and budgets tight for just about everyone these days, but I use my planner for an entire year and it does so much for me that I am willing to consider it a priority. I do wish they were available more locally. Barnes & Noble carries a few here, but not my Space 24 which I MUST have!

  6. Now imagine the grief for us, Israeli paper-lovers, who are willing to pay for premium paper product (all three of us!), but most of my favorites are not regularly imported, and shipping from the US is either ridiculously expensive (try $25 per order) or non-exitant!

    My local retailer does hold the Rhodia webbies, luckily, and if I ask nicely (the owner is a fellow paper-and-pen lover), they make a special order for my favorite black-blank webbies, and when friends travel abroad, they also know to bring some stationary artifact upon return.

  7. I recently went into the local Target here in Goldsboro, NC and found that they had stopped carrying the No 11 and the Reversible Rhodia products. That’s flat out sad, because I was patronizing them and I would tell a manager every now and then to get more selection in the store.

    • “Postage” means what you pay to send the package. You can print a pstgaoe sticker at home and pay on line, or you can just print the address label and pay the pstgaoe at the post office. If you do not have a mail scale, you need to take it to the post office. Just print a plain label or write the address on the package by hand.

  8. I don’t shop at Staples and other big-box stores (except rarely at IKEA). I’d like to support my local QV retailers but they have a very limited selection, and when they do sell the Equology line (my preferred choice) they don’t carry the refills “because it’s not worth it – the cover is only about $1 more”, as I was told (it’s not even true, when I look at the Canadian QV page, plus that’s besides the point).

    I tried to get a group order together where I volunteer at Greenpeace but not a single person there was interested (the PEFC – as opposed to FSC – certification and the plastic covers did not suit them), which meant that I was unable to reach the $75 for free shipping with QV Canada. The shipping on that website seems completely unreasonable, making the products cost much more than in retail stores. It’s really frustrating when one is forced to make ecological compromises just because of what’s not offered in retail stores and because of apparently exaggerated shipping through the Canadian QV distributor. I thought that at least they could afford to ship at more reasonable prices.

  9. Quality costs a little extra. The huge box stores got there by pushing cheap stuff that falls apart fast. I support the little mom and pop places that provide me with decent products. It requires a little plannning ahead, but I’d rather have a few good things than a pile of cheap junk. There are excellent stores out there that provide quantity discounts, the lowest shipping they can afford, and service that matches the quality of the products.

  10. Packing and postage can be very annoying – I tend to do as you suggest, I wait until I need 2 or 3 things (or more, stationery addict that I am) and buy all at once. Many retailers have a flat rate of shipping which feels more reasonable on a per item basis when you have 2,3,4 plus items in your basket.

    I also keep an eye out for offers, either on the purchases or on postage. One of my favourite retailers does a free postage offer once every 2/3 months. There are retailers out there who have very low order minimums in order to qualify for free postage. I’m in England and one that springs to mind has a £5 minimum.

    Shop around – there are ways of getting your Quo Vadis/Rhodia/Clairefontaine fix without paying too much on the P&P front.

    PS. $4 a gallon? I wish!!!

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