As a kind of thought experiment, let's imagine that buyer Jack has just purchased a small 12-inc goldfish bowl from seller Jill. Jack won the item for $4.00 and is shocked when the shipping costs much more than that even though Jill is in California and Jack is in Washington, only a couple of states away. Why is this so?
On Jill's end, the reality of shipping looks something like this. First, there are the costs of shipping materials:
- 14x14x14 box to ship it in (in a 12x12x12 box, the bowl would be touching the cardboard, and would shatter if there were a bump in the road during transit or another box sitting on top of it), $3.00 at local shipping retail store.
- Packaging material (bubble wrap, packing foam, and tape), $2.50.
After packing materials, Jill also needs to figure in the cost of actual shipment, which will depend not only on size (14x14x14) but also weight:
- Goldfish bowl made of thick glass, 5.5 lbs.
- 14x14x14 box, 1 lbs.
- Packaging material (foam, paper to fill the bowl and prevent crushing, etc.), 0.5 lbs.
So the total weight of the package that Jill assembles is 7 lbs. and its size is 14x14x14”. The cheapest method amongst all domestic carriers in the United States is the Post Office's “Parcel Post” service, with a basic cost of $10.42. With the delivery confirmation (tracking number) service, which Jill needs to protect both herself and Jack as shipping partners, the cost rises to $11.17.
Don't forget, though, that Jill already spent $3.00 on a box and $2.50 on packaging material, meaning the total cost of packaging and shipping the item is $16.67, just to get it two states away via the slowest, cheapest shipping method amongst all carriers.
$16.67 is the actual cost to ship! And all for a $4.00 item!
Pay Attention to Shipping CostsThough sometimes buyers are justifiably upset about shipping costs, there is always an easy solution for such situations—don't bid on or buy an item if the shipping fee is greater than you're willing to pay. Certainly don't expect a seller to change his or her shipping price simply because you tell them (after winning their auction) that they're charging too much.
Always check and understand shipping fees carefully before you bid, and remember, the basic cost of shipping nearly any substantial item that you buy (i.e. anything that won't fit safely in a padded envelope) is going to be $15.00-$20.00 and will only go up from there as the size, weight, and fragility of the item increase.