One of my favorite roasters had the following statement on their site: “Please note that we charge for shipping: not full price–we appreciate the fact that you can purchase coffee almost anywhere, and so would like to make it as economical for you as possible to buy from us–but we do charge for it, because it costs us real money. In our opinion, if a roaster offers free shipping, they are charging too much for their coffee. Worse than simply engaging in a shell game with customers, such inflated and disproportionate profit margins perpetuate a coffee chain that is fundamentally unjust to farmers and pickers.” They would’ve been better served to stop after the first sentence. Listen, there is no such thing as ‘free’ anything in a business model. You, the customer, pay for everything.
That doesn’t mean the cost of shipping beans to you doesn’t cut into their profit margin. It likely does. But it’s still profit. No business runs in the red for very long. Businesses run on profit. They have to. It’s simple. Now, some people disguise their profit models by advertising ‘free’ shipping on orders over $X. That is psychologically manipulative marketing, and it’s proven to work. I think it’s deceitful to say ‘free’ shipping and would it would be more honest to say ‘shipping included.’
I thought we had a deal. It’s considered deceitful in other countries outside the US to charge extra money after the agreed upon price, i.e. tax and shipping, has been reached. I tend to agree. If I like a price, I want to pay that price. Why does it have to be $10 more when I go to check out? I would prefer to have everything in one price. Whole numbers. $25. $14. No surprises. That’s not a shell game. That’s honest communication. To me, the convenience of having an all inclusive price is worth a dollar or two more. But it doesn’t cost more. It’s just placing the cost in a separate location. It’s almost like their saying- here’s the cost of the deal, but since you live so far away, you have to pay to ship it. I get that. I know I live far away. But as a consumer, I’m still paying. Regardless of where the cost enters the shopping cart, I’m still paying.
That’s not a deal. Ultimately, the right price for any item is what the market will bear. People pay $700 for a mobile device. Is it a rip off if they throw in ‘free’ shipping? Is it a more reasonable price if they charge you for shipping on top of it? Amazon has changed the game with shipping. The standard is set. People don’t want to ‘pay’ for shipping. But in reality, we’re paying for everything.
Just another cost. The cost of shipping something is always passed on to the end-consumer. Just like the cost of electricity, fire, coal, gas, salaries, bonuses, etc. The total cost of doing business is paid by customers. Offsetting shipping costs only means you’re cutting into your own profits. To accuse those offering ‘free’ shipping of being engaged in a shell game is dishonestly setting yourself up as a morally superior alternative to ‘those other coffee roasters’ that want to sell more coffee. But that’s the goal right? To sell coffee? This isn’t life-saving medication shots being sold for $300. It’s coffee. And their prices were not cheap enough to be considered a morally superior ‘coffee chain’ alternative.
I’m happy to pay a premium for you to keep roasting and bringing me delicious coffee. So much so, that you can offer me ‘free shipping’ any time. You can roll the shipping in the price, if you want. Or you can keep it separate. It really is just a matter of preference, not morality. Why? Because, ultimately, we pay. It doesn’t matter what the banner says. If you’re buying, you’re paying. I prefer to have everything included. But make no mistake, you’re still paying for everything.