Sorry to rant but I can’t help it. This is a constant pet-peeve and, if you have anything to do with a retail website, you should listen up.

IMHO, the difference between a good website and a great website is the experience. When it comes to online shopping, sure there are ways to make browsing better but at the end of the day, it’s all about the check-out. Were you up-front with the total cost? Was it easy for me to get my stuff and get on to the next thing I need to do? Did you give me the ability to do it all in one-screen or did I have to page through a whole bunch of optional and promotional screens?

Well, this morning, I decided I need some new stationery. I want something that looks classy but is economical, given my employment situation. I googled “discount stationery” and up came a bunch of sites. I clicked on American Stationery, which was one of the top links. I quickly browsed a bunch of different options and found one that I really liked. It was a little bit more than I wanted to pay, but it was unique and I really liked the colors and the envelope liner. Plus, they threw in the printing of return address on the envelopes. Okay, off I go to check-out. The usual – register, shipping address info, next, next. Total cost: $68. Great, I’m in. Next screen, confirm shipping address. Got it. Credit card info, check. Then the confirmation screen appears and it is at this point, before I hit the money button, that I find out the shipping charge is an additional $11! What the f? Three screens before that, they said the total cost is $68? But it’s not. It is in fact $79. You’re telling me, American Stationery, that you want me to pay an additional 16% for shipping? I am so sorry but I DON’T THINK SO! Actually, that is not only annoying but insane. How can shipping cost them $11 for a tiny little box of notecards? It is one of the major problems I have with online shopping.

Let me talk to you about a site that does it right. Nordstrom’s online. Here’s how they do it. Flat rate. $5. All the time. You order $50 of stuff – five bucks. $500 worth of stuff – 5 bucks. It’s that easy and, as a frequent online shopper, they get most of my business because the shipping is a flat rate (and returns are free.)

My advice to you, online retailers, is this – figure out how to make shipping cheaper and easier for your customers and, guess what, they will come back. I would love to know how many abandoned shopping carts are strewn across the internet because of shipping charges. There is a price to be paid for convenience but each consumer has a tipping point where they’d rather just get in their car or walk to the store to go get it. Online retailers need to think about how they are making the shopping experience valuable for their online shoppers and I would guess ‘value’ to the online shopper means easy, great selection and economical.

So, you lost my business, American Stationery. Maybe if you had put the shipping charge up-front I would have been okay with it. Maybe I would have left anyway (probably the case). With the holidays around the corner and a recession in the mix, figuring out how to entice shoppers to buy seems like a no-brainer. If you’re an online retailer, why not test out a variety of shipping promotions? Free shipping days, flat rates, free shipping on certain dollar amounts. Test it out and see what works. Something tells me that providing free or minimal shipping charges will lead to a more profitable customer down the line.

My $.02.

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  • Yury says:

    If you want to see the shipping charge done right – visit . Yeah – $2.50 per item with $5.00 flat for 2 or more.
    You might see some advertized items missing from the store – but there are limitations to corporate punishment that is applied to 13 year old web master

  • Lisa Abair says:

    So, I was emailing you a response tonight when I saw after your name. I thought, hmmmm….. that’s interesting so I clicked on it and BAM – there was my sister ranting and raving about hidden shipping costs.

    I looked around for a way to comment but – alas – I am not as computer savy as you and I couldn’t figure it out. Where is my Greggie when I need him? Oh right – he was taking a 45 minute shower.

    Anyway, last Saturday I was so proud of myself for buying a bunch of gifts on-line. No lines, no cowds, no angry holiday shoppers. Just me and my computer. Gregg’s niece wanted Bendaroos. (These are some over-priced wax sticks that “bend” to make random shapes.) They cost $19.99 for a pack of 250.

    Anyway, in order to even view the product on the website – you have to enter in your personal and credit card info. So, I stupidly did it. Then all these pop up options appeared showing hundreds of colors of Bendaroos. I thought I clicked “no” for everything by the “basic package” but I must have selected the “mother load” option instead. (I literally ordered 1200 Bendaroos.) There wasn’t a screen to confirm your order before check out – nothing. Within seconds of the pop-up frenzy ending – a final screen appeared that said “thank you for your order of Bendaros, $79.99 has been charged to your credit card.” What? I thought these crazy pipe-cleaners were 20 bucks?

    I realized I need the big guns and I called for Gregg. When went through about 50 useless screens on the website and found that you can only Call customer service from 12-5pm Monday-Friday. Crap! I called Monday morning at 12:30pm and she told me that my order already shipped – tough luck but enjoy your Bendaroos.

    I hope my family enjoys Bendaroos for Christmas cause everyone is getting them. Happy Holidays!

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