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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Shipping Books

My wholesale site, LRABooks, has recently experimented with shipping cartons of books using DHL. We started this a little over a month ago, just before the current marketing campaign "Customer Service is Back in Shipping." I can honestly say that I have never been happier with our shipping. Today, for example, we had two pick-ups. Twenty-seven cartons for DHL and 13 for UPS (a customer requested 100-weight service). As I waited for the UPS pick-up at 1:30 (they were due from 8AM-noon), the DHL courier stopped by three hours early just because "he was in the area." He also said he would return again from 4-6PM (our usual daily pick-up time) to see if I had anything else. In some cases, DHL costs less than USPS Media Mail (regional shipping), a little more, or quite a bit more (around 20% or so) for coast-to-coast. At the moment we are absorbing these costs, as we ship DHL at the old Media Mail rates. It has been worth every penny.

Previously, I had most of our books shipped via Media Mail, because of price. The problem was that we faced increasingly poor standards in terms of care and customer service. Most online booksellers look at me funny when I say how disappointing Media Mail has been for the wholesale site. After all, it seems to work quite well for your average online bookseller. Soon I realized why: online booksellers generally send one to two books per package, our wholesale store was sending 40lb cartons. In most cases Media Mail "inspectors" let the small items (bubble mailers) fly through and "inspect" the larger packages. What I came to find (out of shear coincidence as I was doing purchasing on the road and sending boxes back to myself) was that an "inspection" often meant the boxes came back with less tape (sometimes half open boxes) and less padding (missing bubble wrap and/or significantly less peanuts. I did some calculating and it seemed Media Mail was costing us way more than it was saving.