Nice Way to Explain USPS Increase to Customers

Here’s a spur of the moment e-commerce post for you.

I noticed “nice way to explain usps markup” amongst the search terms on Immortal Ephemera this morning and thought I’d give my best shot at answering that.

The January 2013 USPS rate increase on international packages has been one of the most disruptive I’ve seen in my nearly 13 years of business online. A few examples follow below.

I only handle a small array of package sizes and shapes, so my couple of examples are limited to my more common package sizes.

The Priority Mail International Flat Rate envelope has increased from $12.95 to $16.95 for orders bound to Canada/Mexico and from $16.95 to $23.95 for the rest of the world.

A 2 oz. Package shipping to Canada has increased from $3.15 to $6.16. Likewise a 2 oz. Package to Europe has also increased to $6.16 from $3.78.

A 3 oz. Package to Europe has increased from $4.56 to $8.88.

Those increases continue as you pile goods onto the scale.

I don’t intend to argue the reasons behind these increases from either perspective. They are fact. Nothing to argue.

The good news here is that so far this week I have yet to see an unusual drop in International orders. From my small base of collector-customers I’ve noticed that price is often of less concern to those outside of the U.S. than it is to my friends here in the USA.

But that’s another story. All I can say is, hey, this American is pretty cheap too.

As for the postal increase, I have yet to actually have anyone write and ask me what’s going on, though I expect it soon enough. This post gives me a good idea to practice my own reply if and when such a complaint comes along.

Here’s what I would say, feel free to use any of my words:

Thank you for your order. I understand your concerns about the shipping charges and until January 27 of this year I had been charging much less for orders to (your country).

On that date our postal system raised their prices and, I agree, they are pretty high.

Unfortunately, I cannot discount shipping for you on an order of this size*, but I will give you the option to cancel your order if you prefer. Just let me know and I will send along the forms to do so**.

Thank you for your understanding, with my apologies—


* On a large enough order I will likely discount or waive shipping. Kind of a hint that maybe the customer should buy more.

** I do a lot of my selling through eBay. Honestly, I’d rather customers just cancel the transaction up front and depart friends than wave them off and get dinged on my ratings or open myself up to returns later. Customers still have to respond requesting the cancellation form, an extra step that gives them a little more time to think their decision over.

Whether you think my answer useful or not, I know this advice will be: Do not get angry with your customers.

Take a deep breath and chalk up any perceived rudeness on the part of the customer to a language/culture barrier. That goes for orders inside the US as well.

Kill them with kindness … but get the charge you need to get for shipping or politely send them on their way.

Customers who do not sell themselves will likely have no idea about the postal increase beyond the extra penny a stamp now costs or, if they are located outside the U.S., probably not even that.

Make sure your shipping rates are plainly advertised on your e-commerce listing or inside your e-commerce store. Do not surprise customers with your new rates.

The customer is not always right, but put yourself in their shoes and very often you can at least understand where they are coming from.

These rate increases may cause some trouble during the first few weeks of implementation, but the rates are here to stay and you can bet only rising higher in the future.

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