Fulfillment Costs at Post-Christmas

Have you been overpaying for fulfillment charges?

“Shipping & Gouging” charges” are often disguised as “Postage & Handling Costs”—especially during the Post-Christmas Season when returns and exchanges increase in volume. Have you had to ship something back lately? Did you pay for anything in the process?

The usual fulfillment steps are a mix of reasonable sounding terms like pick-and-pack, shipping cartons, labels, and—the latest addition—“environmentally safe” stuffing materials. And those cover just the sending out part; the exchanges and returns can get into re-shelving and return postage costs. Fulfillment costs can be inflated because most consumers have only a vague idea about the super-efficiency of modern fulfillment centers.

So here is a consumerist rule for returns and exchanges: When it’s not the consumer’s fault that a product does not work right or does not fit, consumers should challenge any fulfillment charges, coming or going. Why pay any part of fulfillment costs for delivery and returns of stuff that does not work right?

Reputable corporations are catching on that they should make it easy for consumers to return stuff: Issue return shipping postage paid labels or include them when fulfilling orders (LL Bean). Order a UPS pickup with a return tag (Amazom.com). Send return-shipping containers to customers (ECCO Shoes). Besides, fulfillment costs can be or are already built into product price tags.

But there are holdouts that want to charge “re-shelving” fees or others that start with inflated postage-and-handling charges for the many in order to cover the few that will return stuff. And during the Christmas Season, there are outfits—like Major League Baseball—that farm out fulfillment so that returns can get complicated. Keep your eye on the fulfillment ball!

Consumerist Note: I was the CEO of a company that helped pioneer direct marketing and fulfillment of videocassettes of popular television programs in the 1980’s, including a few major league baseball organizations.

Next week’s post: Customer Disservice at Post-Christmas. Sign up for this blog so you don’t miss it. This list is not used for any purpose other than sending my posts and occasionally talking about my book, The Consumerist Manifesto Handbook.


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