A few generic requests and pointers for online shoppers, on behalf of all those dispatchers out there who remember last Christmas and are fearing this one.
Part Two: Costs and Charges.
The postage and packaging charge
The cost of postage is set by Royal Mail (more on Royal Mail another day) and varies according to the exact size, shape and weight of your package. The pricing structure is complex to say the least, so many shops charge a flat rate for P&P, or link it to the value of the order, to keep things simple. This means that yes, one or two people pay a few pence more than the exact cost of their package, and others pay a few pence less. A few pence either way is all it will be. This is not rampant profiteering. Do not write angry letters of complaint because you paid 15p more P&P than Royal Mail charged.
There's also a clue in the name of the charge. Postage and packaging. We recycle where possible, but stock which arrives in no more than a dozen large boxes, goes out in hundreds of small boxes, envelopes, corrugated wrap, etc. Then there's things like bubble-wrap, sellotape, parcel tape, 'Documents Enclosed' packets, 'Do Not Bend' stickers, replacing worn-out tape dispensers, all sorts of silly things. Where I am, it averages out at around 25p per package.
You could argue a case for the dispatcher's wages to be part of P&P, too. I'm not part of the regular shop staff, I'm employed solely for postage and packaging purposes. It's a low-waged job role, but it's still about 10p per minute. So even if it only takes me two minutes to wrap up and sort out postage for one package, that's still 20p extra per package over and above the regular shop staff overhead.
Basically if your P&P is within £1 of the Royal Mail postage charge, you are not being ripped off.
We are obliged to put Customs stickers on every package we send to a non-EU country. We are obliged to fill them in accurately. It's not that we don't like you. We just don't want to be investigated and shut down for dodgy business practices. The money you pay for Customs does not come to us, it does not increase our profit at all. We are not squeezing it out of you. It is not our choice. It is also not a new thing. If you are old enough to have a credit card and order things online then you are old enough to understand the basics of VAT and import/export. In most cases, if you get charged for Customs and look carefully at your receipt you will see that you have not been charged VAT. That's why you have to pay the customs charge.
Some people try to dodge VAT by using the following address:
Mr Very English Name
27 Very English Street
Well-Known English Town
Definitely an English County
Country Outside The EU That Doesn't Get Charged VAT.
Well done. The website has deducted the VAT, you are paying a quid or so less for your goods, although you're also paying a quid or so more for your postage and packing charges, so you're probably not saving much money. However, your credit card has been flagged - country not matched - so if you do it too often, someone will probably start to take an interest. It's not worth it to save 50p. Oh, and everyone is laughing at you for being so cheap.
We are not trying to rip you off.
We've been in business for quite a while. We want to stay in business. Ripping customers off is not a viable long-term business plan. Well, except for companies selling an absolutely essential commodity like water or fuel, where the consumer has little choice but to hand over whatever is demanded. But we don't sell that kind of product and we're not that kind of company. We want you to choose to shop with us, and part of that is not upsetting you by 'inventing' charges or charging an unreasonable rate. Certainly we want your money, but there's no need to assume we'll invent reasons to swipe it.
Short commercial break: Today it's for Sweet As, who not only do incredible bespoke chocolate cakes for special occasions, but also do mail-order chocolate brownies - including a gluten-free version if you like - in a package that fits through a letterbox. I had some of these brownies for my birthday. They are perhaps a little bit expensive but Worth. Every. Penny.
Part One: Placing Your Order.
Still to come: Royal Mail, and Other Issues.