How do these shipping charges make sense?

I just ordered a watch battery from Amazon (about $2). It is fulfilled by a third party. Economy shipping is free (7-10 days), but if I wanted two-day delivery it would be $50, and overnight delivery is a whopping $130. In the past I have paid under $20 for two-day, overnight, and in one case even same-day delivery, of items that are much larger and heavier. What is out of whack that is causing these people to charge so much for shipping?

Third party. They don’t get the discounts Amazon gets.
Where is it shipping from, where is it going and what service?

There’s also another simple aspect that people tend to forget.

In business, people will get away with high charges because they can (when it suits them).

A lot of the times, people will pay extraordinary amounts for things because they ‘don’t have a choice’. Think about those NRT for smokers. A Nicorette inhaler or patch can cost more than a bag of an illegal drug and for most cases, the delivery method is not as effective.

Key note, also: The charge is for shipping and handling. The shipping almost certainly isn’t that much, as there is no parcel service that charges over a hundred bucks for a less-than-an-ounce package. But someone also has to put the thing into a box, and stick an address label on it, and take it down to the post office or other shipping center: That’s handling. And maybe the seller really doesn’t like having to do all of that after he’s come home from his day job and just wants to sit and relax, so if anyone insists on getting it the next day (meaning he has to go out to the shipping center this evening), he’s going to charge them a lot for his time.

This. Companies charge whatever they want and if someone is willing to pay a ridiculous amount of money to ship something quickly there’s no reason to give them a discount just because it only costs you a fraction of that amount. Caveat emptor (buyer beware).

Are you sure it wasn’t an overseas seller? Shipping from China could very well be <<$1 for ~1 month delivery and $100 for overnight.

It’s a watch battery - surely coming from the Far East.

Could be from China, but IME there is no such thing at all as commercial overnight delivery from overseas to the U.S.

But I can ship a brick overnight for less than that. This is a watch battery. I don’t know where it ships from but it’s going to suburban metro Washington D.C.

I just checked on FedEx’s site and I can ship a 10-pound 1-cubic-foot box overnight from Nome, Alaska, to my house for $137. It surprised me that it was even that high. But I could ship on the order of 500-1,000 watch batteries in a box that size and weight.

Using a FedEx envelope at 0.2 pounds costs $37, which is a little more in line with what I would expect.

As Chronos mentioned up-thread this charge is almost certainly for the “handling” part of that. FedEx/UPS/USPS will not charge anywhere near that much to ship that item. That high cost is because you will make someone at that business drive to a FedEx (or whatever) location and go through the hassle of getting it shipped overnight.

Basically, whoever it is REALLY does not want to be hassled to ship things overnight so sets a really high cost on it to dissuade people from choosing that option. And if someone does choose it then it is worth it for them to go to the trouble.

The latest term seems to be ‘shipping and processing’

I work for an industrial distributor and I ship stuff in and out all day long and the biggest problem with the OP is assuming that shipping costs should only reflect the UPS charges, which as others have pointed out is a poor assumption.

At my business, you’re not just asking that UPS do a faster job, you’re asking me to put aside other orders and move you to the front of the line. You’re disrupting my routine and you need to pay for that. In some companies the difference between a rush order and a standard order may not be so great, but for other companies, rush orders can be a real pain and actually are discouraged. I have some vendors that charge a $100 same day shipping fee on top of the actual UPS or FedEx charges.

The bottom line is always the same. My job is to quote prices; your job is to decide if you’re going to pay my price or not.

I’ve noticed a number of suspicious items on Amazon and EBay: One, for example, less than a buck, made in Germany, weight 1 oz. with a $60 shipping charge. Not overnight shipping - ANY shipping!

Excuse: “We can’t find a way to ship for less.” Which is, of course, BS, since the item is completely safe (can’t burst into flame or anything), unbreakable, and would fit into a normal airmail envelope with room to spare.

The answer might be found in the following disclaimer: “We guarantee to refund the purchase price (less the shipping charge) if you aren’t satisfied.”

I understand that shipping charges are padded to include “handling” and I get that I can reasonably expect a premium for a higher level of service. But who in their right mind is going to pay $50 for a $2 battery just to get it in two days? Why even offer that? Does Amazon require its merchants to offer all those shipping options?

If you are a business you don’t have to drive to UPS, they come to you to make pickups. Shipping batteries is not a complex fulfillment exercise. Print label, put battery in envelope, hand to UPS driver. I can’t believe it costs them $100 to do that the same day the order comes up vs. a couple of days later.

Also: I placed the order this morning at 11:00 AM EDT and I got an email at 9:00 PM EDT today that it shipped. So the only difference in fulfillment is what kind of envelope they put it in and how much they’re paying UPS.

FedEx Intl Priority is one to three days, so maybe not overnight from China, but could be 2 days.

Just because it’s an available option doesn’t mean anyone actually chooses it. It doesn’t even mean someone made a conscious decision to offer that option on that particular product. The seller and/or Amazon probably calculates the shipping based on item weight, shipping time, distance, etc. Maybe the seller also sells tiny items that are much more expensive, and some customers do pay $130 to get overnight.

Just because they’re charging $130 doesn’t mean it costs them $130.

The overnight shipping option may be available till much later in the day. Many businesses guarantee overnight shipping if you place the order by 5pm. If you place an economy shipping order at 4:59 pm, they probably won’t ship it out that day.

Overnight shipping from The Far East only happens via air freight, which is indeed very expensive. Especially so when it’s a single small item.

It’s no mystery really.

Overnight shipping is expensive for the little guys that don’t ship a lot. UPS overnight from state-to-state is easily $55 for a 1-pound package going to a nearby state. It can be over $100 going across the US. That is the actual cost UPS charges the shipper. Companies like Amazon that ship a lot apparently get much better deals.

I looked up the rates for FedEx Intl Priority and they are in line with the rates mentioned in OP.

One pound zone A=$86…zone G=$126

I have similar professional experience on the systems side. It is possible that the shipping and handling charge is a mistake but you shouldn’t make that assumption automatically. Some people may really, really need that specific battery (or something else) quickly so the option is available but they are going to have to pay dearly for it. As stated before, the UPS or FedEx charge isn’t always just a pass-through fee to the customer. If the order requires unusual handling, that is covered under the ‘shipping AND HANDLING’ part of the cost and it is usually expected to be a profit center for the vendor. That is nothing unusual. Most businesses work that way at least for some types of charges.

[quote=“CookingWithGas, post:13, topic:792628”]

I understand that shipping charges are padded to include “handling” and I get that I can reasonably expect a premium for a higher level of service. But who in their right mind is going to pay $50 for a $2 battery just to get it in two days? Why even offer that? Does Amazon require its merchants to offer all those shipping options?

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Having worked before in international sales, my WAG is that they just have an Excel spreadsheet with set formulas. It’s not worth their time to go through and debate each product to decide where to cutoff the shipping options. It actually reduces hassles of answering emails from people who may want a particular product in two days. Once you offer two-day shipping on any product, it could be easier to simply standardize on that rather than set up complex rules for which products you will offer the option and which you won’t.

Offering the option isn’t going to harm your sales and incurs no extra cost.