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When will my coffee arrive?
10 January 2011

Bags With an online business, shipping is always a primary concern.  Luckily, Kona coffee is easy to ship through the mail.  The post office loves to smash boxes but that doesn't usually hurt the coffee.  They also occasionally lose a shipment which can cost us a lot of money.  For the most part though, the vast majority of coffee arrive quickly and in good condition.

Shipments can be tracked online and that helps a lot.  It's not as automated as I would like but it is possible to track a coffee order's current status.  On the rare occasion that a package is lost or delayed, I can show the customer that the coffee was indeed sent.  If it is just a temporary delay, the tracking info helps caffeine deprived customers be a little more patient.  Often I will replace the coffee for free.  Most people are reasonable and understanding.

I recently sent an expensive order to Korea.  It was four different parcels.  Two of the parcels arrived within days so the customer was pleased with the fast international shipping.  The remaining two boxes did not arrive.  They had been shipped together yet somehow got separated.

The tracking information showed that the missing two boxes were stuck in Korean customs.  Why they let two boxes through but held up the other two is a mystery.  At least we knew where the missing coffee was.  It was nearly two weeks before customs arbitrarily decided to release the coffee.

Another thing the post office loves to do is raise rates without notification.  I suppose they officially announce it somewhere but I usually don't see the rate increases until after I start losing money.  The most recent rate increases cost me nearly $100.

Raising the rates is nothing new and they normally only go up a couple cents at a time.  The difference this time is that they changed their policy.  Bulky items (i.e. Kona coffee) can no longer be sent in envelopes, they must be sent in a box instead.  The local post office was clueless about the new boxes and new rates but they were almost gleeful when it came to enforcing the new restrictions.  It's almost as if they enjoy saying "You can't do that and I can't help you.  Ha ha!"  They don't say that last part out loud but I know they're thinking it.

Squished Shipping in boxes instead of envelopes is something we've always considered doing anyways.  The post office smashes boxes less often than they smash envelopes but an envelope is only $5 while a box is $10.  For $5 less, we decided it was worth putting up with the occasional vacuum packaged coffee.

The new policy is probably how it should have been all along.  My only complaint is that the post office started enforcing this new policy without warning.  I had several shipments, including an expensive International shipment to Sweden, where I had only charged the customer for an envelope but ended up having to pay for a box.  Refusing to go back and charge the customers more, I paid the increase myself.  Then I immediately fixed the rate calculations in the shopping cart.

Many companies handle all these shipping problems by charging extra for "Shipping and Handling."  I can't count the number of times I've ordered a $30 item from the mainland then been unexpectedly charged $100 in shipping when I know it should only cost $10.  By overcharging everyone, they cover their costs on the few shipments that actually cost extra and sneak in extra profit the rest of the time.  We refuse to do that.  The Kona Earth shopping cart does not charge extra for shipping.

USPS Compared to UPS or FedEx, the post office Priority Mail is the best way to go.  There's no such thing as overnight shipping from Hawaii so the extra expense of FedEx is not worth it.  USPS Priority Mail almost always arrives within 2-3 days and is less expensive than UPS or FedEx.  USPS has the additional advantage of being deliverable to post office boxes.  Large companies prefer UPS or FedEx because it's easier for them.  From the customer's perspective, USPS is usually the best choice so that's what we use.

A single half pound bag of coffee can still be shipped for $5.  Everything else will now require at least a $10 box.  That means a $5 increase in shipping cost for some orders.  The up side is that now it will arrive in a sturdy box rather than a squished envelope.  Of course this can all be avoided by ordering four pounds or more of coffee so the shipping is free!

Note: Shipping prices are accurate as of 10 January 2011 but may change without notice.

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