Flat-Rate S/H Policies aren't unusual, but they can sometimes seem perplexing, particularly as they apply to very small orders, like an order for a small replacement part. We hope this explanation will help clarify why Pleasant Hill Grain uses the approach that we do.
To begin, margins on parts are small. For example, a pair of replacement screws would typically cost us about $1 less than your retail price.
Secondly, processing an order involves many steps... each requiring time to do (and therefore costing money.) Some of those steps are equally time-consuming regardless of the size of the order. For example, fulfilling an order for a pair of small screws ordered online, and paid by credit card, begins with a fee charged to the merchant by the credit card company. Then
a person at PHG goes over the order to make sure it isn't being placed on a stolen credit card—a step we choose to take to protect both ourselves and the legitimate owner of every credit card that's presented to us. This same person reviews the order for possible content errors. For example, if an order includes multiple parts that are incompatible, we will usually call to make sure the items are really what the customer needs and wants (this practice catches a considerable number of mistakes.)
Next, in our shipping department, someone goes to a computer terminal and executes some mouse-clicks to download the order and print a picking ticket. Then someone walks to where the screws are stored, identifies and picks them, walks back to the shipping area, selects an appropriate container (assembling the box, in most cases) and puts the items in. An inspector then checks to make sure the correct items, in the correct quantities, are in the box. Then void-fill is added if needed, and the package is sealed.
The package then is put on a scale and weighed. If the package will go by a service like FedEx Ground, a label is printed and attached. If the package will go by mail, it is addressed, then later driven to the Post Office, along with any other USPS items for the day. We provide consultation or research by phone or e-mail, if needed, to first determine what parts the customer may require. While we're happy to provide this service, it too, of course, involves time, and sometimes phone charges as well.
We're very proud of the skillful, hard-working, conscientious PHG employees who are involved in these order fulfillment steps (and many more supporting tasks not listed here.) As you can imagine, if their compensation for the time spent processing an order for a pair of screws was the $1.00 margin on those screws... well, that wouldn't put bread on their table. And this is why the $7.95 charge for small orders is partly for "handling", not simply for "shipping." If your shipment arrives by U.S. Mail and the postage stamp reads "$4.05", then the balance
of the $7.95 (and often more) has gone to compensate the folks in shipping for their able and essential contributions.
Because of the broad reach of the Internet, we receive parts orders not only for the machines we've sold, but also to fulfill the small-parts needs of hundreds of thousands of machines that have been sold in past decades—machines that were sold by hundreds of dealers, many of whom are no longer in business. If we were simply providing replacement parts for machines that have passed through our doors, we might be able to overlook small losses on such orders. But whether a company is larger or (like ours) smaller, no one can afford to lose dollars on large numbers of orders.
Occasionally we're asked, "Why does S/H cost as much for a short distance as it does for a long distance, and regardless of order size?" The answer: Shipping is free on orders over $99 to 48 states (not including Alaska and Hawaii), except for a few items here and there where exceptions are noted. For shipping smaller orders, it boils down to this: Everyone's time has value, and our small order flat rate policy saves valuable time for everyone. Displaying a "small order flat rate" S/H cost right beside the Buy Button for each product means no one ever has to wonder, investigate, or "hope" about what shipping and/or handling will cost. Many businesses will surprise you with a "S/H" fee from $12 to almost $20 (we've seen even higher in some cases) for a relatively small order, and not tell you about it until you've put time into the checkout process.
We don't appreciate that sort of surprise, and we don't think you do either. If we ship a replacement mixer bowl package to either coast, $7.95 doesn't cover our actual handling and shipping costs, so we lose a dollar or two on the shipping and handling of those orders. If we ship two screws to Minnesota, we might come out two dollars ahead on S/H because we can use a Priority Mail envelope, or sometimes a First Class envelope. If we were to spend the time to precisely calculate the unique costs of handling and shipping every single order, the cost of the time spent making those calculations would have to be covered somehow. So the two screws—and every other small item—would cost maybe a dollar more. And then you wouldn't be able to know, from the very start, what your total S/H would be, and investigating it would cost you more time.
No shipping/handling method can ever be absolutely perfect for every situation. But for all the reasons we've described here, we believe the flat rate approach provides the very best overall "Win-Win" deal for everyone.
Remember, your shipping/handling cost doesn't increase with order size. For this reason, many of our customers find it advantageous to pick up some additional items they need, to get added value for their S/H dollar. Pleasant Hill Grain sometimes benefits from that practice, and at other times we go backward... but in any case, you can get more items shipped for the same $7.95... and for most items, if you hit $99, then we'll pay all the shipping to 48 states!