Over the last few years, I think we can all agree that navigating shipping has proven to be a sort of headache and pain in the wallet. Even though the first online shopping experience began way back in 1979, it really started to change in the early 2000s. More recently, between our busy lives and the Covid pandemic, Americans have come to rely more and more on home deliveries. So what does that mean for the average shopper? Let's break it down and try to get some answers for many of the questions we've received of late.
As the world becomes smaller it is easier to access our favorite goods thanks to the interconnectedness of international, national, and regional shipping services. Shopping software used by online vendors allows sellers to easily ship worldwide to any country as well as to every corner of our country. This has certainly proven true for us on our farm in Vermont. We now can ship small batch maple products to anyone who so desires. However, we're not the only ones, many startups and local businesses have decided to take to the internet to sell their wares and this means an unprecedented level of packages flooding the likes of FedEx, UPS, and the USPS.
How does this affect you? Well, the increased demand, lack of drivers, and delivery vehicle shortages mean an increase in shipping prices. According to The Wall Street Journal, FedEx and UPS expected a 6.9% increase in shipping prices going into 2023. Our experience has shown this to have borne out. For a peak behind the curtain at our farm, prior to 2021, we had a manual shipping table that took the product weight and categorized whatever grouping of products you selected under a given shipping price. Since the pandemic changed the shipping world, we realized that our rates were drastically off the real-time rates. To streamline our processes and provide a more exact shipping figure to our customers, we've opted in for a subscription shipping service for the backend of our website. This software uses our sugarhouse address, the customer address they enter at checkout, and the weight of the products selected to show a real-time rate of exactly what it will cost to ship those products to your door.
Autofill Shipping Address
In recent years we've encountered issues with the incredibly convenient function computers and smartphone users have come to enjoy, the autofill function at checkout. For those in the know, this is where your phone or computer saves your address to speed up the checkout process. A majority of us are checking out on our phones, where the small screen and text can be hard to read for accuracy. In our experience, this feature has unintentionally bitten people who recently moved, or are trying to ship to someone else. It's very important you double-check your information before selecting, "Complete The Order".
Our shipping software also has a function where once you begin to type in your ship to address it suddenly fills in the rest of the address for you. Unfortunately, there may be many street addresses around the country that match your address with a different city, state, and zip code. Be very careful of this feature as you want to select the correct address. For example, our farm is on Fortin Road in Swanton, VT but many times software on other people's websites will attempt to autofill for Fortin Road in Kingston RI. Be on the lookout!
Provided you input your correct email address at checkout, as soon as you complete the order our software will immediately send a confirmation email. We strongly recommend you take a minute to look this over and double check everything is as it should be. If it requires a correction the good news is that you can reply to the confirmation email directly with your corrections. Because we are a small family business, we actually have eyes on this account, and myself or one of my sons will fix the issue. If it's during normal business hours feel free to call us, we like to hear from you and we can be reached by phone at 802-868-2347.
Our shipping software is only smart enough to compare the address to a national database and will verify the address is indeed deliverable. It will also standardize the address format with punctuation. If we run into an issue, we will contact you before shipping to avoid additional fees we will incur from the shipping carrier for corrections that they have to make.
We have changed our shipping policy to reflect how we will handle a wrong address entered during the checkout process. Since the person on the receiving end is not obligated to return the package to us, we have no way to retrieve the items and it is a loss for us. Going forward we will not reship at our expense for addresses that were incorrectly entered and not verified on checkout. I hope this blog brings to the forefront common issues to avoid in the future not only on our website, but the internet as a whole.
Store & Shipping Policies
What can I expect when my package enters the system?
I am often asked if I can guarantee that something will be delivered by such and such a date. The only thing I, and really any vendor, can guarantee is when we will prepare a package for shipment and get it in the hands of a mail service. Once it leaves the sugarhouse, our software sends tracking information so that you can track the progress of your package. Contrary to popular belief, there is not a special level of access afforded to the business shipping products to get to the bottom of a shipping situation if things go awry. We typically check the tracking information to find out where it is and do a Google search to find the phone number for the facility where the product is hung up to investigate.
Package theft has seen a spike since the pandemic, as well as a jump during the holiday season. We recommend keeping your eye on tracking information and becoming familiar with the schedule of the people delivering packages to your house. For instance, our UPS drop-offs and pickups almost always occur between 4-5 PM and USPS around 12:30 PM. This information will allow you to plan to make arrangements with a friendly neighbor or relative who is normally home during the day and can receive the package for you. Perhaps your boss will let packages be delivered to the workplace, this is another option to ensure your package isn't stolen by opportunists. Thinking ahead about how long your package will remain outside your door unattended will enable you to mitigate theft. Mail carriers typically shrug their shoulders on package theft, so being armed with the facts can save a holiday headache.
The Goodwill Season
Time has a way of creeping up on us during the holidays and we find ourselves placing orders during the week leading up to Christmas Day, I'm guilty myself. I like to remind people it's a season and not a day. A package showing up after the 25th is just as appreciated, and I think many people understand that logistics nowadays are what they are.
I'll close by saying that given the massive number of packages they handle, I think that our shipping carriers are doing a great job. It's important to remember they're regular people like the rest of us doing a hard job that's largely thankless!
So make sure there is plenty of goodwill to go around and be sure to recognize the tireless people who have been bringing packages to your doorstep all year. I will close with the words of Vermont native and former president Calvin Coolidge:
"Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas."