Thursday, September 28, 2006

P&P Conundrum - Thinking Aloud

It's been some time now since the new Royal Mail postage charges came into effect . According to their publicity, "over 80% of all mail will cost the same or less to send".

Is it any surprise that over 80% of my mail to customers now cost more, quite a bit more, largely because they now fall into the 'Large Letter' (minimum 44p) or 'Packet' (minimum 100p) category even though something may weigh very little. I have had to stump up higher postage -- or 'post-rage' as I accidentally typed!

I run a 'happy' business. I am happy that Organic-Ally sells only what I believe to be earth-friendly goods made in people-friendly environments.

Customers are happy and they write to tell me how wonderful these goods (reusable hankies, cosmetic pads, gift bags, string bags, etc) are.

My son is happy that Mum is working from home and is there to pick him up from school.

And husband is happy that ... well ... husband is happy that I am happy.

This new postage structure however is causing a headache.

I have based my P&P structure on weight so that customers who buy lightweight items do not pay a hefty standard P&P. I believe this is fair.

I offer low and even no P&P to customers who just wish to try out 'single items' and require no 'minimum order'. Many retailers resort to using a 'minimum order' or standard P&P charge (pegged at the highest possible value acceptable to the customer) to make selling online worthwhile.

I'm in this business mainly because of my environmental concerns (though making lots of money will be great). Many customers have been put off buying a string bag because it normally costs £3.95 P&P. (I sell the tote string bag at £3.49.) It is therefore important to me that as many as possible get a chance to try our bags and hankies. So single organic cotton hankies are despatched free and single string bags cost 50 pence in P&P.

After taking into account the various overheads, there is very little, if any, monetary profit to be made. But it is OK, because every string bag sold means the reduction of hundreds of plastic bags used and this, as far as I am concerned, can only be good.

But while single hankies used to cost me 23 pence to send Second Class, they are now a whopping 37 pence (a 14 pence or 60+% increase), or 44 pence First Class (I don't even want to go there) because these hankies are rolled up and do not meet the 5mm maximum thickness to be sent as a 'Letter'.

The envelope + rolled-up hankie + delivery note weigh a grand total of 18g.

So until my supplier sends me single hankies flat instead of 'rolled up', I will resort to unrolling the hankies before sticking them in the post. I hope customers do not mind this too much.

It's in keeping my commitment to charging just 50 pence for a single string bag that poses the biggest headache.

I can now just about squeeze (and I mean squeeze) a single string bag into the 'Large Letter' category and squashing it into less than 25mm thick to keep its postage at 44 pence, or it has to go as a 'Packet' at 84 pence (up to 100g). Where customers used to pay £1.00 for two string bags and I paid postage of 84 pence for up to 200g, I will now have to pay £1.27 postage because two bags need to be posted as a 'Packet' (and I have not even factored in packaging).

It has been suggested that retailers like myself should just peg everything at the 'Packet' price (postage starting at £1.00), but this is utterly unfair to customers of flatter, lightweight items (like packs of hankies and table napkins).

Or how about including postage in every item?

This only penalizes customers who buy more. For example, one Box of Eight hankies would require £1.27 postage (ie excluding cost of packaging) but two boxes would require only £1.70 postage. Including postage with each item would mean customers having to pay, in this case, £2.54 instead of £1.70 (excluding packaging) when buying two Boxes of Eight .

What if I 'zero-weighted' the flatter, lightweight 'single items' (ie include postage in the prices of single string bags, hankies, gift bags, etc, but code these items as weighing 'nothing')? That way, customers buying 'single items' will not be overcharged. Buying more than one 'single item' cancels the 'single' status, and the customer would pay accordingly, thereby ensuring that I do not need to lose money on postage.

The one little, perhaps insignificant, problem with this is promotional discounts are calculated on order value, and if a customer orders several 'single items' that have been zero-weighted to make up x amount to capitalize on a promotional discount, they would end up paying more than other customers. Not fair!

Thus the past two weeks (when I'm not reviewing a PhD thesis) have been spent puzzling over which is the best way to calculate postage and packing so that all customers are happy.

One way around this (and I think I might be close to finding the solution) is to 'understate' the weight of certain items and establish several weight categories in the lower weight region.

For example, a string bag falls, in reality, into the 100g category, but by coding it as being only 60g, it could be charged as 50 pence in my '30g to 60g' weight category. Two string bags will take it into 120g at £1.40 (say) requiring postage of £1.27 as a 'Packet'.

Large Hankies and Table Napkins will be coded as '45g' even when they weigh more to take advantage of a 50p P&P. Two of these items will be still be only '90g' which I can despatch at 65p. (This, in fact, is a rare example of postage being cheaper in the new price structure.)

Apologies if you think all this is unnecessary gobbledygook. Or you might be thinking: why does she bother?

I'm only trying to make it as fair as possible to all customers.

Back to Organic-Ally.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

When it comes to climate change, I'll take a small bet that Pascal was right

It makes me feel good whenever I read of someone else in the press sharing my point of view. The title refers to a column by Gerard Baker who is basically saying what I said in a previous post.

Baker's full article can be found here.

Back to Organic-Ally.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I'm Rubbish

At one point I was hoping to make my name as the social anthropologist to make the study of 'anthropology of junk' fashionable. Yes, people will say at my funeral, 'She will be remembered for her rubbish.'

As a mother, though, how does one respond to a six-year-old who is convinced that he is 'rubbish'?

Son was clearly distressed when I picked him up yesterday. The Form was preparing for a football match against another school. My son isn't any good at kicking a ball. Offers to start him on lessons (like many of his classmates have done) were turned down. He was just not keen on football. The school requires him not only to play football, but in inter-school matches as well. He was not a happy bunny.

Today they were supposed to have a first football lesson with the Games Master (or whatever his title should be). I was dreading the tears that would greet me at the school gates.

We did think perhaps he should impress on the Games Master that he is utter rubbish and that would increase his chances of winning a 'Best Improved' award. 'But that would be cheating,' son insisted.

'But we don't expect you to be good at everything,' we tried telling him ... like for the ten thousandth time. No, that assurance has not sunk in.

So I waited for him to be dismissed today, having first walked past the sports hall to the uniform shop and catching a glimpse of him trying to keep the furthest away from the Games Master, it seemed.

As usual, he was in a hurry to walk home.

'Mum, hurry, I've got something very exciting to tell you.'

'What? That you are rubbish at football?' I said with a smile and in a tone that was supposed to convey disbelief, support, encouragement, etc, etc. I could tell from his tone, though, that he was being positive.

'No! I'm not rubbish! I even managed to get one past Mr B in our one-on-one.'


'I managed to get the ball right past Mr B. I am not rubbish!'

'Thank you, God,' I said. 'Thank you, Mr B,' I thought.

Then son went on to talk about how the best shot came immediately after him, from D who's also not very much into football. I was in fact swopping notes with D's mother this morning, worried that our sons with their 'sensitive soul' might be crushed in spirit by the end of the day.

Son went on, 'But D's shot was the best of all.' Apparently the biggest cheer was reserved for D whose effort caused their 'team' (ie the whole class of 21) to beat Mr B's team (ie himself).

I am absolutely delighted that Mr B has the wisdom to impart -- in this first lesson -- this confidence in my little boy and others like him who clearly do not have a natural knack for football.

Now my son thinks that he can beat the world at football. I hope his head does not swell too much.

Well done, Mr B!

Back to Organic-Ally.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Organic Milk

Really pleased to read this piece 'Organic milk is healthier, scientists say' in The Times .

My husband and I were just mulling over how my hayfever this year has been 'so good'. Apart from three really bad days, it has been tolerable.

We don't know how much this is down to our 'detox' in the last six to seven years switching to organic food where possible.

Back to Organic-Ally.