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"Fake Free Shipping" And Why to Avoid It

  • Posted: 12-14-2015 04:20 PM
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Let's face it...free shipping is something that turns shoppers into buyers. It's usually enough to put a person over the edge when they are on the fence about placing an order. It seems like any store that wants to sell parts online has got to offer it whenever possible to remain competitive.

Coming from a person who shops the same way you do, it pains me to say that shipping is something that, in reality, is never free. It does come with a cost. While it is not one you will see on your checkout page, you may find yourself staring that cost right in the eye if it’s your main criteria for shopping. We’ve thought long and hard about it, tried and experimented, analyzed what other stores were doing, and have never been able to make it work. That is because, Free Shipping is a Fake proposition.

We’ve got a good case for avoiding “Fake Free Shipping” after a decade of providing our services, but first I’ll give you the short version:

Shipping is never free. It is a service provided by a 3rd party because, unfortunately, we don’t travel the globe delivering items to people by hand (and boy, I wish I could because it sounds really fun) and not everyone can come to us to pick up. That service costs a fee, and as such, it is not free. Fake claims of “Free shipping” as you know it just another way of saying “shipping won’t be a line item on your order.” But I promise you, you are paying for it either in increased cost of the part, a membership fee, reduced customer service, a poorer web experience, or some other compromise in overall value provided by the store. Not wishing to compromise your experience for a short-term sale, Heeltoeauto.com charges for shipping except for special promotions or other isolated reasons such as with Custom Pricing requests.

 

That is essentially it, but for those really into the discussion, I’ll continue and let you know how free shipping does not make business sense for Heeltoeauto.com, how it is unfair to customers, and what we give you instead of free shipping.

If you are unfamiliar with business accounting, I’ll give a brief rundown. A merchant has an offering of a product which has some cost to buy. Maybe the merchant has access to a product not available elsewhere and it is something with demand. Whatever it is, the product has some level of value to customers which they are willing to trade money for. The amount of money the customers are willing to pay is the price of the product. The difference between the price of an item and the cost becomes the company’s margin. Many people think margin is profit, but it isn’t; profit comes after the merchant pays for all the following expenses:

  • Logistics: Logistics is the cost of a series of warehouses, transportation fees, and other expenses related to moving and storing products. Heeltoeauto.com leverages drop shippers when they make sense, but unlike other stores we do not rely on them 100% due to the risk of failed service to our customers.
  • Facilities: Products must be stored in a safe environment, which is secure from theft or the elements. We maintain vehicles for pick-up and delivery of products, a shop space for installations & tests, and a web-store which is under constant development to give users an ever-improving experience.
  • Website Maintenance: Many people would be surprised to learn what a website costs to run, maintain, and keep fresh. Some competitors who attempt to sell only on Facebook without a solid web presence, and others lease their online carts. We’ve witnessed outages and inability of customers to contact some of these “stores.” We maintain our own site, own data, on our own server with a top-notch hosting team to make sure we can avoid problems and respond fast when they come up. We own our own code, and processes.
  • Overhead: Taxes, insurance, employee’s salaries and payroll fees, utilities, and other boring things amount a significant chunk of additional cost a company incurs. Also, there are transaction fees. Most folks are familiar with PayPal and “PayPal fees” they pay when sending and receiving cash. The process of receiving payments via a credit card or other payment provider, such as PayPal, costs the store merchant fees. For every dollar transferring a percentage is removed (PS: Stores requesting “gift” payments or adding other “convenience” or “handling” fees to cover these costs are against the merchant’s contract. Big no-no for an honest business merchant.).
  • Research & Development: Solid performing retail stores need products that set them apart from competitors. Heeltoeauto.com maintains multiple product lines that serve customer needs better than competitors’ do. ATLP, Fastline Performance, and Medieval-Pro products are produced by Heeltoeauto.com and stand tall as industry leading solutions to our customers.
  • Customer Service: Often misconstrued as “my order came in without problems,” Customer Service is how a merchant handles issues that go wrong. This could be working after hours to fix problems, expediting replacement parts, or accepting returns on uncommon basis such as crashed cars and whatnot.
  • Advertising: Attending car shows (check out our hashtag #heeltoeonethego for more on our adventures), paying forum advertising fees, buying stickers and shirts (everyone likes those) and other expenses to be present on the web and it people’s lives. And naturally people like freebies for being loyal, and when we can we are happy to oblige.

All the above expenses are taken out of the company’s margin, and that ends up being a really big chunk. What is left over is profit. This is what the company gets to play with. It can be used to increase advertising, add in additional R&D projects, or provide additional Customer Service.

That last point, Customer Service, is critical to Heeltoeauto.com’s value proposition. Heeltoeauto.com can and has:

  • Assisted customers with warranty claims that our competitors fail to support.
  • Reimbursed customers for expenses to repair parts failures that other manufacturers fail to cover.
  • Paid for shipping fees for customers where it was due.
  • Never failed to give customers the best possible experience in the face of our inevitable failures to perform flawlessly.

Next time you wonder if you are getting Customer Service from a parts vendor, listen carefully how they attempt to hide behind a contrived policy or shift blame onto others for mistakes. "Final sales" and "Restocking Fees" are mere attempts to avoid helping people. We don't have them here. Choose Heeltoeauto.com and never deal with the cost of poor customer service again.

We feel it is unfair to deprive customers of the absolute best service we can provide, and when we have not collected enough margin on an order, it makes it hard to “make things right” when there is a problem. While errors are rare, nobody is perfect. This is why you should be cautious thinking that “everything went fine” is the same as good "customer service." Every well-oiled machine is only as good as it is when it is running rough. Quickly you’ll realize that the free shipping had a real cost of failed support, and that oftentimes it is used as a ploy to get your money.

Don’t believe us? Make sure you are looking up Better Business Bureau reports. Forget an A+ rating that comes after resolving numerous complaints. You want to complain to the BBB for resolution? Me neither.

But that is not the only way that “free shipping” is unfair. Free shipping on “everything” is literally impossible with car parts. Once you get through all the small print about 6- to 10-day delivery times, “does not apply” to international customers, does not include oversized items, and surcharges for faster service or “handling fees,” the free shipping becomes more suspicious hook than an actual service. Sure, tossing something small in an envelope with a stamp in it doesn’t cost you anything, but when those items are lost or damaged, you have no recourse as a consumer. We considered free shipping site-wide for a long time, but once we got done writing out all the convoluted contingencies, it felt like it was something that was completely FAKE. We felt like fakes in the making, and we changed direction right away.

Lastly, Free Shipping does not take into account where the shipping is going to and from. If the customer is located close to a shipping center, the free shipping does not have much value. What seems like a good deal could really be costlier that getting a part for less from a more local store and paying the low shipping fees. Free Shipping only seems to reward customers who are far away from the store. In other words, if we have free shipping from California, we need to account for shipping to Florida in every sale. If you are in Nevada, even if you got free shipping, you are paying too much for shipping!

Instead of “Fake Free Shipping,” Heeltoeauto.com highlights what customers do get for their hard earned money:

  • International Phone Support: Ever try finding a phone number for a straight answer from a company? Need to have a scheduled call because of a huge time-difference? Ever leave a message and not get a call back? Heck, we usually call back our missed calls even if there isn’t a message. We are polite, attentive, helpful, and honest. You can hear it from the horse’s mouth.
  • Tech Advice: Nowhere else will you find our level of unbiased, helpful support. When you call, you won’t be speaking to people who’ve never held a wrench. We’ve worked on all sorts of Hondas made in the last four decades. So-n-So Motorsports selling everything under the Sun can’t tell you as much about your TL as Heeltoeauto.com can. We've installed coilovers without removing the wheels from the car.
  • Customized Shopping Experience: With our HTGarage, you can configure our store to match your car, by both chassis and engine. With Custom Pricing tools, you can get the deal on the package that works for you! Shipping to a non-billing address? Many of our competitors will not price this very basic level of service. With Confirmed Accounts, we’ll ship wherever you need it to go! Heeltoeauto.com has these features because they matter to you.
  • Unique Service Offerings: Layaway Payments, Buy-Backs, Price Guarantees, and other such features you will be hard pressed to wrench out of Heeltoeauto.com competitors. Let's not forget about or dyno tests, product compariosons, and product features!

Of course there is no conversation we are not willing to have with our customers. If our service is lacking anywhere, we trust you to help us see how we can do our best to make sure you are happy! My direct number is 949-295-1668 and my personal email is marcus@heeltoeauto.com. I welcome your feedback, be it good, bad, or otherwise.

Don't be fooled into buying into Fake Free Shipping. We'll approve a lot of deals with shipping included, and offer to pay for your shipping from time to time, but overall, the practice is not something we feel works with our overall business model of being a reliable company that pays customers back in with outstanding services and earns their loyalty.

Thanks, and happy shopping!



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