Shipping...Why Me?

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Blog entry by robbinscabin posted 06-27-2011 03:47 AM 2174 reads 2 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

As you might know, Hubby and I decided to pool our woodworking talents and start our own business. Being a new teeny, tiny business we decided to use a lot of “free” advertising like brochures, flyers around town, blogs, and Facebook. I have to admit…I was surprised by the results I’ve gotten from both “real world” and online. We’re closing in of 65 Facebook Fans and I’m being stopped in the grocery store to be asked about my latest door. All good news when your trying to get your business name known, right? I thought so too…only problem was no one was actually buying anything. I was reconsidering my pricing (which I know to be much lower than other similar items) and even lowered my price significantly for a Father’s Day Sale. Sadly, still no buyers.

When I woke up this morning I literally had ZERO orders and no prospects. So Hubby and I headed out with more flyers in hand…By noon we had 2 orders and 2 potential orders. No, we are not great salesmen…while we were out we did get two orders (a bed and bench), and then when we got home there was an e-mail with 2 more potential orders. YEAH!!! I couldn’t stop smiling until…

SHIPPING? How do I figure shipping on 2 screen doors? The doors weigh approx. 35 pounds each. How the heck do I even pack a screen door for shipping? I tried figuring it out quickly online at UPS and FedEx and had shipping rates from $50-$375. Obviously, no one wants to pay more for shipping than for the product…All this leaves me wishing I had a shipping department. I get lost going to my own bathroom…I practically flunked geography after all, I’d never really need it. Should I really be in charge of shipping to another state? I don’t think so. WHY ME?

Have any of you ever faced a similar shipping dilemma? How do you ship your large items (my screen doors measure 36×80 + packaging)? Any and all advice (as always) greatly appreciated!

-- Robbinscabin,

22 comments so far

View Rustic's profile


3253 posts in 3652 days

#1 posted 06-27-2011 03:56 AM

check out the Fedex store or the UPS store they say they can ship anything

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View spunwood's profile


1202 posts in 2892 days

#2 posted 06-27-2011 04:04 AM

Great questions!

I am in much the same boat though a bit less extreme.

Picture frames can be pretty strange to ship, and I worry about damage and prices.

I am excited to hear other responses to this.

Sadly, not much wisdom here at all except that you might look for packaging material at a local business that deals in similar shaped items.

Good luck. And by the way, I went to school in Geneseo…NY is beautiful country isn’t it.


-- I came, I was conquered, I was born again. ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2898 days

#3 posted 06-27-2011 04:40 AM

I’m going to watch this thread intently to see what kind of solutions anyone can come up with because I have run into this exact problem.
I have been told too often that I should try to sell my projects somewhere like Ebay or Etsy. My problem though is the shipping. I thought about jumping into selling online. Then I realized I needed to come up with some shipping options. I have been told to let the customer figure out how to get their purchases to them. We all know that aint going to fly. So off to all the local shipping options I went to check out. I found out very quickly that 99.9% of every project I do will cost way more than I would even ask for it in shipping costs. So I have scrapped the idea of selling things online because of this shipping problem.


View poopiekat's profile


4364 posts in 3790 days

#4 posted 06-27-2011 05:01 AM

Having been a warehouse receiver for a few years, I’ve seen some frightening things when a driver rolls up his trailer door. If you pack a screen door in a crate of any kind, that crate will be used to stabilize two side-by side pallets, and an additional 1,000 pounds dropped on top of with a forklift. forget about writing “Fragile” or any other cautionary warnings; they go unheeded. Your woodworking skills will become secondary to your talents as a damaged freight claims collector, and since you’ll be shipping via ‘Freight Prepaid” versus ‘Freight Collect” you will sink or swim depending on your assertive and persistent negotiations with those arrogant claims adjusting departments of the typical freight carriers. Can you depend on your customers to sign the truckers waybill as ‘damaged’ at the time of delivery? If not, you’re really in for a difficult time persuading the adjuster that it was not damaged subsequent to the actual time of delivery. UPS typically will stomp on any oversize packages; those trucks leave the depot loaded to waist-level or higher and the driver simply walks on everything until late in the day when the metal floor once again becomes visible. Short answer? Sell ONLY those items that can be SAFELY shipped in small parcels, like 12” X 12” X 12” or less, and less than 70 lbs.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View auggy53's profile


159 posts in 2735 days

#5 posted 06-27-2011 05:10 AM

i have the same trouble . i make pet furniture and sometimes its kinda bulky .i try to build shipping cost into the price as much as i can cause people seem to love free shipping . the cost of packaging was a shock a simple box cost me 5.00 to 6.00 and then theres the padding usually bubble wrap . i actually had to modify one design to fit the postal code . my largest piece is 18’‘x24’‘x 24’’ usps ranges from 23.00 to 30.00 depending on location . i made the mistake of selling a piece in canada , the shipping took all the profit plus some. the biggest problem is insurance another 3 to 5 bucks . some of my stuff was damage and its up to the customer to deal with the usps which i dont think is fair to them butt thats the way it works. i really dont see away to cut the shipping cost except to raise my prices and if that hurts my sales then so be it , im not going to build stuff just to make the usps money

good luck

-- rick

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3171 posts in 3165 days

#6 posted 06-27-2011 05:18 AM

You are SO RIGHT, poopiekat! I shipped some possessions from Florida to California via Fedex Ground a few years ago, and one thing is for sure, the arrows telling which way is up mean NOTHING to those guys. My bike made it from the Pacific rim without a scratch, but shipped 2200 miles by them, it got beat to death. Comment from the delivery boy: “File a claim!”. I did better. approximately 60+ fellow employees heard about this and used a different method for shipping their stuff. I’m sure Fedex doesn’t care if they only lost 60+X$400+=$24k+ (mine was only about $360- I live simply on travel- some people shipped whole households) when they didn’t get used for that shipment, though.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View Greg's profile


330 posts in 2929 days

#7 posted 06-27-2011 07:28 AM

I have to agree w/ bentlyj. Build a cheap frame, and use a common carrier. You will have to charge for frame, masonite, time and labor to crate, AND shipping. There is no way around it, if you want to sell nationwide. Sorry, but that is the sad truth.

-- You don't have a custom made heirloom fly fishing Net?

View robbinscabin's profile


313 posts in 3544 days

#8 posted 06-27-2011 12:09 PM

I see I’m not the only one with shipping hassles! A friend of mine works for UPS and she stopped over after I got my business license…she said to give her a call when I needed any shipping done and she’d come back and help me figure out exactly how to pack and how to ship. I just would like to be able to ball park a price without calling for reinforcements. LOL. This order is only going to NH from NY…not really that far. The customer has agreed to the price + tax & Shipping. (NY state requires a sales tax on all internet sales) But that doesn’t mean I want to charge more than my door just for shipping. Ugh!

-- Robbinscabin,

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4061 days

#9 posted 06-27-2011 12:22 PM

You could invent the first knock down (KD) screen door that’ll fit in a pizza box. :)

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View robbinscabin's profile


313 posts in 3544 days

#10 posted 06-27-2011 12:27 PM

If only I really were that smart! LOL.

-- Robbinscabin,

View CharlesAuguste's profile


126 posts in 2597 days

#11 posted 06-27-2011 01:42 PM

I think Miles has a good idea, but i think your best bet is a “Dutchdoor” screendoor, or maybe a two piece door
that can have a full lenght dovetail. With having two piece for every door you would be able to ship UPS,
dealing with a carrier is a real pita.

-- "the future's uncertain and the end is always near" J. Morrison

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10628 posts in 3484 days

#12 posted 06-27-2011 02:08 PM

When I was researching costs for an 8’ piece of T track, I found shipping was double what it was for 2ea. 4’ pieces.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View 1978's profile


167 posts in 3665 days

#13 posted 06-27-2011 02:58 PM

Okay, this is what I got. Price your work with a percent of the price for shipping. Say you have item X and you want at least $30 for it. Price it at $50 but advertise FREE SHIPPING and HANDLING (people eat it up). So now, lets say you get an order ($50) but it only cost $13 to ship. You are now $7 ahead in shipping. Next order comes in ($50), but this time it cost $25 to ship. You still have it covered.

A business man once told me that shipping is the biggest money lost in a business.

So that is my two cents.

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3230 days

#14 posted 06-27-2011 03:12 PM

Last job: Director of Planning & Logistics, so … movement/shipping of goods all around the world. In that case, it was flowers—dying the moment you cut them, and VERY fragile.

Before I built anything for sale, I’d already have figured out how I’ll ship it, and the cost TO ship it.

It can easily make or break your profitability, or—far more likely—your sales.

You can start with something as easy as dimensions, and use something as simple as FedEx or UPS’s online estimators, becoming accidentally familiar with terms like “Dim Weight” and “Dim Factor,” or you can start getting fancy and using sites like, or … simply develop a good relationship with the sales person of your nearest LTL (Less-Than-Truckload) company.

Which implies even more very obscure lingo, like “tariff” and “rating.”

My guess ? You’re simply going to have to do local pickup only for items beyond a certain size or configuration. Common carriers really dream of shipping medium-sized square boxes full of books—dense. When they fill up an airplane, it’s FULL, and they make LOTS of money.

Their nightmare, on the other hand, is shipping air (big boxes, designed to carry and protect a small bouquet of flowers), where … they’re shipping a plane-load of AIR, and not getting paid for it.

You should be working on/from a database/spreadsheet that includes such indirect costs AS shipping IN your P&L analysis.

Like so many businesses—even though YOUR reason may NOT be the same reason as somebody else-s—you simply may NOT be able to sell just what you want—at least not at a profit.

But I would start with the end in mind, and the end, in your case, IS …. “How can I get this to the customer, safely and economically ?

Often, the answer is simple: I can’t.

You also want to figure out what % of the things you DO ship, via common carrier, are going to experience damage during shipping. EVEN IF the common carrier WILL pay you damage on those claims, a) your customer won’t be happy or understanding, and b) If your rate of damage claims is higher than their average, it’s going to begin to be reflected in the rates the common carrier charges you.

Meaning … you need to give SOME thought to your packaging. The upside ? It IS a marketing and “customer experience” opportunity, if done right.

Gotta’ run. This wasn’t really a “first cup of coffee” kinda’ subject ;-)

Best of luck !!

-- -- Neil

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 3948 days

#15 posted 06-27-2011 04:45 PM

Something that size will have to be crated or put on a double pallet. UPS will do it for you, but they charge an arm and a leg for this service and it could be more than the actual shipping costs. Go to ULINE and look at their packaging solutions. Sometimes the size and weight of an item makes it impractical to ship. I ship small items all over the country and I have gotten feedback from customers describing how beat up the boxes were when they arrived. Fortunately, I use a lot of bubble wrap and peanuts which has kept items from getting damaged. I can imagine what an 80” long screen door would look like after a trip across the country.

I agree with NBeener, you should figure out packaging and shipping before trying to sell an item online. Not only can shipping eat your customer up and kill the sale, the additional labor needed to package that item may be as much as you spent making it.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

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