Monthly Archives March 2019

Maximizing the Probability of a Safe Delivery

Anyone who has ever packaged an item for shipping has had the same thought at least once; I hope this doesn’t break before it gets there. When you’re shipping small packages to customers on a regular basis, it becomes less of a fear and more of an inevitability.

The shipping industry has thousands of moving parts and facets, and it’s impossible to guarantee the safety of items flying across the globe. No one likes to receive a call from a customer informing them that their product was smashed before it even got to them – it simply happens. However, what you do before you send the product off can make a big difference in how often you get that phone call.

Here are some tips on how to make sure you’re properly packaging your items in order to maximize the probability of a safe delivery.

Packing, wrapping, and marking

When you’re packaging an item, you can generally split your packaging into three different categories: outer packaging, packing material, and special markings.

For example, according to packaging suggestions from Canada Post, fragile items (e.g. china) should use outer packaging consisting of a rigid, good quality, corrugated cardboard box along with reinforced tape on all seams. They should be packed with bubble wrap, tissue paper or newspaper, and they should be clearly marked with the word “FRAGILE” on the top and on one side.

All major carriers will have shipping guidelines and suggestions for how to package and wrap items on their website. While these suggestions don’t guarantee the safe delivery of your items, they’re worth following to better your chances.

It’s worth noting that a study by Popular Mechanics showed one disheartening result in regards to special markings: after mailing a bunch of sensors across America using various major shippers, they found that their packages marked “FRAGILE” actually received more abuse in transit.

According to them, “the carriers flipped the package more, and it registered above-average acceleration spikes during trips for which we requested careful treatment.”

Of course, this experiment consisted of only 12 trips, three carriers, and three cities – not exactly enough for statistical significance. Despite their findings, it’s still best practice to properly label your packages, from “FRAGILE” to “PERISHABLE” to “HANDLE WITH CARE.”

You should also use “fresh” boxes whenever possible. According to UPS, the more times a box is used, the more it loses out on its “original protective qualities.” A previously used box might not adequately protect your product.

Testing

So you’ve done your homework – your outer packaging and packing materials are appropriate for your product and you have the proper markings on a fresh box. If you’re shipping the same type of item regularly, it’s time to conduct the drop test.

As you might be able to guess, a drop test consists of packaging up your product, then dropping it to see what, if any, damage has been done to the product. The drop needs to be made from a realistic and significant height – at least 4 feet. You should also drop the box on the seams and corners as opposed to just the sides.

With thorough testing, you can ship your products with a good idea of what kind of punishment they can take. If your product is damaged in the drop test, then it has not been adequately packaging and you need to reconsider your method and materials.

A drop test is especially important if you’re shipping fragile electronics or liquids that could leak in transit. Slips, falls, shifting packages and careless handlers are all possibilities, so it’s important to make sure your package can take some light abuse without harming the product inside.

Mailer’s Responsibility

According to section 1.4 of the United States Postal Service Basic Standards For All Mailing Services, “it is the mailer’s responsibility to refrain from depositing nonmailable matter in the mail.”

In other words, if you’re shipping packages, you can’t send anything illegal and you must comply with applicable postal laws and regulations governing mailability and preparation.

There are several different categories and types of items that have their own shipping standards, such as high-density items, aerosols, perishables, and biological materials. If you’re not entirely sure on the shipping standards for something you need to mail, it’s always worth looking up before getting yourself in trouble.

Best Practices

Some things are just more likely to break than others. Liquid containers and glass are always risky to ship, but there are a few things you can do on top of proper packaging that can help make a difference.

If you’re shipping bottles containing liquid, make sure they’re standing upright and the top of the package is clearly marked with “THIS SIDE UP.” Also, ensure that your inner packaging can contain any leaks so you’re not destroying other packages in the event that a leak occurs.

If you’re shipping anything with glass panes such as framed photos or mirrors, you should apply masking tape in a crisscross pattern across the surface to reduce the chance of it cracking.

You should also always enclose an extra label with address and phone number for both the shipper and recipient inside the package before shipping it. An outer-label can get torn off, ripped up or otherwise become illegible. By packaging a label inside, you ensure the product can still get to its destination even if the outer label is lost.

Conclusion

Expedited shipping is a technological miracle, but at the end of the day, things are still going to break. It’s the price we pay for being able to ship an item across the globe in 1-3 business days.

By ensuring you’re following packaging guidelines, testing your packaging thoroughly and taking extra precautionary steps for particularly fragile items, you can keep your packages safe and avoid that angry customer phone call.

Six Tips To Minimize Credit Card Processing Fees For Non-profits

Keep More of Your Donation Dollars

No one knows the importance of cutting costs wherever and whenever possible more than those who work in the non-profit sector. At their core, many non-profits function thanks to donations. Unfortunately, in our modern world where credit and debit reign supreme, cash donations are few and far between. Since donations keep many non-profits afloat, it’s very important to make sure you’re reducing your card-processing fees as much as possible.

If you’re a non-profit that relies on funding, you know the uncertainty that often accompanies it. When you’re not sure if funding levels will be maintained year after year, it’s imperative to free up as much room in your budget as possible. Reducing overhead costs such as telecom expenses and processing fees on donations can help to offset the unknown and give your organization some much-needed wiggle room.

Here are six tips to reduce processing fees and make the most of your donation dollars.

You can’t get what you don’t ask for:

In some cases, you can lower your processing fees by asking nicely. If you can provide proof of your non-profit status, (such as your 501(c) status in the United States) your processor could be willing to lower your rate. If your processor is unwilling to offer a lower rate, don’t be afraid to apply pressure and look for other options. They want your business, and they’re often willing to negotiate if they think they’re going to lose it. Remember, your goal for seeking the most competitive processor is finding the one with the lowest markup and greatest value. Some things aren’t negotiable when it comes to processing fees – the markup is not one of them.

Keep an eye on your rates:

Complete monthly audits of your merchant services statements to check for billing errors and avoid rate creep. Processors usually offer seemingly standard contracts, but many contain provisions that allow them to increase your rates. This often comes with the caveat they must notify you first – but those notifications could appear in small print on one of your statements. Be sure to read your statements for notification of rate increases and periodically check your rate to see if it has mysteriously increased. Often, all it takes for them to waive the rate increase is a phone call to object.

Research programs that can reduce your fees:

Many programs out there are tailored to reducing fees for non-profits. One processor covers the majority of fees for donations made through its donation processing page. Others have programs where donators can opt to use their reward points to cover the processing costs of their donations. Do your research, find out if your processors offer these programs, and if they do, put them in to play as soon as possible.

Make sure PCI Compliance is up-to-date:

A vendor will incur monthly fees from the Payment Card Industry (PCI) if its compliance questionnaire is not completed annually. These fees will continue to build up indefinitely until compliance forms are completed. The online questionnaire usually takes less than 30 minutes and saves hundreds of dollars every year. By completing the questionnaire, you assure your credit card processor that you are taking the proper steps to keep customer information safe and minimize the risk of fraud.

Swipe cards and answer questions:

Credit card fees are primarily based on risk. This means you’re better off swiping or inserting a card than entering the number manually. Whenever a number is entered by hand, your processor considers it a higher risk transaction and may charge a higher fee. However, not all organizations have the resources to physically swipe or insert a card. If you’re inputting the card number manually, answer as many of the processor’s questions as possible. Providing information such as the customer’s zip code, debit vs. credit, and the three-digit or four-digit code on the back of the card are all designed to lower the risk of fraud. By entering as much information as possible and lowering the risk, you’ll see reduced transaction fees!

Hire a professional:

An independent merchant services consultant will find you the lowest rates possible in your area, and can also track your rates going forward to make sure you’re never paying more than you should. For example, Schooley Mitchell looks out for your best interests by providing objective advice to reduce your electronic payment processing spend and improve service.

Systematic analysis and auditing will:

  • Uncover and eliminate hidden fees
  • Identify and recover overcharges and billing errors
  • Select and apply appropriate rate categories
  • Ensure government legislation is properly applied

Minimizing Your Small Business Shipping Costs

Five Tips To Save Money On Shipping Feesshipping cost reduction services

Shipping carriers review their rates and services every year and, more often than not, those rates increase. Between the shifting popularity of specific shipping options, the fluctuating cost of fuel, and a plethora of other factors, the cost of shipping is rising for everyone.

While a hundred-billion dollar business like Amazon can offset these rising costs with sheer bulk, how can a more niche business stay in the black without increasing their prices?

Here are a few tips on how your home, online, or small business can offer competitive shipping rates and cut down on costs.

Size Matters:

Shipping carriers don’t only charge based on location and weight – they also take size into account. You can save money on your shipping expenses by ensuring you are always using the appropriate packaging for the job.

While it’s important to keep your product safe in transit, you should never use an oversized box when something smaller will do. Bubble mailers are a great option to keep smaller items safe and secure without breaking the bank on large package fees.

Free is Cheaper than Cheap:

Most major carriers give away free packaging. From FedEx to the USPS, you can find envelopes, self-sealing packages, bubble mailers, padded packs, express boxes, labels and countless other options for free. Of course – this usually comes with the caveat that you use that specific vendor to ship your product.

If you’re currently spending money on your packaging, make sure you take a look at your preferred shipper’s website and check out what free packaging they offer.

Third Party Coverage:

All the major carriers offer shipping insurance, but you can usually find much cheaper rates by foregoing the carrier’s offer and instead getting your shipping insurance with a third-party company. The difference can be as much as $0.50 per $100 of insurance, and while this doesn’t seem like a huge amount, these fees can really add up – especially if you’re shipping high value items like watches, jewellery or electronics.

Qualify For Bulk:

If you’re running an online store through an ecommerce platform such as Shopify, BigCommerce, or 3dcart, you may qualify for bulk shipping pricing. One of the main benefits of working with these types of platforms instead of creating your own sales portal is that they specifically work with carriers to negotiate and reduce shipping prices for the entire platform as a unit. By selling and shipping through an ecommerce shop, you leverage the bulk of everyone else who ships through the same platform.

Of course – many of these platforms also charge monthly service and transaction fees on your sales, so make sure you do a thorough value analysis to make sure you’re not just replacing your shipping fees with platform fees.

Accuracy in all Things:

There are plenty of different ways for your package to incur extra fees or grind to a halt in the shipping pipeline, and most of them boil down to not paying close enough attention to the details.

Choosing the wrong mail class for your item’s weight, underpaying the due postage and neglecting package dimensions can all incur fees. Perhaps one of the most common issues people run into is mislabeled packaging.

Your package’s shipping label takes shipping zone, weight, and size all into account – so you need to make sure these details are accurate. Another common mistake is printing the wrong zip codes on your label. Carriers calculate costs and speed based partially on the length of distance from the sender’s zip code to its destination, so it’s crucial that both your shipping address and the receiver’s address are correct.

Conclusion:

If you’re shipping from home or in quantities that don’t warrant bulk rates, it’s important to take advantage of the resources your carriers offer you and ensure you minimize mistakes that can lead to fees.

If you ship small packages or use courier services and you’re looking to make certain your fees are completely optimized, Schooley Mitchell offers a risk-free review of your shipping environment. If we don’t find savings for you, there is no fee for our services.

Should you purchase device insurance?

broken-phone-insurance-stock-photoUnless there is a compelling reason to carry insurance for your mobile devices, it is typically not cost effective for most people; its shortcomings outweigh its benefits in most situations. Here are a few reasons why we recommend self-insuring instead.

No Guarantees On Replacement Quality

The replacement phones that are provided are typically refurbished and may not even be the same model as the one they are replacing. They often have limited battery life and most device insurers have no obligation to guarantee you any specific make or model to fulfill their end of the bargain.

Your insurance premium is based on the value of your device – not the device you may receive in a replacement claim. Chances are, simply saving the same amount of money each month could pay for a similarly refurbished device, and give you more options to choose from.

Non-Refundable Deductibles

The deductibles that are required for a lost, broken or stolen phone are quite high and may approach the cost of buying a refurbished phone in the open market. These deductibles can range from $150-$250 depending on the version of the device, which is money wasted whether you make a claim or not.

An Ounce Of Prevention…

In most circumstances the likelihood of a phone that is given proper care breaking down is quite small and does not warrant the expense of the insurance. While accidents do happen, mobile devices that are properly cared for usually reach the end of their average lifespan, or at least until most people decide to upgrade. Chances are, you’re never going to make an insurance claim on your mobile device.

…Is Worth A Pound Of Cure

Unfortunately, if you are accident prone, most device insurers won’t put up with you for long. If you do need the insurance and file multiple claims, the insurance company is very likely to drop you. If you’re insistent on insurance, a “maintenance” section in your budget will keep you covered for the same amount as your premium while keeping control of the funds purely in your hands.

Common Problems Don’t Require Replacement

Many problems for personal phones can be resolved at the carrier’s retail stores, the manufacturer’s retail stores, or licensed repair stores. On average, battery, camera, microphone, headphone jack, power button, speaker, charging port and volume button failures can be repaired for under $100. Screen repairs can average anywhere from $150 to $300. It is usually much cheaper to pay for a repair for these common issues than paying an insurance premium over the course of the agreement.

In Conclusion

Most people are better off self-insuring; unless there is a compelling reason to have the insurance coverage you are likely to save money by foregoing the carrier insurance offering. In fact, phone vendors aren’t shy in admitting that device insurance is one of their most profitable services.