Posts by Joe Weppler

Where Does Your Waste Go?

Waste disposal is one of the most important services a business needs to function. Every business generates waste, and without proper disposal services, we’d be quickly buried by it. But where does all our waste go when it’s taken away by our disposal provider? Here are a few of the different places where your waste ends up.

Transfer Stations and Material Recovery Facilities

Before your waste arrives at its final destination, it will likely run through a transfer station and/or a Material Recovery Facility (MRF). Transfer stations are a temporary destination for waste disposal vehicles to drop off their collections. At the transfer station, the waste is usually compacted, loaded into even larger trucks, then shipped off to its next destination. These stations help to reduce waste disposal costs and allow the regular garbage trucks to pick up trash more efficiently throughout the day.

Material Recovery Facilities are separate locations where trash is sorted, usually in order to recover useful materials from the MSW stream before it reaches its destination. MRFs use tons of different machines, methods and technologies to achieve this. Some of the methods include running the trash through powerful magnets to collect metals, massive shredders, and even eddy current separators that help separate non-ferrous metals from regular waste.

Landfills

North America is the top producer of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in the entire world, generating about 301 million tons of trash every year. According to studies from the Environmental Protection Agency, anywhere from 52 to 55 percent of MSW winds up in landfills.

Unfortunately, landfills aren’t designed to break down waste. They’re designed to store it. Most landfills are built into the ground and lined with clay or plastic to isolate the trash from the environment. They’re often bisected with drains and pipes designed to collect leachate – the wastewater that drains from a landfill. Leachate has its own rules and regulations for collection and disposal and is a very important concern for any landfill operator.

When a layer of a landfill reaches its capacity, it is covered in plastic and topped with soil and plants. While the garbage will eventually decompose – it will take a very long time. Partially because a large portion of the waste that ends up in landfills is naturally slow to decompose, and partially because the decomposition process is slowed down in the oxygen-free environment underground.

Waste-To-Energy Plants

Most Waste-to-Energy plants are composed of massive, industrial furnaces known as trash incinerators, designed to burn MSW. Around 13 percent of MSW ends up in these incinerators – burned to ash in chambers that operate at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.

Not only does this process produce extra heat that can be used to heat and power our cities, but it also greatly reduces the volume of the waste, which in turn significantly reduces the landfill space it would otherwise occupy.

Some other methods of producing energy through waste include anaerobic generators that turn organic materials into energy through biological processes, and wastewater treatment plants that use similar microorganisms to contribute to the power grid.

Recycling Facilities 

According to the EPA, roughly 35 percent of MSW makes its way to a recycling facility. This also includes composting facilities, as they operate under the same basic premise – reuse waste to create new products. While recycling facilities primarily focus on items such as paper, glass, aluminum and plastics, composters use agricultural and food waste to create compost.

Recycling rates have been on the rise since the 1980s, and some of the largest cities in North America have extremely ambitious, large-scale recycling systems. In fact, the top five recycling cities in the United States divert 60 to 80 percent of their waste away from landfills and into recycling facilities.

Unfortunately, there are many types of waste that can’t be recycled and plenty of stresses regarding contamination. Recycling facility operators need to be extremely diligent with what they accept. For example, plastics must be clean to be recycled. A plastic container with food waste inside could contaminate thousands of pounds of otherwise perfectly reusable material. Some other items to keep out of your recycling bins include paper soiled by food, plastic bags, electronics, batteries and lightbulbs.

Types of Waste

landfillWaste is something most people don’t want to think about. For the majority, waste is a by-product of what we do want to talk about. It’s something we’d rather not handle, think about, and certainly not smell – but it’s a necessary evil.

Few people have the time to monitor the associated costs on an ongoing basis, and it’s not an easy job if you aren’t familiar with the industry. For our purposes as waste disposal and expense reduction experts, waste is separated into 12 different categories. Below are the types of waste and how they’re typically collected.

Garbage:

Garbage is what most of us think about when we hear the term waste. Regular trashcan garbage created by one or multiple people is known as Municipal Solid Waste, or MSW. Pre-consumer waste is known as Non-Municipal Solid Waste (NMSW) and is generated in the production of products.

Liquid wastes such as wastewater, fats, oil and grease, used oil, gases, sludges, or hazardous substances like cleaning fluids or pesticides also count as garbage, and they are typically collected and taken to a materials processing facility, transfer station or landfill disposal site.

Recycling:

Most people understand the basic concept of recycling – the conversion of waste materials into new materials and objects. Recycling benefits the world by preventing the waste of potentially useful items and reducing our overall consumption of raw materials.

Most cities across North America have recycling programs, and some major recyclable items include paper, cardboard, glass, bottles, jars, tin cans, aluminium foil, and certain plastics.

Compost:

In basic terms, compost is organic matter gathered to allow to decompose in a relatively contained environment. It has many great benefits as a soil conditioner, and it’s very rich in nutrients for plant life.

Compost includes fruits and vegetables, meat (including bones) bread, flowers, leaves, coffee and tea, dairy, hair, egg shells and food-soiled paper towels. Some things that aren’t included are liquids, bio-plastics, sawdust, wood, grass clippings with herbicide, or dead animals.

Many cities have Green Bin programs that keep food waste out of our landfills. Instead, it’s used to help growth in our gardens and parks.

Metal:

Unlike a lot of the others on this list, metal has monetary value, especially recovered metals that can be melted down and reused. Many major metal manufacturers end up selling their leftover scrap metal to recyclers who know the market value and will pay to take it off their hands.

Many places across North America also require scrappers to carry a scrap metal license before they can handle scrap professionally.

Electronics:

Electronic or e-waste is mainly comprised of discarded electrical or electronic devices. Some examples include appliances, light bulbs, TVs, computers, screens, phones, alarm clocks, and watches.

While these items also have monetary value, they are also intrinsically more dangerous to handle and dispose of than your average metal waste. Potentially harmful substances like lead, beryllium and cadmium are often used in electronics, and great care must be taken by those who handle e-waste in order to avoid unsafe exposure.

Shredding:

Most businesses shred files for safety reasons. Unfortunately, paper shreds cannot be placed in the recycle bin with the rest of your paper waste. Most recycling centers don’t accept small strips of paper because the large scale recycling facilities use very large screens to dry recycled paper, and the small shreds tend to fall through the screens.

Alternatives to office shredding include professional shredding services, which are available for around $1 per pound of paper. Professionals shred on a large enough scale that the shreds can be combined and recycled.

Wood:

Wood is a solid waste, and while it can be disposed of in a landfill, there are better options. While you can reuse and recycle wood, there are also options such as biomass-to-energy and wood processing facilities. Burning wood is fairly clean compared to most fossil fuels (though it still does result in emissions!) and taking your wood to a processing facility will often cost less than simply disposing it in a landfill!

Hazardous:

Corrosive, explosive, poisonous, flammable – hazardous waste is, well, hazardous.

Some examples include paints, chemicals, tires, batteries, light bulbs, appliances, aerosol cans, fertilizers and freon.

Most cities and towns have dedicated acceptance days for hazardous materials – check your cities website for dates. When transporting hazardous materials, they should be tightly sealed in their original containers and never allowed to mix. Trained professionals should be available to accept these materials on those assigned days, and they will be ready to package, transport and store these materials safely.

Toxic:

While all toxic waste is hazardous, not all hazardous waste is toxic. In waste terms, “toxic” is used to describe waste that, when ingested or absorbed, is harmful or fatal to living organisms. While the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is able to designate any waste hazardous as they deem fit, and many toxic wastes would fall under that general umbrella, they also have another law for mitigating harm to the public caused by specifically toxic wastes.

Some examples of toxic waste include lead-based paint, radon, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), asbestos, pesticides and herbicides.

Biomedical:

Biomedical waste is any that includes blood or tissue from operating rooms, morgues, laboratories or any other medical facilities. It could also include anything used in treating a patient – from bedding to hospital gowns.

Biomedical is further separated into four categories (general medical waste, infectious medical waste, hazardous medical waste and radioactive medical waste) and has incredibly strict laws surrounding its handling and segregation.

Medical waste is handled by specifically trained, license-holding professionals.

Agricultural:

Produced as a result of various agricultural options, agricultural waste includes materials such as manure, poultry and slaughterhouse runoff, harvest waste, fertilizer runoff, and pesticides, salt and silt drained from fields.

It also includes general farm waste related to the growing of crops or raising of animals – vegetable waste, grape vines, fruit bearing trees and palm fronds.

Most agricultural waste, including animal carcasses, is handled directly by the farm owners and workers, but is still regulated by the government for safety.

Industrial:

Industrial waste is generally described as waste that was produced by an industrial activity, and includes materials that have been rendered useless during a manufacturing process. Factories, mills, mining operations and industries all produce industrial waste.

Dirt and gravel, solvents, chemicals, scrap lumber – these items can be hazardous or benign, and are often mixed with regular municipal waste.


Each of these categories are composed of sub-categories, all with different rules and regulations in regards to disposal, storage and care. At the end of the day – no matter how much we want to brush it under the rug – waste will be with humanity until its end. So it’s best that we keep it in mind.

Free shipping: Taking advantage of the demand

free shippingAccording to an investigation from Stitch Labs using data mined from more than 1 million US Shopify orders, small businesses are three times less likely to offer free shipping than their larger counterparts. However, the same study showed that customers avoid paying for shipping at all costs, with 44 percent of all ‘shopping cart abandonment’ being due to shipping costs.

Here are a few things to consider when attempting to take advantage of the overwhelming demand for free shipping – without it costing you too much revenue.

Shipping-Included

Obviously, one way or another, someone is paying the cost of shipping. But offering something for free can influence your customers into thinking they’re getting a better deal – even if, in the end, they’re paying the same price.

By using a shipping-included strategy, you avoid the gut check that online shoppers experience at the checkout screen. That jump in price when the shipping is calculated is when the majority of people will back out of the purchase. Shoppers are more likely to buy a 20 dollar item with free shipping than a 15 dollar item with a shipping fee of $4.99.

Free shipping increases your conversion rate at checkout – and you can bet that if your competitors offer free shipping, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not offering it as well. And don’t make the mistake of assuming your customers won’t shop around. According to AdWeek, 81% of shoppers conduct online research before purchasing.

Watching the Margins

When you’re competing with e-commerce titans like Amazon with their Prime offering – who are willing to do things like swallow a $7.2 billion loss on shipping costs in order to maintain their massive market share – you need to find a balance between your margins and your conversions.

Eating the cost of shipping will have a much bigger impact on the bottom line of a small business compared to a large one. For high-ticket items, it can be easier to offset that cost with markups because they’re less noticeable and you need to make fewer sales overall to cover the costs. For shops that sell less expensive items, markups are more noticeable and could lead to an overall decrease in sales – even if you’re offering free shipping.

Minimum Order Thresholds

For those businesses that can’t get away with markups, one way to help offset the cost of offering free shipping is by offering it for those who spend over a minimum dollar amount in total. Not only can this save you money overall, but it also encourages your customer to buy more then they initially intended.

The psychology behind the minimum threshold is clear – people want to take advantage of a deal if they can, and they’re more than willing to convince themselves that spending extra in order to qualify is the right move.

In fact, a study from Comscore and UPS came to the conclusion that 52 percent of American online shoppers purchased more than they intended just to hit a minimum threshold for free shipping.

Conclusion

Of course, there are several other options. Offering free shipping to qualifying members, free shipping only for specific items, free shipping if you buy within a certain period of time, or even free shipping to your nearest brick-and-mortar store for pickup. The best way to find out the offering that is right for you is by testing different methods and collecting the sales data.

Whether you’re offering free shipping on all purchases, a minimum purchase threshold, including shipping costs in your pricing, or some other method, one thing is clear: shoppers really love the word ‘free.’

The pros and cons of payment processing integration

Payment processing integration can be very valuable to your business. It allows for transaction data to transfer automatically into your accounting or ERP system when you make a sale – whether its online, through a mobile app or using a point of sale terminal. Here are a few of the pros and cons of integration.

Time and Money

Payment processing integration can save your business valuable time that would otherwise be spent manually entering transaction data.  This not only reduces the cost of labour and frees up your employees to tackle other tasks, but also eliminates human error. While there is usually an upfront cost for setting up integrated payment processing, it’s generally affordable and will likely save you money in the long run.

Security

Integration can also help with your data security. End-to-end encryption provides a high standard of security while still giving you visibility and access into your business operations and sales records. This security protects your business from threats that are outside of your control, so you can worry less about data breeches and fraud that could potentially compromise your private information.

Customer Service

An integrated payment solution will give you more data to analyze in order to improve your business. Tracking sales can improve your targeted marketing and promotions while giving you a keen insight into your inventory and deliveries. Tracking this data efficiently can have a huge impact on your customer service that will ultimately drive more business to your company.

Vendor Negotiation

Unfortunately, despite all the benefits of payment processing integration, it can also put you in a terrible situation when it comes to negotiating your rates and services with your vendor.

While software integration can be very valuable, you need to be very aware of its potential for exclusivity before you commit. Otherwise, you could find yourself in a position further down the line where your rates have increased but you have no feasible way to switch vendors. Your hardware is integrated with your current vendor and swapping would both be expensive and cause a massive interruption in service.

Conclusion

The best bet is to do your research and find a payment processing integration solution that is not exclusive to any sole vendor or system and has clear guidelines in place in regard to switching vendors while maintaining your data and integration tools.

The end-goal is to have your point-of-sale integrated with a secure yet flexible software suite that will help you save time and money, but not at the expense of locking you in with any one specific vendor. That way, if you end up needing to negotiate rates or services, you’re not stuck in a situation where your vendor is firmly holding all the cards.

What does 5G mean for you and your business?

smartphone-5g

For months, major carriers have been hyping 5G networks and their potential offerings: faster speeds, more stable data connections, and (another) massive influx of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. 5G networks have been in development for a while, and they’re expected to launch worldwide by 2020, working in tandem with current 3G and 4G tech.

Despite the hype, we haven’t seen much in the way of proof apart from some basic tests and fixed rollouts to certain cities in 2018.

However, that’s all about to change. On April 3rd, three major telecom carriers in South Korea abruptly launched the first real 5G network — just an hour before Verizon tweeted that they launched their own 5G network in Minneapolis and Chicago.

With these high-profile launches, 5G suddenly feels very real. Here’s how it’s going to affect you and your business going forward.

Upload and Download Speed

According to a study by Ericsson, 50 percent of US customers will have access to 5G in as little as five years. 5G represents the next generation of data and will eventually replace your basic 4G LTE connection. This means drastically faster download and upload speeds. Average download speeds of 1GBps are projected to be the norm, which is very fast for mobile connectivity.

The benefits of increased average speeds are self-explanatory — the less time you have to spend fighting with the internet, the more time you have to spend on running your business.

Latency

One of the less obvious benefits but perhaps the most substantial when it comes to tech innovation is the reduced latency that 5G will bring. Latency is how we measure how long it takes for a packet of data to travel from one point to another. The lower the latency, the faster your device can communicate with its target.

Not only is this extremely important for businesses that rely on IoT enabled devices, but it can also strengthen your company’s tech infrastructure and lower the vulnerability of your devices.

Reliability and Flexibility

5G is expected to be very reliable when it comes to connectivity. That means your connections will stay strong and drastically cut down on interruptions. The benefits of this reliability are most clear when considering their application in devices relating to self-driving vehicles or medical support.

In addition, 5G networks promise to be much more flexible then their 4G counterparts. For example, businesses will be able to create multiple virtual networks with just a single physical system. This is called Network Slicing, and it will lead to a better user experience for your customers and provide a robust and cohesive infrastructure for you.

Capacity and Energy

5G is being designed to have a much greater capacity, which means that a single network can better support multiple resource-intensive items at once. HD streaming, IoT devices, virtual reality, high-speed data transfer — all these services can be very demanding. With 5G, you will be able to maintain high speeds even when multiple users on your network are running demanding software at the same time.

Despite all these perks, 5G will be a benefit to your energy consumption. It’s being designed to demand less power from your devices, meaning 5G will actually extend your battery life instead of draining it faster.

Conclusion

From secure banking and automation to digital medicine and self-driving cars, 5G will have a major impact on the world. It’s the catalyst for the jump that fast, reliable connectivity will make from our desks to practically any device on the planet, mobile or stationary. It will be one of the most impactful changes to the internet since its invention.

5G will affect everyone, from the Fortune 500 to your local grocery store. It’s important that you consider how this new technology might affect your industry, because those that are most prepared to take advantage will surely prosper.

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.

Wireless Phone Service tips

wireless-iphone

A typical personal phone bill is made up of several components, each of which can be managed to provide maximum service at minimal cost. Business plans can be even more complicated thanks to the sheer number of lines associated with a single account. Recent plan changes by the carriers offer consumers new ways to reduce costs and increase user accountability.

The Data Plan

The major carriers have made changes to their data plans that can provide some significant benefits to the consumer, but only if the consumer asks to be put on a new plan.

  • The cost per gigabyte of sharable data can be slightly lower than on legacy plans
  • The new plans allow for “Carry Over” data for unused data from the prior month
  • The new plans also have “Safety Mode” which will protect you from overage charges by offering slower data at no charge when limit is reached or purchase of additional data
  • Some plans offer free international calls to Canada and Mexico with the new data plans

Recommendation:  Know how much data you need and make sure that you are on the right plan to support it. If you have family members that are streaming a lot of music and/or video, understand the costs and manage their data usage.

The Equipment Charges

The major wireless carriers have been making a lot of changes to separate the cost of the equipment from the cost of the service.  This offers consumers an opportunity to lower their costs if they can keep their phones longer than the time it takes to pay them off.  Most carriers will charge a monthly equipment fee to pay off the cost of the equipment which is typically between $20-$30 per month depending on the phone.  In exchange for separating the equipment cost from the service cost the carriers have been able to reduce the monthly cost for just the service.

Recommendation: Don’t feel the need to rush out and get a new phone just because you are eligible for an upgrade. The differences between some of the newer smartphones is negligible and often not worth the additional expense of getting a new phone.

The Per-Device Charge

With the equipment costs being separated out from the service costs, the actual cost of the service drops dramatically and becomes quite predictable. The latest plans offer monthly service costs for smartphones at $20 per month, and tablets and other wireless devices at $10 per month.

Recommendation: If you are paying more than $20 per month for your smartphone make sure you understand why. Smartphones can provide the same functionality that a hot spot device does; in most cases there is no need to keep the hot spot device. Tablets can function on WiFi without the need for any carrier fees; if you are paying for service for your tablet make sure that it is really necessary.

Applications and Features

If you find that you are paying for applications and/or vanity features make sure that you are truly getting the value for what you are paying. There are options like Verizon Navigator that made sense before smartphones were the mainstay, but have been since superseded by free-of-charge apps like Google Maps and Waze.

In Summary

The recent move towards separating service and equipment costs makes it much easier to manage the costs of providing personal cell phones to a family or to establish guidelines for reimbursing wireless phone expenses in a business environment.  The account holder can provide a sharable data plan and suitable service plan for each device while holding individual users accountable for new equipment charges, insurance and personal apps and features.

The carriers will not make these changes for you by default, but they are out there for the taking.