In recent weeks, we’ve fielded several customer questions about Bas Bleu’s shipping and handling charges. It’s not the first time we’ve been asked, and it won’t be the last. But our editors thought we’d take this opportunity to shed a little light on what those fees represent for our company.

Before internet shopping became de rigueur, it was common for catalog companies and other mail-order retailers to charge for shipping and handling. Why? Because shipping goods costs money. Packaging supplies like boxes and bubble wrap must be stocked, warehouse workers and truck drivers must be paid, delivery trucks and planes must be fueled, and postage must be purchased.

Fast-forward a few decades, and shopping online is as easy as a few clicks of a mouse or taps on a smartphone. And just as brick-and-mortar stores host sales or mail out promotional coupons to customers, e-commerce companies occasionally offer free shipping as a promotion to entice shoppers. But a handful of retailers with deep pockets and the ability to sell goods at a loss instead of for profit began offering free shipping so frequently that other companies were forced to follow suit to remain competitive.

For retailers who manufacture (and set prices for) their own products, the cost of free shipping can be covered by increasing the retail prices of their products. But booksellers deal in goods that are pre-printed with prices and therefore aren’t able to increase their retail prices to absorb the cost of free shipping offers. And if we followed the model of the mega retailers who don’t need to make a profit on books and other goods, we’d have to fold our business immediately. Plus we still have to pay for all those packaging supplies, and the warehouse workers, truck drivers, postal carriers, and other folks who work to pack and deliver your orders deserve to be fairly compensated for their labor.

In 2020, COVID-19 arrived. Freight carriers and the U. S. Postal Service experienced an unprecedented, unremitting surge in shipments and deliveries, as offices and schools went remote, retailers shut their doors to in-person shopping, and millions of Americans began shopping online for everything from face masks and kitchen essentials to loungewear and home office furniture to books and puzzles. As a result, both FedEx and UPS significantly increased the fees they charged companies like Bas Bleu.

That, in a nutshell, is why we charge for shipping and handling. Over the years we have found a few ways to make shopping with us easier. We offer our very popular Bas Bleu Society membership program for $30 a year. The benefits include free standard shipping on all orders and 15% off books. And our e-list subscribers regularly receive digital coupons and shipping discounts via email.

Please know that we do not take our customers for granted. We understand you have many options for where to shop and spend your hard-earned money. We’re grateful every time you choose Bas Bleu. Hopefully, our selection of carefully curated books and gifts, our commitment to customer service, and our efforts to be a good employer to our valued team members resonate with you. But no matter where you buy your books, we wish you happy reading!

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