It's got a lovely post office you know, has Hebden Bridge

So, a company which makes boots has a customer who isn’t happy with the idea of having to pay for shipping.


I have 2 pairs of your trousers and really love what you are making. After much deliberation I intended to buy a pair of xxxx boots – deliberation because they are so expensive and when I got to the check out found another £16 on top, unfortunately that additional cost pulled me back from the brink of buying them.
I can’t think of any other item of that value which I could buy online where postage would not be included…. also that is very expensive and if I needed to exchange the cost would go up further.
I may still buy them because they look great but I feel that your approach to this does take the shine off what are otherwise perfect products.
All good wishes,

To which they replied:

We were not surprised to receive this mail. In a world of slick online operations, it’s no surprise someone can feel like that. Free shipping is the norm, because it helps get consumers over the line when they’ve come to the checkout page.

We deliberately show and charge a shipping price. “Free Shipping” isn’t free. The price is always hidden in the item cost – we could simply add in a shipping charge in the item price. This would be sensible to maximise sales. But would penalise people who wanted to collect locally. It’s also smoke and mirrors. We don’t like that.

Of course many brands can offer “free shipping” because of the huge margins they work with due to low cost overseas clothing manufacturing, huge volume courier deliveries and such. We charge for shipping – what it costs us, plus a bit to cover biscuits and wrapping paper. We think that’s fair. It’s a decision we’ve made. It’s also to do with our costs of shipping stuff – specifically, where we ship from.

Our trousers, boots and belts are shipped exclusively from the Post Office on Holme Street, Hebden Bridge. We could get a much much better deal from a national carrier, even directly from the Royal Mail themselves, but we want to support the staff of our independant local post office. Our small business has made a big impact on their viability. We want to keep that working. And so we wrote back to the customer.

Independent of course. And how lovely.

However, that’s not quite all there is to this story. We humans aren’t entirely rational – in the calculating sense, not the economic one – when it comes to considering prices. We tend to fix upon the price of some things and not upon others. This is how supermarkets work. They monitor, because they know we do, prices of a small range of things. Milk perhaps is seen as an important price that they must be competitive upon. Mango chutney not so much. In other cultures it might be bread say.

A useful way to check, when in another culture, which those price fixated products are is to look at what’s at the back of the store. These will be the things which everyone thinks about. They’re at the back so you’ve got to pass everything else to get to them. And they’re also what is likely to be important in peoples’ price monitoring.

When you’re internet shopping for a pair of boots what number do you fixate upon when searching? The price of a pair of boots. To find out that they’re actually £11 more expensive than the price which turns up in search, well… did go there from search results, meaning that the tactic worked.

Thanks to spotter Mark S in Bath for the basic story here.

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  1. This is not especially “independent” but “idiosyncratic” like the stereotypical British shopkeeper. Fortunately, it also produces a personal response to the complaint, rather than directing the customer to read a web page or ring up a complaint desk along the Indus River.

    The point about breaking out costs versus bundling them in is good economics, and a better deal for locals who don’t need shipping. Note that satisfied customers are subsidizing the cost of dealing courteously with the customer ignorant of economics or needing to speak Truth to Power. But what about the customer who does not wish to join in supporting the inefficient Holme Street post office? Shouldn’t the business also break this out, or perhaps run a GoFundMe page on the side for alms for their letter-carriers?

  2. Hebden is a strange place. Yorkshire folk are like less generous versions of the porridge munchers from north of the border, yet everything in Hebden is super expensive. Unsurprisingly, the estate agents there also have offices in the likes of Mayfair. Not the local economy that drives £250 boots (+ £16 P&P).

  3. Yep, Hebden is strange. 30 years ago it was a dump, then the hippies came for the cheap property, then the alternatives came for the quaint property, then the media people came because of the alternatives. Now it’s full of BBC media people, and very few Yorkshire folk. And it’s so left wing it’s unbelievable. Drove through it the other day and the place was plastered with Labour campaign posters for the local elections.

  4. This is another reason why we don’t have to worry about the robots taking jobs. The human mind ‘s concept of value is so plastic that its possible to put a nought on the end of any price by the mere presence of a backstory. In this case its that some other people once made trousers for the masses in the same location. They gave up because as soon as the option was open to them the masses chose to get trousered by someone else on the other side of the world.

    • There are customers who feel good when they have gotten something at a discount, and customers who feel good when they have spent a lot of money. My supermarket does a fine job at making both groups feel good.

      • yes, not disputing the value of whatever someone is willing to pay, that’s real alright, more declaring my faith that even if there is an exact same product there’ll be a living to be made for someone selling human made stuff.

      • I agree on the things that customers will pay extra for. But still, even if there are humans on the assembly line, they will be using tools. If there are robots on the assembly line, it is humans using more tools. Instead, give me humans at the customer desk – as there were in this case.

        • Well still majority of these guy’s sales will be internet, so the value added still very much the story. Which makes me wonder whether we’ll see the return of the broker.
          If not now pretty damn soon you can get everything cheaply online, but it’s going to be a while before Alexa catches up with human nuance. So there’s a premium service, commission humans to do all your buying for you.