The Daily Ping

The 10,000th Ping will be published on May 24, 2027. Paul will be just about 50 years old.

September 15th, 2000

Give Me My Paperclips!

A couple co-workers and I went in on a purchase at last week. Buy was doing a “free shipping on all orders over $50” promotion and had a coupon for $30 off a purchase of $150.

There are a pair of DVD sets coming out that all three of us were interested in pre-ordering. Buy had them for $24.99 each, meaning that the grand total for all three of us came out to $149.94. Enough to get free shipping, but not enough to get $30 off the order (which would bring the cost of each DVD down to $20, shipped). Sure, one of us could have ordered another DVD, but that would have cut the savings-per-DVD down substantially. Plus, none of us really felt like spending more than $40, anyway.

So, we bought some paperclips. They were 19 cents, giving us a total order price of $150.13, enough for the free shipping and to use the coupon.

However, Buy has a policy of shipping each item separately at no extra cost (allowing in-stock items to be shipped before pre-order items). Can you see where this is going?

The other day, I got this in the mail at work:

Paper Clips

That’s right — they put a single box of 19-cent paper clips in a box big enough to hold three normal-sized hardback books. The only other thing in the box was the shipping receipt and a section from a local newspaper (coincidentally, one that we subscribed to in New Jersey when I was a kid). Buy shipped the paper clips UPS — I can’t imagine how much it actually cost them.

I wouldn’t have minded waiting for my paper clips. Really. -ram

Posted in Miscellaneous

FROM: Robert
DATE: Thursday September 14, 2000 -- 11:15:04PM
I see what's going on here...Ryan finally gets a Ping that's not only on-time but EARLY and it's about a company going that extra distance to the point of being ridiculous. Ryan, we're fine if you just get your Pings up when you're good and ready. I'm not comparing your work to a box of paperclips. Actually, I don't know what I'm doing. Good night!

FROM: Terry Murphy
DATE: Thursday September 14, 2000 -- 11:51:42PM
On one hand, it is probably easier/cheaper for the company to go along with its regular routine for even a miniscule order, rather than taking a risk on untested packaging boxes or parcel carriers.

On the other hand, they lost $66M on sales of $400M this year, and maybe unsound business practices like this add up. You'd think if they were losing so much money, they'd try to pull out some more stops to save a few bucks on every order.

I guess I just don't understand the dot-com mentality. The company I work has built three or four new factories in the past couple of years at $2 billion a pop, yet our department manager bitches if too many $5 "Do Not Disturb" signs are going to waste in the lab. Dot-coms should be more like that.

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Friday September 15, 2000 -- 9:05:03AM
Terry -- With regards to, I can certainly see why they're losing money. It's one thing to have the lowest prices of any online store, but when they ship DVDs, they do so in separate boxes (even if they're shipped at the same time) which automatically almost doubles their cost for shipping. On top of that, they use boxes that could fit a large loaf of bread (or, 5 or 6 DVDs). It's just bizarre.

Now, in this case, the paperclips would have still shipped separately because they came from NJ and were shipped UPS. Their DVDs generally come from TX and are shipped USPS. Their CDs come from another place still (I believe the same place that ships orders for CDNow, etc.).

I don't want to see go out of business -- they offer some great deals -- but I agree, if they don't cut back on the "little things," they're just digging themselves deeper and deeper into debt.

FROM: Terry Murphy
DATE: Friday September 15, 2000 -- 10:33:19AM
That's pretty interesting that they ship from different places. Probably the only way they can prevent that from causing problems like this is to implement a minimum order from each different shipping warehouse. But that would be confusing for the buyer. I have to wonder what their long term strategy for profitability is.

I'm still surprised that we are still getting so many good deals and free services in general six months after the dot-com crash. This just can't last ...

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Friday September 15, 2000 -- 1:44:04PM
Well, the coupons (which seemed to put a big dent in a lot of the e-commerce dot-coms) have dried up signficantly. Reel used to put out $10 off $15 coupons that people would snap up instantly... coupons were also one of the downfalls of many online drug stores (I got well over a years worth of vitamins, supplements, herbs, etc. for next to nothing).

At this point, online retailers still need to offer better prices than their b-n-m counterparts. Strictly convenience won't be enough to encourage shoppers to buy online instead of in person.

FROM: Mr. Jones
DATE: Thursday October 12, 2000 -- 11:25:11AM
Why don't you all get a life and worry about world peace you free-loading dot com moochers. Go out get drunk live a little. Sitting around analyzing what a life you are living!

FROM: Paul
DATE: Thursday October 12, 2000 -- 11:29:47AM
"Alcohol! The solution to, and cause of, all of life's problems!" - Homer Jay Simpson

FROM: Robert
DATE: Thursday October 12, 2000 -- 11:41:45AM
Don't mix drinking and internet shopping. You could end up with more New Kids on the Block merchandise than anyone, outside of Matt, might need.

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Thursday October 12, 2000 -- 1:11:13PM
I have a feeling Mr. Jones came over from the DVDTalk Forum, where more analyzing of is done than anywhere else on the planet.

That's no criticism, of course, as I frequent those forums almost as much as the Ping. ;)

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Tuesday October 30, 2001 -- 10:14:40AM
For paperclip enthusiasts: you missed a great auction.

FROM: Robert
DATE: Tuesday October 30, 2001 -- 9:01:43PM
I am now dumber for having clicked on that link.

DATE: Saturday January 1, 2005 -- 2:46:57 pm

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