Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Boards and Bits: no more free shipping

Several weeks ago, I did a 2-part Buyer's Guide series on the cheapest places to buy board games online. My personal award for the ultimate online game store went to Boards and Bits.

Just this week, I happened to stop by Boards and Bits to look for something and noticed they had changed their shipping policy. You can read it on their front page, and you'll notice a different shipping logo at the top of the page. It used to say something to the effect of: "Free shipping on orders of $125 or more". For a while, Tom (who runs Boards and Bits) said that his recent free shipping policy (which matched that of Thought Hammer and Fair Play Games) was working well and not causing him to lose money. This has apparently changed. Here is the text from the front page of Boards and Bits:
Due to rising costs of freight (and everything else), we are changing our shipping discount policy.

Effective immediately, we are offering 1/2 price shipping on all orders of $100 or more, which means you will pay from $3 to $5.50.

And as always, we have low flat rate shipping prices for orders of any size -- from $6 to $11.

Shipping price is based on your zip code, and not on order size or weight.
So, in place of free shipping at $125, Tom now offers half shipping at $100. This means you reach the shipping discount more quickly, sure. But one more game is all it would take to reach $125, so the $25 decrease isn't a huge benefit. This also means you now pay shipping costs, regardless of order size. $3 to $5.50 really isn't bad at all. The issue here is more about all-or-nothing. Thought Hammer still has their free shipping policy. This makes me wonder, will Thought Hammer receive more business now from Boards and Bits fans? Is the change in shipping policy enough to make buyers think twice about which seller to buy from?

I really don't know. The change in policy is so minimal that I think there will be little change among the general game-buying population. On the other hand, people like me, who have their eye out for the best deal will certainly compare total prices before buying. Some buyers determine where to buy based on loyalty, even if it costs more. Others of us, as much as we like our buying experience with one seller, will still buy from the seller who has the best price.

It's a bummer that shipping costs have forced Tom into the position of having to revoke one of Boards and Bits' benefits. It's a small change, but a change nevertheless, and a negative one.

Still, Tom's prices are so good that he might still have the edge over other sellers. And, if you are doing group board game orders, that $5.50 will be easy to split up for minimal damage.

So, the change in Boards and Bits' shipping policy is not big, but it's not a good change for the buyer. While good for the seller, it may be just enough to make buyer's think twice about where to buy.

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