Is It Just Me?

Rob Markoff

PFG, Picture Framing God
Mar 8, 1999
San Diego, CA USA
OK Time for a reality check and I really want your opinions-

Let's say there is a supplier who offers FREE FREIGHT for orders over a certain dollar amount if you mention a special code.

And let's say you place an order that is over the dollar amount for free freight and you mention the special code when placing the order, which is acknowledged by the order taker.

And, when you receive the order, some of the items you ordered are out of stock and you were not informed as such at the time of order, nor were you called and told they were out of stock. So, what is shipped is no longer equal to the dollar amount required to receive free freight.

I was billed almost $15 in freight charges because my order did not meet the minimum. In this case, it was just a few dollars short, and had I been called, I would have added to the order with something else, even a few cans of spray adhesive.

The offer does not say it applies only to merchandise that is actually shipped, it says if the ORDER is over certain amount.

So, am I wrong in thinking that I did place an order within the terms of the offer and because this vendor was unable to fulfill my order he/she/they should still give me free freight?
The order you placed was over the dollar amount - therefore free freight.
Free freight is certainly expected and deserved, and how many times have we been 'stuck between a rock and a hard place' by situations just like this?
No, it ain't just you, but many doesn't necessarily makes it right.

1. Have you been billed in full for your initial order? Then that would in my opinion freeze the shipment agreement.

2. Or if you were willing (and actually waiting) for the entire order be put together, some time in the future, and shipped at once, that would also in my opinion freeze the sipping conditions.

What you are asking your supplier is this: why don't you stock way in excess to your projected needs and available space just to make sure any sufficiently large order, regardless what it is comprised of, would be shipped for free?

Turn the table around for a second and think that you offered a discount tied to volume and here comes in a client and orders just about enough to meet your conditions PLUS one frame in that LaMarche molding style which corner sample still hangs up onto your wall. Would you ask him to forget LaMarch frame and make up with a can of adhesive or a piece of glass in order to still qualify for that discount? See what I mean? Of course any offer is made under the assumption that everything goes right for as long as it does. In this case few more words added to that free shipment offer wouldn,t hurt anybody, but probably that offer was not run through a loyer first in order to cover for all possible angles. As of you willing to buy some unnecessary trinkets just to make up for the needed volume and qualify for a free shipment, well, hope that your closest competition does not read TG.

Wonder what do you think of doing when a frame measures 15.08 ft and there is an overcharge fee for larger than 15 feet frames?
a) price it as 15 ft sharp and take the loss?
b) ask the client if he doesn't like to cut his frame one inch shorter?
c) call up and bargain with your supplier for a break?
How far would you go to make your client save some money?

[ 10-19-2005, 06:24 AM: Message edited by: Whynot ]
This happens not only in the framing business, but in other ones as well. Order any combination of 10 easels and get free freight. Too bad, out of stock on Style 3, so only shipped 8 easels, no free freight (or worse, the order is now below minimum and now has a surcharge on it!) Usually a call to the billing department will solve this, but it sticks in my craw... And of course, it is one more call, 10 more minutes, one more thing to take care of, and of course sometimes the bill won't be corrected and you have to watch out for that, too... Sometimes retail is incredibly exhausting.
Rob, I've had a similar situation.

BIG supplier offers free delivery on their trucks for orders over a certain dollar amount. Multiple out-of-stocks and back-orders drop the order below the minimum and a delivery charge is added. To add to the insult, the back orders are sent from two or more secondary distribution centers - each with its own UPS charge.

The free delivery ends up costing $30 or so.

The solution developed over many discussions with the rep. Eventually, the company decided if their minimum order for free delivery was $125 and an order for $124.95 came a week after one for,say, $800, the delivery would be free. Also, UPS charges would be waived for chop orders shipped from secondary locations.

I'm really glad we worked that out - especially since I can't buy from them at all now.

I hope you're able to reach a similar equitable solution with your supplier.
I agree with Cornel that if you never have backorders you have too much inventory.

However, I believe that in the event of an out-of-stock situation that makes an order fall under the minimum requirement for free freight that the customer should be notified and allowed to either cancel the order, add to the order, or to wait until all stock is available to ship together.
I feel that if a customer follows the ordering requirements set up by a seller, then the seller should honor the requirements.

It means that the seller can't change the rules after the fact.

Further more, if an item is out of stock, I feel that the customer should receive all the benefits of the first agreement that the customer placed in good faith. That includes free freight on an out of stock item.
Originally posted by jframe:
Further more, if an item is out of stock, I feel that the customer should receive all the benefits of the first agreement that the customer placed in good faith. That includes free freight on an out of stock item.
Wrong, the sollution is to word the incentive proposals more carefully (not to have excedentary inventory just to make every customer happy for not paying for shipment). Being more exact as to in what terms free shipment applies solves the problem. Right now you are LOGICALLY entitled to hope for the best in your case. But "free shipment" in vaguely defined terms equates to 50% discount in similarly vaguely expressed terms; I am sure that you don't discount but existing inventory, right?

Anyway, this is another exemple of someone using words in a "sahaby elegance" way and, if so, go for it!! Take that schmuck's words up literally for what they mean and teach him a lesson, namely to think before spraying his clientele with big words and poorly verbalized business proposals. Supidity should not be rewarded or pardoned in business. If nothing else, agravating and alienating his clients is the right price that supplier ought to be paying for being so sloppy.
I agree with David -- the supplier should have given you the option to add to the order, delay shipment, agree to the freight, or cancel it.

Given the situation, the supplier should pay the freight -- you did your part; they did not. I dropped a supplier for precisely this same scenario a few months ago.
The supplier should have called to notify the out of stock items, then given the option to increase something, cancel or whatever, but to charge a fee without buyers consent is wrong.

It is not a question of keeping to much stock, things run out, it's part of life. It's about working with your customer to either fill the order and give a savings or inform them that the order isn't complete and hold up your end of the promotion.
I think that the only reasonable solution to all of this is for us as consumers to no longer allow suppliers to back order items without first notifying us. Once we all stand our ground with suppliers that refuse to call on back ordered items, the problem will resolve itself. Our customers will not stand for non-communication and neither should we. We are the customer and we also know that the customer is right. The Grumble gives us enormous power over suppliers. We need to excercise this power by uniting and DEMANDING that we be notified of out of stocks prior to shipping. Frieght eats profits. We don't price each job with individual frieght charges being added. We have made friends with our reps but they don't own the company. Tell your reps that you must be notified of out of stocks prior to shipping. Some of the best suppliers I have found have been the result of me trying to locate a backordered item. A company that cares about your business will be willing to call on backorders. Remember that a back order usually causes us all sorts of drama that would have been lessened had we known a couple days sooner. DEDUCT THE FRIEGHT!!! Should that be a problem then find another supplier. We have enormous power if we get together and exercise that power.

No question that the order qualified for FOB Destination. First, call and question your supplier. If you get no satisfaction, pay the invoice when due and subtract the freight charges. If you paid by credit card, dispute the charge.

The qualification for free freight as I understand it was the order value. You shouldn't even really have to add to your original order.

If they did not give you the opportunity to up the order with in-stock mdse., I would have no qualms about challenging their charges.

I believe the out-of-stock items should be back ordered and shipped free of freight charges when available.

When I was in the art supply business we always shipped backorders with no freight charge.

Dave Makielski
I agree with most of you, particulary Jeff - the backordering w/o out knowledge is a common problem. I think they should have honored the free freight...
I don't order from companies that offer this type of "incentive" anymore. I have in the past placed orders over the minimum, but since I didn't have the code I didn't get free freight.

Granted the freight fee is calculated into my costs, but to not get it just because I didn't know it was being offered bothers me. Costs are one thing but hidden costs are another.

Any Vendors, suppliers care to comment on this practice? Do you offer ALL orders free freight if they go over a certain amount, or only the ones that ask?
My gut reaction was the same as OzDave's. When I worked for a distributor different people handled each phase of a transaction so the person whose job it was to add the shipping amount when the orders came back to the office had never spoken to the one who placed, or took, or entered the order.

Before writing this supplier off I would wait to judge them on how they resolve this for you.
This happened with a local supplier last week but I had a much better out come. I added 2 matboards to bring me up to the minimum. They called me an hour later to tell me two boards were out of stock. I didn't add on to my order again. The invoice the next day was under the minimum and they DID NOT charge me shipping. I would have exploded if they were not willing to remove the charge after I asked nicely ONE time.

Yes Cornell I ask my supplier to "stock way in excess to your projected needs and available space just to make sure any sufficiently large order".

Restaurants come to mind as a perfect example. If they have a promotion that will increase sales, they have the responsibility to make sure they have sufficient inventory to serve the customers. If they run out of something you can be assured they find a solution that is satisfactory with the customer. They certainly don’t wanna leave a bad taste in the customer’s mouth because of their mistake.

I know inventory isn't an exact science but when they make the offer and can't fulfill it, because of their error, they should make it right or risk losing their customer!

Carry on.
To answer Bob Doyle's question, as a supplier I don't offer freebees but always eat my mistakes, no questions asked, no matter how much I am loosing. In over ten years I discounted only once in order to make room for new inventory.

Now, even though it is not your main concern, an introspective view on my part may help you perhaps better understand the case in discussion in here, and what you are demanding with a united voice from your suppliers, many of whom are not LJ or Roma’s size.

Truly, I gained very little from keeping an inventory on ready made photo frames except for that I could deliver partial orders (hopefully entire order) next day. But that's been just in my clients’ advantage since I couldn’t possibly provide in my pricing for stocking expenses. Remember how distraught you are about suppliers kicking their price up 2% every year? Well, with over 200 photo frame models, in 8 common standard sizes, I need to maintain a 20,000 frames large inventory, if I was to promptly be serving any possible SMALL order. Larger orders would still have to wait for a production cycle. We are talking here roughly one million bucks worth of inventory, many times over what I am likely to sell over the year in photo frames alone.
Luckily for me, all my clients are impeccable business people and, without ever having to explain the situation to them the way I do spell it here for you, they are thankful to get some of their photo frame orders in advance, if I have them readily available, and be waiting for back orders to be produced later on, and they do pay for SH both times just as they pay for samples. This way they keep me alive and able to serve them any time they need my product, not only once.

I don’t know how you people price your product, but it breaks my heart seeing how you agonize over a free shipment saving you 10-15 dollars. In this case telling you that I had several times delivered custom made frames (DHL and UPS) from Romania directly to Atlanta, Dallas or Washington, when time mattered, on my costumer’s expense, must be regarded as an obscene story for which I preventively ask to be pardoned.

[ 10-19-2005, 01:36 PM: Message edited by: Whynot ]
From the retail side, if you offer a discount on a product or service then need to pay additional costs for unforeseen circumstances, do you call your customer and tell them that they now can't have the discount because your cost has changed?


The offer as it was stated above is, that IF YOUR ORDER IS OVER $X, THEN THE SHIPPING IS FREE. Then it's FREE whether they have everything you ordered in stock or not. And any back order that was part of the initial order should be shipped free.

This is not about trying to get something for nothing. It is about trying to get what you were offered. The deal was, "You do this, and I give you that." Pretty simple if you ask me.
This may be just me but I think this all boils down to communication. When an order is ready to be shipped but there are out of stocks most people will look at substitutes when possible from a supplier. The most important piece of the equation is knowledge. I know that supplier B carries the same item as supplier A. I have my reasons for using supplier A but when needed will resort to supplier B. Should supplier A tell me of a shortage prior to shipping I can deal with the problem before a deadline which may anger my customer. It's just good business to take care of those who put food on our table.
I usually have the reverse be the norm.

The price of the original order dictates the discount, or the quan, weather it is in stock or not.

But such a system is rife for exploitation.

For instace, Valley Mldg has a 1 sheet price, a 5 sheet price and then higher tiers. The tier depends upon quan of total boards on the order, not dollar amount. So you could order the 2 Moorman you need, and 3 sheets of 33 to get the discount on all.

Or if you tend to makes notes of what is out of stock, you can order the 2 moorman, and 23 sheets of a board you know is out of stock, and get the higher tier.

It's not too ethical. But it's done.

As for your free freight problem, have you called the company and aksed what the written policy was? Did you speak to the owner or your rep?

I have found reps to be the last place I call. I would call the order takers. They will know you, and your account.

They can make the changes and walk the problem to the right person to take care of it.

The loophole of intentinally ordering out of stock items to rack up the higher amount for the free freight is also hitting vendors in the pocketbook.

You may be on the recieving end of a company-wide policy change. Not because of you, but other unscrupulous folks who were taking advantage.

In a tighter economy some customers will do tricks to gain advandge.

In a tighter econlmy vendors will make policy to protect agains abuse.

But, being a good customer, a call to cust service will probally have them credit the charge within 10 mins.
Marc, I thought of just that potential abuse. It just too sad what some people will do for a buck. Sounds like they need a better system and policy.

Cornel, I get what you are saying, but what your customers are getting from you can not be held to the same policies as common supplies and merchandise. You have a different relationship.

It is just plain poor customer service and bad business for a vendor to short ship the order and tag on for shipping, without communicateing first.
In this day and age of computers that orders are writen on, that maintian the stock count etc....

When you place your order, you should be told if something maybe out of stock.... Then stock should be physically checked, and you the customer should be called.

It should be up to you as to whether the shipment should ship as is or not.


We stock several photo frames. We needed three 11x14s of the cheap variety for a very good customer. They have a $250 minimum order.. So we sucked it up, did inventory and place an order for $256.

Guess what showed up as B/O? Guess who didn't make the minimum order level and got charged a $25 surcharge? Guess who is getting phazed out on our shelves?