Learn about the benefits and pitfalls of on-line purchasing
Over the last few years more and more websites are popping up to sell fish, plants and corals online. These websites can often very luring to the consumer because items are often much cheaper than can be purchased from the local fish shops. The reason the prices are often cheaper is that unlike your pet shop these places can buy in much greater quantities. Sometimes they will find other ways to turn a profit. This article is being written to give you, the consumer, a slight edge when looking and comparing online stores to your local pet shop.
Before you buy look very closely at the shipping policy. There can be a very wide range of shipping charges depending on what websites you visit. Some websites will charge something they call a BOX CHARGE. This box charge is usually a $5-$10 item that gets added to each and every order. As best I can figure out this fee is supposed to pay for the Styrofoam and cardboard packaging that your livestock is shipped in. Other things to look at are the specific shipping fees. These can vary significantly from site to site. Some sites might charge a flat shipping fee based upon the total amount of the order. Others will charge based upon the number of items ordered.
Lets supply you with an example. Lets say you can get a Yellow tang at your pet store for $20.00. Now lets say you find a place on the web that sells them for $8.99. Then you look at the shipping policy and you see they have a flat shipping rate of $20.00 for anything under $100.00 and they also have a box charge of $10. In the end that $8.99 fish is now going to cost you $38.99 vs the local price of $20.00
Its not always cheaper to buy local. For example if we continue with the above example but instead we purchase 3 fish of and they are all $8.99 online and they are all $20 at your local store it will be cheaper to purchase online. This is because with this store the shipping charge does not change until your order is above $100.00. This is not always the case so make sure you fully understand the shipping policies.
Does the online store offer have a ‘arrive alive’ policy? Some online stores offer what can sometimes be referred to as an arrive alive policy. This policy is a great way to attract those who may be unsure about purchasing online as you may be concerned if its really safe for the items to be shipped like this. For those who think shipping is to stressful I have to ask you this question. How do you think the fish and other livestock get to your local fish shops?
These policies will list a specified amount of time after you have received your order. Should any livestock die during this time frame the company may replace the item for you. Some companies will request you freeze and then mail via priority mail back the dead item. Some may just ask for the tail fin. Sometimes you will be responsible for the shipping costs of the replacement so be fully aware as to the constraints of the particular websites arrive alive policy. Also note: Not all livestock sold on a site with this type of policy will be covered. Often times a small percentage of livestock is considered to fragile and they will be marked as being exempt from such a policy.
Know who the shipper is and what is the method of shipping is. All of these websites will use UPS, FedEx, DHL, or some other worldwide shipper. The standard method of shipping is usually overnight. What’s important to know is that there are different levels of overnight shipping. Some shippers offer to ship items overnight by 8am, or they might offer overnight by 10am. The cheapest of the overnight shipping methods is usually an overnight by 4pm or some other time frame after noon.
Find out what carrier the website uses and then contact that carrier and ask them what kinds of overnight service they offer to your area. Some shippers have ‘brown’ areas that they do not offer full-scale overnight delivery. Sometimes their policy for overnight in your location might not guarantee a specific time of delivery. If this is the case then don’t spend the extra money to have something shipped overnight by 8am when the shipper cant get it to you before overnight by 4pm or maybe even later on in the day.
Also make sure you or someone else can be at your location when the order arrives. Most of the time livestock requires a customer signature upon delivery. If this is the case then the shipper will not be able to simply leave the package.
Follow the acclamation procedures from the online retailer as best as possible. Many of the online stores will include with their shipment an acclamation guide. If they don’t include one they might have a recommended acclamation procedure listed on their website. If they have one listed or give you one make sure you follow it as best you can. Shipping livestock is somewhat stressful and not following the acclamation procedure can void any arrive alive policy the website might have.
Plan your order and shipment around the weather. Online retailers will often include or even charge extra for hot/cold packs. These packs are intended to make up for the summer heat or the winters cold. In my view these packs are good for moderate temperature changes. If there is going to be a period of extreme cold or extreme heat it might be best for your livestock to not be shipped in such conditions.
Good luck with your next livestock order.Filed under General Articles.