Mail order houses should do something about shipping charges

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by brian_m.|1, May 28, 2014.

  1. Since we lost our last local film processing point at Costco I have virtually stopped taking film pictures. A college commencement event gave me an excuse to shoot film but I barely managed to finish one 24-exp roll. I have sent film away to The Darkroom and they seem to be the cheapest. The problem is unless you have 4-5 rolls it is not worth it. If I want to wait for 3 more rolls it'll be Christmas. As it is they want $5.95 for return shipping plus $10.95 for processing. When shipping is over 50% of your total cost you know something is out of whack.
  2. Would you feel the same if they charged you $1.95 for shipping, and $14.95 for the processing?

    It costs what it costs to get a tracked parcel from one place to another (shop the carriers for rates, you can see for yourself). I prefer to see the freight being itemized, rather than buried back into the cost of the product or service involved.
  3. Shipping is extremely competitive. Nobody wants to charge more than absolutely necessary. It costs what it costs because of complex interdependence, which nowadays includes the effects of drought on grain.
    As Matt noted, I'd rather deal with retailers who are up front with the shipping costs. For example, we have an Amazon Prime subscription which includes "free" two-day shipping on eligible items. But if you shop around carefully you'll discover some retailers inflate the item costs to cover the "free" shipping.
    For what it's worth, film and processing nowadays still doesn't cost as much as my parents and grandparents paid. They paid more, relative to the economy, for film and processing, and they waited as long or longer for mail delivery photo processing to and from their rural area. If your expectations are still stuck in the golden age of film and minilab costs and timing, well, that era lasted only 20 years and is long gone. It was an anomaly that existed for a couple of decades only because it was cost effective.
  4. Well, for me it lasted until a few months ago when Costco closed their film processing. I know shipping costs what it costs but there is room for innovation. I can mail a single roll of film for the price of a first class stamp. Why can't they do the same for me? Just send me back the negatives and post my pics online. I don't even want the CD.
  5. I'm sure it's possible for them to mail you just the negatives. So how much are you willing to pay to cover the extra time the processor's employees will have to spend in talking to you to determine exactly what you want, dealing with a disclaimer that you won't hold them liable for negatives that went missing in the regular mail, pulling your order out of the usual workflow, and dealing with the exceptions to their workflow? They're probably not willing to do all that just for the tiny profit they get from processing and scanning one roll of film.
  6. You are making it look more difficult than it needs to be. You can pick the shipping options on their mailer right now. All they need is another box that I can check to ask for first class mail of my negatives. And they are not mailing them back via registered mail even now. It is plain USPS.
  7. Okay, take out the additional step about the disclaimer. What you want is still a disruption of their workflow. They don't offer low prices because they're providing personalized service to each customer. The low prices comes from a largely-automated, efficient workflow.

    "All they need is another box that I can check to ask for first class mail of my negatives."

    All they need to do is add an additional option on their website and add additional fields to their database, set up another printer loaded with a different type of envelopes, and modify their standard workflow to leave out the burning of a CD (or have someone manually pull out the unwanted CD). Do they really have enough customers wanting only negatives to justify the complications and expense?
  8. But if you shop around carefully you'll discover some retailers inflate the item costs to cover the "free" shipping.​
    There is no such thing as free shipping. The customer pays for it.
  9. david_henderson


    There is nothing particularly noble about using film. If you're a very occasional user- and it sounds like you are - then you're not going to get a good deal on shipping. Either accept it; divert more of your photography to film so you get better value from your mail packages, or dismiss the total cost of a roll of film as too expensive and stop doing it. I can't see anything the lab is doing wrong, and as others say I'd rather have the postage cost identified than secret. If they were bigger and /or you were a much more significant customer then maybe a different mode could be agreed, but frankly for the occasional single roll there's a limit to how much energy can reasonably go into it.
    Here in the UK, a large proportion of Amazon's shipments are free, either because they're worth more than a few £ , or because people join "Prime". But their shipping is on such a scale that its worthwhile to organise and source a series of distribution avenues that are both reliable and very cheap. But their volume is massive so its worthwhile; and if your volume of low cost items with them is high then they have a solution for that too.
    We source most of our quality meat and fish online because the quality is exceptional from the people we use. They charge about $13 equivalent to deliver. We don't pay it, because we order enough to pass a free delivery threshold. In short we take responsibility for getting the right value from delivery charges.
    There's an online/retail wine merchant here I use. They charge a fee of about $13 to deliver any quantity of wine to my home. Given that my orders are usually a case or more I have an issue with that, and the deal I struck is that they deliver my wine free to their local retail store (where they deliver anyway), and I pick it up on the way back from the gym at zero extra miles. They do that because I'm a decent customer and have used them for years.
    The point of these examples is simply to illustrate that volume and value of business is key. If my business is sufficiently worthwhile then either through thresholds, low cost channels , special pricing schemes etc it turns out that delivery charges go away. Its a form of volume discount. But if you want to spend $10 a time, infrequently, and you want that source to be the cheapest, then your chances of a better deal on delivery cost would seem to be slim to none. I presume that you factored in delivery charge when you decided that The Darkroom were cheapest?
  10. What do you hope to accomplish by posting this on Seriously, do you expect us to do something about your problems with an independent business over which none of us have any control over? You claim that all they need is another box to check with your particular option. Others have responded and don't agree with you. You have responded back. Have you considered that instead of arguing with random people on the Internet that you should instead contact the company directly and ask them to implement your suggestion and see what they say?
  11. could get yourself a tank ($20) and a C-41 kit ($20) and process the occasional roll yourself. Add a V600 scanner ($180) and you're done.
    I'm getting set up to do my own processing and scan negatives. For the occasional print I want, I'm willing to pay.
    Bonus: I got a tank that holds two 35mm or one 120 roll. Scanner will handle both.
  12. What do you hope to accomplish by posting this on​
    Well, I was hoping that some bright people would have some ideas to help film business last a little longer. Looks like you are not one of them.
  13. You can help the film business last a little
    longer by paying whatever prices they ask and not
    complaining about the fact that it costs more now
    than it did 10-20 years ago. Most of your posts
    on are variations of complaints about
    how much it costs to use film. Economy of scale
    influences these costs. Insulting people on the
    internet does not. However, insulting people on
    the internet and complaining about the cost of an
    expensive hobby can be a fun and inexpensive
    hobby. There's probably a website where you can
    enjoy that hobby instead of photography.
  14. "As it is they want $5.95 for return shipping plus $10.95 for processing. When shipping is over 50% of your total cost you know something is out of whack."​
    Why? Does the carrier offer discounts based on the price of what is inside the box? In any event, if six bucks is just too much to have something moved across hundreds or thousands of miles to your designated location, you could drive there instead and pick it up, sparing you these outrageous fees.
  15. It all comes down to supply and demand. As much as we might feel to the contrary, there is *no* significant demand for photofinishing services, and there hasn't been for some time. Thus the closings (or conversion to print-from-SD card) of processing counters CVS, Walmart, Walgreens, etc. The CVS in my town shifted from a mini-lab to prints only last year. I'm not even sure you can buy film there any more.
    Film may continue to be manufactured, but the cost of the infrastructure required to manufacture and process it, and the salaries and benefits of the people who are required to do the work, are divided among a *much* smaller population (pretty much you, me and the other denizens of
    So, yes, you can expect to see processing costs rise. It's basic economics. Shipping charges are what they are, unfortunately. As I posted above, if you do a roll or two every six months, I think your best bet is to learn to process it at home. Aside from eliminating shipping and infrastructure overhead charges, you get instant results. And a $180 V600 scanner will give you very high quality scans for quite a reasonable cost.
  16. I see your frustrations. Miller's Professional Imaging (which is where I send color), does EXCELLENT work, and offers free USPS shipping to get the film there (Or $4.95 Fedex Overnight) and FREE return shipping via FEDEX EXPRESS. Their pricing is very, very competitive and I am assuming that it is through the sheer volume of their lab as a whole that they are able to have their shipping pricing down so much. They are worth checking out.
  17. You can help the film business last a little longer by paying whatever prices they ask​

    Actually, this is the sort of advice that would drive them OUT of business. What other industry would you say the same thing about? How about asking people to pay whatever price McDonald's asks for their burgers? I am not asking them to lose money. I am putting forth a viable proposal that would lower cost and help grow their business by bringing those one roll a month people into the fold. If you call this "complaining" then this industry needs a whole lot more of it.
  18. As film usage declines, it is inevitable that the little local processors where you were able to drop off and pick film in person will cease operations and you will need to send film away for processing. This inevitably involves a shipping cost, which no one can do anything about. I personally use a mail order lab which offers free mailers – I throw these away and pay postage every time, since I have found that firstly the mailers travel second class and secondly special instructions are often overlooked.
    Film is no longer a cheap medium – the question is whether it offers qualities which digital does not offer and whether it is worth it to you to pay for these. I personally will never shoot color film again but like the quality of Tri-X in various formats enough to pay the cost of shipping, processing and high-res scanning which can be upwards of £25 per 36-exposure roll. I have a darkroom but simply do not have the time to develop film – if I did, the cost per roll in terms of my time would be twice or more as much as the lab charges.
  19. Well, I was hoping that some bright people would have some ideas to help film business last a little longer. Looks like you are not one of them.​

    You already had the idea of an additional checkbox on their order form. Do you no longer think this is a good idea? If you still think it is a good idea then why don't you contact them instead of insulting me on the internet?
  20. 'ole KISS principle comes in use here...
    A while back I had the same issue, but slightly different.. like you, didn't want to pay the shipping rate fer just one roll, as it seemed that color was getting neglected! Getting frost bite in the freezer, as I've been shooting mostly B&W lately, and developing it.
    So what's a poor lad to do? Well I stick the color exposed color rolls back in the freezer until I have several them and then have to make the decision... to process them myself or.. send them out. One time I flipped a coin, as I was undecided. ;-)
    That's whats so great about film, there is no instant gratification in any of it. ;-)
  21. david_henderson


    there is no instant gratification in any of it.​
    Well, for all the time I used slide film, I could head into London the day I got back from a trip (with usually 40-70 rolls of 120/220) check them in at my lab, and two hours later I'd be viewing the slides on their loupes/lightbox. Given that all I then had to do was mount my selects and decide which I was going to use for what, things seemed pretty simple then compared to sorting and processing a few hundred out of maybe a couple of thousand raw images. Expensive though- I reckon I saved nearly £5 000 a year in film, processing and scanning costs when I switched to digital ( and with next to nothing in postal charges). I doubt whether I could get that speed of service now though.
  22. The $5.95 cost you quote as high is probably to take care of the "free" shipping to them, assuming you're using their postpaid mailers or printing out their pre paid usps label. I'd say the $5.95 is about right for shipping BOTH ways. "Free" shipping is one of the biggest marketing scams out there, along with "organic" and a few others....
  23. Shipping costs go up as what USPS and UPS and FedEx charge goes up.
    Often it is cheaper to find a local lab (that charges more) and deliver/pick-up myself.
    There are now many labs that will do prints (from digital files, or scanned negatives) but not so many doing film. Prints stay competitive, film isn't so bad.

Share This Page