Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Ground Shipping China Post Puerh is the New Tea Horse Road

One of the things I really enjoyed reading about upon my return to puerh was all the lively discussion on shipping.  This article on shipping fees is especially interesting.  I had never seen shipping fees under the microscope like they are currently.  A recent post by Cwyn suggested that consumer pressure by puerh drinkers has even amounted to change- lowing the threshold for free shipping.

Unfortunately, living in the Great White North, Canada, many free shipping options are not available.  So, I feel a need to advocate for some free shipping to extend to your friendly neighbours up north!

I really love to select ground shipping using China Post when I order puerh.  First of all, there are some modest cost savings and I’m terribly cheap.  If you compare SAL to ground shipping you really only save a few bucks so if you are doing it purely for value, SAL which usually arrives in a few weeks makes more sense.  What really doesn’t make much sense is trying to rush a product that essentially gets better with age.  I think the fast shipping methods just really play into the modern, have it now, go faster and consume more mentality of the world.  This world view is actually opposite GongFu drinking of puerh tea which is a rather slow process.

What if you really like said sample or cake and wanted to order another but then it sells out in a few weeks leaving you totally missing out?  Yeah that is a possibility but there will be more puerh out there and the likely hood of this happening is slim anyways.  If you ship using ground shipping you really have to come to terms with this unlikely possibility.  In doing so you are challenging the Fear ofMissing Out (FOMO) puerh collecting mentality.  Ground shipping promotes the slow movement and way of life which I value.  I imagine few things slower than receiving a package from China using ground shipping.

There is also something natural about the slow method of receiving puerh.  I think this method mirrors the slow process of receiving tea from Yunnan the way it arrived thousands of years ago using the Tea Horse Road.  There is a slow and sustained building up of anticipation using this method, that I find priceless.  The feeling a child has waiting for Summer holidays to come or in counting down the days to Christmas.  There are not so many things in our life like this so I really enjoy this process.  I really try my hardest to use China Post Ground shipping for my orders.  And so here I am waiting as patiently as I can for my orders placed in March.

Then a moment of reality sets in as the only order that I used SAL arrives at my doorstep before all the others… and for a moment I reconsider… maybe ground shipping is not my favorite after all.



Cwyn said...

I actually give a lot of credit to vendors who charge shipping because they are presenting reality. eBay and Aliexpress and Amazon trained buyers to look for Free Shipping. I remember when EBay informed all sellers when their Search algorithm would favor items with Free Shipping. This caused a huge brouhaha because buyers would then see Free Shipping items first in Search, even when the the price for the item is higher.

The reason selling platforms did this was because the previous strategy used by sellers was listing an item for 99 cents and the shipping cost at $60. Sellers only paid commission to EBay or Amazon etc. based on the selling price, not the shipping. So, as a seller I would rather pay 10 cents commission on a 99 cent sale rather than pay $10 on a $60 sale. This is called "Fee avoidance," but it worked until selling platforms decided they could collect the correct commission by favoring sellers who didn't charge anything for shipping. The only way to compete with this algorithm was to use Free Shipping and just try and add as much of the shipping as you could afford as a seller into the sale price. During this period of time, buyers got trained to look for Free Shipping because these listings were all first in their searches. Buyers got "used" to Free Shipping. Chinese sellers forced to compete with each other all had to use Free Shipping, They still do this for the most part.

The algorithms have changed again, and other factors affect search on big retailer sites. But the impression remains, and Chinese sellers still try to compete using Free Shipping, With puerh, if I see $9.99 for a brick tea with Free Shipping, I can assume the tea is probably awful to mediocre at best.

Matt said...


Thanks for putting all of your expertise and experience on this commonly overlooked tea related issue out there.

Your writings have helped me override my bias towards "free shipping". I find it amusing that tea shipments that are the same size, weight and come from the same area can have such a difference in shipping price.


Cwyn said...

Some mules cost more. This is certainly true where I live.