Paizo Shipping and Handling Charges - Are We Getting Fleeced?

Customer Service

We've all seen the TV ads where some gadget is sold for a "low price" but the "shipping and handling" charge is some crazy amount. Its easy to laugh about those companies because those ads are one big BS parade. However, I'm regularly shocked by what Paizo charges for "shipping and handling". But that hasn't prevented me in the past from ordering alot of stuff from Paizo.

However, today the issue really struck me. I ordered two of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook T-shirts from Paizo. The price for the shirts was $40. The "shipping and handling"? $13.12. This is using "standard postal delivery" which does not cost anywhere near $13.12. So obviously most of this charge is the "handling". When I try to order those same two shirts from Offworld Designs, the manufacturer of the shirts, the price for the shirts is the same, $40, but the shipping and handling is only $6.85 for Priority Mail shipment via the postal service.

So my question is for Paizo. Why are you charging $7-10 to place two shirts in a box?

Just for kicks, I tried to order a single die. ONE die. Cost of the die? $5.36. Cost of "shipping and handling" to send that one die regular postal mail? $3.83. Seems awfully high for a single die.

And before anyone posts it. I am completely aware I can choose to shop wherever and if I find Paizo's prices too high I can get most of this stuff elsewhere. But I want to support Paizo. But when I have to pay a significantly higher price and shipping and handling to order it through Paizo it gets tough to stomach.

I'd like Paizo to help me understand why their price structure makes sense.

Webstore Gninja Minion

Doug, the biggest swing factor in shipping costs is weight. For a lot of upcoming product (such as the t-shirts), or for dice (which we may not have received in our warehouse before), we have to guesstimate how big the product is or how heavy it is. As we actually get the final product in-hand, our warehouse staff will measure and weigh the product and update it in our system, but until that happens, we have a default weight that may not always be accurate, and there is some rounding to err on the side of caution, and depending on the product, we may have to use different packaging (cardboard envelope vs. box, for example). Further, shipping prices can be considerably less depending on the volume that you ship out through a particular carrier—in my experience with several different companies and postal carriers, this can mean anywhere between a couple of cents to several dollars per package. In addition, our warehouse takes great pride in ensuring that your order is securely packed so that your product arrive in mint condition (nobody likes a dinged-up hardcover that looks like it's chewed upon by goblins when they've paid full price for it). Packaging material has weight, and again, weight is everything for shipping prices, but we want your product to arrive in the best condition possible, and in some circumstances, we actually lose money on shipping to keep it reasonable for the customer.

Liberty's Edge

Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber

I felt that way when I was ordering stuff here and there. Since I added all my subscriptions and they bundle everything together now, I don't really have an issue with it. Mostly since my subscriptions are over $100 I don't actually pay S&H now.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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Doug Bailey wrote:
Just for kicks, I tried to order a single die. ONE die. Cost of the die? $5.36. Cost of "shipping and handling" to send that one die regular postal mail? $3.83. Seems awfully high for a single die.


Head on over to the USPS Postal Calculator.

  • Leave Section 1 alone.

  • In Section 2, for the "From ZIP Code", enter 98052. Put your ZIP code in the "To ZIP Code" field.

  • Leave Section 3 alone.

  • In Section 4, choose the next-to-last option, "Package".

  • For Section 5, enter 8 ounces (that's the weight of that die, plus the box and packing materials we'd use to ship it to you).

  • Hit "Continue."

  • Click to view the First Class mailing options, as those are (by far) the cheapest for that package.

You'll see that the actual postage cost quoted by the USPS is $2.92. (The die does not qualify for the "Media Mail" rate.)

Subtracting $2.92 from the $3.83 S&H charge, you get $.91.

Now, let's buy a box*.

The die in your shopping cart ships in a package with outer dimensions of about 5.20 x 3.20 x 2.50 inches. This 6x4x3 box from Uline costs about $.25 when purchased in bulk.

Subtract the box cost, and you're left with $.66. Some of that goes into other direct costs—those are the costs that we're only incurring because we're shipping your package. The packing materials we add to make sure your die gets there in as good a shape as when it left. The tape to seal the box. The paper for the packing slip. The toner for the laser printer that prints the packing slip.

And don't forget the credit card processing fees. Those vary based on volume, so I can't give you an exact number, but it's a small percentage of the total charged to your card.

After adding up all the direct costs, we're left with maybe a couple of quarters to cover the indirect costs—the costs of doing business that aren't directly associated with your package, but still need to be paid to get your stuff shipped. Rent on the warehouse. Electricity for the computer that's used to ship your order. The cost of the shelves in the warehouse. The sprinkler system. Maintenance and training on the forklift. Insurance. Pennies here, pennies there.

And, yeah—not least—some of those pennies go to help pay the person who ordered your die from our distributor. The person who put it into our inventory when it arrived. The person who printed your packing slip, found your die in our warehouse, carefully packed it into a box for you, and shipped it out. The other people on my team and on the operations team who have spent countless hours making sure that our system gives you the best shipping price that we can offer—people who revisit every single one of those variables on a regular basis, because we know that those couple of quarters make a difference to you.

That's where your handling fee goes.

Our profit comes solely from the markup between the price we pay the distributor and the price we charge you. In our industry, retailers generally buy from distributors at about 60% of MSRP. MSRP on that die is $5.95, which means we pay about $3.57 for it. We discount 10% off of MSRP for you, so we're charging you $5.36. Our profit on your order? About $1.79.

We made our system smart enough to know which shipping methods use free boxes provided by the shipper (like USPS Priority Mail boxes) and which don't. If we use a free box, your handling cost doesn't include any box costs. And yes, when we calculate shipping, we calculate a multitude of different options like that and only offer you the ones with the lowest total cost.

Whenever the question is "are we getting fleeced" and the subject is Paizo or any of their staff, the answer is no.

I have never had a problem with what they charge. I'm honestly surprised it's as low as it is.

The only issue I have with them is that the packing material they use winds up all over my house, thanks to my cats. Stupid Paizo. Why do you have to be so diligent in packing my items securely?

I'm sure this has been asked before, but I can't recall seeing it.

For my own curiosity, why aren't flat-rate Priority Mail boxes used more often?

Paizo Employee Customer Service Manager

We do use them when we can. It has to fit in the box and still arrive in respectable condition. Somethings might technically fit, but we choose not to ship it in the priority box because there wouldn't be enough room for protective packing material.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Brian E. Harris wrote:

I'm sure this has been asked before, but I can't recall seeing it.

For my own curiosity, why aren't flat-rate Priority Mail boxes used more often?

I'm assuming that your question ends with "...when I select Priority Mail as an option." (Standard Mail is usually cheaper than Priority, even with a Flat Rate Box; in fact, we'll even check to see if splitting your order into *multiple* standard mail boxes will be cheaper for you than a single Priority box. So most people only choose Priority when their order simply can't ship via standard mail.)

When we quote your Priority shipping rate, we work out whether the stuff you're ordering will fit in one of several different Flat Rate Boxes; if so, we compare the cost of that against the cost of shipping in one of our own boxes, and then we offer you whichever is cheaper.

It turns out that Flat Rate is a great value when it's densely packed, but if it's not mostly full of relatively heavy items, it's often cheaper to put Priority postage on our own smaller box, even after factoring in the cost of the box.

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

Hi vic.

I know you've looked into it before and there were a variety of issues not immediately obvious to us, however I wondered if you've recently looked into the viability of providing a DHL option for us overseas customers?

Since the recent hike in USPS pricing, I've noticed a substantial difference when I order from Nobleknightgames who offer both options. Ordering from them, the various USPS shipping options to Australia are typically around the same as yours. What they call "DHL express" is substantially cheaper (my most recent shipping charge being around $50 compared with around $100 from the USPS option). It also provides tracking for international customers and is noticeably quicker.

I appreciate there's a bigger picture re volume pricing and so forth - presumably you get a cheaper USPS domestic rate given the amount of international shipping you do, but given the disparity has grown so much, I wonder if it's worth looking into again?

It's not a dealbreaker for me, obviously but there have been one or two times when I've bought from Nobleknightgames rather than paizo. If I'm looking at one book as fast as possible, I can usually get it cheaper and quicker from them, which is a shame.


Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer


Jeff gets new bids from DHL and other such shippers on pretty much an annual basis (most of them change their rates annually, so it's worth doing no more or less than once a year).

I responded to that back in February...

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

Fair enough - sorry for hassling so soon (I didnt remember it being that recently). I guess I've only just started to notice the recent price increases, plus have made a few more nobleknight purchases.

I'm glad to hear there's a kind of 'annual review'. Hopefully it will make sense for you to broaden the options eventually. Cheers.

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