Kodak responds to commentary on outrageous 4 cent per photo shipping charge

Last Monday, I did one of my video Tech Shakedowns of Kodak's online Photo Gallery for what I thought to be outrageous shipping charges for 4x6 prints (a flat rate of 4 cents per photo) as well as a poor user experience (a free shipping option is available on a one-time per customer basis for orders of certain sizes, but only if you know a coupon exists and manually redeem it).Kodak spokesperson Liz Scanlon has responded to that post.
Written by David Berlind, Inactive on

Last Monday, I did one of my video Tech Shakedowns of Kodak's online Photo Gallery for what I thought to be outrageous shipping charges for 4x6 prints (a flat rate of 4 cents per photo) as well as a poor user experience (a free shipping option is available on a one-time per customer basis for orders of certain sizes, but only if you know a coupon exists and manually redeem it).

Kodak spokesperson Liz Scanlon has responded to that post. As a sidenote, prior to last week's shakedown, I reached-out to the same public relations person that handled my previous shakedown of Kodak's Web site but never heard back. Via e-mail, Scanlon wrote:

Hi David,

I’m writing about your recent blog post about Kodak Gallery. We value every customer’s feedback and always want to hear about how we can make the user experience better, so thanks for the input.

The average order size for hardcopy prints is typically much smaller than 2,055, so this is not a common problem we have addressed before. We are evaluating how shipping charges are calculated in high-volume situations and are determining how we can make that better for our users.

One option available today is to select in-store pick-up through one of our retail partners such as CVS, Ritz Camera or Target. This would greatly reduce the shipping and handling fee. Check out a complete list of our retail partners on www.KodakGallery.com.

We always notify our opted in members about shipping and merchandise coupon codes via email. We also post those special offer codes on the site so that our 60 million members who are not opted in can also see them. Unfortunately at this time, we are unable to automatically apply shipping and merchandise discount codes in the shopping cart, but it’s something we are looking at fixing.

We have corrected the compatibility issue with Vista and members should have a seamless user experience.

Please let us know if you have any further questions about Kodak Gallery. I’ll be sure to update you when we make adjustments to our shopping cart.


Liz Scanlon Kodak Gallery

I'm glad Kodak finally responded. However, I don't know that I'm fully satisfied with the response. I replied to Scanlon with some of my thoughts. Here are the bullet points:

  • Typical orders don't involve 2055 prints - That really doesn't address the 4 cent shipping fee per 4x6 print. Yes, I agree: 2055 prints is an extraordinary number of photos to order for delivery. And, no doubt, up to a certain number of prints (perhaps a small handful), 4 cents per photo probably makes sense. But that break-even point is nowhere near 2055. To be sure that I wasn't crazy, I did an analysis that, admittedly, is a bit unscientific. But I think it's relevant. I called Staples and asked how much their largest package of 4x6 photo paper weighed. Answer? A 100 sheet package weights 1.15 pounds. An extrapolation of that weight for 2055 photos comes to 20.55 pounds. Assuming some extra weight is involved for a box, I then went to four shippers (US Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, and DHL) to find out how much it costs to send a 25 lb. box across the country. My assumption was that a 12 inch x 12 inch x 12 inch box could do the trick. For the same 3-10 business day shipping period that Kodak charges $83.55 for, the USPS charges $27.11 (or $38.15 for two-day delivery), FedEx charges $26.12, UPS charges $30.21, and DHL charges $23.02. Conservatively thinking, taking the most expensive of the bunch (UPS), $30.21 would get you 755 photos at Kodak's 4 cent per photo charge. That's not a break-even point, but it gives you some idea of how many more pictures (1300 to be exact) Kodak could ship at no additional cost for the same price as it's charging for 755 photos. Going back to Scanlon's comment about how Kodak is evaluating shipping charges in high volume situations, my question is how come no one ever thought of this before? Especially given that someone inside the company knows what the cost of shipping photos really is.
  • In store pickup I agree that this is a good option for people who want to save on shipping charges. But not only does it fly in the face of the benefits of "shopping" online, it's also an option that doesn't work in certain situations. For example, when you're shipping photos to someone else. Can you imagine the conversation now? "Hi Susan. I got something for you as surprise. But to get it, you need to drive down to your local drugstore to pick it up." It sort of kills the element of giving and surprise. So, while I agree this is a good option in some cases, it still doesn't make me feel better about the outrageous profit that Kodak is generating off of shipping.
  • Opt-in notifications and Web site coupon redemption Here, Scanlon is addressing my comment that people may not know about the free shipping option. I'm not sure when the notification was sent. But I'll bet a lot of those "notifications" are in the same place that I put a lot of the notifications my wife gets from the merchants she does business with: the Trash folder. Me? I opt out from that stuff anyway. At first I don't. I want to see if the merchants I'm doing business with have some killer deals or it's just standard fare. Most of the time, it's nothing killer so I eventually end-up opting-out to keep my inbox clear. Additionally, forgetting for a minute that if any site (Kodak or otherwise) is going to offer free shipping for certain orders that the free shipping should be applied automatically (after all, the entire point of automation is to take the friction out, not unnecessarily put it back in), the idea that it's coupon based makes you feel as though the offer is only available at certain times. Sure enough, based on several visits to Kodak's site, there are times when you may not even know that the coupon is available because of how the only place it turns up is on a special offer page that customers must deliberately visit. In other words, in some of my test visits, the coupon never once turned up in the course of normal site usage (up to and including ordering prints for shipping). Scanlon's response also doesn't address the restriction on Kodak's site that the coupon can only be used once per customers. That stinks too.

I'm glad that Kodak addressed the Vista issue that I originally reported in one of my earlier Tech Shakedowns. I haven't tested it yet. If and when I do, I'll report my findings here.

In the meantime, one of the bigger issues here has to do with what happens after you load thousands of photos into some online photo site like Kodak's. At some point, they really have you by the you-know-what because, if you ever become dissatisfied with the service (either by way of functionality or price), the pain of moving those photos to another service is often too painful. So you end up putting up with it.

Perhaps that's a great business idea. Start-up an online Web site that's the official photo-exchanging Web site: one that for a fee can suck all of your pictures out of one site and load them into another of your choice or export them all to your hard drive (or maybe they send you an external hard drive that you just plug into your PC). Hmmmmm.

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