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Advice for Tea Merchants

54 Replies
Kristin said

I agree with several things already said here like shipping costs (really… $20 for David’s teas), and I also won’t buy things that I can’t buy a sample of first.

Something that hasn’t been mentioned is allergens. This is a big irritant for me. I get really annoyed if I have to email a tea merchant to find out if a tea contains dairy. Just add a note that says ‘contains dairy’, or ‘contains nuts’, etc.

Cofftea said

Kristin, thanks for bringing this up! People who don’t have allergies don’t think of this. I just assumed you’d know based on if it was a chocolate tea, nut tea, etc.

Kristin said

I don’t have allergies, but I am vegan so I don’t want tea with dairy in it.

Chocolate is actually one of the hardest things to figure out in tea. Sometimes chocolate has dairy (milk chocolate) and sometimes it does not (dark chocolate/semi-sweet). Some caramel teas have chunks of caramel that have dairy and some just have caramel flavoring. The other thing is teas that have the word ‘cream’ in the title, interestingly almost never have dairy in them. It’s not easy to tell from the title of the tea. For instance, 52 teas ‘Buttered Cinnamon Raisin Toast’… no dairy. :)

Cofftea said

Kristin- even 52teas/manteas’ bacon teas are vegan!:)

Kristin said

Yep, that’s what I hear. Not sure I have the nerve to try that one!

Cofftea said

They’re very good with breakfast… that’s the only time I’d ever drink it lol.

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Lori said

Pet peeves- why does Teavana supply their teas in those flimsy paper bags…. I do appreciate steeping instructions on the tea label…

I love it when a company offers samplers for purchase but depending on tea reviews I may purchase from a vendor without samplers…

B HILL said

I love the metal containers they provide for purchases in the store. Keeps the tea fresh and look sweet in my overhead shelf at the office.

Cofftea said

Lori, I’ve never seen a teavana bag, but I have the opposite peeve- when companies give you no choice than to recieve a bulky canister.

Brianthill-they charge a lot for those containers, although they are nice and i have some

Lori-i think they want you to buy their tins is why, i personally bring in my own tins to have them fill them and place on labels

Cofftea said

AmazonV- that’s awesome that they let you bring in your own containers!

B HILL said

They are somewhat expensive, but will last forever.

http://www.specialtybottle.com/index.asp?PageAction=Custom&ID=41 ($1.08 + $5 shipping if your just getting 1 = $6.08)

Teavana – which i am an affiliate of so technically could make money off +6$ plus shipping unless you can go to the store

and that’s if you only get one, get multiple and you’ve saved money
very durable, very tight fit
my 3 year old teavana tins have survived, mostly, i’ve lost 3 of them to rust and physical damage so i guess i am rough

so although they’re nice, i’ve decided to spend more on tea and less on tin since the quality of container is just as good elsewhere

Kristin said

Shipping to my house from specialty bottle was almost $15. I don’t know why.

Just double-checked and it says – UPS Ground $14.99

aww kristin that’s awful :( i’ve placed 3 orders of assorted sizes and even the big one (20 tins) was only 20$ the magic of UPS i guess?

Lori said

Really though my favorite tea storage method are foil ziploc bags as they do take up less room…And true I rather spend money on tea and not tins…

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It’s been mentioned, but having to register for a site just to purchase an order is a little annoying, but I can understand the reasoning for it.

One thing I love is when tea sites have not only a pretty picture of the tea leaves, but also a picture of the tea brewed. I love knowing what the tea will look like brewed before I buy it. Also, good and informative descriptions go a long way, as well as user comments/reviews (though I can see that being difficult with smaller companies).

Cofftea said

Kathryn Ann- I respectfully disagree… but only if the website saves my shipping/billing/payment info. It’s a pain to re-enter that time after time. I like Adagio’s set up where they save your payment options (more than one) every address you’ve ever sent to (you can delete either at any time), order history, and tracking info.

At least your understanding, some of our customers get quite mad we make them sign up to buy food (not tea though sadly)

oh I agree! i love seeing the steeped tea

Sign up allows for me to better track my customers and give promotions and rewards. If all customers always do a drive by it may be difficult to provide them better service without complications. Although I do realize that it can be a pain the first time around.

Cofftea said

It’s info you’d need to put in to make your order anyway (or it has been w/ all the companies I’ve ordered from).

I’ve purchased many things online without registering, which was convenient since I will never have a desire to return to those same sites (most likely.) then again, tea sites are different. But recently, I was browsing teas and adding to a cart, but I wanted to see what the shipping was before I actually purchased and in order to see the shipping fees I had to register and start the checkout process. Either way, it was annoying that in the end the shipping was so expensive that I didn’t go through with the purchase, and I’ve completely forgotten the site now, but I’m “registered” on it. That was annoying. A few other sites were the same and I just decided to not even bother registering.

You make a very good point about wanting to see end cost prior to register. I will put that into move the register for after shipping is chosen.

Thanks everyone for putting out your pain points.

Cofftea said

It isn’t really a registration beef, but yes not having the shipping (whether it’s flat rate or not) listed on the website is extremely annoying. The shopping cart is not the place to find out shipping info.

Yes it is not a registration issue. It is knowing what the end price is prior to commiting. My shipping is based on the weight of the items in the cart as well as the zip code it is going to (it changes live as you push the button from FedEx and also USPS). A way to see shipping prior to registration would be nice. It is not the first time I heard the issue come up.

Cofftea said

Jade Teapot… THANK YOU for your shipping cost formula. If only Rishi used that.

Miss Sweet said

I don’t mind registering an account with a company I’m ordering from, but I like to have the option not to register. As Kathryn pointed out above, often going through to the cart is the only way to find out shipping costs or if they ship internationally.

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kuanyin said

Having had this thread pointed out to me, I would like to add my agreement to having the steeping directions on the removable label. I hate having to run to the computer, and some that I have bought from don’t even have them there. Though, I admit that I have a different criteria when ordering direct from China. I am also willing to pay higher shipping costs from another country than I am from within my own. That is my choice to shop there and evaluate whether it is worth the shipping or not. (Come to think of it, I do that with ANY online shopping I do from anywhere).

If a website didn’t have the oz or gr listed for a tea for sale, I am out of there. Same thing if they don’t have shipping cost until you commit, there is no excuse for not having at least a reasonable estimate.

Personally, I really hate those cellophane bags that can’t be resealed. I may not have tins available in the right size, it is just so much more preferable to receive the tea in a heavier zip lock tea bag or have the option to spend more on a tin. To me, it denotes a courtesy to your customers that you care.

I wish tea sellers would use removable labels that can be transferred to a tin. Honestly, it is usually my favorite teas that I do transfer to a tin and I like them to look nice. A torn up, taped label or one that I make up and stick on is just not pleasing and doesn’t seem to convey the preference that I am giving that tea. Again, when sellers use reusable labels, I get the impression that they are taking pride in their product and enabling me to display it proudly. The only ones that I can think of that do this are Teavana and Upton. I hope there are more, but I don’t know of them. If you also use the label for price in a retail store, then add a second, small sticker that is less easily transferred.

And in the same vein, when selling teas in a tin, how about not slathering on a huge label that is almost permanently adhered and tea specific? I wouldn’t mind so much if it had the Golden Moon logo and info, for instance, because it is lovely to look at and I understand wanting to keep the brand in the forefront. But you could have a box upon which to stick the removable tea type label. Then I can keep your beautiful tin and reuse it, even if I didn’t care to repurchase that particular tea.

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I must say I am finding this thread very informative. This is fantastic feedback as far as web site wants. We have had our brick and mortar for nearly 5 years now and have always offered free samples in house. I have been in the retail industry for most of my career and have always been a firm believer in try it before you buy it. I find this especially true in the world of tea. Our senses play such an important role in our tea experience from appearance, aroma, taste and for those that still like to hear the whistle of the kettle every now and then.
This being said we offer sample sizes on all of our teas at what I am finding to be an awesome price in comparison to other sites I have visited. To catch your eye on the sample size and get you to open it one side of the bag is clear and they are heat sealed food grade zip lock bags. Seeing a colorful tea that opens your imagination that in turn will create the desire to smell the tea. Now you really want to taste it because you found this to be such an enticing aroma.
A sample should be included with a minumum purchase of $10.00. With a larger purchase more samples can be offered. Inexpesive marketing that gets your product in the hands of a potential customer. I think the venue you are ordering from should be the one to choose your samples for you especially if they sell all their samples on their site. All of our larger sizes are packaged in black food grade heat sealed zip lock resealable bags.
I have just recently launched my web site so am finding the shipping cost interesting also. I was pleasantly suprised at the response from Canada when we recently sent out samples and curiousity got me on what would be the cost involved for shipping to Canada and it was really not much more. Kudo’s to Jillian who called “Bullshit” on this topic.
I have more thoughts that I have to gather on this thread and will return soon. Early morning ahead of me.

Uniquity said

Shipping from Canada to US is generally pretty pricey, at least through Canada Post….but I agree, shipping from US to Canada (at least from the postage prices I see on my incoming packages – Usually cheaper than if I sent a similar package in province) is really quite low.

We currently charge the same shipping for US and Canada. But it’s mainly because we have strong connections with Canada and have a lot of friends there. I can kind of understand why many other vendors would charge higher shipping fee for Canada.

A problem of shipping to Canada is, the vendor has to assign a specific person to file custom form as well as deliver packages to the postal office – international packages can’t be picked up by the post man. And sometimes, there can be 30 min. or longer wait in line at the postal office. As many USPS offices have shut down in the past a few years, for many people there is longer distance to travel to a postal office, and longer waiting lines there. It may not be a big problem for a smaller and flexible vendor who has to run errands around town all the time anyway. But for a larger vendor, that would mean an extra worker and an extra salary.

But on the other hand, as Infusion_Susan said, the shipping cost itself is usually quite reasonable. Sometimes from the east coast, it’s even cheaper to ship a 1 lb. package to British Columbia than to Montana. I’ve noticed some apparel vendors charge very high shipping fee for Canada (that’s why I receive packages for some Canadian friends all the time), but usually they don’t use USPS service. I guess by using other carriers, they save a lot of human labor dealing with international packages.

Besides, USPS plain international mail is not track-able. But USPS has made some progress by giving free certificate of mailing for international packages.

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I ship items (not tea, but small packages) internationally every so often, and I have found shipping US to Canada is about the same price, or in some cases cheaper, than shipping within the US. Shipping to Europe, Asia, even Australia, isn’t much more than a few dollars higher than shipping within the US. Granted, I am shipping my items in padded envelopes, not boxes — a large, heavy box with teaware, several tins of tea, etc., is understandably more costly to ship.

I love when tea vendors have free shipping over a certain dollar amount or reasonable flat rate shipping.

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Alana237 said

It does annoy me when a company has no indiation on their site about whether they ship internationally, and I have found with a few companies that they charge ridiculus international shipping, with flat rates that are sometimes up to $30! I can’t help but feel this just discourages international customers.

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