Cheapest way to ship something refrigerated?
January 13, 2015 12:09 PM   Subscribe

I need suggestions as to the cheapest way to ship a small item, but it needs to ship refrigerated. This would be within the US.

I have a small item that I am trying to sell, and it would need to shipped refrigerated. Total weight including gel refrigerant would be about 2-3lbs, and it could ship in a (standard size or flat rate) box, it doesn't need to be in any sort of cooler. Due to the refrigerant, it would need to ship overnight delivery.

A quick online search (FedEx, UPS, USPS) has indicated that shipping might cost around $50, which seems like it can't be correct. When I received the item I also received it refrigerated and I don't remember paying nearly that amount in shipping, although I did receive it from a vendor who has commercial rates available to them.

The total cost of the item is under $150, and though I've had lots of interest in the item, it seems that the cost of shipping is putting my potential customers off. Appreciate any ideas that will help me get the deal done.
posted by vignettist to Shopping (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would imagine that the higher rate is for ensuring that the item arrives in a still-refrigerated state. If your item is something that you and the buyer are willing to trust a little bit to chance on, I don't see why you couldn't just pack it with the cool packs, send it overnight, and only pay for the regular overnight shipping rate. That might still not be that much less than $50, depending on the size of the package, but it might save you a little.
posted by MsMolly at 12:14 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

How much cheaper is it if you change from overnight to 2-3 day delivery? Ice packs and a sealed foam cooler should be good for a few days.
posted by soelo at 12:37 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

That seems to be around the normal price for overnight shipping without a commercial discount. Businesses that do a lot of overnight shipping can receive substantial discounts from the retail rate.
posted by dcjd at 12:44 PM on January 13, 2015

I used to handle packages for FedEx every day. $50 sounds about right for overnight delivery of that weight, though you may be able to find a slightly better rate if you check both the "standard" and "priority" options (sometimes faster is cheaper). Signing up for an account should also help, even though you won't qualify for the larger corporate discounts.
posted by teremala at 12:58 PM on January 13, 2015

Find someone that gets shipments from Omaha Steaks, and ask for one of their leftover shipping coolers. Also, some medications are shipped cold. The time the package stays cold will depend on how well it's insulated, and these coolers are thick-walled, tight-fitting and light. From what I can see on the Omaha Steaks FAQ, they don't ordinarily ship overnight.
posted by jon1270 at 1:08 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would go USPS with gel packs and Styrofoam taped around it. Insure it if you feel the need.

I get vaccines from various sources (for my horses) USPS with gel packs surrounded by bubble wrap in cardboard, and I have never had one arrive warm.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:10 PM on January 13, 2015

Wrap the whole thing (the item+the cool pack) in several layers of newspaper and cram every spare space in the box with wadded newspaper. This is how my uncle ships fish from Alaska to Florida and it works like a dream, actually better than styrofoam coolers. Enough to get an extra day of wiggle room on shipping.
posted by phunniemee at 1:28 PM on January 13, 2015

This is based on a pie place I know near Phoenix, AZ that ships frozen meringue pies around the country, all times of year. They know how to get cold, delicate merchandise intact anywhere the USPS delivers.
1. Freeze your goods in a chest freezer, it gets significantly colder (~-40F) than an upright (~0F).
2. Ship items only on Mondays, and tell your customers up front about that.
3. Ship by priority mail, use insulated boxes and cold packs, and provide tracking numbers.
4. Offer an unconditional guaranty on thawed product. If you have followed steps 1, 2, and 3 you will have enough of a profit margin to honor these guaranty claims. These people will become good advertisers when they post reviews saying, "The Post Office screwed up and held my package for a week in Albuquerque, but vignettist promptly replaced my order at no charge."

Once you have your basic business model worked out, you experiment with expanding services. Offering next-day delivery at a significantly higher price is a great add-on. With my pie shop example, as a customer I'm thrilled I can order Jack Daniels Pecan Pie for my dad at Thanksgiving if I'm planning a week ahead. If I forget and you offer me the option of much speedier delivery, I'm happy at even twice the price.
posted by TungstenChef at 2:17 PM on January 13, 2015

Assuming that too low a temperature isn't a problem, dry ice and a cooler?
posted by Gneisskate at 6:50 PM on January 13, 2015

At my last job we did mail order cheese and cooked meat products. There were a few criteria (in hot weather the only shipping we offered was overnight, we didn't deliver to rural areas etc.) but we just bundled it up with gel ice packs, boxed it and wrapped it with sheeted silver insulating 'stuff' and sent it off with the couriers. Worked a treat.
posted by BeeJiddy at 10:04 PM on January 13, 2015

« Older Running a large event, need ability for people to...   |   Affordable neighborhoods within half an hour of... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.