Pledge Manager FAQ and an Education on Worldwide Shipping Costs
The pledge manager is in full swing, and we're seeing a ton of awesome activity. Thanks so much for your continued support of this project. We are also seeing plenty of concern from some of you in the "Rest of World" regions regarding the shipping costs you're seeing, particularly when adding multiple copies or additional bundles.
After a long meeting this morning to double and triple check our numbers (they are correct, crazy as that may seem), we wanted to give you a peek behind the curtain of how a small company like us manages to ship worldwide.
It Costs What it Costs
So for starters, let's just call it like it is. International shipping, regardless of where you're sending something, regardless of fulfillment center used, is ridiculously and painfully expensive. This is true even of small packages, but it's *especially* true with massive board game boxes full of heavy components. Every board game company handles this in their own way. For us, we have chosen to (in most cases) charge *actual* shipping, occasionally eating some of that cost ourselves.
Other companies can afford to subsidize further. This is typically because their cost per unit is much cheaper than our own so they have more margin to work with. Along with that, they may have retail distributions relationships or be selling high enough quantities worldwide that it makes using local fulfillment centers and offering deep shipping discounts and averaging a no-brainer for many regions and countries. Sadly, we cannot touch the kind of courier discounts many of these companies can achieve. Not yet.
We are not quite to such a level yet in terms of sales volume, and obviously we are not in retail. Therefore we are limited to the fulfillment centers we currently have in place (Spiral Galaxy, Chip Theory HQ, and Starlit Citadel in Canada).
Awkward Adolescence and Growing Pains
Ultimately what this update really boils down to is that we are in an awkward stage of growth right now, akin to awkward adolescence.
We’ve felt it with each passing campaign in the past 2 years.
We didn’t have quite enough customer service help to handle Undertow component replacement requests in a timely manner after Undertow delivered, but didn’t have enough work for another full time customer service employee prior to Undertow delivery. We’ll call this our uneven and patchy facial hair.
We didn’t have quite enough warehouse help to chew through Undertow fulfillment as fast as we had wanted. We’ll call this acne.
We are big enough and our games are received well enough to appear like a large player in the industry, but not being in retail and only selling in our web store can create a false impression publicly of how much influence and pull we actually have with both manufacturers and logistics companies (including fulfillment centers). We’ll call this sudden onset of body odor.
There are so many things that we’ll be able to address once we grow just a bit larger as a company, but for the moment we continue to simply punch above our weight while we keep on growing (painfully) into our adult body.
We anticipate soon that we’ll have the leverage and quantities to improve our international shipping rates and add fulfillment centers in additional countries. For now, we’re doing the best we can and we appreciate your understanding and patience. Even the vocal detractors on the message boards help keep regions of the world that are particular pain points for us top of mind. Australia: we hear you. Give us another year (or maybe even just a few months)...to put on a bit more muscle mass and learn to shave. We certainly don’t anticipate living in this stage forever.
Cloudspire Specific Shipping
A few of you have commented on the fact that it seems to be *more* expensive to add additional copies of Cloudspire to your pledge than the base shipping charge.
That is true and accurate.
The reason for this is that we have fairly heavily subsidized the shipping of all of the base pledges. As additional weight is added, that subsidization goes down a bit (we *are* still subsidizing things, however).
The shipping prices listed in the campaign have not changed for any of the base pledges, so those of you internationally who are seeing very high shipping rates are seeing them specifically because you've added things beyond your Cloudspire base pledge.
Adding Add-ons or "$264 for 30kg!? Are you out of your mind!?"
To answer the question posited above...no. We're not out of our mind.
This is legitimately what it costs to ship a 30kg package across the world with the options available to us. For individual packages like this, our two most realistic choices are to either freight it to its destination country (in a container with all other orders for that country, which has a major cost of its own) and let a local fulfillment company handle it, or send it via an international shipping courier (in this case that means UPS or DHL).
Local fulfillment houses (such as Aetherworks in Australia) have minimum order quantities to take on a project at a reasonable rate. Establishing and managing a foreign fulfillment relationship also takes up time and has administrative cost associated with it (to the point that we'd need to hire another full-time staff member to handle it with our small team's current workloads).
Let's continue using Australia for this example (one of the most expensive places to ship in the current pledge manager shipping tables). We had 123 total Australian backers. A high percentage of those were $1.00 backers. This is not a finger pointing exercise, but understand that we can only go to Aetherworks with committed backers who have at least pledged for the base games. With those numbers in hand, point blank we simply didn't have the quantities necessary to make both a separate container to Australia and the overhead associated with establishing a new fulfillment partner a reality.
Now you can *certainly* make the argument that *until* we get places like Aetherworks into the fold we will *never* see enough growth in Australia to make it feasible. You might be right (classic chicken/egg argument), and we certainly anticipate making this jump at some point. But right now we are in the midst of an intense growth period. To keep the company financially stable, debt-free, and running as lean as possible, it's simply not a risk we can currently take on.
So. With all of that context in hand, let's address the actual cost of shipping a 30kg package to Australia via UPS or DHL Express. It is *drumroll*...actually over $300.
Crazy. Yes. Insane. Yes. But it's the honest to God truth. We wish it weren't, but it is.
Even after subsidizing almost $50 of the shipping charge, you're still left with a $264 shipping charge if you add a Hoplo and TMB bundle to your Cloudspire pledge. That's not a joke, and if you'd like to try it we'd invite you to head over to your local DHL shop and try shipping something of this size yourself. This is also assuming it's going to ship in a single box, which of course isn't the case. Cloudspire, TMB, and Hoplo bundles all need to be shipped in separate boxes - so even these prices are a bit under what the reality is.
Gamesquest vs. Spiral Galaxy
We would have a hard time counting the number of times we were asked *why* and *how* we could *ever* use Gamesquest again for Undertow after their speed, communication, etc. And the answer to that question, in short, was cost. The last few projects, we found the challenges of working with Gamesquest worth the price break we received compared to other fulfillment houses.
The Undertow campaign along with some other factors finally pushed us to the point where we felt it prudent to move. Make no mistake, Spiral Galaxy is absolutely more expensive. Noticeably so, in fact. We continue to walk the tightrope of quality, speed, and price. In this case, receiving the quality and speed we were seeking required an increase in cost. To that end, Gamesquest's rates have *also* gone up with the new year, so there was a cost increase awaiting us, and our backers, with either route.
We are already *very* optimistic that this increase in price will be a fair trade for the level of consistency, organization, and communication we're receiving from Spiral Galaxy.
Pledge Manager FAQ
1. Can I reopen my CrowdOx account at a later date to add more things?
- Yes. You will be charged for anything you add right now, but you may always reopen it later to add additional items.
2. I was a European Undertow backer. Where is my $10 credit for dealing with Gamesquest issues?
- Because this $10 credit was specifically for add-ons, you will not see it as a part of your base pledge level. As you advance further into the pledge manager, the credit will appear when you're given the option to add add-ons and close out/confirm the final details of your pledge.
3. I was a European Undertow backer and have backed Cloudspire for $1, where is my $10 credit for dealing with Gamesquest issues?
- So, a slightly different answer here, and apologies in advance for how complicated this needs to be. Because the $10 credit is for add-ons specifically, $1 EU Undertow backers *were not* proactively given their $10 credit. You will first need to add at least the Cloudspire base pledge to your order and close out/finalize your pledge. At that point, you may submit a ticket (chiptheorygames.com/support) so we can verify you have added the base game. We can then add your $10 add-on credit and reopen your account to allow you to add more items.
4. I'm a Strategist, what do I do?
- This morning we finished loading in the last of our Strategist list into CrowdOx. If you are a Strategist from a prior campaign, you should have a $100 credit waiting for you in CrowdOx to complete your pledge.
- If you are a new (Cloudspire) Strategist, we have sent you an email. The way that CrowdOx/Kickstarter is configured, we were unable to seamlessly allow you to upgrade to any of the Cloudspire bundles. We *are* able to do this manually for you, however. If interested in one of the bundles, please respond to the email you've been sent and our customer service team is standing by, ready to help.
That's it for now! Thanks again for your support both during the campaign and in the pledge manager. We'll try to answer as many questions as we can in the comments over the weekend, but otherwise will be back Monday to respond to anything we miss over the weekend!
Josh, Adam, and Josh (Ghillie)