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Why You Shouldn't Include Thank You Gifts in Orders

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.


The Boxing and Unboxing Videos

Common videos on TikTok and Instagram are those showing creators packaging up arts, crafts, or book orders for their customers. Then there are the follow-up videos in which those customers unbox these orders, delighting in all the extra goodies and packaging they receive with their orders. I’m often stunned at the quantity of stickers, fancy boxes and packaging materials, free gifts, thank you notes (usually custom), free products, and more.

I just cringe when I see these videos, whether it’s the boxing or unboxing. You probably can’t imagine why since it seems like the creators are being great at customer service, right? Actually, they’re not good at service; they’re good at servitude.

And it’s not just the product sellers. I’ve seen plenty of service providers over-deliver when they don’t have to by either offering too much service for the price or offering a ton of freebies.

Authors aren’t exempt from this behavior either. Many underprice their books to the point where they will make no money just because they feel they must to serve their readers.

Let’s discuss why over-delivering will under-cut your creative income and why it’s a behavior you need to stop immediately.

Why Do Creators Feel the Need to Offer More Than They Should?

Especially new creators and authors are often very grateful for any and every order they receive. They’re so grateful that they go overboard with over-delivering, under-pricing, or extras.

Yes, you should be thankful for the business that you get online or in real life. But to be overly thankful can make you appear desperate and inexperienced. It’s like going to a restaurant, ordering a hamburger, and the restaurant brings out a New York strip steak with side dishes, wine, and dessert for the hamburger price. That would be weird, and it would make you uncomfortable and confused, even suspicious, as a customer.

What I find even more disturbing is that there’s the possibility these creators feel they don’t deserve the prices they’re charging. So they feel they must overcompensate with more stuff to feel like they haven’t overcharged their customers.

Even worse is that they probably wouldn’t pay the prices they’re charging if they bought something from another creator. They themselves believe in low prices and getting something for nothing. That’s the standard of service they personally expect, and they think their customers are the same way.

Realize that customers are not doing you a favor by ordering from you. They’re exchanging cash for whatever you are offering in terms of products or services at a price they’re willing to pay. You are only required to deliver what you offer for sale, delivered safely, efficiently, and in a timely manner. Nothing more.

Why Is This So Bad for Business?

The very public boxing/unboxing videos set unrealistic expectations for current and future customers. If you suddenly start doing less, current and future customers may feel slighted or disappointed and might leave bad reviews.

All the extras up your standard of service and cost. Deep down, customers know these things don’t come for free. “Is what I’m buying so cheap or shoddy quality that they can give me all these freebies? I wonder what the real cost is. Are they overcharging? Can I get it cheaper someplace else without all the frills?”

Remember, too, that every item you put in a customer’s package adds to the total shipping weight. It may not seem like a lot, but it adds up and can flip your shipping cost into the next rung up. I learned this when I was doing direct mail campaigns for trade shows. The direct mail house emphasized that everything—everything, including stamps, glue, envelope paperweights, brochure weight, and more—can impact the total cost.

On top of all this is that the custom packing of all these items does not scale well. The more orders you get, it will take more time and effort, in addition to hard dollar costs. This leads to burnout and higher labor costs if you outsource the work.

Do the Math

In 2022, there was an uproar on craft selling marketplace Etsy over an increase in selling fees (NPR). Many of the sellers banded together to “strike” in protest. Because they’re all small independent businesses, they’re not a union and technically cannot strike. It was more like a boycott.

While I sympathize with their plight, I cannot agree with their protest. While the fees went up 30 percent, the true total percentage was 1.5 percent, with fees going from 5 percent to 6.5 percent. If 1.5 percent is going to ruin your business, you’re not charging enough. Or, as I’ve been discussing here, maybe you’re not analyzing your costs and pricing accordingly. All the non-essentials must go if you want to be profitable.

"But It’s Branding!"

No, it’s a budget nightmare.

As I mentioned earlier, some of the extras and swag that creators and authors include in their direct shipped orders are totally useless. The perfect example is authors doing bookmarks. News flash, the customer already bought your book. You’re then advertising to someone who’s now already a past customer until you write another book. Chances are they’ll keep that bookmark in the book they bought. Nor is it likely they will share it with anyone. So what is the purpose?

When I see authors who have a logo, I really want to laugh. Right now, without cheating and going to the internet, I want you to visualize the logos of J.K. Rowling (not for Harry Potter, for her own name), Stephen King, or James Patterson. They might show a signature, but rarely logos. Mostly their names and the personal brands they’ve built are their brands. Your brand is not a logo! It is the way you write, the market you write for, how you market your books, what you write, and how you use social media.

That over-the-top thank you note, box, or package stuffer is just extra expense you can dispense with. Add the costs of developing a logo and any custom shipping supplies, and you’re heading into the no-profit or even loss zone.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2022 Heidi Thorne