Until someone invents teleportation, overland shipping is sticking around. Unfortunately, it’s getting more expensive all the time. Nobody knows this better than online shoppers.

Although the shipping fees that online companies charge you may vary, the actual shipping costs those companies incur are similar. Generally speaking, the shipping costs are based on 1) the weight of the package, and 2) the distance of the shipment. Shipping carriers (UPS, FedEx, USPS, etc.) each have their own set of rates. There are some notable exceptions, but usually they’re all in the same ballpark. The main differences you see are in how online businesses choose to charge their customers.

Some online stores charge a “flat rate” shipping fee. This means they charge everyone the same amount based on the order total, no matter what is ordered, how heavy it is, or how far it has to be shipped. In these cases, the store makes a small profit on some shipments and loses money on others, in the hopes of evening out in the long run.

Other online stores offer reduced or “free” shipping. This is often accompanied by increased product prices which are used to pay for the shipping. On the other hand, there are online stores with merchandise at dramatically reduced prices that charge an arm and a leg for shipping to make up the difference.

If you have questions about the way a specific company calculates shipping, it’s usually listed somewhere on their website. If it’s not listed, you may have to call or e-mail them to find out.

At Bright Settings, we do not manipulate the pricing of our products or shipping. The shipping charges you see are pulled directly from UPS.com using the total weight of the products in your shopping basket and the zip code you provide as you begin to checkout. This is not OUR rate — it’s the UPS rate. In other words, it’s what you would pay if you contacted UPS to do the shipping yourself.

As you can see, there are a number of different ways online businesses compute shipping rates. Because of this, the only way you can do accurate comparison shopping is to make sure you’re comparing the invoice totals, not just the products or the shipping by themselves.