On Trading, Packaging, and the Break-Even Point

Eno Sarris, May 07, 2015

I just spent $45 to send a box of six beers. 

I'm not sure it's the most I've spent -- pretty sure it's not -- and this isn't *really* about how much trading costs. Not in a "oh man this sucks that it's so expensive" way. More in a "how can I judge if this is appropriately expensive" way. And even that way has two prongs of thinking to it. 

For example, let's think about the beers I got and sent. I got a Founder's Kentucky Breakfast Stout. I know that at least a few people are willing to pay $30 for a 12 ounce bottle in some locations, and I know it's not available to me here. If he spent about the same to send me the beers he sent me -- and I'm using the same box to return the beers to him, so that's a reasonable assumption -- he spent $45 to send me six beers.

So I'm spending $7 more than my trading partner for that KBS. Maybe $12 for a $5 beer.

Really, that's not so bad. You might spend that sort of money at a bar to have KBS, actually scratch that, in most big cities, you *would* spend that dosh to get a KBS in your mouth. I'm sending him a $25 bottle of Rare Barrell Wise Guise to him, and that is a blended sour with a gold-medal winning dark sour in it (Ensorcelled). You gotta shrug off $32 for a 750 mL if you were okay with $25 to begin with. 

As bad as trading might seem sometimes, as long as you send six or more bottles, and get beers you can't get and want, and are okay with paying for a beer at home like you might at a bar, you'll probably find the enterprise useful.  Despite balking a little at the price when you're at the UPS store. 

The other way to think about the breakeven point is the packaging.

Look at this box. It's huge. Within that box is a layer of peanuts and bubbles, and then two more shoeboxes (in trash bags). In those shoe boxes are six bottles of beer, in socks, and bubbles, and paper. This is some part of the $45 price. 

I know that I could have sent it to him cheaper. I may or may not have sent beers in the one-size-fits-all drop-ship boxes from USPS, and those beers may or may not have all made it to my trading partner, and he may or may not hold that against me for future endeavors. If I did that sort of a thing, you know it was cheaper. But the risks were substantial. 

I've also gotten boxes from trading partners that were enormous. Like walk in coolers in a box. Filled with so many peanuts my three year old could have used the box as a bouncy house. And paper, and boxes, and plastic, within more paper and boxes and plastic. Maybe that was overkill. Maybe that cost a bit more than it needed to. That sender had piece of mind, though. And I got my beers.

I'll settle in somewhere in the middle, in some imagined break-even point. A box within a box, so that the beer floats and never hits the side of the package, that's a good idea. Some plastic in case it breaks. Some peanuts and bubbles. 

But I also don't want to start paying more than triple for the bottles within. Getting a $3 IPA for $10-12 is starting to push it, even for a person that once lived in Manhattan. 

12 oz Founder's Kentucky Breakfast Stout
12 oz Dark Horse Plead the Fifth Imperial Stout
12 oz Boulevard Calling IPA
22 oz Founder's Blushing Monk
22 oz New Holland Incorrigible White Sour
12 oz Rye IPA Homebrew

12 oz Almanac Dogpatch Strawberry Sour
16 oz Modern Times Fortunate Islands Hoppy Wheat Pale
16 oz Modern Times Blazing World Amber Pale
22 oz Knee Deep Lupulin River DIPA
22 oz Shady Oak Barrelhouse Funkatronic Brett IPA
22 oz Rare Barrel Wise Guise Golden Raspberry Sour