Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, September 30, 2021

Long ago, I confessed an irrational distaste for shipping charges from online purchases.

My attitude seems more justified in light of the business practices of Web photo service Shutterfly. The company relies on its shipping cost structure to make money:

Which gets us back to [outgoing Shutterfly chairman Jim] Clark’s departure and his “manufacturing” comments and why they may be relevant: A hefty and increasing chunk of Shutterfly’s revenue doesn’t come from products, but instead from the amount Shutterfly charges for shipping. If you are like me, you probably assumed that when you buy something online the cost of shipping is merely a pass-through from FedEx Corp., United Parcel Service Inc., DHL International Ltd. or the U.S. Postal Service.

But at Shutterfly, those shipping fees also are a profit center; the company is currently only profitable in its fourth quarter. “We do make money on it,” says Judith McGarry, director of investor relations. While not disclosing just how profitable it is, Shutterfly does acknowledge that shipping is a “significant” revenue generator that for the first nine months of 2006 generated 23% of sales before ending the year at 20%, up from 19% the year before. That compares with 5.3% at Amazon.com Inc., which unlike Shutterfly also discloses shipping costs.

Call it what it is: A ripoff. Shutterfly pays a fixed cost to carriers to send out the prints, so anything they charge over that amount is an artificial markup.

Actually, I don’t know why this article uses a blanket statement like “shipping fees”. For decades, mail order businesses have used the “shipping and handling” as the standard catch-all. I’d always assumed that the “shipping” part was the inflexible cost, and the “handling” was whatever the vendor felt like extracting from the customer (above the minimal stocking, packaging and other work actually needed to get the purchase ready for shipping). It sounds like Shutterfly is taking massive liberties with that handling charge.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/30/2007 11:38:37 PM
Category: Internet, Business, Photography | Permalink | Feedback (4)

One of the Internet’s longer-running movie debates concerns Blade Runner. While plenty of elements of the film are subject to interpretation, the biggest point of contention is, easily, whether or not the protagonist, Inspector Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) was a replicant.

With the release of Ridley Scott’s self-proclaimed “Final Cut” of the film, the issue is settled:

The film’s theme of dehumanization has also been sharpened. What has been a matter of speculation and debate is now a certainty: Deckard, the replicant-hunting cop, is himself a replicant. Mr. Scott confirmed this: “Yes, he’s a replicant. He was always a replicant.”…

In the last scene of Mr. Scott’s version, Deckard leads Rachael out of his apartment. He notices an origami figure of a unicorn on the floor. A fellow cop has often left such figures outside replicants’ rooms. In an earlier scene, Deckard was thinking about a unicorn. Looking at the cutout now, he realizes that the authorities know what’s in his mind, that the unicorn is a planted memory, that he’s a replicant and that he and Rachael are both now on the run. They get into the elevator. The door slams. The end.

One thing about the NYT article by Fred Kaplan: It doesn’t get reaction from Harrison Ford. I don’t find this too surprising. I always felt that Ford has tried to live down his science-fiction movie past, to the extent the man most identified as Han Solo can. Had he continued to do movies with similar themes, he would have been typecast right out of the leading-man roles that later made him a major Hollywood big-budget star. Blade Runner failure at the box office was a blessing in that regard, and its later ascent into cult status was something from which Ford was better off disassociating himself.

Still, it turns out that Ford did indirectly inject himself in the Deckard-as-replicant debate, one last time:

Wired: Harrison Ford is on record saying Deckard is not a replicant.

Scott:Yeah, but that was, like, 20 years ago. He’s given up now. He said, “OK, mate. You win! Anything! Just put it to rest.”

So it’s settled, then.

I’ll have to catch the Final Cut at the Ziegfeld this week. It’s been a long while since I’ve seen any version of the movie, and a meticulously remastered and re-clarified version will be a treat!

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/30/2007 09:52:16 PM
Category: Movies | Permalink | Feedback