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Ian Lind • Online daily from Kaaawa, Hawaii

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Study says Hawaii is worst state for online shopping

March 24th, 2011 · 37 Comments

A state-by-state analysis of online shopping by the web site ExtraBux.com ranked Hawaii #50 as the worst state to live in for online shopping.

50. Hawaii

Although Hawaii residents don’t pay too much for sales tax (only 4.25% on average), they have to pay the equivalent of overnight shipping for the slowest shipping times in the country. On average, an order shipped to Hawaii costs $19.17 and spends 4.57 days in transit.

It’s interesting to see the comment about Hawaii’s low sales tax, is’t it?

This analysis only takes into account the four factors: Sales tax rate, chance of avoiding sales tax, shipping costs, and average delivery time.

I would have added “availability.” There continue to be sites that simply won’t ship to Hawaii.

What I’m not sure about is whether Amazon.com still has Hawaii on a black list for certain items. Back in 2006, I reported Amazon’s refusal to ship certain items in Hawaii. An inquiry to Investor Relations got this reply at that time:

My name is Eric Layne of Amazon.com’s Executive Customer Relations. Your message has been brought to my attention because my groups mandate is to address and resolve the most acute problems our customers encounter.

Unfortunately, items in our Grocery store can’t be shipped to Alaska or Hawaii. Due to the high transportation costs imposed by carriers for deliveries to Alaska and Hawaii, we are unable to offer shipping to these destinations at this time.

Amazon’s formal shipping policy doesn’t appear to have changed.

Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico Addresses
Some items from our Tools & Hardware, Electronics, and Outdoor Living stores can’t be shipped to Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico if they are extremely heavy, oddly-shaped, or considered hazardous. Additionaly, some items from our Health and Personal Care store cannot be shipped to these destinations. Check the item’s product detail page for eligibility and available shipping options. Only specific shipping options may be available for some addresses. Available shipping options will appear at checkout when you enter a shipping address.

But a spot check of certain items previously unavailable to Hawaii shoppers didn’t get the dreaded “not available in Hawaii” message.

So let me know your recent Amazon.com experiences. Are grocery items now generally available or not? What items are still not shipped to Hawaii at any price?

Do we really deserve to be ranked #50 out of 50 states for online shopping?

Tags: Business

37 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Shinkansen // Mar 24, 2011 at 6:49 am

    Yep. 50 sounds about right. While we try to buy Hawaii as much as we can for our biz, there are simply some things that are way cheaper to get done on the mainland. The kicker is that shipping often costs DOUBLE the actual product.

    Take business cards for example. There are more than a few places that sell 1000 high quality, offset, full color, front and back biz cards for sometimes less that $29. However, shipping to Hawaii is usually $30-40 via FedEx / UPS. Many places will not ship via USPS.

    Our biz does mail order to the mainland and other countries, so we have to purchase shipping supplies, mailers, etc in bulk. Most of this is not stocked locally and must be purchased from the mainland. The shipping is often more expensive than the actual items we are purchasing.

    There are a lot of online retailers that offer free shipping, but only to the continental US (48 states.) I can’t count how many times I’ve attempted to place an order online, only to find that “FREE SHIPPING” doesn’t apply to Hawaii.

    At least Amazon still does free shipping to Hawaii. I hope that doesn’t end. While I may complain about the options we have on Oahu, the outer islands have it even worse. It’s just the price we pay to do biz in Hawaii I suppose. With gas going up over $4, it soon won’t be economically feasible for many to do biz here.

  • 2 Andrew // Mar 24, 2011 at 7:16 am

    Overall, Amazon is one of the better places when it comes to shipping to Hawaii.

    What really gets me is when I’m told that shipping to Hawaii isn’t available because the seller doesn’t do “international shipping”.

    My best workaround option has been to have (very kind) relatives on the mainland relay purchases to me.

  • 3 Online Shopper // Mar 24, 2011 at 7:25 am

    I recently got spammed with an Amazon promotion of a “good deal” on a nice Samsung T.V. I followed the link, did some quick research to confirm it was a good deal on a good product (which it was) and tried to buy. Then i ran into the dreaded “We Don’t Sell This Product To Hawaii” error during check out. So, now already being set on buying a T.V., I went to Sears Ala Moana and got a great deal, probably an even better one, on a nice new Sony. So… It’s annoying, but definitely not the only game in town. Or even the best game in town for some things…

  • 4 Gary // Mar 24, 2011 at 7:51 am

    I purchased a vacuum cleaner about four months ago and shipping was free. Bu when I tried buy canned cat food, a shipping charge was added. Maybe it depends upon the worker who processes some of these items.

  • 5 Blaine // Mar 24, 2011 at 8:17 am

    What the study fails to understand is that we have NO SALES TAX here. What we have is a GENERAL EXCISE TAX, which is applied at EACH TRANSFER OF THE GOODS from one entity to another, pyramiding at each step. You literally PAY TAX ON THE TAX! I have seen estimates of an equivalent sales tax conversion at 9 to 12 percent.

  • 6 Jeannine // Mar 24, 2011 at 8:33 am

    I’ve tried to order seeds or plants from mainland catalogs that I’d ordered from while living there and they refuse to ship to Hawaii. Even if I order seeds or plants that are not banned, like zucchini, they still won’t ship. It’s really frustrating.

  • 7 Ian Lind // Mar 24, 2011 at 8:46 am

    The GET also applies to many kinds of transactions that aren’t subject to sales taxes. That breadth of application is what makes the law effective in raising revenues, more than the pyramiding aspect, I believe. The tax review commission has had some good discussions of the positive aspects of the GET as an effective form of taxation.

  • 8 Jim Loomis // Mar 24, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Then there are the outlets that will ONLY ship by UPS or FedEx and will not, even when requested, ship by Priority Mail at a quarter of the cost. Makes no sense at all.

  • 9 wlsc // Mar 24, 2011 at 9:32 am

    When I encounter a company that refuses to ship USPS, I tell them I won’t buy anything from them until they change their policies. I’ve also posted such comments on their product pages. On occasion, they’ve responded by allowing me to use USPS by talking to a customer service rep instead of using the online checkout process.

  • 10 gbb // Mar 24, 2011 at 10:02 am

    We’ve tried to buy from Amazon grocery in the past without success, but a month ago I tried again and WAS able to purchase loose leaf tea with free shipping. We always check first at Amazon before driving an hour into town for electronics, cooking toys, etc. They are such a pleasure to deal with compared to many other internet companies.

  • 11 ohiaforest3400 // Mar 24, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Oned work around here is to tell these vendors that UPS. in fact, DOES offer its “ground rate” for shipments to Hawaii. It’s much cheaper and about as fast as USPS Priority Mail.

  • 12 Tim // Mar 24, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Holy Crap! You’re right! I just entered a grocery order that Amazon previously would not ship for free to Hawaii ……. and Amazon is now Genuinely allowing free shipping for qualified grocery orders over $25!!! Please don’t pinch me!!! I don’t care if takes a few extra days for nonspoilable goods to arrive by mail, so long as the packaging is still closed!!!!!

  • 13 Tim // Mar 24, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Just bought coffee beans and marinara sauce on Amazon.com and they waived $15 shipping!

  • 14 Richard Gozinya // Mar 24, 2011 at 11:54 am

    We buy al lour pet supplies online,primarily from Amazon. Their prices are up to half off local prices on identical merchandise and even when shipping costs are added (not always charged-depends on the order) the end price is much cheaper.

    Makes one wonder, doesn’t it? I love to shop local (unlike the rail car buyers :)) but I hate getting abused on pricing.

  • 15 tom8 // Mar 24, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    I love amazon, but toothpaste–TOOTHPASTE for poop’s sake! It has been in my shopping cart for years. Amazon remains shipless.

    I do buy top of the line Indigo Moon (gluten-free) cat food for my skin sensitive cat (my toddler loves it too!) from PETCO through Amazon and pay $8.07 for shipping on a 15 lb bag–ends up similar to the price at the vet (too much!).

    Oh, and I bought a pair of swim goggles from an independent vendor through Amazon for $5.25 plus $5 shipping on a 5/8 oz. item. The vendor filed a complaint against me when I complained about this in the feedback even though I rated the item high.

    BTW, Apple charges Hawai’i GET on purchases–Wonder if the state ever gets the money? Based on my own purchase history, it’s a lot.

  • 16 Tim // Mar 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    plz post if Amazon ever offers Mitchum!!

  • 17 Larry // Mar 24, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    You have to go through the calculations, but for places that just won’t ship to Hawaii, there are a couple of workarounds.

    One is Aloha Forwarding (alohaforwarding.com) which will receive a package and re-ship by USPS for a fee. They’ll even repack if it will save you money (a small fee for that). So you set it up on their website and have Amazon or any other vendor send to them, hopefully free, then you pay the shipping charge to Hawaii. At least you can get the goods.

    Another is Ship To Hawaii, also with a website. There is an annual membership charge,though since I haven’t used them in over a year I haven’t renewed. I did use them to ship some heavy items, and it was a great cost saving. You have to pick up, thuogh, as explained on their website. They have always been prompt and helpful, and where it makes sense in terms of cost (or you can’t get the item at all), they make it happen. They are a freight consolidator. They gather all the packages together in California and ship to Hawaii in a container. I once needed a bunch of small parts really quickly, but the shipper wouldn’t ship for under somehting like $30. They handled it for $5.

    Why some vendors won’t ship USPS: they have cut exclusive arrangements with one of the other carriers like FedEx or UPS. Under those agreements they can’t offer alternatives. But one can beg…

    Amazon’s shipping policy to Hawaii is possibly set by the item. And many items are not shipped by Amazon at all, but drop-shipped from elsewhere. So that might be why some things get shipped and not others. In other words, they do “fulfillment” services, but someplace else warehouses and ships items.

    There is a method to the madness.

    What I hate particularly is a handful of places that won’t take an order if the billing address (for the credit card) is in Hawaii. I’ve reported them to MasterCard, but guess what, MC doesn’t really care about Hawaii either, I guess. Grrr…

    Oh, one more thing to watch out for. Yuo may get the goods and then find that the warranty doesn’t apply in Hawaii (some gaming computers explicitly state that, as I found out after buying an LCD screen made by one of them). For others, you have to ship a defective item back to them under the warranty. I bought a Western Digital RAID disk setup on sale at Amazon, in fact. But it died. I spent half the purchase cost sending the heavy item back. If it dies again, off to the recycler with it. So if possible, it is good to verify the fine print in the warranty. The way things are made these days, there is a fair chance that anything may not work and you’ll be stuck with a secondary shipping dilemma to get it fixed.

  • 18 Burl Burlingame // Mar 24, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    It also works the other way. It’s equally expensive to ship from Hawaii to the Mainland. With the world going to an online boutique economy for small, creative businesses, this puts Hawaii (and Alaska and PR) on an uneven playing field. Local businesses simply can’t compete. Even a tax-payer supported business like the University of Hawaii Press has its warehouses on the Mainland, and there’s some more Hawaii jobs gone.
    Every time I see a politician, I give them my one-step plan to improving Hawaii’s economy — don’t let FedEx and UPS get away with it. They originally justified the higher rates by saying Hawaii was an end destination, but that is no longer true. And Congress determines air routes and manages interstate commerce. I’d rather see the shipping companies’ rates go up 1 or 2 percent for the entire country if it would help make Hawaii a viable manufacturing, shipping and receiving economy.

  • 19 Larry // Mar 25, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Ummm… last I noticed, Hawaii is ‘way off in middle of the Pacific Ocean. That’s why shipping is more than from, say, New York to Ohio.

    One day the USPS might catch up to this, then we’re in worse trouble.

    Hawaii needs to come to terms with reality. Business keeps chasing pipe dreams of leadership. If we had some guano, we would be in a position of leadership, at least until it’s all mined. Short of that, islands in middle of the Pacific have trouble succeeding. We’re lucky our tourism business is strong and that the military needs local services. Or where would be be?

    While we wish shipping were cheaper, it just isn’t. Not that we shouldn’t fight to keep it as reasonable as possible, of course, I’m just saying that there is a reality that can’t be denied.

  • 20 johnp // Mar 25, 2011 at 10:43 am

    I think APOs get treated better than Hawaii and often times they are in foreign countries.

  • 21 Mahina // Mar 25, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Burl, Larr, I hope this comment doesn’t come too late for you to read. We can ship UPS ground from Hawaii to the continent.

    It’s much more affordable than 2nd day, and time in transit is reasonable.

    That service began a few years ago, though I don’t recall it being publicized.

  • 22 Larry // Mar 25, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Mahina, I’ve been told (some time ago, it’s true) by UPS that I cannot ship by ground since there is no ground service from Hawaii. On the other hand, when HP has sent me a label to return a bad computer part, it has been a “ground” label and it was picked up. That’s all I know.

    For amusement, here is a tracking report of a package shipped from Arizona on March 10 via USPS that I’m still waiting for. Look where it’s been so far (read from the bottom up):

    Processed through Sort Facility, March 24, 2011, 5:20 am, RICHMOND, CA 94804
    Processed through Sort Facility, March 17, 2011, 11:51 am, SPRINGFIELD, MA 01152
    Processed through Sort Facility, March 12, 2011, 5:50 am, BELL GARDENS, CA 90201
    Acceptance, March 10, 2011, 11:26 am, TUCSON, AZ 85713

    Yup, from Arizona to California to Massacheusetts back to California… so far. It could be on the dock waiting for the boat to fill up before it sails to Hawaii. That’s the way mail used to work from India, according to someone in All India Radio replying to why my program schedule arrived 2-3 months late in Tokyo.

  • 23 Tim // Mar 25, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    I have purchased many items online delivered through UPS ground shipping. there is no argument on this point. Thank you, Marina, for focusing on fact.

  • 24 Mahina // Mar 25, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Aloha Larry,

    It was true before that we couldn’t ship ground UPS, but no more. As it was explained to me by a UPS rep, they have lots of empty space going back to the continent in planes that come here full of consumer goods. They are giving us a break because it’s cheaper than sending the planes back empty. Still if nobody knows about it, I don’t know how much it will help with that problem.

    I ship out via ground track regularly with UPS from Oahu.

    Interesting about the tracking, holy cow.

  • 25 zzzzzz // Mar 26, 2011 at 12:46 am

    Yes, last week I bought some stuff online (local stores didn’t have the size I needed) that was shipped UPS ground (free shipping!!). I placed the order Monday morning, and received my shipment Friday evening.

    I like that UPS makes residential deliveries in the early evenings–I’ve received a lot of stuff around 6:30 or 7, when I’m home and not at work.

  • 26 BigBraddah // Mar 26, 2011 at 8:41 am

    ” there are the outlets that will ONLY ship by UPS or FedEx and will not ship by Priority Mail at a quarter of the cost. Makes no sense at all.”
    Yes. it does.
    If the business does NOT do daily or even weekly trips to the post office, if their streamlined format is UPS or fedups only, they will not deviate. Cuts into profit margin.

  • 27 Chan // Mar 26, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Amazon has those private sellers and some of them refuse to ship to Hawaii or Alaska. Ebay is the same, auctions are rampent with “lower 48 states only”. Or people that charge extra for shipping and handling to send things to Hawaii. USPS flat rate boxes are the same for hawaii, there shouldn’t be increased shipping.

  • 28 Badvertiser // Mar 26, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    It’s no farther from the west coast to here than it is from the west to the east coast.

  • 29 Dave Duren // Jul 24, 2011 at 4:16 am

    Puerto Rico is part of the USPS and is much closer to the mainland than Hawaii or Alaska. PR consumer demographics are better than several states. I, and many freinds , spend$1000’s a year on “hassle free”internet purchases from a multitude of providers. I can´t even get Amazon or some Ebay suppliers to send me a CD by mail. Also, some think Priority Mail flat rates are a price list,Duhh! Yet some of the products they sell are “supported by customer servivc in India or the Phillipines”DD

  • 30 J. // Jan 9, 2012 at 2:45 am

    I’m a third party seller on Amazon, and we DO NOT SET THE SHIPPING PRICES!!! Amazon does!

  • 31 Bruce // Aug 9, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    EXACTLY ! But these businesses just don’t get it!

  • 32 Bruce // Aug 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    What really frustrated me is there is no relation to size or weight regarding what amazon will ship to Hawaii.

  • 33 bob wilson // Oct 13, 2012 at 11:36 am

    You complained about a $5 shipping charge on goggles? I’m sorry, buy you are in fact mean-spirited and owe the vendor an apology. Bad reviews can really hurt a business, and that’s just you being a complete and total tight wad. When was the last time you sent something to a friend, that wasn’t a simple letter, that cost less than $5?

  • 34 IE // May 22, 2013 at 3:00 am

    This comment made me smirk. I’ve had a few sellers (on eBay, for instance) say the exact same thing. Which made me realize that yep, I shouldn’t do business with these people.

  • 35 IE // May 22, 2013 at 3:02 am

    Do you have any idea why companies would not ship via USPS? That doesn’t make sense to me too.

  • 36 Judy Syrop // Dec 20, 2013 at 8:19 am

    That is exactly what I tell companies that tell me “Sorry we don’t ship to Hawaii.” I am sure they ship from NY to Ca! It costs the same for mail east to West coast so why not give us a little consideration!

  • 37 Glenn // Feb 13, 2014 at 1:35 am

    Amazon should be restricted from ANY sales in Hawaii unless they lift the restriction on shipping to Hawaii. Who are they kidding, WE PAY the shipping, they have the right to limit PRIME, but no MY ability to pay for shipping I want. I place an order and they say , NOT to your address. This sucks. Should be illegal and maybe it is restraint of trade between states.

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