Great thread...I feel that if you are willing to buy an animal from an individual and you are happy with their terms of sale, then it shouldn't be a problem. Jeff, you had mentioned at the beginning that not many businesses subsidize shipping. Too a certain degree this is true, but anyone in business who receives inventory, of any form, will likely take a percentage of the cost of shipping and it will be added into the final asking price of a product. So under these circumstances, the consumer is subsidizing the shipping., whether they know it or not. In a retail situation, it is expected that the customer will come to your store to purchase your goods. You have already determined a landed cost of goods and applied the appropriate markups to maintain a proper gross profit. Either they accept your pricing policies or they don't. But if someone wants a product shipped to them then that is an added cost and the purchaser normally picks up the tab.
Personally, I have no problem about box charges or incurred costs to pick up an animal, if it means that I am getting what I want in a timely fashion, and from someone I can trust to do business with. I would have already read the TOS, agreed to it, and accepted the charges.
Should a breeder charge, these box charges? Everyone has the right to conduct business as they see fit. I believe most people who keep any form of pet, realize that overhead is involved to bring an animal or product to the market or to safely ship to the destination.
Of course the goal is to reduce your cost of goods, so that the profit margin can been raised. That comes down to doing business, ethically and efficieintly. Should it be considered a standard to either charge or not charge a box fee? I don't think this could be done effectively. Too many variables.
The way I see it, what do the offspring REALLY cost? Before you feed them..when you think about it..they really don't cost you anything!! The parents were bought and paid for, and from there you anticipate on getting back a return in the first one of two clutches to cover the initial cost of the parents. So the initial investment really is still there, less the food required to get the parents to breeding age. Add to that the incurred equipment costs to hatch and raise the offspring to market size. Once those first one or two clutches hatch out and are sold, you still have the parents, and the equipment. So what are you out of pocket? The hydro and food, both are items that are expected in this hobby anyhow.
In many cases, these expenses are easily offset in the final asking price of the animal. Not many products give back as good of a return as reptiles.
In the big picture, I think subsidized costs (ie. box charges, show charges, incurred gas and transportation charges) really depends on the value of the animal(s) being brought to the market or the size of the deal. Agreed with Ryan, in his situation, there would be no sense in selling a corn snake for 60 bucks only to have to spend 60 to get to the airport.
There is nothing wrong with fair market value but if a good deal comes along..hey I won't pass that up either..