In an earlier post in this thread I had indicated that I thought I had found a good place to buy San Marzano tomatoes--Venda Ravioli in Providence, R.I. I came to this conclusion mainly because I thought the base prices were among the lowest around. I subsequently also saw that their shipping charges were relatively low because they were based on the dollar amount of the purchase rather than on actual weight. It also appeared that discounts would be offered based on volume purchases.
Because of the above reasons, I recently decided to place an order for some San Marzanos from Venda. When I didn't see several of the brands that were on their Website the last time I looked, particularly some of the DOP-designated San Marzanos (like the Vantia DOPs), I called Venda and spoke with their Internet specialist. I was told that San Marzanos are increasingly difficult to find, especially at decent price points, and, for that reason, Venda has been reluctant to promote particular brands only to be forced to remove them from the Website when the prices went up more than Venda was willing to pay.
I also discovered that while their basic prices still remain low compared with others, Venda is not now offering volume discounts and, moreover, they are changing their shipping charges so that shipping is now based on actual weight. When I threatened to cancel my "order" for a mixed case of LaRegina and Famoso DOPs (they are not now offering the Vantia DOPs), Venda relented and offered to forego some of the shipping charges in order to keep me as a customer. I accepted this arrangement and ordered six cans of the LaRegina DOPs and six cans of the Famoso DOPs. The price for the LaReginas was $3.09 a can (up from their previous price but still lower than the $4.50 I had paid before from another source) and the Famoso's were $2.09 a can, a good price for the DOPs. Were it not for the concession on shipping, I would not have placed the order, even though I think the LaRegina's, especially, are one of the best San Marzanos around. I received the shipment today, as had been promised.
Based on my experience with Venda, my best advice to those who are looking for San Marzanos from any online or mail order source is to call the source and ask which products are available and at what price per unit. As indicated above, not all products actually offered are listed on vendors' Websites (another good example of this is PennMac). And ask about shipping charges and possible discounts. Some places also have minimums or special charges (that may be hidden until checkout) that you should be aware of. For heavy products, like canned tomatoes and flour, shipping charges based on the value of the order are likely to be better than charges based on weight (as everyone who has ever ordered KA Sir Lancelot flour already knows).