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Shopping for shipping

Name bar I long ago gave up the frenzied ritual of Black Friday shopping. I figured the really good deals, like the $3 appliances Target will offer this year will be in short supply and there is nothing I need so badly that I should deprive myself of sleep to get it. Or risk being trampled.

And it's hard to tell whether I'm really getting a deal. A recent check by ShopSmart (a mag by the same people who produce Consumer Reports) found that some sales are anything but. For example, they found that a coffeemaker was marked on sale at Kohl’s and at Kohls.com for $61.99, a discount from the retailer’s posted $69.99 regular price, but the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for that model was only $59.99. They list other findings in the edition that came out this week.Online shopping

I also hate paying for shipping if I shop for gifts -- or necessities -- online. I'm annoyed that I have to spend a minimum amount for items to ship for free. I know this isn't a fair rant. It costs the companies money to ship things. (Although it costs me money to go to the store and buy them, in the form of gas and time.) But some of their shipping fees don't make sense. I recently ordered three items from Amazon. All qualified for free "super saver" shipping. A fourth item didn't. To ship that single item, the fee was going to be more than $7. I deleted the item from my list.

This year, perhaps because we're all still a little hesitant to shop as much as we used to, the discounts I've seen for the shopping season apply to shipping, too, but you'll still have to be cautious. Not all of the deals are straightforward or easy to understand.

Walmart is offering free shipping on 60,000 items through Dec. 20, no minimum purchase required. There's a link to the eligible items on their home page. Everything from personalized jewelry to massive TVs qualify for free delivery. Other companies, including Banana Republic and Bath & Body Works, are offering free or cheaper shipping for orders that are a minimum of $50 and $25, respectively. (Bath & Body Works' deal ends today and you have to enter the word SHIPHOLIDAY at checkout. They don't mention this on the site that I could find quickly.) Some of the offers are a tad complex for my taste. CVS offers free shipping on orders over $49, on eligible items, as long as they don't weigh too much.  

Consumer Reports points out that some companies will ship items for free if you're willing to pick the item up at the store. This is a decent compromise if the store is close enough to you that you don't spend more retrieving it than you would in shipping. And the item is ready and waiting for you -- you don't have to hunt for it and get tempted to buy crud you hadn't planned on.

Another option is waiting to buy until Free Shipping Day. When you buy from participating stores on Dec. 17, they will ship the items at no charge. You can see which stores are involved now, but if there are any caveats, they won't be revealed until that day. At FreeShipping.org, there's a list of codes (like the one Bath & Body Works offered for the $1 shipping) for discounts and deals on shipping that you can enter when you're checking out.

There's one other way to deal with all of this: Give yourself the gift of not giving. My parents, for example, need and want for little. I give them the gift of my presence (ha!) and like to cook a meal or two, tackle the thicket of things I've left at home (still) or treat them to a movie. And for me, no mall excursions or shipping ordeals are necessary. A few laughs over a homemade meal, and a few days free of any critique of my life, would be the best present.

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 01:50 PM on November 12, 2010 in Shopping | Permalink | Facebook | Digg | del.icio.us | AIM


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