To Ship or to Shop?

I encountered a first today. While ordering gifts on-line I was a surprise during checkout. Here I was prompted with a notification that on top of my shipping charge I would be asked to pay a fuel surcharge. For a moment this perpetual on-line shopper wondered, "Is the shipping worth it?"

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What I Saved

I've never been a store shopper. The crowds, the parking, the lines. "Out of stock" is rarely a phrase heard on-line. If it is, within a few minutes I'm on the next site ordering the same itemno driving, no lines. No matter what my fuel surcharge, I still saved all of this.

Another saving also offers prices. Many on-line stores offer great savings and sales that can't be found in physical stores. Always add the postage to calculate the true cost of the items. For example, my printer's ink costs $43 per cartridge in-store, but at on-line overstock or auction sites it costs as little as $28 per cartridge including shipping.

Some shipping deals are too good to pass up. Recently, I encountered a $0.97 shipping sale on select items. One large play set which weighed well over seven pounds and filled a large box arrived for less than a dollar. Even if I ordered seven of their select items, a shipping charge of $7 is still significantly less than the usual amount. Better yet is the store that offers free shipping on select orders.

With gas prices soaring over $3 a gallon in most states, one has to wonder if it's worth it to drive to the store. If store #1 doesn't have the item and I'm forced to travel to store #2, I could be burning two gallons of fuel as well as an afternoon. This costs me $6 in fuel, but would my shipping charges be more of less than that?

What I Lost

I must admit, at times I've filled shopping baskets with items and then cancelled my sale when I'm prompted to pay shipping. Some costs are outrageous, and some deals aren't what I thought they'd be. Be aware of stores that offer fabulous prices but won't calculate combined shipping. Often these stores catalog items from multiple sellers (Amazon.com new & used for example). Several paperback books can be shipped cheaply, but they can cost $9 in shipping charges this way.

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Other times I've received my products and they're not quite what I expected. The key to beating this is to learn how to read item descriptions carefully. Certain catalogs offer excellent, detailed descriptions while others do not. If you're in doubt about an item at an on-line store, surf the Internet for a catalog that offers the same item. Read the more detailed description and then purchase the item from the cheaper store. Another skill I have attained is to keep my eyes open when I am at the stores. Look, touch, and read packages. Learn key terms and style terminology. What's the difference between a slide and a mule? What weight is good sterling silver? Knowing this will help for on-line shopping.

In the End

In case you're wondering, I sided with shipping and most of my holiday gifts will arrive between Dec. 10th and 15th thanks to my United States Postal Service. The fuel surcharge? I found that this is a UPS problem, so I opted for the slightly slower shipping of the USPS which did not charge the surcharge. I'll be shopping with my cup of coffee and my slippers this year.

December 4, 20070 found this helpful

Great idea. I also did most of my holiday shopping online. You can find the best deals and a lot of site do free shipping. After how easy it was this year I will probably order all of my gifts online.

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December 4, 20070 found this helpful

I've done a lot of online Christmas shopping in the last 10 or so years, especially for my children. This year I did the bulk of their toy shopping at Wal-Mart online but then did the free site to store shipping. I sat in my housecoat, drinking coffee and letting my fingers do the walking and when the order came in my hubby stopped for it on his way home from work!

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December 4, 20070 found this helpful

Wonderful article, Kelly!

Another thing to remember about online shopping is never click the "submit order" button until you've Googled for a coupon code for that store. Also, keep in mind the percentage of sales tax your locality charges. In mine, for instance, it's 8.5%, so if the price is about the same but the shipping is less than 8.5% of the item price, then it's a decent deal. Of course, always try to buy from sellers who don't charge sales tax; tax + shipping can erase your savings fast.

Thanks for the great tips.

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