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December 13, 2010

Fry’s (Not So) Free Shipping

Filed under: Computers,Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:58 am

One of the biggest attractions online sellers can offer is free shipping. And that’s what Fry’s does for some items.

MrConsumer recently purchased Norton Internet Security (plus Norton Utilities and Norton Ghost) for about $75 from because a full price rebate was offered, as well as free shipping (instead of the usual $6.98). In the same order, he added on another software program that was also $75, but it was not labeled as coming with free shipping.

Sure enough, their computerized ordering system charged $6.98 for shipping the order, despite the fact that Norton was supposed to be shipped free. How can the company get away with this?

*MOUSE PRINT: If one clicks the “free shipping” logo, there is this disclaimer:

1. If your order contains “eligible” and “non-eligible” items, shipping will be charged for “non-eligible” item(s).

The policy is understandable if the non-free shipping item is sent separately or adds weight to the box that contains the free shipping item causing the company to pay more for postage. But that was not the case here. As you can see from the picture above, Norton is a rather large product and it came shipped in a carton roughly 12″ by 12″ by 12″. In the same carton, was the other software — a box that weighed a mere three ounces.

The carton with just Norton weighed 21 ounces and with the added software box, it weighed 24 ounces. That additional three ounces did not push the shipping cost into a higher bracket, according to FEDEX’s shipping chart. So, Fry’s charged $6.98 for shipping a carton that otherwise would have shipped free, and which cost them no more to send because of the added three ounce software box.

Customer service was unsympathetic, and only after speaking to a supervisor did the company agree to refund half the shipping cost.

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  1. Is shipping a flat rate of 6.98 regardless of weight? If so, I’m not seeing the problem here.

    Edgar replies: I believe either each item has separate shipping costs, or all non-free items are grouped together in some way.

    Comment by Peter — December 13, 2010 @ 7:18 am
  2. Omaha Steaks just tried to do the same thing to me. Discontinued the order and opted out of their email list. They’ve lost a 4-times a year customer.

    Comment by Bob — December 13, 2010 @ 7:51 am
  3. Edg, have to disagree with you on this one. E-commerce companies’ shipping charges rarely equate to actual costs to ship. Shipping charges by merchants are usually used as an supplement to profit. Fry’s, and the many other retailers that operate in this same manner make it pretty clear what items they ship “free” and which they don’t. You were aware that the Norton shipping was free, and also aware that the shipping on the other item was not. There was nothing hidden. You could’ve, presumably, ordered unlimited “free shipping” items and wouldn’nt have been charged shipping. They didn’t tack on any additional shipping charges for the Norton. Likewise, if you ordered 100 “Free shipping” items, that would’ve added weight to the box, I doubt they would’ve charged you more than the $6.95 you paid for shipping on the one item. No trickery here, you just didn’t read the rules

    Comment by Dave — December 13, 2010 @ 9:55 am
  4. I do sympathize with Edgar because I’ve had the same thing happen to me, and it’s definitely wrong when a company does that. But I feel all Edgar’s shipping calculations and shipping logic are moot because I’m convinced that “shipping and handling” fees are big money makers. As he said, free shipping is an exception in order to make an item more attractive. Ebay’s a great example of sellers disguising the true price of an item by cranking up “shipping and handling” fees. So I’m sure most companies’ systems are set up to maximize on these charges. Even Amazon’s a good example, too; have you ever taken advantage of their free “Supersaver” shipping, only to be greeted by pop-ups trying to sell you expensive shipping options (avoid going for it, however, as I generally receive my stuff in 2-3 days with Amazon’s Supersaver)? Or how about when you order something, and the shipping options list comes up; have you noticed that the cheapest or free shipping option never has the default check mark in front it?

    Comment by Dan Kap, Whittier, CA — December 13, 2010 @ 10:13 am
  5. I have a big problem with “free unless ” deals. Retailers should inject more common sense into their promotions. Regardless of the hidden or not-so-hidden rules, I think it was a fair point that the additional three ounces wouldn’t have cost Fry’s any more to ship. I don’t think it makes sense to assume that they had to tack on the shipping charge or lose profit. Where exactly would the lost profit be? Certainly not in the shipping, and that’s the whole point!

    Comment by Shawn — December 13, 2010 @ 10:28 am
  6. If you had opted to have the items sent in separate shipments, or purchased them using separate orders, your shipping would have been exactly the same. All Fry’s saved was a box, a label, and the handling thereof. I don’t see the foul on this one.

    Comment by PC — December 13, 2010 @ 12:53 pm
  7. The item was probably priced a little higher so as to cover the price of the shipping. If no free shipping had been offered, then the item price might have been lower. You see the shipping cost before you place the order, so don’t place the order (I probably would have just ordered that one item that came with the free shipping and removed the other item from the cart).

    Comment by Arnold Semmons — December 13, 2010 @ 3:33 pm
  8. Look how many items are offered “We’ll double your order of XXX item, just pay separate shipping and handling of $Y.

    Makes you wonder what the item is truly worth…

    Comment by Bob — December 14, 2010 @ 12:42 am
  9. One thing is certain. Whenever some offer is there, it is always mandatory to read everything printed in that connection and this includes the fine print as well.

    In this context, the information, //1. If your order contains “eligible” and “non-eligible” items, shipping will be charged for “non-eligible” item(s)// is very clear and does not lead to any ambiguity.

    I hope that you are not the Mr. Consumer in this case.

    Dondu N. Raghavan

    Comment by Dondu N. Raghavan — December 14, 2010 @ 11:56 pm
  10. @Dave and Dondu: I have to agree with you two. There is nothing sneaky with this. The other product specifically said that it didn’t have Free Shipping.

    @Dan: I do not charge more than it actually cost for me to ship stuff through Ebay. I currently do the Flat Rate Shipping through USPS to send my Ebay items because it is easier than to figure out shipping to specific zip codes. I know many more people that do the same thing with their shipping.

    Comment by Melissa — December 19, 2010 @ 10:31 am
  11. Did anyone get this rebate? Mine was denied because I only had one UPC serial number, and there were two rebates. I have to call them.

    Comment by Marv — December 19, 2010 @ 5:09 pm
  12. Soooo, you tried to get Free Shipping on an item that was clearly marked as ineligible for Free Shipping, and you’re upset? Seems like there’s a scam attempt here, but not by Fry’s.

    Comment by Randall Flagg — December 20, 2010 @ 5:08 pm

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