The stupid lure of free shipping

You know, sometimes frugal instincts just reach logical absurdity. For example, I just spent more than half an hour and a good amount of brain power to get free shipping.

Kohl’s had some good-looking men’s microfleece PJ pants that I’ve been meaning to get all season. In fact, I was going to hit the sales on Black Friday. Then at one of the many other sales during the lead-up to Christmas.

Finally, I meant to get them the day after Christmas. Except that I felt awful from the progesterone. (It’s a bit better now, as long as I keep my blood sugar up at all times. Which means eating something every hour and a half. Sheesh.)

So I didn’t get out there until Saturday, when tumbleweeds were blowing across the shelves of discounted holiday items. Sears and Kmart weren’t any better.

I had to bite the bullet and get the suckers online. Normally, I like buying online. I get to shop through cash back sites, like Mr. Rebates. In this case, it meant 5% cash back.

The problem is that I only wanted 3 sets of pants at about $10 – 12 each. The minimum for free shipping with Kohl’s is $50.

I decided to get myself a couple of pairs of PJs, too. I haven’t been all that warm lately either — sorry, Mom, your daughter’s turned into a wimpy lower-48er — so I wouldn’t mind a little something cozy.

Which brought me to…. $49.54. Seriously. I swear Kohl’s sits around doing this evil math just to put shoppers in these positions.

I kept taking my PJs out of the cart and deciding to just pay the damn fee. But every time I tried to click “Check Out” I ended up staring at the $6.95 charge. I swear it was smirking!

I pointed out to myself that the ever-present Kohl’s 20% discount basically covered the fee. But then, my frugal brain insisted, I wouldn’t be getting the discount on the pants. And, hey, some PJs would be nice!

So I’d sigh, put the sleepwear sets back in the cart, look at the increased total and start fretting all over again.

In the end, I found a pair of earrings I like for under $5. All I had to do was ignore the fact that I don’t, in fact, need more earrings. And that earrings can often look much better on a website than in person. And that this was all patently absurd.

So instead of spending $34.83 including $6.95 for shipping, I spent $57.97 and paid no shipping charges.

You know, once upon a time teachers thought I was good at math.

Actually there were two deciding factors. First, I can return any of the items in-store if they don’t meet expectations. Second, and more importantly, I do want some PJs, and $23.14 for two pairs is a pretty good deal.

All of that said, there is no doubt in my mind that they got me. I’ll enjoy the items, and I’ll use them. But I lost this battle, even after I won free shipping.

Stupid effective marketing techniques.


Do you fall for the free shipping ploy?


  1. says

    LOL! That's a great story!

    Usually when I get free shipping, it's because the item I'm buying actually does cost enough to make it eligible. Otherwise, I either want it enough that I'm willing to pay the shipping (especially if it's less than the state tax gouge) or else I don't buy it. One thing that shipping charges do for you is to make you think twice about whether you really need whatever doodad you're about to buy! 😀

    • says

      Funny: Too true. In this case, I really did need the microfleece (the lower temperatures have been killing Tim's joints) but I was just hung up on how I could have avoided the fee if I'd been more organized.

  2. Cynthia says

    The free shipping has to save me money. If I buy the pair of socks or pantyhose or once from Amazon, a glue stick! the total has to actually come out less than if paying for shipping. That way I feel as if I got the small article for free. And I also believe the evil websites price their merchandise to be just under the free shipping amount on purpose!

  3. Anne says

    Good post. But instead of beating yourself just think of those comfy jammies you really wanted anyway. And of course you didn't need any more earrings! What has that got to do with it?

    Clean out your old earrings that you aren't wearing and donate them. Then make sure you start wearing your new ones more often.

    Win – Win

    • says

      I think I'll be a lot less grouchy about the whole incident once I'm in some warm flannel PJs. Then I'll just be grouchy that I need warm flannel PJs in Arizona!

  4. Lisa says

    Yes, I do. I must have spent 30 minutes trying to get to the exact amount necessary for free shipping at Body Shop last night. It finally came to $.25 over, and I have some Valentine's and Easter gifts now. Unless I hide them and forget where again….

    • says

      Ha, Body Shop is pretty bad about it too. Back when we had to get Tim's skin care products from them, it was always a pain. Now just be sure to leave yourself a note about the location of those gifts!

    • says

      Karen: I just try to remember that corporations pour millions of dollars into studying human psychology. Which makes me feel a little better after I completely fall for one of their tricks.

  5. Ro in San Diego says

    This post really spoke to me! I was in Kohl's today shopping for – PJ's and long underwear for my trip to Alaska in May. I was able to pick up most of the suitable warm clothes at my local thrift store's 75% off sale – but I still needed long underwear.

    I ended up ordering the items for free shipping (they didn't have the size/color combination I was after). I was able to use my 15% savings pass but there was another "in-store" coupon I couldn't use at the kiosk. I have to bring the order back to the store after it ships to get the value of my $10 coupon. You are not the only one going to great lengths for free shipping!

  6. says

    Great post!

    One solution I've found that works pretty well — only buy things on Amazon Prime! I've gotten so used to and spoiled by their free shipping that it truly is rare when I buy something online from someplace else.

  7. says

    I had this same fight with Kohls before Christmas. LOL. EXACTLY! I ended up after much trial and tribulation adding 3 picture frames and a pair of earrings for the same price I would have paid if I had to pay shipping. So in my weak little mind, I saw it as free frames. After 30+ minutes trying to work the system, I will called it a win and took an aspirin. Please don't point out any flaws in my math or I might cry. LOL

  8. oilandgarlic says

    Free shipping gets me too. Not too long ago, I bought something on Amazonand was $5 off from free shipping. Luckily I was able to find something I actually needed to buy (gift) so I didn't order something, but I admit that it took me a while to find the right priced item!

  9. says

    Online shopping is very comfortable and easy method of shopping but at times it may become a head ache. This is a classical example of the online shopping becoming a head ache. I would like to know hoe you managed to sort out the situation.

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