Consumer News

Avoid sky-high shipping fees

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

If you're shopping online for holiday gifts, you're certainly not alone: consider Americans spent more than 27 billion dollars online last holiday season. It's convenient, but there are drawbacks. Consumer Reports tackles a big onethose hefty shipping charges that can really inflate your bill.

There are sites that offer free or low-cost shipping, so check for those before you start shopping. Some like offer free shipping both ways, even if you decide to return an item.

Another site that's worth trying is You type in the name of a store, then you can see whether there are coupon codes you can use at the store's website to save on shipping.

And some websites will ship for freebut not to your house. lets you shop at its sitethen offers free shipping to a Walmart store where you can pick up your purchase. Borders and Best Buy do it too.

And if there's a must-have infomercial product on your list, beware of the shipping costs. In its infomercial, the Awesome Auger says it's yours for only 19.99 plus shipping and processing. Those shipping feeslisted as "separate P and H"are tacked on to each item in the offer, including the "bonus" drill.

In the end, they boosted the bill to more than $56. That's more than double the cost of the original $19.99 product.

Consumer Reports Money Adviser also recommends shopping early to avoid sending last-minute gifts to family and friends when shipping costs are at their peak.

Excessive shipping charges are the main reason shoppers don't finish checking out online, according to the Direct Marketing Association. If you think you've been charged shipping fees that are too high or misleading, Consumer Reports says report it to your local consumer protection office.

Consumer Reports has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor appearing on this Web site.

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