by Joyce Kohl

Do you order from catalogs? Or TV specials? Or the Internet? If you do, then are you aware of the shipping and handling costs tacked on to every single order? I’m a catalog junkie, and I’ve been known to order things from the hyped television ads, too. Last night I was watching a great stand-up comedy program on one of our cable channels and at the end of it was a comic commercial for ordering a VCR tape of the best of comic acts. The tape was a mere $14.95. Shipping and handling was $6.50.

Yeah, right!

Shipping is more than likely under a dollar, and that leaves $5.50 for “handling.” Put another way, the cost of the tape is actually around $20.45. Hmmmm…. I’ll pop a blank tape into my VCR and record the entire act of each comic and my total cost will be under a dollar because I get my VCR tapes in super-duper bundle discounts.

Book Order Discrepancies
I’m also an avid reader and order the books I want to read from sources on the Internet. Naturally I search for the best discounted price. After last night’s enlightenment, I grabbed the last two books I ordered to check the invoice for each of them. Both books were ordered at the same time by adding each title to my shopping cart on the Internet source I selected. They, too, have a hidden cost but refer to it as “P & H” which I assume means “Postage & Handling.”

Both books were the same height and same width. Depth varied only by pages. Book has a total of 397 pages; book has a total of 309 pages. Instead of shipping the books together, the company sent each separately. Naturally the handling costs for the consumer is doubled in this way. However, I believe this particular book company has the books already packaged and ready for popping an address label on them and tossing them into their mail pickup containers. It’s probably a money-saving method for them as well as a way to fool the consumer into thinking s/he is getting a bargain when in reality the cost ends up being almost retail price.

Invoice Information On Each Book
Book : Price was $18.60 plus only $.95. Not bad at all, and nothing to complain about. Then Book arrived: Price was $17.50 plus $3.95. Remember that Book contains almost a hundred pages more than Book , yet it’s the thinner book which costs more to ship! Now I realize my bargain-priced books were not such bargains after all. I used to belong to a book club. The Member Prices were great, but the shipping and handling pushed the prices up to almost the full retail cost. It’s just as cheap to buy books from Sam’s Club, so I still don’t know why I continue to order from the Internet. Maybe it’s because it’s fun to fill out the order forms?

Shipping and Handling According to Amount Ordered
How about those dozens of catalogs we all get in the mail weekly? Most of them have these little charts on the order form from which you select the proper fee to be added to your order according to the actual amount of the articles you wish to buy. For example, in a catalog I received yesterday, if I purchase $20.00 or under, I must add shipping and handling of $3.55 to my order. If I want Express Delivery, I must add $6.99. Okay, that’s not bad. In fact it sounds reasonable.

How I Get My Money’s Worth
There’s a Tee I’d like to order for my grandchild which is only $4.99. I don’t want anything else, but being a bit thrifty (actually cheap), I don’t want to pay $3.55 to have it shipped. And I KNOW it doesn’t cost that much to mail a thin size 5 Tee. Since I can order UP TO $20, then I spent the next hour finding other items which would total up to be no more than $19.99. I’ve just done exactly what the company wanted! I’ve ordered more than I wanted to; more than I needed! I can’t count the times I’ve done this. Many, many times I’ve written down an order for maybe $49, and found the shipping and handling would be the same if I ordered $60 worth of merchandise, so of course, I search for more to order. Only a couple of times have I ordered LESS because MORE is always better. Isn’t it?

Buying Software or Hardware
About 85% of the time computer equipment and software is cheaper to buy locally. Even adding on the sales tax is a better bargain than catalog or Internet ordering. Retail stores often run “loss-leaders” or as I like to refer to them, “sucker-bait.” Most of the time I’ll race to the store to purchase the sales item because I’m actually saving anywhere from $5 to $20, but there’s nearly always something else I find which I can’t live without, so in reality, my “bargain” package ends up costing me far more than if I had ordered it by catalog or Internet shopping.

I won’t stop shopping; I won’t stop comparing; I won’t stop complaining. Whether or not I’m a wise shopper remains to be seen, but one thing for sure is that the money I “save” can be applied to new purchases. Right? Ohhhhh…. my email just popped up with a message from one of my favorite software Websites and they have a special offer if I order before May 30. I WILL think before I order, but only in terms of shipping and handling versus what’s offered in our morning paper. Now, where’s my Visa card? I know it’s on my desk because I just used it an hour ago!