Online holiday shopping: How shipping fees can get you

How’s that sound for a cheesy-yet-hard-hitting expose? Regardless, look at this: I’m reading my daughter’s wish list on, and see that I can get her a copy of this “Avatar: The Last Airbender” book for as cheap as $0.01 — one cent! Sounds great. The book may be in decent shape, and the price, how can it be beat?

The answer is in the shipping price. While the one cent price of the item is listed in big red letters, below that in little grey letters it says  “+ $3.99 shipping.” Total price for that book, then, is $4.00, which includes shipping from New Jersey. (Some would surely count the shipping from Jersey as part of the cost… the carbon cost. I don’t calculate that, but I certainly am aware it’s there.)

Anyway. I’ll have to see if I can have a bunch of books shipped from the same place for a $3.99 shipping fee, or if it would be $3.99 per book. That would very quickly make a huge difference. Three $0.01 books shipped at $3.99 per book would cost me $11.97, virtually eliminating any cost savings on the book. Funkdat!

No, clearly the better thing to do would be to get something that costs far more, but has free shipping. For example, we could get a MacBook Pro with a 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 7200 rpm 320GB HD, backlit keyboard and a 15-inch Antiglare Widescreen Display for $1,849 — but pay nothing for shipping! Stacie, are you listening? This is a really good deal! And it would make a wonderful graduation present. Think about it!


Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.