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When doesn’t free shipping mean free handling?  As confusing as this sounds, many retailers are offering free shipping promotions, as I’ve learned, this holiday season. Recently, I received a web promotion offering free shipping at Eddie Bauer. I was at the checkout section when I learned that the retailer was going to tack on a $3 handling fee. I thought, “Wait, isn’t handling part of shipping? When isn’t it?”


Unfortunately, this is only one of the tricks retailers are using this season to make you think you have gotten something for free, when in reality, the charge has been added somewhere else.


Even if the web’s fine print tells you about these “extra” handling charges, separating out shipping from handling is something that we don’t usually consider.  When was the last time you were charged for handling separately from shipping, but told you were getting “free shipping?”


Customer service departments don’t like to receive these kinds of calls questioning these trivial charges. But how else will retailers know that this is not a common charge for a “freebie?” In my case, I was not given an answer as to why I was being charged the $3. . . something about paying taxes on this order, but I explained that I had already paid the taxes.  If your retailer of choice won’t hear your complaint, consider calling the Attorney General’s office for your state. In these trying times, retailers don’t want to lose you, but don’t be fooled by the jargon.

Jennifer Litwin