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Posted at 9:08 AM ET, 12/17/2010

Online shopping deadlines near, Free Shipping Day arrives

By Rob Pegoraro

You don't need to panic yet if you haven't finished -- or started -- online shopping for any holiday presents. But you should have "Panic now!" on your calendar in the next day or two.

At Amazon, the nation's largest online retailer, Sunday the 19th is your last day to order and get free "super saver shipping" with delivery promised by the 25th.


The Seattle retailer pushed back that deadline only yesterday. Normally, it only estimates delivery under its free-shipping option -- for orders over $25 -- within five to eight business days.

(My own experience suggests that's always been a conservative estimate. Most recently, when I ordered some printer ink cartridges on Dec. 6, they arrived on the 10th.)

Other retailers allow chronic procrastinators even more time. At the Apple Store, you have until the 20th to get free shipping by Christmas in most categories -- but in a few, such as custom-order Mac Mini and Mac Pro desktop computers, the clock ran out yesterday. Other built-to-order Macs must be ordered today.

At Best Buy, your order turns into a pumpkin, as far as standard shipping goes, after 11 a.m. Eastern on Tuesday the 21st.

But's free shipping expired on Wednesday in many cases. So did Newegg's discounted UPS ground shipping.

If you've bought a gift locally and need to get it in the mail, the Postal Service lists Monday as your last day to send it by first-class mail, Tuesday if you use Priority Mail. But if that present is going to a soldier overseas, you have until tomorrow to ship it at best -- and that's only if you ante up for express delivery.

There's another reason to get your online purchases over with today: 1,721 merchants list an offer of free shipping with delivery by Christmas on the Free Shipping Day site, more than double the 735 stores that participated in this campaign last year. The FSD site also offers a useful list of the deadlines of dozens of merchants, although it has yet to be updated to reflect Amazon's extension.

What's your online shipping experience been this year? Any retailers you now avoid because they didn't meet their pledges? How close do you plan to cut things? (Please, no snarky -- if earned -- comments from my editors about my deadline habits.)

Still not sure what to get? My last Web chat of the year runs from noon to 1 today, and I welcome your questions then.

(Revised at 9:36 a.m. with a link to our holiday gift guide)

By Rob Pegoraro  | December 17, 2010; 9:08 AM ET
Categories:  Shopping, Tips  
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I just placed an order with eBags - free shipping and guaranteed delivery by 12/24. We'll see...

Posted by: kbockl | December 17, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

My online Christmas shopping experiences have been great, amazingly fast, with sometimes free, delivery. However, I’m livid about my experience at UPS yesterday, 12/16, when I went to send 3 packages from Alexandria, VA. I received heavy pressure to upgrade to expedited shipping, told that there was only a slight chance for delivery by Christmas to LA and IL and “no chance” for delivery to CA. I resisted and bought basic, ground shipping. Later, confirmation emails from UPS told me that the IL package was expected to be delivered on 12/20, the LA package on 12/21, and the CA package on 12/23. What’s going on? Are UPS employees getting bonuses for selling upgraded shipping. Sweetheart deals being made with commercial shippers and while individuals get soaked?

Posted by: paulas1 | December 17, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Paulas1, it's not as insidious as you make it seem. What they're doing is the same as any retail store. They're upselling you because it costs more to ship expedited, and it makes them more money. It's like if you go to Best Buy and they push the extended warranty on you. They tell you horror stories about tvs/computers going on the fritz and how the extended warranty/protection plan will help cover damages, etc.

Posted by: rainbowflavoured | December 17, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes it depends on how near you are to a merchant's fulfillment center. If you order from and you live in California, your order will come from their center in Fernly, Nevada.

Because it's coming from a neighboring state, "Super Saver" free shipping is just a couple of days in transit. During the slow summer season, I can get Super Saver shipments the next day. It's certainly nothing like using UPS Ground going from Seattle to Miami (a week or more).

And of course, no sales tax either. Wink, wink. I think the choice of a Nevada warehouse for California customers is not an accidental decision.

Posted by: coakl | December 18, 2010 12:00 AM | Report abuse

Beware of any shipping offer from Amazon. If you do not read all of the shipping disclosures, you will be enrolled in a trial membership to Amazon Prime, a reduced-rate shipping program designed for frequent purchasers. Three months after you've been surreptitiously enrolled in the program, a $79 annual fee will be charged to the credit card you used for your Amazon purchase. Thus, if you do not pay close attention to your credit card bills, your $50 last-minute Christmas gift will be transformed into a $129 gift.

Amazon has been perpetrating this theft for five years now. Anyone who thinks Jeff Bezos should be in the cell right next to Bernie Madoff's for this scam, say "Aye".

Posted by: exco | December 18, 2010 1:10 AM | Report abuse

Exco - All anyone has to do when ordering from Amazon is READ the very last page before clicking the complete purchase button. Amazon gives plenty of chances to try different shipping options - you get to see what the prices are & estimated delivery dates. On the right hand side you see exactly what your total is, along with what you are being charged (if anything) for shipping.

Two or three years ago I was offered a free trial of Amazon Prime - during the holiday shopping period! Absolutely I snapped that up. At the end of the period, Amazon did charge my card on file - yes, I had a note on my calendar to cancel, but didn't call when I was supposed to. When I finally got around to it a week or 2 later, probably when the $79 charge appeared the statement, Amazon gave me a full refund. Why? Because I hadn't ordered anything since my free period was up. If I HAD used it, I remember customer service telling me the refund would have been pro-rated.

Bottom line - when it's on the screen in front of us, it's our responsibility to read it.

Coakl - For on-line shopping, sales taxes are collected based on where the items are shipped TO. It has nothing to do with where the distribution center is located. I live in Delaware - we have no sales tax. At all. Well, except on cars. But if I buy gifts & have them shipped directly to recipients in other states, then I'd have to pay that state's sales tax.

Posted by: PorthosAD | December 19, 2010 1:10 AM | Report abuse

PorthosAD wrote:
"Bottom line - when it's on the screen in front of us, it's our responsibility to read it."

Correct! As an owner of an online retail business, it seem not like not matter what we do to get people to read important info before they order (shown in bold read text), some people are still act surprised when something does go the way they thought. All they had to do was read.

PorthosAD wrote:
"Coakl - For on-line shopping, sales taxes are collected based on where the items are shipped TO. It has nothing to do with where the distribution center is located. I live in Delaware - we have no sales tax. At all. Well, except on cars. But if I buy gifts & have them shipped directly to recipients in other states, then I'd have to pay that state's sales tax."

It depends upon whether the merchant has a physical presence in the state the order is being shipped to. My guess is you are using a large retail merchant that also has store fronts around the country.

Posted by: ahashburn | December 19, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse


I tried it, and it still tried to charge me for the shipping, even though it was on qualified items.

So, I cancelled my order.


Posted by: thomasmc1957 | December 20, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

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