We always tell laptop shoppers not to sweat those "This week only!" deals at the online stores of major PC vendors. If you miss this week's free shipping, free hard drive upgrade, or $50-off offer, there'll be an equally good set of deals offered the next week. Like the "call in the next 10 minutes" line used in infomercials, it's just way to push shoppers to make an immediate buying decision.
Still, free shipping is usually a good bonus, but sometimes you have to read the fine print. We saw this bogus deal on Consumerist.com--one of our favorite consumer advocacy sites. Gateway is currently offering free shipping on its P-172X laptop--a low-end entry in Gateway's current 17-inch series,which we generally like. However, the text of the offer actually reads: "The powerful P-172X is just $949.99, plus free shipping! $20 Handling Charge applies."
So, the shipping is free, but the handling (putting the laptop in the box, perhaps?) is extra. We peeked around the Internet to see how much shipping usually is for a laptop. Dell offers overnight delivery for about $70, but plain old 3-to-5 day shipping is--you guessed it--$20, even on a 17-inch laptop, and there's no separate handling charge. We looked up how much Gateway normally charges for shipping--and maybe $20 is a bargain after all. Ground shipping from Gateway is $60, while overnight is $136.
The moral of our story is twofold. One, don't fall for "OMG! Get it now before this deal expires!" hard sells, and always factor the shipping (and handling) costs into your purchase.