Elite Metal Tools: ‘Free Shipping on ALL Orders’

April 8th, 2021

UPDATE 4/12/21: Elite Metal Tools has edited the above Google ad to remove the “ALL Orders” language. Our original ad alert follows.

“Free Shipping on ALL Orders,” Elite Metal Tools says emphatically in the above Google ad. But ALL orders doesn’t mean all orders. At least not for Elite Metal Tools.

After receiving a tip from a reader, TINA.org looked into the marketing of the Michigan-based company’s free shipping offer.

What we found buried in the 3,318-word terms and conditions linked at the bottom of the company’s website, which similarly advertises “Free Shipping on All Tools,” was a disclaimer that the free shipping offer doesn’t apply to residential deliveries, defined as “any shipment to a property with a house.” The relevant part of the terms state:

If there is a house on the property, the customer should specify the order as residential and will be charged an additional fee of $75.00 which is not included in Elite Metal Tools’ Free Shipping offer.

Tack on another $75 if you don’t have the means to unload the shipment from the truck yourself. The terms continue:

The majority of products shipped by Elite Metal Tools are sent via LTL (Less-Than-Truckload) and may require a forklift to unload. If the customer is unable to unload the shipment, he/she must request a liftgate and will be charged an additional fee of $75.00 which is not included in Elite Metal Tools’ Free shipping offer.

To recap, it’s possible to pay $150 for “free” shipping if you’re having the shipment delivered to your house and you have no way of unloading it.

Company responds

In response to an inquiry by TINA.org, Matthew Kuyvenhoven, marketing coordinator at Elite Metal Tools, said in a phone interview that the company specializes in industrial machinery and the vast majority of shipments are commercial deliveries to businesses that qualify for the free shipping offer. Only around 10 percent of shipments go to “non-commercial locations,” he said.

“We’re trying to be more transparent with companies,” he said, referring to commercial customers.

But where does that leave residential customers, who don’t qualify for free shipping?

Kuyvenhoven said it wasn’t the company’s intention to mislead any of its customers and that he would be “happy” to edit the Google ad to remove the “ALL Orders” language. He also pledged to be “more careful in the wording of our advertising” in the future.

Marketers who use terms that appeal to consumers such as “free shipping” would be wise to listen to the words of the FTC: “What the headline giveth, the fine print cannot taketh away.”

Find more of our coverage on the fine print here.

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