This Gift Basket’s Got Some Shadowy Service Charges
October 18th, 2016
I Googled gift baskets and spent more than an hour searching through coffee, chocolate, tea and snack baskets. Various websites offered a plethora of enticing baskets. But shipping was expensive. So this time I Googled “gift baskets cheap shipping.” One of the sites that came up was 1-800-Flowers. I went to the website and found a nice reasonably priced birthday basket of gourmet snacks my daughter would like for $49.99.
Before I could order it the site asked me what zip code it was going to. I put in the zip code and noticed that the shipping was only $4.99. Great. I clicked on it and then filled in the billing and shipping information.
However, when I scrolled through the review order page I saw that the price had jumped to $74.34. Huh? Did I do my math wrong? Let’s see. $49.99 plus $4.99 comes to $54.98. Add in some tax and the total should still not be more than $70. I scanned the page again and found the culprit. The shipping cost had inexplicably jumped from $4.99 to more than $19 (see below).
A few days later I went back to the website using a different browser to see if the same thing happened. I chose the same gift basket and typed in the same zip code for where it needed to be sent and the same amount of days in which it needed to arrive. I clicked on delivery for Oct. 19 for which the standard shipping price was listed as $4.99. But at checkout once again, the shipping priced jumped to $19.98.
This time I clicked on the question mark next to shipping costs and a dizzying array of options popped up. All sorts of shipping fees for all sorts of circumstances, the logic of which I could not decipher. (Not only that, but when I tried to scroll down further on that dizzying pop-up list of shipping prices, it would disappear, but I digress.)
But before the pricing pop up disappeared I noticed that for shipping to cost $19.99 I would have had to order an item that cost between $100 to $149.99. Also, my shipping cost came to $19.98 but the amount listed on the pop up for orders between $100-$149 is $19.99, so that couldn’t be the reason.
My next step was to call the company. A company service representative said that 1-800-Flowers has a standard shipping charge of $14.99 for anything it sends any day. That $14.99 is then added to the price of shipping listed for the particular day of deliver on the calendar that pops up when you order your item. So, in my case, the shipping math was this: $14.99 + $4.99 for the Oct. 19 delivery = $19.98.
But where on the site does it say this, I asked the representative. She said that consumers are made aware of it on the review order page where the full price of shipping is tallied. You know, that page where you suddenly realize the reasonably priced gift basket is now a small fortune.
Don’t you think you should let customers know about this $14.99 standard shipping cost that’s added automatically to every shipping option before they get to the check-out page, I asked her. She repeated what she previously said, adding that it must be somewhere on the site. I finally found it mentioned on the website’s customer service page under the question “how are shipping and service charges determined?” in its frequently asked questions section. In this section, the company calls the $14.99 a “service charge” that is added to all purchases up to $99. If you pick an item over $99 then the company charges a $17.99 service charge.
Not satisfied with having to play the search game to find out the true cost of the gift basket, I called corporate headquarters and left a message with the company’s public relations director. So far, no one has called back.
This isn’t the first flower company playing hide-and-seek with additional costs. In May we reported on a reader’s complaint about ProFlowers. Learn from us, readers.