Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Splitting Book Orders to Get Free Shipping

This is a guest post by my wife who is going back to school and trying to save money on her textbooks.

Hoping to avoid long line ups at the campus bookstore and hoping to save some money, I did some comparison shopping on both amazon.ca and chapters.ca. I was happy to find a savings of 12.5% compared to the campus store. The textbook prices at both online book sellers were identical before applying Chapter's iRewards savings and since I don't have an iRewards card anymore and since the savings were only half of the cost of a new card, I decided to order my 5 books from Amazon.

All five of the books individually qualified for "Super Saver Shipping" (over $39 of merchandise) so my money wasn’t going to be eaten up by Canada Post. Three of the books were in stock and the other 2 would be shipped in 1-2 weeks. I still had time before classes started so there was time to complete the order.

The first option Amazon presented me with was to choose a shipping speed: FREE Super Saver Shipping: (averages 2-3 business days) or Express (averages 2 business days for $13.70) or Priority (averages 1 business day for $20.94). I decided to go with FREE. I like FREE.

The second option was to A: group the books and ship them all together or B: ship the books as they became available. If I selected B, it would cost me extra to ship the two books that weren't in stock.

What happened to the free shipping that was advertised for each of the books?

What Amazon was encouraging me to do was split up my one order for 5 books into 3 separate orders: one for the three books which were in stock and one for each of the 2 books which had a 1-2 week delivery time. Then the shipping would be free for all the books.

Not willing to risk getting the books late for classes, I changed my Amazon order to include only the 3 in-stock books (they arrived 2 days later) and ordered the other 2 books from Chapters. One of those books arrived 3 days later and the other will be shipped, without extra charge, when it is available.

In the end I saved over $70 by buying online instead of on campus, but perhaps my first lesson of the new school year is to make sure that FREE shipping means FREE, not FREE plus an extra charge.


  1. I've had pretty good luck with Amazon splitting up orders even when I elected to "ship when available" to keep the shipping free. But with textbooks I can understand you don't want to mess around with one out of stock book holding up the whole batch!

    Did you look at getting used books at all?

  2. Whenever I order from amazon.ca I always choose the free shipping option and what happens is that they immediately send the books in stock and the delayed ones are sent later for free. They do this without extra charge. Also, if you collect airmiles, go to airmilesshops.ca and then click on amazon.ca from there and you can collect airmiles on the purchase. If you collect aeroplan miles, there is a corresponding e-store - aeroplan shops or something from which you can select amazon.ca and then get aeroplan miles for the purchase.

  3. Potato: I was able to get 2 of my books previously enjoyed which was nice. Three of the courses came with codes needed to access an online site which is used in conjunction with the in class presentations. I could have still bought this separately if I had been able to find used books for those classes but I suspect the cost might have eaten most of my savings in getting the books used.

    Anonymous: What you describe is what my experience with Chapters has always been. The Amazon site said that they would charge me extra if they had to ship multiple times. Perhaps given that each of the books did qualify for free shipping, their software would have gotten it right when it actually came time to send the books out. I wasn't willing to take that chance.

  4. You can't fool me, there is no way your wife wrote that posting!

  5. Big Cajun Man: I wasn't sure she would write it either, but she did a nice job.

  6. I get annoyed at Amazon for this, too. Last Christmas I ordered a bunch of items, and one was not in stock (I hadn't noticed...I'm pretty convinced it was in stock when I added it to my cart). That threw out the guaranteed delivery by Christmas, which added a ton of stress. This year, more careful.

    I believe that they only charge additional money for splitting the order if an individual package is worth less than $39, but it's not entirely clear from the website.

    Anyway - not exactly a savings tip, but this year's textbooks netted me a good chunk of air miles by buying via amazon using airmilesshops. Since I like to go places, I've found using offers like that to be a frugal way to get around the country.