Detroit Free Press Susan Tompor column

Detroit Free Press (MI) |

--Cyber Monday expanded into a string of Cyber Week deals. So, this week, we can expect that Free Shipping Day will stretch out into an entire week of shipping deals and deadlines.

We're now looking at a workweek that begins and ends with made-up online shopping days. Some of these holidays are so made up that everyday shoppers don't even know they exist. For example:

* Green Monday: It's typically the second Monday in December and is viewed as one of the biggest online shopping days of the year, behind Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It is another day for online holiday deals.

* Free Shipping Day: It's every -- which is Friday this year. On this day, thousands of online retailers promise free shipping with guaranteed delivery by .

But glitches relating to shipping in past holidays -- and the crush of online shopping this holiday season -- have some speculating it's a good idea to order your holiday gifts sometime before Free Shipping Day on Friday, so goods arrive before Christmas.

Retailers say they're confident we won't see trouble ahead, if shoppers meet the outlined deadlines.

"We always work very closely with our delivery partners and are confident in their ability to deliver for Amazon customers this holiday," said Amazon spokeswoman Katie McFadzean.

Wednesday is the last day, for example, for free shipping for non-Prime members if you order $35 or more on eligible items at Amazon.com and want the item to arrive by . This applies to items that would be shipped to a location in the contiguous U.S. Ordering deadlines may vary by item. For Prime members, two-day shipping is always free, and the holiday cut off is .

Amazon, of course, has other holiday deadlines that could apply, too. Order on , and there's a one-day shipping rate that starts at $2.99 per item with Amazon Prime.

Order on , and you might find two-hour free shipping if you're an Amazon Prime member. One-hour and two-hour delivery is available via Prime Now in some major markets -- not Detroit. Amazon said it has added more than 4,000 items to Prime Now; the one- and two-hour delivery service via a free smartphone app. One-hour delivery is available for $7.99, and two-hour delivery is free. Amazon Prime is an annual membership that costs $99.



Brent Shelton, an online shopping expert at FatWallet.com, said he expected heavy discounting at online retailersMonday. Some deals were expected to be as good or even better than Cyber Monday sales, he said. And if all those people are going to be shopping, well, the concern is there could be a crunch relating to shipping, especially if you wait too long into the season to order your gifts.

Shelton expects deals on some of this year's hottest gifts including Star Wars collectibles, Xbox One and PS4 video game bundles, the Apple Watch and Disney Frozen dolls and items, as well as the Disney Infinity video game items.

Shipping windows, of course, vary by retailer, so be sure to review the promises when you buy something online. Some standard shipping takes anywhere from three to six business days. Some retailers might suggest that Thursday is their last day for standard free shipping for the holidays.

No doubt, some retailers have plenty of deals that extend beyond Friday. So no, you don't necessarily have to do all your holiday shopping a full week before Christmas. More retailers also allow shoppers to order online and then pick up their items at the store, so that could be a last-minute option, too.

For example, the deadline at Macys.com is to get delivery via standard shipping in the continental U.S. by Christmas. Shipping is free with purchases of $99 or more. But Macys.com has run various other free-shipping special deals during the holidays. Shipping promotions can change day-by-day.

Some stores -- including Macy's -- are offering an option to ship items to a customer from any of the stores, as well as from online fulfillment centers. So that's an alternative option, too. If you cannot find a size small puffy black winter coat at a local store, you might be able to have one shipped from another store to your home or office.

Jim Sluzewski, senior vice president of corporate communications for Macy's in Cincinnati, said the retailer has some flexibility to make things work for customers.

"As for last year -- despite the many media reports about delays by UPS, FedEx and USPS -- we at Macy's had very few delivery issues," Sluzewski said.

One shopping tip: Watch out for any made-up holiday frenzy or panic. One of the crazy things about "free" shipping, of course, is that often you might need to buy more stuff and spend more money to get it. But in some cases, the cost of shipping actually might be cheaper than adding items into your cart, and you might spend less overall if you just pay for some shipping.

Contact Susan Tompor: stompor@freepress.com, 313-222-8876 or on Twitter @Tompor

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