Target Refuses To Honor "Free Shipping" Promotion

Reader James saw the above “free shipping” promotion on and decided to order the entire “collection,” only to find that just one part of the “collection” qualified for “free shipping,” and he’d need to pay a $154 shipping charge.

James writes to Target:

I would like to express my displeasure at the misleading advertising around the Adams Craft Table Collection. When I go to the main page for this furniture collection it CLEARLY says the following: free shipping, Adams Craft Table Collection, 15% off furniture orders over $125, $69.99-$199.99

So this CLEARLY states that this collection has free shipping, has items priced between $69.99 and $199.99, and is eligible for 15% off. However, this free shipping apparently only applied to the $69.99 chair. I did not find this out until I had gone all the way top checkout and was hit with a $154 shipping fee.

I called and the lady I talked to said “yes, I see that is confusing but I cant do anything about it”. I am hoping you can do something about. I want this item, with the discount and the free shipping because that is what you advertised. I have very clear screen prints of that.

James has been going back and forth with Target. He keeps getting variations on the following letter:

Dear James [redacted],

First, please allow me to express my sincere apologies for any frustration that has been caused. It is certainly not our intention for our guest to have anything but a pleasant experience at our store.

Please note that eventhough the “Adams Craft Table Collection” is stated as free shipping, only the selected item “Adams Craft Stool – Soft Black” is showing as free shipping at the top of the item description.

As my colleague previously told I checked our web site and found that only “Adams Craft Stool – Soft Black” item in “Adams Craft Table Collection” collection is eligible for free shipping. Hence you were charged for shipping while placing an order.

Please note that if the item is eligible for “free shipping”, it will be in red letters above the item’s name, we’ll cover the cost of standard shipping. If it doesn’t say “free shipping” when you place your order, there will be a shipping charge.

Also note that this promotion was only valid during a certain period of time. In order to take advantage of the offer, your order had to be placed during that time.

I’m sorry if this wasn’t clear when you were placing your order.

Here’s how we figure out the shipping charge for your order:

-First we charge a “per shipment” fee for each shipment. This fee depends on what categories of merchandise you’re ordering and what shipping method you choose. -Then we add a fee for each item, usually by weight. These fees also depend on merchandise category and shipping method. -Also, if it’s an oversize item there may be a special-distance fee, depending on the shipping address. – There are also a few items that require special handling and have their own flat fee.

Shipping charges are an unavoidable part of using a mail-order service, but we know that they can seem a nuisance.

Whenever, you place an order, you will see the shipping cost details in the review page before you actually place the order that will show you the shipping costs.

However, I have forwarded your message onto the appropriate person in our company for future consideration. We’re always looking at ways to make even better and your comments are a big help to us.

For your future reference:

There are also a few things you can do to keep your shipping charges down:

-Plan ahead: If you know you’re going to need more than one item from us, order them both at the same time instead of waiting until you need each one. Shipping things together costs less than shipping them separately.

-Be patient: If you have a little leeway in your schedule, choose standard shipping instead of 1-day or 2-day. It takes longer, but it costs less.

-Bundle up: When checking out, choose the “Group items into as few shipments as possible” option. Some of your items may arrive a little later than if you sent them separately, but reducing the total number of packages is going to save you money.

To see all of the free shipping offers going on right now, go to this page:

Once again, I apologize for any inconvenience caused in this regard.

Thanks for your continued patience and understanding. We value your business and hope to see you again at

Best regards,

Ravishankar Guest Service

The collection is pretty clearly marked “free shipping.” Even if this is a mistake, Target should honor the advertised promotion and then correct the error.

Adams Craft Table Collection []


Edit Your Comment

  1. I’m surprised Target went so far to defend the error. That seems like kind of a gimme…

  2. missdona says:

    Could that be the Ravishankar? Norah Jones’s father, Sitar Legend Ravishankar?


  3. weakdome says:

    Free shipping my ass.
    I wanted to buy the “Milano Espresso Loveseat” back before Xmas. It was $200 then. I figured I’d wait a bit for a promotion.
    Now there’s a free shipping on the item, and guess what? It’s $299!

  4. weakdome says:

    PS: Shipping would have been $50 in December. So not only did they jack up the price to cover shipping costs, they’re getting an extra $49 profit out of the deal too.

  5. topgun says:

    @missdona: Good call. I’d have missed that. Gee you don’t think Target has outsourced their customer service to India, do you? I know their in store customer service has been outsourced because I can’t find it anywhere.

  6. QWGHLM says:

    Yea, I’ve got issue with this complaint. You always get to see the final charges (cost of item + shipping) before you hit “purchase.” The craft table page even forces you to go down and enter a quantity for each item of the collection before it puts it in your shopping cart. There, it becomes blatantly apparent that free shipping is only listed under the stool. (And you get to see those same items, once again, in your cart where free shipping is only listed under the stool.)


  7. missdona says:

    @topgun: It’s just a shame they’re using Ravishankar in the customer service department. He could be entertaining the masses with sitar melodies.

    I guess tough times call for tough measures.

  8. MickeyMoo says:

    @QWGHLM: Agreed. It’s a little skeezy and they should change the page layout to be clearer, but it’s not like they tack the charge on after you’ve ordered. After all – crappy particle board furniture is heavy and expensive to ship.

  9. Trick says:

    It’s OK. This is Target. They are far better than Wal*Mart. I will buy this today myself!

    Being ripped off at Target is far better than being ripped off at Wal*Mart. Hell, I don’t even mind being ripped off at Target vs. saving money at Wal*Mart.

    Wal*Mart sucks!

  10. NotATool says:

    Unbelievable —

    Target: Yes it’s labeled as free shipping but I checked and only the chair is actually eligible.

    So they confirmed their error then proceed to explain their shipping policy?

    It’s like arguing with a brick wall. With a bullseye painted on it.

  11. jonsocko says:

    Target letter: “Please note that if the item is eligible for “free shipping”, it will be in red letters above the item’s name, we’ll cover the cost of standard shipping.”

    OK. In red letters, above “Adams Craft Table Collection,” it says “free shipping.” Seems like Big Red is having some trouble getting their story straight on this one.

  12. weakdome says:

    Don’t you mean arguing with a spread-eagle girl with a bullseye on her woowoo?

  13. topgun says:

    Lost in all this is the fact that Target was DELIBERATELY MISLEADING the consumer.

  14. JohnMc says:

    Small Claims Court is the answer. I don’t think there is a judge around that would deduce otherwise.

  15. pigeonpenelope says:

    small claims is a little too much for such a small thing. and what are you going to say to the judge? “they advertised free shipping but i didn’t buy it so they technically owe me nothing”? if anything, this is more of a better business bureau type thing.

    it was rather slimy of target to screw up on their advertisement and not honor their word. i worked at pier 1 imports for four years. if something was mistagged, we gave it to them for the price on the tag and then fixed the rest right away. in target’s case, because they would have had a large sale anyway, they should have given the free shipping and then had the techs immediately fix the website.

  16. Kavatar says:

    Well, lower on the page where it lists the individual items, only the stool is listed as having free shipping. So it’s only “half” misleading.

  17. NotATool says:

    @weakdome: That would be *way* more fun to argue with. And for sure the brick wall would win!

  18. britne says:

    wasn’t it target that refused to talk to bloggers anyway – do they even read the consumerist?

  19. riverstyxxx says:

    Shame, I always thought of Target as a better alternative then Wal-Mart.

    Don’t Best Buy and Tiger Direct pull scams like this all the time?

  20. asphix20 says:

    Personally, I think its because of people like this that the world has to be so overly politically correct.

    Stop being anal people. I’m not pro-corporation.. I’m very much against a lot of what they do.. but I am a big fan of intelligent shopping.

    The nature of this situation makes me want to say that target has no responsibility to honor the advertized price… or are you going to say the whole set should be sold for 69.99 since the general banner for the whole set says “69.99-199.99”?

    I’d expect an intelligent and informed consumer to check the charges in their cart and if they have a problem, call target to dispute.

    This isnt an advertizement error… its a perspective error… and its not even target trying to rope people in with false advertizement.. they have free shipping for one item in the set and anyone with half a brain would realize this when adding to the cart and scrutinizing their order before handing over cash.

    I do realize, however, that I’m in the minority being an informed and intelligent consumer.

  21. lotusflwr says:

    Target has expensive shipping on just about everything. I’ve often found their “Free Shipping” graphics to be a bit misleading though my reaction has been to simply not order anything heavy from their online store.

    I love their furniture and their shipping center is about 20 miles from here, so the high freight costs are even worse when I know I could just pick it up if only they’d let me.

    I have found identical or similar items on Overstock and gotten them from there with $1 shipping and the usual 10-15% off with coupons you can find anywhere. Works out much, much cheaper for me!

    I pretty much only use Target’s website to get ideas, model numbers or style names, then google more reasonable online furniture stores and spend my money elsewhere UNLESS Target’s got the item available in-store.

  22. Nytmare says:

    On first date: “I’m a doctor and I make $200,000 a year”

    On wedding day: “Oops did I say doctor? I mean janitor. And I make $20,000 a year. What do you mean you don’t appreciate dishonesty? I told you the truth before we got married!”

  23. settsu says:

    “Scam(s)”? “DELIBERATELY MISLEADING”? Come now, where’s the victimization here? The shipping charges was clearly displayed in checkout PRIOR to billing. We’re talking about a dynamically-generated page from a poorly designed CMS.

    I’m all for corporate accountability and what not, but seriously, let’s be sensible and forgo the victim mentality in our consumerism.

    Caveat emptor, people.

  24. scoosdad says:

    @QWGHLM: Read the article again. It didn’t say the OP actually went through with the purchase. He stopped when he saw the shipping charges added at checkout, and called Target to ask about it.

  25. iMike says:

    @missdona: Moonlighting no doubt.

  26. cmdr.sass says:

    What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away.

  27. rockosolido says:

    @asphix20: Ah, but don’t you see? This is the era of self-entitlement and over-inflated perceptions of self worth. In this great time, none of us are accountable for our mistakes! Instead, we expect someone to hold our hands through every menial little task we do.

    Looking at the product page, I don’t see the confusion. Maybe this is because I’ve done a great deal of online shopping and when it comes down to it, I don’t blindly click on every last item I want and stroll through the checkout cart all willy nilly.

    A) The individual pieces of the collection are clearly labeled further down the page as to what includes free shipping and what doesn’t. There’s no way to add these items to your cart without having seen the designation.

    B) As earlier mentioned, your promotions and discounts are clearly displayed in the checkout area. Unless you’re in such a rush to rack up credit card debt, maybe you should read through your order to make sure everything itself is in order.

    Like asphix20 said, informed and intelligent. It doesn’t take much to be a smart shopper, common sense goes a long way. Do you rush head on into buying a new car? No? Then why should you fly through any other purchase?

    Target wins, you lose. Next time, read.

  28. nequam says:

    @asphix20: “or are you going to say the whole set should be sold for 69.99 since the general banner for the whole set says “69.99-199.99″?”

    Um … No, because that wouldn’t make sense in light of the fact that they’ve clearly shown a range of prices.

  29. Imaginary_Friend says:

    He can only get free shipping if he buys Saw IV.

  30. kc-guy says:

    “As my colleague previously told I checked our web site…”

    Hurray for Engrish!

  31. asphix20 says:

    @nequam: so the proper way to advertize that some pieces in a set qualify for free shipping is to say “free shipping-charged for shipping”?

    Does that make more sense? Or should they not advertize the free shipping and let the consumer try and find it? I wonder how many people would then be able to take advantage of the free shipping on select items promotion, or if not promotion, clearance or whatever you want to label it…

    No wait, you’d just like them to clearly specify every little bit of what you’re likey to get without having to have surpassed the mental capacity of a 6th grader. in that case, websites and advertizements would be a novel of words, stipulations portrayed through a gammut of font sizes and colors all vying for our attention. All the information would be there but you’re likely to get EVEN LESS from the ad since one look at it will send you into cognitive shock.

    Its an advertizement… a web advertizement. We’re in the 21st century for christs sake! When you read an ad in the sunday paper and see a great deal with an asterix after it, you look at the fine print dont you? And ultimately you’re thankful for the fineprint because it adds the necessary details without clouting the advertizement with confusion.

    Well when shopping on the web–when shopping for sets, packages or any form of bundled deal–its very common to have a generic ad with details under the individual items (like the price range with individual prices on the items).

    Scanning your cart is also akin to reading the fine print at the bottom of the page. This whole thing reeks of someone trying to work the system to attain something that is clearly wrong both in princible and on ethical grounds.

  32. asphix20 says:

    @asphix20: And yes, I know my spelling is horrible. I dont have time to use a spell checker just to prove a point.

  33. nequam says:

    @asphix20: Not really, because my point was that your example about the price was a bad one. Then you went all straw man on me.

    To answer your question, though, I could imagine a “free shipping (select items),” (which is common with other retailers in my experience). “Free Shipping (restrictions apply)” Or even, “Free shipping*”.

    But, here is the essence of it: If it is so f*cking clear, why did it take you 11 paragraphs to make your point?

  34. asphix20 says:

    @nequam: Because we’re arguing over somethign that was clear to me from the get-go, so I figured it needed an in-depth explanation… Go figure!

  35. gingerCE says:

    Off subject, that table looks nice. I have bought furniture from before and it’s been hit and miss. Some things look much more expensive than they cost–others look cheaper in person than online.

  36. goller321 says:

    Small claims wouldn’t work anyway, as it would need to be filed in the state that the company resides.

    This is why I want to see some federal internet advertising laws enacted. B&M stores can’t get away with false advertising because of state laws, but internet companies have no one policing them…

  37. ampersand says:

    @asphix20: “I wonder how many people would then be able to take advantage of the free shipping on select items promotion…”

    I would imagine all of the people who bought the item that has free shipping would be able to take advantage of it. If they are only offering free shipping on one product, why not only say “Free Shipping” next to only that product? I don’t understand how it’s NOT misleading to do anything else.

  38. President Beeblebrox says:

    @goller321: “Small claims wouldn’t work anyway, as it would need to be filed in the state that the company resides.”

    Yes, it would, and no, it doesn’t. As long as the company transacts business in a state – and selling via Internet counts as well as having brick & mortar stores – that state’s courts have personal jurisdiction over the company. And, yes, I *am* a lawyer. :)