"Filler Item" Gets You Free Shipping, But Is Shipped Separately

Here’s an odd complaint. Reader T says:

I bought two books on Amazon – and my total came to $24.74. So I scouted around and found a site ( that lets you choose a small priced item to bump the price over the $25 to qualify for free shipping. I chose a small wooden knob for $0.72.

So today I got email – they did a partial shipment! Guess what’s coming in the first box? Yep, the knob I didn’t really want – the one that’s only there to get me over $25.

Why doesn’t Amazon make a new item “Give money to charity” for any amount – that qualifies for free shipping – and not cost them an extra $2.28 (plus their labor and materials)? They would get good press, save money, and save me from receiving and discarding an item I had no use for – full of win all around.

[The ‘which charity’ question could either be a big list (complicated) or just a simple top-ten list – most everyone could find a charity they don’t object to with the Salvation Army and the Red Cross and United Way and some military hospital charities in the list.]


The following items have been shipped to you by ———————————————————————
Qty Item Price Shipped Subtotal
——————————————————————— items (Sold by, LLC): 1 Laurey Au Natural Wood Mus… $0.72 1 $0.72

Shipped via USPS (estimated arrival date: 19-March-2008).
Tracking number: 9102xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

——————————————————————— Item Subtotal: $0.72
Shipping & Handling: $2.28

Best Value Savings $0.00 Super Saver Discount $-2.28

Total: $0.72


You have only been charged for the items sent in this shipment. (Per our policy, you only pay for items when we ship them to you.) The following items will ship separately, as soon as they’re available: ———————————————————————
Qty Item Price Not Yet Shipped
1 (book 1 ) $7.99 1 1
(book 2 ) $17.16 1

This shipment was sent to: (redacted)

Donating money to charity to quality for free shipping is a very nice idea. We hope Amazon will consider it.

(Photo:Robert Scoble)


Edit Your Comment

  1. unklegwar says:

    Something the writer forgets (or at least doesn’t mention), is the distributed system of warehouses. You think EVERYTHING from amazon is in ONE warehouse? C’mon. I doubt books and doorknobs are all in one place.

    If the writer was smart, he woulda ordered another BOOK, and then it probably would have come from one place.

    Another “dumb consumer”. And I’m surprised Consumerist didn’t realize this.

  2. unklegwar says:

    multiple warehouses for different items, anyone? anyone?


  3. KenSPT says:

    Yeah, the money for charity thing is a nice idea, but is this really worthy of a complaint?

    The item is being shipped separately and the money being lost is out of Amazon’s pocket … not yours. At the end of the day who really cares?

  4. Ken says:

    I rather pay a little more but buy something I really need but don’t need right away. e.g. stocking up on items I already use but didn’t finish yet.

  5. unklegwar says:

    @KenSPT: I think the point of the Stupid Shipping posts is that it’s wasteful in terms of packaging and fuel.

  6. B says:

    @unklegwar: Why would it be smarter for the customer to buy something more expensive he doesn’t want? He’s not paying for the shipping whether or not the two items come from different distribution centers.

  7. danseuse322 says:

    That IS a great idea. .72 can really add up with Amazon’s base. I, too, have found things I did not care about to get free shipping. Are you listening Amazon?

  8. SpdRacer says:

    That is actually a brilliant idea. Win-Win for all involved, as long as the charity gets that money.

  9. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    I’m sorry, but what I find even dumber than what Amazon did was the fact that this guy SPENT MONEY on an item he didn’t need, in order to SAVE MONEY. Why didn’t he just buy another book? Maybe a CD? Maybe one of the other millions of items Amazon sells? Surely they sell something he would like more than a wooden knob.

    I’m sorry, but I have to blame the OP on this one.

  10. scarysnow says:

    This happens to me all the time, but I think it’s a way for Amazon to bank a few more bucks, since most purchases generally average below $25.

  11. PinkBox says:

    @unklegwar: Obviously it is cheaper to buy the 72 cent item to get the free shipping than it is to buy another book you may not even want.

  12. KenSPT says:

    @unklegwar: Once again, who really cares? It’s not my fuel that their wasting, nor is it my packaging.

    Waste away.

  13. clevername says:

    I’d suggest Reader T always click the ‘send in one shipment’ option to cut down on waste and the needless use of resources. Combine ‘send in one shipment’ with the charity donation idea for a double-shot of awareness.

  14. RandoX says:

    We heard you the first time.

  15. RandoX says:

    We heard you the first time..

  16. watduck says:

    Why would Amazon have books and door knobs in the same warehouse?

  17. @unklegwar: Yes, the customer is dumb for spending $0.70 on shipping instead of $15 on another book that he didn’t want.

  18. @clevername: That’s only if the items are in the same warehouse to begin with. Send in one shipment is overridden by two items not being in the same warehouse.

  19. Bladefist says:

    the point of the free shipping is to get you to spend more. If you’re giving money to charity, then how is amazon making money??

    It would be amazing if his idea was something that could be done but it’s missing the whole point of the 25$. Really amazon should let you donate the money to amazon because the consumer still wins. Because their products are cheaper, and free shipping.

  20. MagicEightBall says:

    I don’t think the submitter is complaining really. He’s just noting that it’s sorta funny that Amazon would do this.

  21. Justin42 says:

    I’ve had this happen before as well, and it is really stupid. The problem is that Amazon really wants you to throw in that $10 CD or $20 DVD (prices rounded) that you’ve had kicking around in the cart– not just give 72 cents to charity to get free shipping. They’re already taking a huge loss, making it easier to give more shipping away would never fly.

    It’s a GREAT idea but sadly I doubt we’ll ever see it. I’m still amazed Amazon still even offers free shipping in the first place…

  22. Landru says:

    @unklegwar: What a dick. What’s wrong with pointing out waste? His idea of “give money to charity” is a great idea. It would save Amazon money and might make the world a little bit better.

  23. Bladefist says:

    @MagicEightBall: I agree but his suggestion to amazon defeats the point of their promotion

  24. tkozikow says:

    I am surprised it took so long for someone to mention this. I had no idea that ‘itemfiller’ even existed (although I will add it to my bookmarks) before today and would typically add another book or item that I could actually use, but would put the order total at least a few dollars over $25.

    I can see how the “donate to charity” might work if the difference was less $1 or 50 cents, but what happens when someone orders a book for $7.99?

  25. donnie5 says:

    @unklegwar: Jeesh man, I know others have said it, but you’re mean. meanie.

  26. 10dulkar says:

    @ unklegwar

    i dont think you got the point that the OP is making. Perhaps reading the post again will help…

    What the OP is saying is this:
    he was going to spend 24.74, and instead spent 25.50 (hardly a big deal) and in the bargain got free shipping. this is the smart thing to do, and many of us do it. he saved money since shipping would have cost him 3-4 bucks…

    now look at it from amazon’s point of view. they made an additional sale of 74cents, but to package & ship that, they had to spend 2-3 dollars, hence ended up losing money in the bargain…

    what he is suggesting instead is, he would have gladly donated 26 cents to bring him upto 25 for free shipping…amazon wouldnt have lost any money, and some charitable organization somewhere benefits…

    i think the idea is simply brilliant!!!

  27. somuch says:

    love, love this idea!

  28. bwkk says:

    One time, I ordered a book that cost $23.xx from Amazon. I added an air freshener that cost $1.xx to get “free shipping”. The book went “out of stock” and Amazon shipped me the air freshener with free shipping in a big brown box.

  29. somuch says:

    @unklegwar: so what. It’s irrelevent how he came up with the idea– the idea is sound. If he had just ordered what he wanted, he would still have to wait for the books. He’s just saying that the filler item required it’s own shipment, which feels kind of silly and wasteful.

  30. That-Dude says:

    @aaron8301: even 72 cents of waste is still waste, even if he comes out ahead.

    What’s Amazon’s incentive to donate those monies to charity? sure its good PR, but they would rather you purchase something more than a filler item to qualify for the free benefit.

  31. BugMeNot2 says:


    “He’s just saying that the filler item required it’s own shipment, which feels kind of silly and wasteful.”

    It’s not silly and wasteful if he had used the service as originally intended by Amazon, that is, to get $25 or more in merchandise from them that you want. Since the item he ordered was just filler, it seems silly and wasteful, but Amazon does not know it was meant as filler. I’m with the ones who say, “Surely you could’ve found something you actually wanted/needed to get over $25 instead of ordering something you’ll just pitch as soon as you get it.”

  32. ideagirl says:

    @Landru: Thank you. You saved me a post : )

  33. BlinkyGuy says:

    This type of discounted shipping is the result of cost calculations over a huge number of sales, not just yours. And not all of the cost is shipping.

    In order to consolidate your shipment, they would not only have to pay to ship the goods to one location, but pay employees to package, receive, and repackage the order. During this time, precious warehouse space is being taken up by your books sitting on a shelf waiting for your knob.

    Amazon may also have a sweet deal with the carriers that discounts shipping on shipments on the same order from different warehouses so it might not be wasteful at all.

  34. coconino says:

    Usually Amazon only offers free shipping for items that are directly from them. For non-book, non-DVd, non-CD stuffs, you almost always have to pay for shipping because they partner with other merchandisers to sell stuffs on Amazon. It’s a no brainer.

  35. kenneyjs says:

    To the “not my money” folks: It’s not completely Amazon’s loss as you gotta assume they’re going to make that money up elsewhere, either raising a price somewhere or cutting a corner that doesn’t help the consumer.

    The charity’s a great idea and would cost them next to nothing to do.

  36. chrisfromnl says:

    Wooden Knob in Discussion: []

    Reading the reviews, looks like someone else has used this knob for the same purpose before.

    “By Hugh Switzer “Hugh” (Centre of Canada) – See all my reviews
    This wooden knob was a great addition to get me free shipping. Also a fun toy to play with. That is, if you have the personality of a cat.”

  37. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    I’m not so sure that web site works properly. I went to to see what shows up for $1 since several people have said he should have been able to find something he’d actually use.

    A bunch of books do show up on the list but when you follow the link the price is always higher. For example, Zathura shows up as $1 but it’s actually $4 if you get it used from Amazon.

    So I’m not convinced he could have easily found something extremely cheap that he’d actually use.

  38. Gorky says:

    Or you couldve NOT been a cheapass and just pay for the shipping and skip the wooden knob instead of trying to scam Amazon. They have this program for loyal people who buy lots of stuff to use, not for people to get around paying shipping by buying stuff they dont want. People who play games to save a few cents drive me up a wall. Just like the old ladies in the grocery store who complain because their can of corn rang up 2 cents more than the price said on the shelf. Just pay the 2 cents and stop holding up the line. Oh and start writing your check as the cashier is ringing instead of not even opening your purse until she tells you the total.

  39. Gorky says:


    Its just as wasteful buying a knob that youll just throw into a landfill just so you can save a buck. Someone else couldve actually USED that knob

  40. orielbean says:

    We all pay for waste, don’t be so foolish. Limited supply of fuel…

  41. mopar_man says:

    This is the type of situation where having a Prime membership comes in handy. Pony up the cash for the membership and not buy useless junk to fill landfills or pay the shipping on items under $25.

  42. HeartBurnKid says:

    Am I the only one amused that, apparently, they’ve decided that packaging the wooden knob in a 2-pack with a DVD-R spindle is a good idea?

  43. dandd says:

    Wow, this is such a non-story it isn’t even funny. If you got your free shipping what is there to bitch about?

  44. HeartBurnKid says:

    Here’s another idea; it’s not quite as socially conscious as the charity idea, but if you’re between, say, $20-25, Amazon could offer its Super Saver shipping for the difference between your order and $25. You’d still save on shipping most times, and you wouldn’t have to go to the trouble to find a filler item, and the additional shipping charge would be pure profit for Amazon.

  45. chemmy says:

    Maybe he can then donate the doorknob to charity?

  46. DeafChick says:

    He could have order something from the food section instead of some knob but whatever..

  47. Michael Belisle says:

    I’m not sure this a “complaint”. It’s more like a “mildly amusing story”.

    They probably don’t offer “give money to charity” with free shipping because there’s no shipment involved and might actually cost them more money than a filler item. Gift Certificates, for example are not eligible. And they’re not going to let you donate 26¢ to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    @clevername: You have to select “send in one shipment” to get free super saver shipping. Shipping rapes the environment no matter what you do. If you want to feel better, buy local products produced locally with local parts (which is reaaally hard to do).

    @Gorky: I second the “don’t be a cheapass” motion. I compile my cart over time and ship it once it goes over $25.

  48. qwickone says:

    @Gorky: Sorry we’re not rich like you. Some of us are willing to sacrifice 70 cents to save $5-8 on shipping. And did it ever occur to you that the old lady fights over 2 cents because she can’t afford not to? I agree it’s annoying, but it’s not your money, so chill out.

  49. forgottenpassword says:

    lol the “filleritem” is a good idea! Heck yeah I’d pay 72 cents to keep from spending $2 & above on shipping! I am THAT CHEAP! ANd quite frankly I could care less how much money amazon loses in shipping costs. And it doesnt matter to me that much when my order arrives as long as it is within 2 weeks as long as the shipping is cheaper (or free). Yeah it sucks that I’d have to buy something I possibly couldnt use in order to save me money, but… thems the breaks!

    Heck,recently I kept from ordering an item for a couple of days in order to find a $5 off coupon code online that basically made the shipping cost only one dollar (instead of six). As a result I bought an item that usually retails for about $38 for $21 by being cheap & finding the lowest price I could online AND finding a five dollar off coupon code. I felt pretty proud of myself afterwards. :)

  50. girly says:

    @KenSPT: I’d say it’s worth it because it is an example that lets someone present a good idea in a way that allows the person to show the company why it might be in their interest to offer the ‘donate to charity’ option.

  51. ludwigk says:

    @Gorky: Not be a cheapass? Dude, I was placing an order for a single item that was ~$17 from Amazon, and shipping was $7.

    So lets say your order is like $24.50, and the shipping is $8. Wouldn’t you pay $.72 to get the $8 removed? You should, instead of blithely accepting a 30% increase in the total cost of your order for no good reason.

    I mean, another solution is for Amazon to “offer” you super saver shipping for the price difference between your order an the price threshold, in this case $.50 shipping instead of $8, but since what they’re really trying to motivate here is a higher sales numbers (which by accounting rules must strictly only consider dollars in exchange for merchandise), they can’t do this either. The knob increases their numbers. Charity does not.

  52. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    I second the “don’t be a cheapass” motion. I compile my cart over time and ship it once it goes over $25.

    @Michael Belisle: If you’re not even willing to spend $0.72 to get the free shipping right away doesn’t that make you even cheaper? He is the one spending more money over time, right?

    I think your complaint is with his being wasteful not cheap.

  53. witeowl says:

    This is actually a really good idea. It could generate quite a bit of cash for the charity as well as quite a bit of good publicity for Amazon.

    But, because Amazon is banking on people buying another $8 book in order to get their $24 purchase over that $25 hump, they’ll likely never consider it.

  54. mamacat49 says:

    @KenSPT: “Once again, who really cares? It’s not my fuel that their wasting, nor is it my packaging.

    Waste away. “

    unbelievable attitude. It’s all of our fuel, all of our packaging, ALL of OUR PLANET!

  55. Michael Belisle says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: You’re right: “don’t be a cheapass” was probably a bit extreme.

    I might have just been complaining about not keeping with “the spirit” of the promotion. Or wastefulness is good too. I’ve searched for filler items, but made sure they were something I wanted anyway, like creme-brulée cups. (I haven’t made creme brulée yet, but it’s nice to know that I can.)

    (Quick related story: I once ordered $49 + $10 shipping from Bodum, but didn’t see free shipping for orders over $50 until afterwards. I called them up although they couldn’t change or cancel the order, they let me order an $8 mug-which they shipped separately from their New York store-and credited the shipping. That’s customer service.)

  56. chrisgoh says:

    You are missing the point from a business perspective. $25 is an arbitrary amount they have set. The point is that you get free shipping for orders of AT LEAST $25. When the order comes out to $23 or $24, they are hoping you might add another more expensive item and actually end up spending $35 or $40. If they gave you the option of just adding the change, they’d probably lose out on a lot of those extra sales. For every customer that works the system by adding something really cheap to get over the limit, I bet 2 or more add a more expensive item.

  57. Crrusher says:

    Job Security, buying that door knob is like giving charity to the guy who made it.

  58. Buran says:

    I bought two Blu-Ray movies that are being released in May. Along with them, I ordered a Star Wars Yoda lightsaber that I didn’t need right away, intending for the lightsaber to be ‘held’ for me until the movies were released, thus making sure I’d get it but not have to pay for it yet (they’re out of production now, so I didn’t want to wait and then find it was too late).

    I picked the “group items into as few shipments as possible” option, because I wanted everything to come in May. Also, ungrouping items wouldn’t give me free shipping.

    Amazon shipped the lightsaber right away, and in fact it arrived today (and that’s a rather unusually-proportioned box, let me say, I bet it got some odd looks at the dock downstairs).

    Why doesn’t “group items” actually stick, Amazon!? Come on already, you’re spoiling our carefully-laid plans! I can afford to pay for the saber now, but I didn’t really want to…

    Yet doing the same thing for the Special DVD Edition of Quake 4 worked perfectly and the other items I’d ordered along with the game came in the same box as the game, a month or two after the order was placed.

    Anyone have a clue what’s up with Amazon’s logic? (All of these items were shipped from Amazon’s warehouses, not from third parties).

  59. tinyrobot says:

    Something that is being forgotten here is that you have the option to (in most cases, over 90% of the time for me) opt to receive things in 1 or in multiple shipments. Yes, Amazon does opt for several shipments from time to time, but on the final checkout page, simply clicking “ship my items in fewer shipments” almost always consolidates them into a single shipment, though it can add a little bit of time to order processing.

    I think we as consumers need to realize that rapid shipping is what people care most about online – if we’re interested in fewer shipments for ecological reasons, practicality reasons, etc, then we have to remember that getting things to your door ASAP, even if it means doing oddly illogical things like multiple shipments per order is what the public (including most of us, I would assume) has demanded with our hard-earned dollars. Amazon’s shipping model is built to optimize speed to get boxes out the door, and if we’re not adding additional criteria we’d like our orders to meet, it’ll require some light strategizing on our parts, which is often as little work as clicking a radio button before hitting place order.

  60. tweemo says:

    Tinyrobot: I just ordered some things, and did select the “as few shipments as possible” option (in fact you must d this to get free shipping anyway), and my things are still coming in two packages. Which happen to be scheduled to arrive on the same day. It happens all the time.

    I don’t quite get this “order a useless piece of junk to get free shipping” thing because there is always something else that I actually want. I have something like 230 items in my Amazon wishlist.

  61. AlphaTeam says:

    Just another reason I use Prime. Sure I end up buying more, but hey if it’s cheaper and I don’t have to pay taxes or shipping, what’s not to like.

  62. Canoehead says:

    Prime is great – shipping here in Manhattan is so fast that with books, DVDs, Movies etc I usually get them in less than 24 hours, even though it is theoretically 2 day shipping. If I want a $8 book I can just order it and not try to spend a minimum of $25. I do wish Amazon would be more efficient in their packaging, though – I’m no greenie, but you often get a tiny item in a huge box, when a padded envelope would have done very nicely.

  63. notallcompaniesareevil says:

    In my opinion, many of the complaints posted by consumerist are silly. This one, however, is not. Amazon should go for it. They won’t, however, because the vast majority of people will not use a filler item to get to $25. They will either buy a real item (perhaps thinking of all the waste involved in a filler item) or just pay the shipping charge.

  64. rlee says:

    Amazon persisted in listing certain books that they never seemed to actually have in stock. I would order them and get an “no can do” email, repeatedly. It was annoying, until I realized I could use it to my advantage. Whenever I needed a filler item, I would just throw one of those books on the order. Voila! No shipping charge, no paying for something I didn’t really want.

  65. fencepost says:

    Seems to me that they might be better off offering “your order with shipping = $25” if you’re under that price and your items are eligible for free shipping. That way instead of dealing with the little items, they’d be keeping that difference in price.

    Of course, whether that would be worthwhile would depend on how many people buy cheap items, how many actually pay for the shipping, and how many *keep shopping* and buy more expensive items (with higher margins) to get the free shipping.

  66. Hoss says:

    There is some hidden great advice here — who knew there was anything on Amazon less than a dollar? Not me. Amazon’s cost of supplying the extra item isnt my problem. Maybe I’ll keep a jar of knobs to keep track of all the free shipping!

  67. Buran says:

    @tinyrobot: You did read the comment RIGHT above yours before you posted that, right? No, we didn’t forget.

    It doesn’t freakin’ WORK to do that as they’ll do whatever the hell they want to despite your instructions.

  68. DustoMan says:

    I’ll give you guys a better one. They have this new “Pre-Order Price Guarantee” when you pre-order movies. If the price drops at all inbetween when you place the order and when it ships, Amazon will refund the amount. Sounds great, right? Funny, one of the items I ordered dropped in price one penny. That’s right, Amazon have me a $0.01 refund. LOL! Honestly, Amazon can keep that penny and save on the transaction fees.

  69. Xichen Yu says:

    wow, someone really consider about what amazon earn or not :D

    Anyway, I use a different filler item finer site which seems to be more reasonable since it has some nice feature such as multiple categories, sorted by discount/price/review and EVEN search!

  70. Xichen Yu says:

    forget to mention
    the amazon filler item finder I use is


    I usually search for what I probably will need and get ones which I could use and with discount.