Gateway: Free Shipping! With A $20 Handling Fee!

Reader Holland asks:

Gateway is advertising “free shipping,” but you have to pay a $20 “handling charge.” At least they’re upfront that the free shipping isn’t really free, but how can they get away with calling it free when it still costs $20?

Well, Holland, we guess they were just hoping that their potential customers weren’t too bright. Ya know?



Edit Your Comment

  1. ffmariners says:

    The consumerist does know the difference between shipping and handling, right?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Come on, we all know that handling is the larger cost of “shipping and handling”.

    And we all know that a good handling is worth the extra cost.

  3. courtarro says:

    What if I don’t want them to handle it?

  4. Ben Popken says:

    Uh oh, call Dr. Nick, looks like somebodies broke their funny bone!

  5. fluiddruid says:

    @ffmariners: You do know that a ginormous handling charge defeats the purpose of “free shipping”, right?

  6. impudence says:


    “Come on, we all know that handling is the larger cost of “shipping and handling”.

    And we all know that a good handling is worth the extra cost.”

    Really?? That is the dumbest comment I have seen in a while. The laptop is already packaged in a secure box, wehther it is shipped or picked up from a retailer. The only handling involved here is picking the laptop from the bin and putting it on the conveyor belt. End of story.

  7. ARPRINCE says:

    eCOST used to pull the same thing before (don’t know if they still do) so I never ordered anything from them ever again (one and done!). They charge you with the handling fee, you know, the carton box, shipping styros, bubble wrap and alike. Only came up on the last step of payment.

  8. sir_pantsalot says:

    @impudence: I will sell you a sence of humor at a good price.

  9. weakdome says:

    @impudence: I’m pretty sure your comment was more dumb, seeing how you apparently completely missed the sarcasm in it.

  10. Meisterjager says:

    @CaptainCynic: How much ‘handling’ actually gets done these days? Is it really $20 worth?

  11. edosan says:

    What if you want extra handling?

  12. ffmariners says:

    @fluiddruid: And the buyer can very well decide that.

    But the presence of a handling charge does not mean the shipping is not free…

  13. WhirlyBird says:

    @Meisterjager: It was a veiled reference to a manual act of sexual gratification. Try some coffee, it’ll help you wake up. :)

  14. ffmariners says:

    Isn’t shipping usually like $50? A large portion of that actually is handling. Shipping is pretty cheap, esp. for big companies because of the fact that they get huge shipping volume discounts. HOWEVER, whoever was the brain child of this sales gimmick is an idiot.

    @impudence: Who packages it in a secure box and moves pallets of it around and then puts them in their alotted warehouse space? Gateway. It’s not like Best Buy is charging a handling charge here(that would be more asinine as they actually have miniscule handling charges comparitively).

  15. nedzeppelin says:

    like what you get on ebay – where i once bought some shelves for 2 dollars and paid like 120 in shipping&handling, specified by the seller.

    i didn’t mind because it cost about the same in total as buying it elsewhere…

  16. celticgina says:

    If I ask them NOT to handle it at all, can I get it sent for free? I’m thinking they could just nudge it with their feet!


  17. nursetim says:

    That will cost you double.

  18. m1k3g says:

    Gateway is, and always has been, a joke. I bought one product from Gateway about 7 years ago, it broke after less than a year. Gateway advised me that I could ship it back to them for $35 and wait months to have it repaired. I opted to trash it and never buy anything from them again.

  19. edbro says:

    Isn’t handling the cost of doing business? When I buy cereal at the grocery store I don’t pay extra because the stock boy “handled” it. If I bought a computer from Best Buy have me committed. But, if I did, I wouldn’t pay extra because they “handled” it.

  20. Trai_Dep says:

    Good gods. Do any of these PC guys know shame?

  21. ffmariners says:

    @edbro: I don’t understand when people say they don’t pay ‘x fee’ when they buy ‘y item.’ Sure you do… they just don’t highlight it and seperate out the fee. Whether it is hidden or shown up front, you are paying it.

  22. ffmariners says:

    @Trai_Dep: Nope, probably why they are all consolidating.

  23. Daniel says:

    The sipping is free, so no big deal. That is a huge savings. $20 is not a huge handling charge on a computer costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars. I prefer a non-broken computer than a broken one.


  24. heinzs says:

    Handling fees are BS anyway. How is the amount of handling _any_ different if I go to a brick and mortar store and they have to go get the product of a high shelf in the back?

    If you have to pay employees as part of your business, that should be reflected in the price of the item, not tacked on as an extra fee in a smaller font below the price. They might as well be charging me extra “building rent fees” to cover the cost of their warehouse at that point.

  25. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    When I have the handling costs brought into question on my ebay sales, I state that not only is it the materials and time to pack the item, but also the time/gas it takes for me to bring the stuff to the post office.

    So in this case, the handling might be to cover the infrastructure the have set up to processes orders and get them out the door. Granted, I’d figure that’d be factored into the cost of doing business (and thus the cost of the product)…but you can’t deny some handling needs to be done.

  26. rmz says:

    I’m a musician, and I’ll Handel it for you for free.

  27. nycaviation says:

    If freedom isn’t free, why should free shipping be free?

  28. bukz68 says:

    The issue for me is not that there’s a handling fee, but that it’s so high. Either they’re pocketing some of that money or their warehouse/shipping overhead is ridiculous.

  29. jusooho says:

    @Daniel: To me, part of ordering a computer is the specification that it is not broken. So really, to say “I prefer a non-broken computer than a broken one,” miss the point.

    Charging seperate fee for shipping makes sense because there is many options for shipping kinds. But charging a seperate handling fee does not make sense, because sending the customer a not-broken computer should be taken as granted.

  30. Dakine says:

    I prefer extra handling. I don’t think $20 will cover the amount of handling I want.

  31. adamcz says:

    It’s just profit relabled as something else.

    Just like a car dealer saying they’ll sell you a car at invoice price, as long as you pay a $300 “document fee.”

  32. ironchef says:

    and let’s talk about rustproofing! Those Gateways’ll rust up on ya like that!

    -a vague simpsons reference to the Colecos one salesman tried to sell at Springfield elementary school.

  33. Bladefist says:

    “Free shipping” is just a marketing gag. It doesn’t exist. It’s always built into the price. You are always paying for it.

  34. @Dakine:
    It’s Ok. I know a place in New Orleans that does a great job of handling for $20.

  35. blackmage439 says:

    Gateway, first you lock-down your towers so securely that you literally have to break the case to get inside (and thereby voiding your warranty); now this?

    Just crawl in a hole and die already. HP even makes far superior systems than you…

  36. garethkeenan says:

    Handling is not BS – it is a cost associated with the labor, material and warehouse fee per item shipped. Any smart company makes this part of their overall cost of operation and doesn’t need to itemize it per purchase.

  37. hatrack says:


    If you buy something in a brick and mortar store all the shipping and handling is included in the displayed price. There’s no additional charge because it came over from China and had to go through customs. You don’t pay extra because someone has to go back to the storeroom and get it for you. Why should mail order companies be any different?

  38. thesabre says:

    You know, no one would have batted an eye if they just charged $969.99 for the laptop with free shipping and handling.

    @celticgina: Gateway charges about $50 for footling. You’re better off just paying the handling fee.

  39. dragonfire81 says:

    Handling these days is often little more than placing an item in a box with marginal amounts (and sometimes no) packing material. It may even be done mostly by machine.

    I’ve notice most sites that offer free shipping aren’t really great deals. It’s usually only one shipping method that’s free and that would be whichever method is slowest and cheapest.

  40. Lambasted says:

    This practice is not limited to Gateway. Dell does the same thing. I think Dell charged me a $25 handling fee for my “free shipping” a couple of years ago.

  41. KD17 says:

    I guess if shipping and handling usually cost $50, then $20 just for the handling doesn’t seem so bad, I guess. Maybe still a little high. It can’t take but a minute for someone trained to get one ready for shipping and maybe a few bucks for box,packing materials etc…

    Then I don’t know how many one work packs up a day. If one guy is doing 50 laptops a day @ $20 a pop handling charge to the customer. I think that more than covers that persons payroll,benefits, materials and leaves a profit it there.

  42. Consumer007 says:

    There is no way the box and container pieces cost $20.

  43. Consumer007 says:

    And it’s false advertising to say free if it’s not free. Somebody who purchased should sue just for fun / principle.

  44. Nytmare says:

    Handling isn’t enough, I’m also going to need my order packaged, plied, and processed. That means even more fees, please.

  45. ffmariners says:

    @Consumer007: It is a shipping and handling fee, they only said the shipping portion was free.

    The lawsuit probably wouldn’t get to the actual lawsuit before the judge dismissed it.

  46. Nytmare says:

    Free chicken sandwich! 20 cent pickle charge applies.

  47. whuffo says:

    This is just them playing games with the pricing. They quote you a low price on the product but you can’t actually buy it for that – there’s some mandatory additional charges that make the final price higher.

    It’s very close to fraud – the company can allocate costs any way they want, but it’s important that they advertise the sale price honestly.

  48. spinachdip says:

    My masseuse charges a $20 handling fee, because calling it “happy ending fee” got her in trouble with the law.

  49. Hidden fees?

    Nothing new here. Hidden fees have been the way of life long before any of us were born.

    As long as “Price” is the focus of customers rather than “Landed Cost”, this type of hidden BS will continue.

  50. spinachdip says:

    @Bladefist: While I don’t disagree that “free shipping” is ultimately paid by the consumer somewhere someway, if a laptop is, say, regularly priced at $1,000+$75 S&H and a there’s a free S&H promotion, I would be paying $75 less than normal, yes? Or is that difference just a “marketing gag” and “doesn’t exist”?

  51. mgy says:

    There should be an ordering fee, an ordering processing fee, a parts manufacturing fee, a building fee, a boxing fee, a packing peanuts fee, a receipt fee, a tape fee AND a handling fee.

    Or maybe they could just include in the cost of the computer BECAUSE THOSE THINGS CAN’T CHANGE.

  52. Bladefist says:

    @spinachdip: Well some guy with a Marketing degree was told to discount the laptop $75, since technology depreciates, and they saw a huge opportunity. Consumers eat up free shipping.

    As soon as you find a CEO that will actually eat shipping costs, you let me know. I will be a lifetime customer.

    It’s marketing, its competition. It’s built into their margin. I have written accounting software before. I have written software that you enter in your cost, and the margin you want, and it will tweak ways to get that.

  53. Bladefist says:

    You can also write inventory software, and put shelf lifes on items, that depreciate a percent. Free shipping is another way to liquidate. They also have deals with UPS/FedEx. They’re paying next to nothing for shipping. Those carriers bid for their partnership.

    So many factors that go into it. But I assure you, you pay for it.

  54. spinachdip says:

    @Bladefist: You’re just arguing semantics and nobody with half a brain thinks Gateway is taking a loss. I get what you’re saying, but you’re just trying to be cute and rephrasing shit people already understand.

  55. Bladefist says:

    @spinachdip: uhh okay. Maybe you understand, but not everyone.

    Man I get attacked no matter what I say.

  56. stinerman says:

    I believe my friend is trying to say that if the new bottom line price is less than the old bottom line price, you’re getting a discount, comparatively speaking. However costs are allocated before the bottom line are inconsequential.

  57. Geekybiker says:

    Handling exists so customer can’t say “but I can ship it for cheaper, you’re ripping me off.” I can charge handling for what it costs to pack and take it to the post office. They still get “at cost” shipping, and a low item price.

  58. @ffmariners: Exactly. I’ve seen things on tv all the time that said “S&H” meaning shipping AND handling, but there’s a such thing as them being separate and somehow people don’t get it.

  59. ConsumerAdvocacy1010 says:

    If regular shipping and handling is $50, then this is ‘okay.’ A bit odd, but ‘okay.’ Shipping and handling is different…just like how some free things have a ‘processing’ fee.

    But if the laptop was cheaper last week and now the retail price aborbed the shipping…it ain’t free. Dell did this ALL the time when I was comparison shopping for a laptop years ago for college.

    Checked all the prices on home and small business, and then when they had “Free Shipping” the prices of the Laptops were slightly ($20-35) higher. Scam? You betcha. Illegal? Good luck on that one…..