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March 11th, 2004

eCOST’s Shady Pricing

If you use a shopping search engine like Froogle, Dealtime, or MySimon, you’ll notice that when you search for computer products, eCOST frequently comes up with the lowest prices. But when I placed an order with them the other day, I figured out how they’ve managed to get their prices so low.

After placing the item in my shopping, noting that they also had a “FREE SHIPPING!” deal for any orders over $25. But as I moved through the checkout process, I noticed a new charge had been quietly thrown in: “Handling and Processing: $5.95.” Wait a second… shipping is free, but “handling and processing” is $6? Doesn’t sound so free to me. And isn’t “processing” something usually built into the price of a product?

Yes, and that’s where eCOST gets you. Yes, they may have the lowest price on an item and offer free shipping, but expect to have another $6 thrown into your order, making it not quite such a great deal (although in this case, the price came out even with the next closest competitor). If you ask me, that’s some shady business. Especially when you bury that cost explanation deep in your site (it takes two carefully calculated clicks to get to it from the front page), where no normal shopper is ever going to see it.

I complained to eCOST through the Bizrate form after checkout, so we’ll see what they have to say.

Posted in Consumer Commentary

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