Shipping Policy Checklist: How to Read the Fine Print with a Critical Eye?

A shopping site’s shipping policy is probably the most important tool that can help you understand whether you have the ability to get the product you wish to buy as quickly as you need or expect to get it.
Many retailers promise ‘fast shipping’… but what does it actually mean?
How quickly will you actually get your order?

The shipping policy is where catchy slogans, marketing copy and sales hype is supposed to be translated into clearer definitions of what you can expect in terms of how shipping is done, when is the last time to place an order and what is the expected delivery time.

The Checklist: What to Check Before You Order?

There are several key issues that you need to pay close attention to in a shipping policy, especially when time is pressing and you need the item to be delivered urgently.
Reading the retailer’s shipping terms with a careful eye will help avoiding potential delivery related disappointments and frustrations.

Here are some tips regarding the key points that need to be fully explored before placing last minute orders with expedited shipping:

What Are The Available Shipping Methods?

Most of the major shopping sites offer free or low priced standard shipping as well as more expensive options for a much faster service, like 1-day or 2-day express shipping.
Make sure that the website you’re buying from offers an expedited shipping method that meets your specific time needs.
For example, if you need to get an item by the next day, verify that the chosen merchant offers overnight shipping.

Does the Merchant Offer Same-Day Shipping?

Bear in mind that not all online stores ship your order on the same day it is placed.
Some may offer next day delivery, BUT… only after the order is fully processed…. and this may take a day or two – so pay special attention to this aspect and verify that your order can ship on the same day you place the order.

What Is The Website's Cutoff Time?

A shipping policy has to clearly specify what the order cutoff time is.
The cutoff time is the deadline or the latest time that an order can be submitted so that it will be successfully processed and shipped the same day.
Remember, missing the daily cutoff time means that the order will not ship out on the same day.

Is Your Address Eligible for Expedited Shipping?

In general, express one-day or two-day delivery is available for most states.
However, many retailers are unable to provide overnight shipping to states outside continental USA, like Hawaii and Alaska as well as to destinations like U.S. Territories, PO Boxes or military and diplomatic APO/FPO/DPO addresses.

Is Your Product Available for Expedited Shipping?

Most products qualify for express delivery, however it’s important to remember that there are some exceptions and you need to verify that your desired item is not one of them.
Common such exceptions are oversized items, hazardous materials, flammable items (including some beauty products and perfume), drop items that ship directly from the manufacturer, etc.

Does The Retailer Offer Weekend Delivery?

Most retailers do not provide deliveries on Saturdays or Sundays.
However, some vendors do have an option for a weekend delivery and in case you wish to use this option, make sure it’s clearly specified at the retailer’s website.

Read the Fine Print with a Fine-Tooth Comb

Pay close attention to all aspects of the shipping policy.
The devil is in the details, so check if there’s anything ‘buried’ in the text that is unacceptable to you.