Through the years, a new moneymaking industry has sprung up. Actually, it has been around for a long time, but new twists have been added, making it, in my opinion, the No. 1 “nothing for something” business.
It is offered under more than one name — “shipping and handling” is the most common. You will also find it listed as “order-processing” and other such things.
Granted, some vendors you order from online might offer free shipping if you reach a certain spending level. The one I encounter most often is the $35 level.
That affords you to have your package shipped to you in five to eight days.
Rarely do they miss their deadline of the eighth day. They are really good at making you wait as long as they can.
You have no idea how many times the item or items I want actually total to something just less than that magic $35. In fact, my last order came to $34.93; I missed it by seven lousy cents.
I am left with nothing to do but go shopping again for some small item that will push me in to the free shipping category.
Uh, wait a minute. I see what they are doing there. I am pretty sure I must be feeling like some guy at a slot machine.
“If I only drop in a few more quarters, I am sure I will win.” Fifteen dollars later, I get eight dollars worth of “free shipping.”
That’s not so bad, I guess. Call it an “entertainment fee” because I had fun doing more shopping.
What is worse are the TV advertisements for products we can’t live without.
If you don’t believe me, just listen to the announcer. He or she will tell you in short order that you life will be better with this new gadget, or you can have your money back.
Well, some of it.
The ad will almost always say something to the effect of “minus shipping and handling fees.” Gotcha.
Then there is the “But wait! There’s more!” part. If you buy one of these gadgets, they will throw in another one for free; you just have to pay the shipping and handling fees. Gotcha again.
If you can find the small print on the TV screen, made easier by high definition television, you might just find that the shipping and handling fees are equal to or even greater than the actual purchase price. Gotcha, gotcha, gotcha.
Suddenly, I am feeling like a shopaholic.
OK, I would like to switch gears for a moment to follow up on a previous column.
Not long ago I wrote how I thought I needed a Batman-style utility belt. A friend of mine who read the column sent me a link to a story about astronaut Scott Kelly, who is just beginning a one-year stay on the International Space Station.
He will be up there for a number of scientific studies on the effects of space life on the human body.
At the same time, his identical twin astronaut brother, Mark, will go through the same testing here on Earth.
Now here is the connection to my column: He’s taking a utility belt with him.
Well, actually it arrived ahead of him on a cargo ship. The one thing he missed on his last visit to the Space Station was a belt, primarily to hold his pants up. He has this thing about keeping his shirt tail in, I understand.
The article stated that he wanted it to be a utility belt to carry the things, tools and such, he would need around his weightless home on a day-to-day basis.
(So, my idea wasn’t totally crazy.)
The difference is, his will ultimately end up in the Smithsonian Museum, and mine will end up in a landfill in Rush County.
Never mind me. I’m just grumpy.
Tim Renshaw formerly taught broadcasting at Greenfield-Central High School. He lives in New Palestine and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.