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Pre-Weekend Delivery: Shipping Savvy Cheat Sheet

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The ability to shop online in our pjs is one of our favorite modern innovations, but nothing ruins the spoils of your purchases like pricey shipping and annoying return policies. We've rated those on our favorite e-commerce sites.

    Typically, companies that run exclusively on the web have better (cheaper) policies overall, while the Internet arms of brick-and-mortar chains tend to charge more, but have the advantage of the in-store return option. There's a huge variety of methods and guidelines, so study up for smarter spending.

    Hands Down, the Best

    SHOPBOP

    We get the feeling Shopbop really, truly loves us for shopping there, because they offer free international shipping and free returns within 15 days on each and every item. We're so appreciative, we'll have to do them the honor of continuing to order like crazy.

    ZAPPOS

    Shoes, clothing and free shipping. Zappos, talk dirty to us! Returns are also free, and you've got a full year to send back a purchase, given it fits the right criteria.

    OVERSTOCK

    It's not necessarily a top fashion destination, but take heed that should you find something on Overstock.com, everything ships at a flat rate of $2.95, with free returns.

    Decent Deals, Plenty of Options

    NET-A-PORTER

    While Net-a-Porter charges a fairly standard $12.50 flat-rate shipping fee, given the price of the merchandise, that flat rate becomes key. Also, the site offers the New York Premier Same-Day shipping service for $25, and next-day delivery for $20, which is slightly lower than most of its counterparts. Plus, its full refund on returns--inclusive of return shipping--is not necessarily a given.

    PIPERLIME

    By virtue of its affiliation within the Gap portfolio, Piperlime comes with the incentive of $7 flat-rate shipping on anything ordered along with goods from Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy and Athleta. Piperlime-only orders receive free shiping, and a generous 45-day free returns policy.

    LA GARCONNE

    Offering a sophisticated range of high-designer merchandise doesn't keep La Garconne from maintaining a down-to-earth shipping policy. An $8 flat rate applies to all purchases up to $200. After that, and trust us, there's a lot after that, it's free.

    Battle of the Off-Price Sites

    THE OUTNET

    To go along with their heavily discounted designer goods, the Outnet boasts a low standard-rate shipping fee of $4.95 and next-day rate of $11.95. Any refunds, however, deduct $7.95 for return shipping.

    BLUEFLY

    Bluefly's rates are slightly higher, at $7.95 for standard shipping and $24.95 for overnight. For returns, shoppers are given the option of having $6.95 deducted from the refund to their original payment, or a Bluefly credit in the full amount, no penalty for shipping. Tricky!

    How the Sample Sale Sites Send their Stuff

    GILT

    The macdaddy of sample sale sites brings us into the (somewhat irritating) realm of shipping based on cost. For purchases less than $50, shipping runs $7.95, and $9.95 for those more than $50 (which, we assume, accounts for a large portion of shipments). Next-day delivery rings in at a fairly reasonable $20.95, but the clincher lies in the return policy--it's credit only.

    RUELALA

    At RueLaLa, shoppers pay a flat rate of $9.95 for standard shipping, or $18.95+$1.95 per pound. For returns, RueLaLa offers a similar option to Bluefly: a store credit with free return shipping or a full refund less return shipping fees.

    This is Where the Internet Gets Complicated: The Department Stores & J. Crew

    J. CREW

    Oh, J. Crew. There are so many things we love, but those things don't necessarily extend to the shipping portion of the show. The pros include in-store returns and pretty frequent coupon codes floating around, but on the con side, fees run a smidge higher than others, increasing for purchases every $25, maxing out at $18.50 for orders of $250 or more. Next-day, add $15 and for returns, postage is required. They're currently offering free shipping on crewcuts, but it appears to be a limited-time offer.

    BLOOMINGDALES

    Shipping prices go up by purchases in $25 increments, in other words, orders less than $25 go for $6, less than $50 for $8, then $18 for purchases between $200-$300 and, thankfully, for nothin' on orders exceeding $300. Rush delivery requires adding $13 and it's all non-refundable, but you do have the in-store return option.

    SAKS

    Similarly, Saks' shipping rates increase with every $25 spent, but there's a limit to what you have to pay. Spend more than $500 and standard shipping will cost $20. Overnight adds $15, while Saturday deliveries add $25, and returns cost $9.50 for postage.

    BARNEYS

    Barneys, bless them, offer free shipping on purchases more than $150. However—and this is a big, rather strange however—standard shipping takes 7-10 business days (most others range between 3-7), while priority, which costs $20 more, is only guaranteed in five business days. That's pretty much dismal. Also, there's an $8 return fee except on jewelry purchases more than $10,000, which have to be separately insured, for some reason.

    BERGDORF GOODMAN / NEIMAN MARCUS

    To begin with, Bergdorf's website has never worked for us in Firefox, but that's besides the point. Once you are able to actually shop from their site, the shipping situation is so-so. Relatively average fees apply per $25 spent, but go as high as $32 on orders totaling more than $1,000.