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I ran into a surprising checkout glitch on, an online retailer of colognes, etc.

Having received an email offering free shipping worldwide on all orders (i.e. no minimum purchase), I decided to investigate. It seemed too good to be true.

When I landed on the site, I noticed the banner indicating free worldwide shipping… but no mention as to whether there was a minimum order:

So I decided to add something to my cart and begin the checkout process, just to see whether I’d get the free shipping. After adding the item, I was taken to my shopping cart page:


My eyes went right to the shipping cost calculator at lower right. When I set it to Canada, shipping was listed at $10.58 and there was a message stating I had to spend an additional $53.20 CAD to get free shipping in the USA. (Strange: since I’m clearly ordering from Canada, why are they telling me about free shipping in the USA?) But no problem, I thought. I haven’t entered the coupon code yet. Maybe the shipping charge will disappear after I’ve done so.

There was a small coupon field to the left of the shipping calculator, but I didn’t notice it. Instead, I clicked “Proceed to Checkout”, assuming the coupon field would appear on the next page. And indeed there was a coupon field on the next page:


I entered the code, “FREE”, but as this page contained no order summary (it showed only the address fields and method of payment) I couldn’t tell whether I did in fact get free shipping.

Again, I thought, “No problem, surely I’ll be able to review my order before submitting payment.” So I selected payment by PayPal and clicked the “Review Your Order” button:


Here’s where I encountered my first surprise: Instead of being presented with a summary of my order, I was taken directly to the PayPal login page:


Since I hadn’t seen a summary yet, I had no idea whether I was getting free shipping. But since the dollar amount was small — and my curiosity was piqued — I decided to take a chance and log into PayPal, figuring I’d be presented with an order summary before finalizing payment. To my astonishment, the next screen informed me that my order was complete!

As it turned out, I did get the free shipping. And I really did want the item I’d placed in my cart. So it worked out fine for me. But I can easily imagine cases in which visitors would go through the same steps I did, before doing any serious shopping, just to see whether they were entitled to free shipping.

I wonder how many visitors end up placing orders they didn’t intend to. And how many angry phone calls and emails the customer service reps must get!

Always give your customers a chance to review their orders before finalizing payment. And always ensure that the final step in your checkout process looks like the final step.