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I’m Going to Go Broke in My Quest for Free Shipping

Turns out free shipping can be really effing expensive.

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Photo: Vlad St/Getty Images

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Do you want to hear about quite possibly the dumbest shopping-related decision I’ve ever made? I will tell you. Last year, around this time, I realized I still didn’t have a new calendar for my kitchen. I poked around, asked a couple of friends, and eventually landed on a whimsical-but-still-borderline-creepy one from Anthropologie.

It cost $26 — reasonable enough. I put it in my cart and went to check out. That’s when I realized that, horror of horrors, I would be expected to PAY for SHIPPING like a GODDAMN CAVE PERSON. $6.95!!!!! Everyone knows that $26 + $6.95 is equal to a semester of college tuition, or a down payment on a yacht. It felt like paying for nothing, and I refused to do it.

No, I would outsmart Anthropologie’s sinister attempts to part me from my hard-earned money: I would add something to my cart to meet the minimum for free shipping. I do this all the time, treating it more like a game or a moral imperative than a series of financial decisions that almost certainly does not save me anything in the long run — a single pair of underwear added to an American Apparel order just shy of the $50 mark, an overwhelming yet identical array of Uniqlo socks that pushes the total past $125.

Amazon Prime, with its lack of minimum, has made me spoiled and soft, expecting everything I add to any online shopping cart to be at my doorstep within days at no extra charge. Let’s not even talk about Seamless. I know I am being played on all sides! I just can’t seem to stop! Captalism!!!

I do not remember now what that particular Anthro minimum was — $50? $75? $100? And the reason I do not remember is because my chosen supplementary item was not a small accessory, nor a necessary staple, but a ridiculous, inconvenient, and above all expensive garment I had never thought of owning before and have not, as of this writing, worn since: a black lace corset.

It cost $74 and I bought it almost without thinking. I have no idea what came over me. I guess I wanted to be the sort of person who owned a black lace corset AND a twee-as-heck wall calendar? Maybe it was that post-holiday rush of self-improvement, that new-year-new-me mania that causes otherwise reasonable folks to drop hundreds of dollars in pursuit of a self that’s just a little bit shinier, a tad sexier, a touch more fully formed. Maybe (definitely) it was just really fucking pretty.

Whatever the reason, the box arrived, and I put the calendar on the wall, and I put the corset in the drawer next to the normal, boring, laceless bras, where it remains practically untouched to this day.

Here is the kicker: When I went back to my Anthropologie order history just now to confirm the prices, my account notes that I did pay for shipping. Maybe it was waived; maybe my memory is going, along with my bank balance. Maybe I wanted an excuse to want the corset, no matter how truly ridiculous, and so the story I told myself was that I was just playing my usual game. And maybe there’s a reason it’s still in that drawer, that it’s survived all the purging and Kondo-ing I put myself through this past year, in those same attempts to arrive at my ideal self.

Maybe 2017 is the year when I finally find a way to wear it. And if I need to meet a minimum, I can always buy the matching underwear.