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Tale of the Tape: Soap.com versus Walmart.com

I opened my mailbox Monday morning to find a 20% off coupon from Soap.com inside. I had never heard of Soap.com. They sell things like laundry detergent, band-aids, shampoo, Cascade, and batteries, and they promise free overnight or two-day delivery, depending where you live, on orders more than $25.

I'm intrigued. My husband and I used to make a quarterly schlep to Walmart for those household goods. Back when we needed diapers for the kids (thank you, Patron Saint of the Mommies, that those days are over), our motivation was that diapers, and everything else at Walmart, were the cheapest we could find. We hated every minute of being inside that purgatory. But we took turns going, figuring our wallets were the better for it.

These days I don't want to go to any store with my kids. They see the character-covered brands and want them. "Mom, look, there's Dora soup!" "Mom, see that Cars coloring book? Can we get it? Can we get it?" If there were an Olympic event in wheeling kids around in a cart while ignoring them, I would be your gold medalist.

So I placed my first order with Soap on Wednesday, and got two boxes of Cascade, two bottles of shampoo, two conditioners and a 20-pack of Cottonelle. Including tax, but deducting $12.55 for the coupon, my order was $47.22. The box arrived by UPS at 3:30 on Thursday.

While I was shopping Soap, I kept clicking over to Walmart.com to see how the prices compared. Walmart beat Soap by either a few cents or more than a dollar on some items. A 20-pack of AA Duracells was $11.59 on Soap; $9.97 on Walmart. With the Cottonelle, Walmart was offering 24 rolls for less than the price of 20 at Soap.

At Walmart.com, however, you pay shipping charges for each item: 97 cents for standard shipping, $1.97 for two- to three-day shipping and $2.97 per item for overnight, but depending what time of day you order, it may or may not come overnight. When I checked at 3 p.m. on a Thursday and clicked overnight shipping, it said my order wouldn't arrive until Monday.

I spoke to Lisa Kennedy, Soap.com's e-commerce EVP, about the service. She knows that Walmart is beating them on price on a few items, but Soap is betting that customers will appreciate knowing their orders are arriving the next day, in most cases. "We are, as you might imagine, trying to be as competitive as we can, but we think that value for our consumers is a mix of price, plus the service of next-day or two-day delivery," she says.

At risk of sounding like an ad for Soap, I'll quote Kennedy about the philosophy behind the company. "It's for the family that doesn't want to spend their Saturday afternoon driving between multiple brick-and-mortar locations or even worse, lost in the daylight-free zone of a mass merchandiser where people often tell us they've come out two hours later and can't believe they've lost so much time," she says. "Shopping for these things doesn't have to be hard. The errand, if you will, can be over."

I'm convinced, but if the Olympic event were in uber-frugality, I wouldn't even make the team. So here's my ruling: If you're a super-organized person, and you don't mind comparison shopping and waiting several days for your order, you'll come out a few cents ahead on some items if you shop Walmart.com. If you're like me and your house is perpetually running out of toilet paper, Soap is your service. If nothing else, you can try it with 15% off your first order with the promo code "soapsplash."

This does raise one etiquette question: If you get regular deliveries to your home, should you tip your UPS guy? How much? How often? Sign in below to let me know.

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