Free Shipping Is Costing You a Lot More Than It Used To

Leah Bourne
111223360 Free Shipping Is Costing You a Lot More Than It Used To

Photo: Getty

One of the reasons it felt so easy switching from shopping in brick-and-mortar stores to online during the e-commerce boom of the last decade was the promise made by so many retailers for free shipping (and in many cases, free returns). But, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, free shipping, as we know it, might be a thing of the past, with many retailers upping the purchasing minimums required to qualify for free shipping, or doing away with it altogether.

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“Free shipping is not free. Somebody is paying for it,” Bala Ganesh, the retail segment marketing director at United Parcel Service, told the paper.

According to the piece, only a small group of retailers still offer no-minimum free shipping, including Amazon’s Zappos, Nordstrom, and L.L. Bean. That being said, nearly 90 percent of retailers do offer a free shipping option, but they are using the perk as an incentive to get shoppers to spend more than they would have otherwise. On average, shoppers now need to spend $82 on goods, up from $76 a year ago, to qualify for free shipping, according to StellaService, which compiles data on online shopping.

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Still, according to a recent comScore survey, free shipping is so important to online shoppers, 93 percent said they have either added extra items to their carts or chosen a slower delivery option to qualify for it. The tactic to get you to spend more to get free shipping appears to be working, too. According to Slice Intelligence, shoppers in September spent an average of 35 percent more when they got the benefit than those who paid a shipping fee.

Bottom line here: retailers aren’t just giving you free shipping to be nice, it usually comes at a price, and you’re the one paying for it.