Is Free Shipping a Myth or Fact? Online Free Shipping Myth Buster

First off, I’ve been selling products online for over 14 years starting back in the day of dial-up Internet access, checks were delivered in the mail and you could sell a broken laser pointer for big bucks.  I’ve seen many marketing tactics and messages designed to entice the customer to BUY FROM ME and the tactic of FREE SHIPPING seems to be one of those tactics that has stuck around far longer than anyone anticipated.  Is there really such a thing as free shipping?

Over the many years I’ve paid shipping companies such as UPS, Fedex, DHL and USPS over a $1,000,000 for shipping my packages to my customers and not a single time did they come to me and say, don’t worry about paying we’ll ship this one for free.  That’s right, you’d think with all the business I’ve given them over the years maybe they’d offer me free shipping.  Obviously, they can’t because every time you ship a box it takes many people, trucks and airplanes to transport the box from start to finish.

If shipping is not actually free, then why do so many online merchants advertise free shipping on their websites or on marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon?  The simple answer is to get you to stop comparison shopping and BUY IT NOW from them.  It’s that simple.  It’s a marketing strategy.  It’s a trick.  A very effective trick if you ask me.

The word FREE usually means you’ll be getting something for nothing, but is that the case here?  Based on my 14 years experience, most of the time the answer is NO.  You’ve heard the saying “nothing is free” and that’s the case here too.  I know for some of you this is coming as a SHOCKER!!!!  I know this because I still receive emails today where the customer wishes to purchase an item from us at a higher price because it has free shipping they think they are getting a better deal.

Don’t feel bad. This trick has fooled a few merchants as well.    Sometimes newbie merchants will see others offering free shipping and not fully understand that free doesn’t actually mean free and they offer their items for sale with free shipping and don’t include the actual cost of shipping into the item price.  Merchants who don’t learn that free shipping is simply a marketing message trick quickly go out of business after they receive their bill from UPS or Fedex.

I believe the term free shipping should be changed to “EASY MATH” because that is all this is.  It’s easy math to help people who can or can’t do the match themselves know the total price of the item if purchased.  For the people who are not too lazy or smart enough to do the math before hitting the BUY IT NOW button they will find a reward sometimes.  The reward of buying at a lower total price as well as the feeling of not being fooled by simple marketing messages.

TAKE OFF YOUR FREE SHIPPING GOGGLES AND DO THE MATH!!!!  I say this with only good intention.  I hope you’ll “Do the math” before hitting the BUY IT NOW button and it’s too late.  Do the math for the same item on eBay AND on the merchant’s website.  Is the item on the website lower than it is on eBay or Amazon.  Most likely it is.  If you buy it on eBay does eBay ship it?  No they don’t.  Then why pay extra for the exact same service?

Here’s a classic example where we do the math for you:

eBay: Black 9” Headrest DVD Players $279.99 + FREE SHIPPING = $279.99

Website: Black 9” Headrest DVD Players $259.99 + $16.50 shipping = $276.49

That’s right!  On the website it’s not free shipping but if you do the math you’ll find the total price out of pocket is lower.  You’ll get the exact same item and service but for a lower price if you buy it on the website.

Where did the free shipping marketing tactic start and why do you see it often?  This is another long blog post we’ll do another time.  Let’s just say, the big dogs of ecommerce hope you continue to be mesmerized by the words FREE SHIPPING and continue to BUY IT NOW without shopping for a better deal.  I hope you hit the brakes when you see the words FREE SHIPPING and do the math.

Is there really free shipping?    No, there is no such thing as free shipping.  Myth Busted!