When you're shopping on the Internet, the cost of shipping should be an important part of your decision making process. It makes no sense to save $2 on an item if it will cost you $5.95 to ship it. As a result, many online merchants spend many dollars advertising their shipping policy to get your mouse to navigate into their store. So, let's explore how different merchants treat shipping discounts and how you can use that to your advantage.
First, let's identify some types of shipping discounts that exist in the online world. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather, a few common examples.
Free Shipping per Item
Some merchants offer free shipping on specific items only. Buy.com is a perfect example of this. For each item offered with free shipping, a simple "Shipping Free" label is shown next to the listing. If you order only "free shipping" items and you choose the budget shipping option, then there will be no shipping charges. There is no minimum order size to qualify for free shipping. However, if your order includes items that are not labeled "free shipping", then you will be charged shipping for those items.
Free Shipping for an Entire Order
Some merchants will waive shipping charges after your order exceeds a minimum amount. CVS or Staples both offer free shipping when your order reaches $50. Drugstore.com's free ship discount kicks in at $25.
So why is it important to recognize a merchant's shipping policy?
Well, it's quite simple. If you have a small-ticket item to purchase, then look around for the merchant that will offer free shipping on a per item basis. I recently purchased an iPod audio cable for less than $10. It was the only item that I needed to purchase, so my order was placed with Buy.com without shipping charges or sales tax.
On the other hand, if you have small-ticket items that can be made part of a larger order, then look for a merchant that will offer free shipping (or fixed price shipping) on an entire order.