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Want Amazon Free Super Saver Shipping? That'll Be $10 More, Please!

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On Monday Amazon quietly announced that it will raise the Free Super Saver Shipping order minimum for purchases from $25 to $35. Although this change doesn't affect Amazon Prime customers, it poses a potential stumbling block for holiday shoppers hoping to scoop up cheaper products without the hassle of shipping charges. And sadly, this news comes just a week after Best Buy similarly introduced a minimum purchase requirement for free shipping.

Of course, many shoppers prefer their free shipping to be free, no strings attached — even though eating the cost of shipping is not so great for merchants. But for customers and merchants, a $10 hike in purchase minimums may have profound consequences.

Meet the New Purchase Minimum or Join Amazon Prime

"This is the first time in more than a decade that Amazon has altered the minimum order for free shipping in the U.S.," reads the nondescript Amazon page that announces the $10 minimum purchase rate hike. It goes on to tout the virtues of Amazon Prime's free 2-day shipping and media streaming options, concluding that "the service is so popular that more than a year ago we began shipping more items with Prime than with free shipping." It ends with an offer to try Prime free for 30 days.

But unless Amazon can get more shoppers to pay $79 per year for its Prime service, the company could be in trouble. A somewhat prescient New York Times article (which ran just a day before the minimum purchase requirement was raised) argues that the website isn't profitable because Amazon's shipping model has become increasingly unsustainable: "You can [...] buy a box of 4,000 nails on Amazon (shipping weight: 38 pounds) and have them delivered to your door free. But the retailer has gone far beyond such modest offers. The Thunderbird Cookie Dropping Machine costs $32,329 and weighs 1,260 pounds, but Amazon will also ship it free."

Of course, non-Prime Amazon customers don't seem happy about the change. Several folks commented on the DealNews Facebook page that they'd be taking their sub-$35 purchases elsewhere. As TechHub put it, "Amazon's in a bit of a tough position. The site is so synonymous with deals, even a small price raise is hard to swallow."

The Pros and Cons of Free Shipping

By now, most retailers know that online shoppers expect some kind of free shipping option, even if they have to fulfill a minimum purchase requirement. This summer, a survey by UPS found that most consumers don't mind buying a few extra items to bag a shipping discount: "To qualify for free shipping, three out of four shoppers have added items to their carts." Surely these additional purchases don't hurt retailers' bottom lines. But Best Buy's sudden $25 minimum purchase, comes five weeks before the biggest shopping season of the year; Best Buy has offered no-minimum free shipping on many items (although not all) for as long as many consumers can remember. The effects of the newly imposed purchase minimum may not bode well for the retailer who has been known to cancel Black Friday orders.

By contrast, some retailers, like Neiman Marcus and PayPal have already begun rolling out no-minimum free shipping offers in an effort to lure in early holiday shoppers. The latter is offering free 2-day shipping (for a limited time) when customers use it to check out at select sites like Levi's, Aéropostale, and Sports Authority. Of course, this promotion can also be seen as an effort to lure shoppers away from paid shipping services like ShopRunner, Shop Your Way Max, Amazon Prime, and others.

In the end, it's highly unlikely that the minimum purchase rate hike at Amazon will hurt the shopping leviathan's place at the top of the Internet retailer chain. In fact, it's very likely that this increase will be the tipping point for Amazon shoppers already on the fence about trying Prime. But other companies could follow suit, only offering free shipping on $25+ orders. How this could affect customer behavior remains to be seen, but we anticipate that such free shipping minimums will be met with offers for no-minimum free shipping from the likes of Neiman Marcus and others. After all, we long ago decided that shipping is one of those things you just shouldn't have to pay for.

What do you think, readers? Does Amazon's new $35 minimum for free shipping make you see red? Or are you a faithful fan of Prime, and unperturbed by all this minimum purchase nonsense? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

Features Writer

Marcy pens consumer news stories of all sorts, in addition to adding pithy prose to many of the roundups you see every day. Her work for DealNews has appeared on sites like Lifehacker, the Huffington Post, and MSN Money. She is by far the most metal member of the DealNews staff, and you can see why by following her on Twitter @ThatBonebright.
Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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13 comments
dealguy
Just wanted to echo @hs123's frustrations with Add-On items. It feels like: Amazon Prime offers free shipping no minimum — except when the price for a single item (not a 12pk) is really good. Then there's a minimum!

I've got to say, I signed up for a 90-day trial for Sears' Shop Your Way bleh bleh. I've been buying almost every sub-$10 item off of DealNews that I normally would pass on because of $8+ in shipping. All tools, of course, as Sears is pretty much useless for everything but tools.
bugmenot
I stopped buying from Amazon when they started charging tax in California last year. Glad I did because I have been able to find just about everything for cheaper with no tax and with free shipping by using google. I now use Amazon mainly for the reviews.
kismit
I think it will hurt Amazon. There are other options such as Ebay dealers who offer free shipping, Walmart ship-to-store, etc. Online shoppers are notorious for looking for the best bargain which includes the cost of shipping.
spferdil
This increase is one more thing that will make me shop around more before buying from Amazon again. I have never liked the way they do the super saver anyway, some things qualify and some do not (even the same type of item). I once ordered a bunch of parts for a model helicopter from them, the parts were all listed on Amazon and the total for all would more than qualify for free shipping. But I didn't pay enough attention before placing the order, and the parts actually came from 5 or 6 different suppliers who listed on Amazon, several of whom did not offer the super saver shipping, so NONE of the order qualified. So the parts dribbled in over a week or two in separate groups and I had to pay separate shipping on each group.
hs123
Note that they've been cutting back on Prime shipping as well. It used to be that even cheap items shipped free, whereas now most sub-$10 items have become "Add on". They tout this as a great new convenience, but actually it's just a requirement that you buy $25 worth of stuff even if you have Prime in order to get the free shipping.
ELBEBE1000
I like Amazon.com but I don't like more and more restrictions added to our purchasing process. I have Red Card and I will check twice before place an order for small item (price) By now I have Student prime which is free for six months. Later I'll see.
Good colum.


Yashin
dealnews-Lindsay
@RenMan Ha, yeah that's true, I've had small things shipped separately like that too... I'm sure it has something to do with where everything is stored in their warehouses, but still.
RenMan
What's really dumb is that if I order $24.50 worth of items, I search around for a 50 cent item to bag free shipping. Twice Amazon sent the sub $1 items separately. They have to do extra work to find and pack the item, and if they send it separately, it costs them more than the item is worth.

Why not just let me pay the extra 50 cents as a free shipping qualifying fee, and we'd both be better off. I sure would like to hear other people's comments on this as well as Amazon's.
dealnews-Lindsay
@Witchboard From experience, Prime shipping is DEFINITELY faster. I think they have to be consistent about that if they expect people to pay for the subscription. Sometimes you get your order the next day even.
Witchboard
I'm not a Amazon Prime member and typically go for the previous $25 free shipping. The increase by $10 is somewhat of an annoyance, but I always have smaller priced items in my wish list I can always add to bump it up to receive free shipping. What's more annoying to me is my last two orders with free super saver shipping have taken a week to ship on items in stock. Not a week to arrive, a week before it gets shipped, plus the shipping time. I don't know if Prime shipping is faster and I may try the 30 day trial on my next order to check it out.
BboJim
Glad I have a Prime account!
anthem11
I'll be shopping on Target.com more. Free shipping with my RedCard!
Greg the Gruesome
I almost never buy anything from Amazon that's not a deal I saw on DealNews. If DealNews says that Amazon has the lowest price, even with shipping added, on something I like, I'll consider buying it.
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