Monthly Archives: May 2013

Enjoy easier shopping with free shipping and free returns

I buy a lot of items online. Why?

  • The selection is better.
  • Prices are often lower.
  • You can earn extra rewards on your purchases through Ebates.
  • You save money on gas.
  • You avoid the hassle of locating items and waiting in line at a local retail store.

Free shipping makes online shopping even more appealing, but you can still incur costs when you have to return items. Now, however, more companies are offering free shipping and free returns, especially on shoes and clothing. This makes online shopping an even better option. You can try on items and return what doesn’t fit. With that in mind, here are some of the online retailers you may want to consider for your next purchase:

NordstromThis department store offers free shipping all the time — no need to spend a minimum amount or wait for a special promotion. I recently ordered three dresses from them and returned two. The process went smoothly, and I received a prompt refund. The only bummer was that Nordstrom uses the post office for return shipping, which is not especially convenient for me. Be sure to get a receipt with a tracking number for your return from the post office.

ShoebuyThere’s no minimum purchase here, either. Free shipping gets your item delivered in 3 to 10 business days. You can pay for quicker shipping if needed. Shoebuy uses UPS for returns. Shoebuy’s return processing is a bit slower than other stores I’ve purchased from but still gets completed in a reasonable time frame.

Zappos Known for its excellent customer service, Zappos offers a generous 365-day return policy for unused items. It sells shoes, clothing, cookware, makeup, luggage and more. Free return shipping is via UPS or the postal service. My returns have always been credited promptly.

Amazon — Amazon offers free shipping and returns on select items, including clothing, shoes, luggage, jewelry, watches, accessories and sunglasses.  Look for the words “FREE Super Saver Shipping & Free Returns” next to an item’s description to determine if it qualifies. You’ll have to spend $25 to get free shipping.

Clarks — I have not ordered from this company, but it does offer free shipping both ways via UPS. You don’t need to place a minimum order. Clarks sells shoes and accessories.

Apple Store — I was surprised to find this electronics retailer offers free returns. You must initiate the return process within 14 days of receiving your item. To get free shipping, you must spend at least $50.

Piperlime — Owned by the same parent company as Old Navy, Piperlime sells upscale, brand-name clothing for the whole family, plus shoes and accessories. You have 30 days from the purchase date to take advantage of free return shipping. Items arrive at your home within 5 business days of your order placement.

Fossil — Best known for its stylish watches, Fossil offers free returns within 90 days of purchase. Orders shipped free arrive within 5 business days.

Brooks Running — You’ll have to spend $75 to get free FedEx shipping, but you’ll also get free returns when ordering from Brooks Running. The store sells running shoes, apparel and accessories for men and women.

As evidenced by the growing number of retailers offering free returns, it’s apparently good for business to do so. This CNBC article references a study that shows huge growth in future purchases when free returns are available.

What are your favorite online stores offering free shipping and free returns?


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Filed under Cheap and free stuff, Customer service, Saving money, Shopping tips

Get 14 percent cash back on purchases from big-name stores

Ebates is celebrating its birthday by supersizing the savings it offers you when shopping at many large retailers. Ebates always gives you cash back on purchases when you start your online shopping at its website (for details, see my previous post), but now the percentage you get back has more than doubled for many stores as part of this promotion.

Currently, you can get 14 percent cash back at these stores:

  • Macy’s
  • Nordstrom
  • Under Armour
  • Gap
  • Old Navy
  • Tommy Hilfiger
  • Banana Republic
  • Colorful Images
  • eBags
  • Elizabeth Arden
  • Godiva
  • Hanes
  • Vistaprint
  • Vanity Fair
  • Reebok

There are many more stores offering 14 cash back. A full list is available at Look for the “Celebrate our birthday” link in the top right corner of the page to find it.

Plus, you can get 42 percent cash back on an Angie’s List membership — check out my previous post on whether Angie’s list is worth the money. 42 percent is also available at

The Ebates website doesn’t make it clear how long this promotion will last, so if you’ve got some shopping to do, get started now and cash in on the savings!

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Filed under Rewards programs, Saving money, Shopping tips

Dick’s Sporting Goods, Best Buy rewards programs need improvement

Rewards are a way for companies to show they care about customers. Acknowledging your patrons’ loyalty with the lure of a bonus can prompt them to choose your store over a competitor’s. Many companies offer bonus points you collect each time you make a purchase, then allow you to pool those points for discounts on a future purchase.

I try to save money everywhere possible, so I gladly enrolled in the free rewards programs offered by Dick’s Sporting Goods and Best Buy. I was surprised by a recent email indicating I had no points in my Dick’s “Scorecard” account, because I know I purchased more than one item at Dick’s last year. When I asked a sales representative at the local store if points expire, she said “no” and advised me to log into my account at I did just that when I returned home but found no record of my 2012 purchases. I went to the site’s FAQ page and found the following:

  • Will my points ever expire?

    Yes, all points balances will be reset to 0 on the Sunday closest to January 31st of each year.”

So, it turns out the sales rep was incorrect. Not only that, but the way I read this policy, your points could expire within a few days of your purchase if you buy something in the month of January.

Another company I make occasional purchase from is Best Buy, which offers a program called “Reward Zone.” The program’s website indicates a practice similar to the Scorecard program:

  • “At the beginning of every calendar year, the points in your account (except Premier Silver members and Reward Zone Gamers Club Unlocked members) will be issued as reward certificates down to the $5 level, and any remaining points will be forfeited. You will begin getting points for the new calendar year on January 1. For example, if you have 300 points, you will receive a $5 reward certificate (250 points) and you will forfeit 50 points.”

If these and other companies want to show customers they truly value them, they should not apply 12-month expiration policies to their rewards programs. I can see the wisdom of expiring points every 3-5 years to save the company the expense of recordkeeping on inactive customers. But every 12 months (or less, in the case of Dick’s Sporting Goods)?

If you have points in a store’s rewards program, be sure to check the expiration policy so you can make an informed decision on the timing of your next purchase and not miss out on savings opportunities.

Do you participate in a rewards program that doesn’t allow points to expire? What retailer rewards programs do you find most valuable?


Filed under Customer service, Rewards programs, Saving money, Shopping tips