Category Archives: Business news

Amazon changes the rules for free shipping

I shop at Amazon frequently to take advantage of its competitive prices (on most items) and its low threshold for free shipping. My latest shopping trip led to an unwelcome surprise. Amazon has raised the dollar amount of the minimum order you must place to get free shipping.

Look for the "FREE shipping on orders over $35" words near the top of Amazon listings.

Look for the “FREE shipping on orders over $35” words near the top of Amazon listings.

The company used to offer “free super saver shipping” on orders of $25 or more. Now, you must spend at least $35 to get your items shipped to you at no charge. In a Web announcement, Amazon says this is the first time in more than 10 years that it has changed the minimum order amount for free shipping. The announcement includes a sales pitch for Amazon Prime, which allows you to get “free” two-day shipping on orders of any size, if you pay a $79 annual subscription fee. Not exactly what I would call free shipping.

To find items that are eligible for free shipping, look for the words “FREE shipping on orders over $35” on the search results page or the product page (see photo above for example).

Keep in mind some items that are sold on Amazon but shipped by other retailers offer free shipping on orders less than $35.

If you don’t shop at Amazon frequently, you may have missed another trend in its free-shipping policy: the add-on item. Items labeled as add-ons are eligible for free shipping, but only after you already have $35 of merchandise in your cart. Amazon’s current explanation of add-on items is a bit confusing, but it appears you can add the items to a $25 order as well, but they may not be eligible for free shipping at that threshold. Examples include this Rubbermaid plastic magazine file. You can identify add-on items by the blue “Add-on Item” band near the “Add to cart” button or the explanation in the product description (see photo below for examples).

Look for the blue labels to identify Amazon add-on items.

Look for the blue labels to identify Amazon add-on items.

Sometimes, you may be a few cents away from free shipping and need a cheap item to finish off your order. If this is the case, check out my previous post on a neat tool that can help you find such items.

What do you think of Amazon’s new shipping threshold? Will it change how often you purchase items from this retailer?

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Filed under Business news, Cheap and free stuff, Saving money, Shopping tips

Endless.com absorbed by Amazon

It’s been a while since I bought a pair of shoes, so I was rather surprised when I visited my favorite shoe store online and discovered an announcement that it is no longer in operation. Endless.com is one of the stores I featured in a post earlier this year about sources of hard-to-find women’s shoe sizes. Now it’s been absorbed by its parent company, Amazon, and its offerings can be found at amazon.com/fashion. It will no longer exist as a separate website.

I’m glad the shoes offered by Endless will still be around, but it’s disappointing they’re now incorporated into the Amazon website. The Endless website was easier to search and use than Amazon’s is. One of my favorite parts of shopping with Endless was that it offered free shipping and free returns, allowing me to try on shoes without costly shipping charges. According to its online returns policy for shoes, it looks like Amazon will offer free returns on many products, but not all of them will have free shipping both ways. Make sure you look for the words “Eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping and Free Returns” if you’re interested in this benefit.

I’m glad that I haven’t totally lost access to the shoes offered by Endless, but it appears some of the benefits the site offered are gone for good.

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Filed under Business news, Customer service, Shopping tips

Coupons returning to JCPenney? Company provides first promo code, paper coupon in months

Faithful JCPenney shoppers got a rude awakening in February 2012 when the company implemented a huge change to its marketing strategy. Instead of weekly sales and a variety of coupons and promo codes, JCPenney instituted what it called “fair and square pricing.” The basic idea was that shoppers would get the stores’ best prices all the time and wouldn’t have to wait for a sale.

The strategy appears to be an epic fail thus far, with news reports showing large drops in sales at retail stores and online. My recent visits to my local JCPenney store seem to confirm this, as the place looks like a ghost town. The sales and marketing disaster may have played a role in the resignation of the company’s president this summer.

It appears things may be changing at JCPenney. For the first time in months, I’ve seen a money-saving promo code for use on the company’s website. You can use code EXTRA30 to get 30 percent off clearance items, along with free shipping on orders over $50. Since February, the only coupon codes I’ve seen the company offer have been for free shipping when you spent a specified dollar amount online.

I also recently received a paper coupon in the mail from JCPenney. It offered me $10 in an attempt to woo me back into the store to view the company’s new in-store boutiques devoted to various brands, such as Izod and Liz Claiborne.

Were you a JCPenney shopper before the new marketing strategy? What do you think it will take for the company to get back on track?

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Filed under Business news, Sales and promo codes

Kodak Gallery shutting down—what are the best remaining options for photo prints online?

A recent email informed me that Kodak Gallery, my source for online photo prints for many years, is shutting down. Kodak has sold its Internet-based photo-printing operation to Shutterfly as part of its efforts to recover from financial woes. Kodak plans to transfer customers’ images to Shutterfly at no charge, and it will close the virtual doors to Kodak Gallery on July 2, 2012.

This move does not come as a huge surprise to me. In a January blog post, I noted how customer service was going downhill at Kodak Gallery, and I began my search for a new place to print pictures and create photo books and gifts online.  My research led me to conduct a comparison test of four photo-printing sites: Shutterfly vs. Snapfish vs. Mpix vs. AdoramaPix. Snapfish came out the winner, followed by a strong showing from Mpix. Shutterfly did not receive a single vote. I recommend trying Snapfish and Mpix at least one time each to decide which you prefer.

If you’re a Kodak Gallery customer, I recommended declining the option to have your photos transferred to Shutterfly. You won’t be happy with the quality of photos and photo products you receive. You have until May 28 to opt out of the planned transfer, and you can learn more about the Kodak Gallery transition to Shutterfly online. If you have any unfinished photo projects you still want to order from Kodak Gallery, make sure you do so by noon Pacific time on July 2. Right now, Kodak Gallery is offering 25 percent off all orders.

If you have any photos stored on the Kodak Gallery website that you don’t have anywhere else, I recommend downloading them to your computer or another backup device, even if you are allowing Kodak to move them to Shutterfly.

Have you tried Snapfish or Mpix in the past? What did you think of their photo products?

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Filed under Business news, Customer service, Shopping tips