Is 2-Day Free Shipping Really Free?

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Two-day shipping is free until it isn’t. And things that are supposed to ship in two days ship in two days until they don’t. Most retailers, and certainly major retailers like Walmart and Amazon, put so many rules on two-day shipping plans that it is often hard to get an item in two days at all. Unless the customer wants to spend money.

Amazon’s restrictions include the size of the order. If it is not $25 or above, the customer pays a charge. A product bought at Amazon also has to have a “FREE Shipping” tag next to it.

Products bought at Amazon.com that Amazon does not sell itself often do not have free shipping. Since Amazon sells products for tens of thousands of other retailers, free shipping may not be included. That is up to the company that is using the Amazon.com platform to market its products.

Amazon has a broad policy that gets it off the free shipping hook: “Canceling items, combining orders, or changing your shipping address, speed, or preference might affect your order’s free shipping eligibility.” While this appears to put the burden on the buyer, it is not clear what a “combined order” is or how these orders affection shipping times.

Another caveat appears to be based on where the customer is located. “You may find geographic shipping restrictions apply to particular products.” Amazon is not clear about what a “geographic restriction” is.

Another open issue is an “order may contain ineligible items.” Amazon does not give guidance about what that might be. Additionally, “A special product, order, or handling fee may still apply.”

Walmart.com has its own set of rules. The broadest is “Estimated delivery times are determined based on the method of shipping chosen when Products are purchased and the destination of the Products.” It is clear that products have to be delivered in the United States to quality. However, the term “destination” is not made clear.

Walmart.com has another broad policy: “All transactions are made pursuant to a shipping contract, and, as a result, risk of loss and title for Products pass to you upon delivery of the Products to the carrier.” The language is convoluted enough so it is unclear what it means, at least to people who do not understand legal language.

Walmart offers free shipping, in some cases, on orders above $35. As is the case with Amazon, third-party sellers may not offer free shipping at all: “… sellers set their own shipping costs and methods.”

Some items sold at Walmart carry a delivery date well beyond two days. This is true even when people pay for shipping. This is another set of rules that are not entirely clear. Walmart may have a set of rules about this set of rules, but that is not evident at the Walmart.com site.

What is free shipping? The answer varies. What is two-day shipping? That answer varies as well. As for free two-day shipping, the rules, which are unclear, are even more complicated.


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