Amazon, other retailers revamp 'free' shipping

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STORY: There is no such thing as free shipping.

Amazon and other retailers who tout the benefit are actually adding fees for faster delivery, raising minimum purchase requirements, and scrambling to make other changes to keep so-called “free shipping” from draining profits as costs climb and online sales fall.

And those costs are shifting to consumers - who are struggling with financial issues of their own.

Amazon raised the price of its Prime subscription and set a minimum purchase price for free same-day shipping - and a charge when orders fall below that. It also quadrupled the minimum price for free Prime shipping from its struggling online grocery business.

And the e-commerce giant is not alone… popular apparel chains like Zara, Abercrombie & Fitch and Foot Locker are drawing the line at losing money on a service consumers have come to expect.

Kelly Ison, the owner of Einstein Pets in Atlanta, told Reuters she ended free shipping last year on purchases of some items and switched to flat-rate shipping.

It is an open secret that most retailers raise product prices to subsidize free shipping. Still, product inflation and soaring shipping costs are making the service unsustainable as the prospect of recession threatens to wallop already-flagging online spending.