Spring 2011



Though we collected information about retailers' shipping-costs and tax policies, ultimately, we decided to drop both from the comparison.

With respect to shipping, many of the retailers offered free shipping at a specific price-point ("Spend $100, get free shipping!").

But we found that some products triggered free shipping just by themselves ("Buy this fragrance and get free shipping on your entire order!"), and many of the retailers also advertised "special" free-shipping offers directly on their websites. In fact, we saw so many coupon-codes and offers for free shipping, some of them mast-heading the retailer's own website landing page, that we stopped collecting information about shipping costs.

As a basic proposition, absent a free-shipping offer, shipping-cost policy was most typically a flat fee ($5.95) covering purchases up to a specific price-point, and then free.

With respect to taxes, if taxes were charged, the amount charged typically depended on which State you were a resident of (if you were a resident of the United States) and which State the retailer did business out of. That answer complicated the analysis because it is contingent — the amount charged in taxes "depends". But when we also had difficulty matching tax rates between retailers and to States' own tax-rate databases, the analysis with respect to taxes simply became too complex to pursue.

To be sure, shipping costs and taxes may significantly affect the choice of a retailer. But we leave it to the reader (unfortunately) to determine for themselves.

One recommendation we do have, though, is to look for a free-shipping offer or coupon-code. Our experience was that it was sometimes possible to find these offers/coupons by using an Internet search engine, and searching for the retailer's name along with a phrase like "free shipping discount coupon code". At best, the search engine may point you straight back to the retailer's website and to a specific "Special Offers" page or coupon that you may have missed or overlooked.

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