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Office supply chain Staples has adjusted its rewards program policy, now requiring members to spend at least $14.99 before a purchase will qualify for free shipping. Staples had been unusual for offering free shipping on all orders to members of its free rewards program. Still, the move signals a growing trend among retailers — where no-minimum free shipping is a rare perk.
They say nothing in life is free, and apparently that extends to free shipping as well. While some retailers offer membership programs that feature free shipping as one of the rewards, these days you have to pay for those benefits. Stores like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Overstock.com are prime examples of retailers with such programs. In this case, a yearly fee will buy you free shipping on orders of any amount.
If you aren't a member, retailers affect your shopping habits most when increasing free shipping minimums. Amazon is probably the best example, having just recently raised its minimum requirement for non-Prime members to $49. This puts it on par with Walmart, which provides free shipping for orders of $50 or more. Yet it also falls behind Target, which recently lowered its free shipping minimum to $25.
The stores that boast free membership programs with free shipping and no minimum purchase are few, and typically have very specific merchandise. Stores like Stride Rite, DSW, and Columbia Sportswear all have programs like this, but primarily sell shoes, accessories, and outdoor gear, respectively.
Staples' primary competitor, Office Depot/Office Max, also has a free rewards program, but it offers no free shipping benefits. Instead, the store has a very basic free shipping policy: qualifying orders of $35 or more will ship free from Office Depot/Office Max if you are shipping to "one of our many local delivery areas."
It's easy to see that even with the recent increase, Staples' free shipping policy is still on top. But we want to know what you think, readers. Will this change make you shop less or more at Staples? Do you prefer to buy your office supplies elsewhere? Sound off in the comments below!