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Are “All You Can Ship” Deals Worth It?

I was poking around on Williams-Sonoma the other day when I saw that they have a new program called Williams-Sonoma Reserve [3]. For $30 a year, you get free standard shipping on most items and no minimum purchase. It’s a riff off Amazon Prime, which gives you free two-day shipping on most orders with no minimum purchase. The difference here is that Williams-Sonoma usually charges you shipping, whereas Amazon waives it on orders over $25.

As more and more stores move towards this model, is it worth it?

Whether or not it’s worth it depends on a variety of factors and has to be decided on a case by case basis. I’ll be using Williams-Sonoma as an example in this but you can really apply it to any store (as you should if you want to buy their free shipping service).

How often do you shop at the site? The knock against Williams-Sonoma is that they have a limited number of product categories. You can buy almost anything at Amazon from books to kitchen gadgets to diapers. Williams-Sonoma doesn’t sell diapers. Or books that aren’t cooking related. If you don’t shop enough at a store, you won’t use enough free shipping to cover the $30 fee. Since the number of products I would want to buy is limited, I don’t see myself ordering online all that often.

Would you even order it online? We have a Williams-Sonoma about ten minutes from our house. Since we’re going to have to pay sales tax on our order and because I have no patience, I would prefer to drive to the store and buy something before I’ll pay $30 for free shipping. I probably wouldn’t even take a free shipping offer if I can pick it up in the store because then I won’t have to worry about the package in transit.

How often is free shipping offered? I don’t know if Williams-Sonoma ever offers free shipping but since I generally buy things on sale (Williams-Sonoma has some pretty high prices normally), there is probably going to be a free shipping code floating around somewhere. Why pay $30 when I’m only going to order once a year and get free shipping that way?

Do I really want to be “locked” in? I don’t mind being locked in at Amazon because they have great prices but Williams-Sonoma competes with a lot of other stores and they aren’t known for low prices. They’re known for quality brands. Whereas with Amazon (and we have Prime through my wife and their education promotion) can probably beat competitors on price in enough categories to be worth it, I doubt the same can be said for Williams-Sonoma.

While this post probably sounds unusually harsh on Williams-Sonoma, I don’t intend to be. They are just the example in this particular case and I enjoy visiting their store in the mall, I just don’t see myself buying enough from their online site to justify paying even $30 for shipping.

I applaud them for offering this as it will be a boon to those who buy a lot and buy often on their online site. Many of the products they offer are heavy (cast iron!) and a service like this is a great thank you to loyal customers.

(Photo: VancityAllie [4])