We get, you want free shipping and free returns. We all do! But, let's make one thing clear, nothing is ever free. The costs must be absorbed somewhere, somehow, by someone. It's important to note three valuable things when shopping.

1. Free shipping (and returns) doesn't exist.

-Free shipping affects small businesses, your overall spending, the diversity of products available, and the environment. -“Free” shipping is often included in the price There are a bunch of ways to make it possible to offer free shipping. If you’re Amazon, you plan to sell enough do-dads to make up for this cost, even though it eats into your profits. But what if you aren’t Amazon? -One way to afford free shipping is to hide it in the price of the individual items. Some businesses will mark up items to make it seem like free shipping, but the cost is just added to the item's price. And people are often willing to pay a bit more, to avoid shipping costs.

2. Free shipping and returns aren't sustainable. There are significant environmental costs.

"It sounds harmful and inefficient—all the box trucks and tractor trailers and cargo planes and container ships set in motion to deal with changed minds or misleading product descriptions, to say nothing of the physical waste of the products themselves, and the waste created to manufacture things that will never be used. That’s because it is harmful and inefficient. Retailers of all kinds have always had to deal with returns, but processing this much miscellaneous, maybe-used, maybe-useless stuff is an invention of the past 15 years of American consumerism. In a race to acquire new customers and retain them at any cost, retailers have taught shoppers to misbehave for virtually all involved." -When we think of free shipping, we don’t often consider the broader impact on the environment. We don’t think of planes, trains, or automobiles. -But when you consider it, the time and mode of transit must make a difference. -Causes smaller shipping – which ups carbon emissions In the last few years, Amazon has begun offering same-day shipping in the U.S. and 2-day shipping in Canada. -This means, logistically, that Amazon has hired local people to drive your waffle maker to you. It means that postal trucks drive different routes, use more fuel, and create more carbon emissions. It’s a nice perk for consumers, but not so great for the environment. -Think about it: if we move toward faster shipping, more shipments must be done. That’s more planes in the air, more trucks, and cars on the road – all more often. And this makes each delivery less efficient. -The problem is only growing. In order to keep up with Amazon, other retailers are jumping on the same-day shipping train not to lose sales. -For instance, Target now has same-day delivery in the U.S. And Walmart now offers same-day delivery in Canada (select locations) for grocery items through Instacart, and free next-day delivery in the U.S. More and more retailers will need to do so if they want to keep up. On the surface, a refund doesn’t seem like a big deal. After all, you’re just losing the value of the returned item. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Let me explain why the refund cost is much greater than the dollars you give back to the customer. The product was not only shipped once but twice. And when you add an exchange, you ship the same item 3x. This generates a huge Co2 bill for just a small product.

3. What you can do to shop ethically online.

Shop small businesses.

Do not choose the fastest shipping method.

Understand that a refund and exchange are not the same

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/11/free-returns-online-shopping/620169/ https://www.wsj.com/articles/amazon-walmart-tell-consumers-to-skip-returns-of-unwanted-items-11610274600