The myth of 'free'... Free is defined as meaning 'without charge'. Recently I realized we're still paying for it.
I've spent a lot of time online recently, researching new product ideas for my own website as well as doing some online shopping for the holidays. I noticed a recurring theme at almost every store I browsed to, the word 'free'. It brought back memories of high school economics class and the saying 'There's no such thing as a free lunch'. That basically means that no matter how it may seem there really is no such thing as 'free' in the retail world.
Free shipping, free upgrades, buy one get one, the word 'free' seems to be everywhere right now. It's understandable, everyone is looking for ways to save money, and the word 'free' definitely conveys that. You automatically think things like value and savings, and doesn't everyone want to get something for nothing?
Although there are a few exceptions, especially when it comes to larger retailers, like Amazon (they can absorb the costs because their sales volume is already so high), usually retailers offer items and services for free because they have something to gain from it too, or because they will recoup the cost elsewhere, not just because they believe it will drive up sales. It may be something simple like asking you to sign up for a newsletter, which means the retailer has an opportunity to make future sales, or maybe the store raised their prices to make up for the free items.
I've been asked a few times why my site that sells boxes doesn't offer free shipping, and the answer is simple. If it did, I would have to raise the prices of my products. I realize that other sites that sell similar products offer it. However, a simple price comparison would explain how they do it.