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February 28, 2005

A WHILE BACK, I noted Amazon's new "frequent flyer program" in which you get free shipping on all your orders for a rather reasonable flat yearly fee. Being a heavy Amazon customer, I signed up, and it's definitely changed the way I shop there. For example, I just ordered some of these Balance nutrition bars -- a snacking mainstay at our house -- where I wouldn't have done so before without tacking more stuff into the order to offset the shipping charge. But now I just order them as needed via Amazon, with no shipping charge, rather than buying them in bulk at Target. They're a bit cheaper than Target's price, and I don't buy all the other stuff I wind up buying when I visit Target -- a double savings of sorts. I don't know whether other online merchants, lacking Amazon's clout with shipping companies, will be able to emulate this, but I suspect that over time cheaper shipping will start cutting into brick-and-mortar merchants' business. Maybe the 1990s bubble was just premature, and not fundamentally wrong . . . .

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