"The High Cost of Free Shipping"

It’s unclear when, exactly, the trend of free shipping began, but a good starting point is probably the 1999 launch of Zappos, an early online shoe seller. 

The company worried that consumers wouldn’t be willing to buy shoes without trying them on, so it offered free shipping and free returns, thus eliminating the risk the shoes didn’t fit. These days, free shipping is among the most popular promotions online retailers deploy, and consumers have come to expect them whenever they shop online. At the same time, the rate of product returns has grown immensely. A study in 2006 found that 5.6 percent of online purchases were returned. By 2013, that number had increased to almost 37 percent.