Two weeks ago, Amazon offered free shipping to customers who bought at least two items from any one of their books, music or video departments, CNET News.com first reported. At the same time, however, the company raised prices on some of those items.
Some customers complained on Web message board posts and to Amazon that the company was trying to hide the price hike behind the free shipping offer.
"We received a lot of customer reaction, and most of it was very positive," Amazon spokesman Bill Curry said. "That's why you do a test. You learn what people like and don't like."
Curry said the free-shipping promotion taught the company some valuable lessons, but he declined to state what those were, saying, "We don't let the competition go to school on our tuition."
He also would not discuss whether Amazon might offer free shipping in the future.
Amazon said that during the two-week promotion the prices on most of its products remained the same. For instance, the discount for titles on The New York Times hardcover bestseller list stayed 40 percent off.
The test was partly to see if customers preferred to have the shipping costs absorbed into the price of the products they bought, rather than having to figure out the costs themselves.
Research has shown that one of the biggest reasons why consumers reject online shopping is that they do not want to pay shipping charges.
Barnes&Noble.com could not immediately be reached for comment.