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The truth behind Shutterfly’s unlimited free prints offer

Shutterfly unlimited free prints deal

All the 4×6 prints you can imagine for free! All you have to do is order your prints through the Shutterfly app. Sounds great, right? Almost unbelievable.

What would you do with unlimited prints? Here’s a few ideas:

  • Mural: Take lots of close-up photos of the sidewalk. Tile the prints together to make a huge mural.
  • Book: not the most original idea, since people already put their photos into a photo album. But instead of sliding your photos into an album, just take the entire stack and three-hole-punch your photos. Thread some binder clips into the holes, and you have an instant book.
  • Public art: leave your photos around town. Make a statement. Ask a question.

How can Shutterfly give away free prints?

Shutterfly must be offering these unlimited free prints because they want to grow their user base of the Shutterfly app. Make an incredible offer and get a ton of people to sign up. Sure, there’s the cost of offering all these prints for free, but now Shutterfly has these people using their app. Once someone learns how to order prints from their app, they would be more likely to continue to use the app. Get those new users hooked!

So this deal has got to be legit, right? Well, let’s look at the fine print (bolding is mine):

*Offer valid for a limited time only. Offer is good for unlimited free 4×4 and/or 4×6 prints through the Shutterfly apps only. Taxes, shipping and handling will apply. Not valid on other sizes, other products, prepaid plans, prior purchases, orders placed for in-store pick up and purchases made on shutterfly.com and our mobile-friendly site. Each order can only contain a maximum of 250 photos. Please start a new order for adding more items. Cannot be redeemed for cash or combined with other offers or credits. Not valid for resale.

Prints must be ordered through the app.

Ordering through the app isn’t too bad, especially since you can quickly select photos by just dragging down your screen. Pretty cool!

Each order can only have 250 photos.

They had to put some sort of limit on people ordering a million prints. The app does indeed only let you order 250 at a time.

Shutterfly: You can only purchase 250 items at a time.

I seriously was going to put an order in for a thousand prints of the same photo. But heck, I can put in four orders of 250 photos. Sure!

Only 9 prints of the same photo

The quantity field per photo on the Shutterfly app only allows for a single digit. Thus, you can order only 9 prints per photo.

Shutterfly app has a limit of 9 prints per photo

Why just nine prints? Shouldn’t they let people order 250 prints of the same photo? Well, it might make it TOO easy for someone to go crazy and order thousands of photos and wreck this wonderful deal, right? That’s not entirely true. The shipping kills this offer.

You have to pay taxes, shipping, and handling. 

How much is the shipping and tax? I added 250 photos to my cart. Filled in my shipping address. Went to check out. The total is $23.45 ($21.71 for shipping, $1.74 for tax). That’s quite an expensive shipping cost!

Shipping cost for 250 Shutterfly photos

Shutterfly’s unlimited free prints offer ends up costing 9.3 cents a print.

For 9.3 cent a print, you might as well get your prints from Walgreens. They often have 9-cent print deals. Right now they have a 50% off deal that effectively makes 4×6 prints cost ten cents per print. Plus, whenever you order from Walgreens, you always get a receipt that asks you to take a survey at walgreenslistens.com where you can win $3000.

Walgreens versus Shutterfly

Walgreens photo center:

  • 9 or 10 cents per print
  • This deal is pretty much always available
  • Order as many prints as you like
  • Chance to win $3000 through survey
  • Get your prints in under an hour

Shutterfly app:

  • 9.3 cents per print
  • Deal available only for a couple days
  • Maximum of 250 prints per order (and a maximum of nine prints per photo)
  • No chance to win money through a sweepstakes
  • Your prints arrive 6 to 9 days later (with economy shipping)

And hey! If you want your Shutterfly prints to arrive faster, you can pay even MORE for shipping. The shipping charges for my 250 prints are:

  • Economy (6-9 days) $21.71
  • Standard (7-8 days) $24.21
  • Expedited (6 days guaranteed) $31.91
  • Rush (5 days guaranteed) $39.91

Why is the shipping so much? Obviously, Shutterfly wants to make some sort of profit off their prints during this special offer. Maybe when the offer is done, they lower their shipping prices back to normal.

Nope. Shutterfly provides a handy chart of all their shipping costs for 4×6 (and 4×4) prints.

Shipping costs for Shutterfly 4x6 prints

Since Shutterfly has this chart published, these indeed are their regular prices for shipping. When there is no “free” offer, prints cost 15 cents each. Tack on the 8.7 cents shipping per print, and that’s a total of 24 cents per print!

What’s really happening here with Shutterfly’s deal, is that they are selling prints at Walgreens-based prices at 9 cents a print. When the deal goes away, you have to pay 24 cents per print. That kinda sucks. But get this, not only is Shutterfly selling prints for nine cents each, calling it “free”, they are deceiving people into thinking these prints are free, so people order the full 250 prints.

People end up buying a monster-load of 250 prints for Walgreens pricing. Would you normally order 250 prints from Walgreens? Probably not. Shutterfly tricks people into ordering a very large quantity at the same price you’d pay at Walgreens.

Walgreens wins. Order as many photos you’d like from Walgreens. Pick them up right away. And get yourself entered to win $3000.

Comments are very welcome, please leave a Reply

13 comments on "The truth behind Shutterfly’s unlimited free prints offer"

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Fred Buttz
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Thanks for exposing another ‘too good to be true’ modern day snake oil hustle.

ckw
Guest
Shutterfly isn’t my favorite photo lab, I prefer Mpix & even the cheaper Mpix economoy 4×6 pics, Miller’s or Nations to any, but you pay for the quality. Target has far better print quality than Walgreens & even Snapfish, which seems to rank pretty low usually comes out ahead of Walgreens. In most comparisons I’ve seen on the internet & in my personal experience, Walgreens prints come in at the bottom when it comes to image quality & color accuracy. I totally agree that the shipping negates the “free pic” deal, but when comparing their prints to Walgreens, its apples… Read more »
Me
Guest

Your an idiot , it’s convenient. Upload from any where . It’s the future .

Molly
Guest

“You’re,” not “Your.”
Idiot.

Diana
Guest

The Shutterfly prints are a much better quality in my opinion. I hate the glossy look which is only what Walgreens offers in store, so if you want Matte you have to have it shipped either way, and Shutterfly wins in that department.

Carrie P
Guest
I just spent several hours organizing thousands of photos from jump drives, my computer and my phone. I was going to order my entire digital library since the website stated they only charge $24 something for shipping 251-99,999 prints. Then it told me I could only order 250 at a time. That was annoying, yes. But at only a $1.88 to ship 250 prints, it was still a steal… it would just take longer to order. Went to check out with my first 250 order and the shipping was over $27. I was so irritated!!! I’m glad to see you… Read more »
Sara
Guest

I ordered my prints with my Christmas cards which qualified for free shipping so got my whole order for free shipping! So, it really was a great deal for me.

Brittni
Guest

You should check out FreePrints. Way better UI, same (if not better) print quality, better customer service and they give 1000 free prints a year.

Jessilee
Guest

As much as I agree with your logic, my taste for Walgreens photos diminished when they swapped their amazing Fuji printers will real photo paper to the new non-photosensitive paper. (Forgive me, I have forgotten the name of that printer, possible Noritsu) Their new paper is awful. It is environmentally friendlier, but the product looks awful. I miss the old Fuji glossy prints. I don’t want to pay for those new paper prints.

jessica
Guest
I agree with you, Matt, but shutterfly’s deal is much better when you want several prints and another item which then you can apply the shipping code. For example, for my wedding, I printed over 250 prints (576 and i stopped on my own). With this you are correct, the shipping was ridiculous, some $45. But there was also a code that said free shipping if the order cost over $49 “SHIP49” . I also wanted to buy a canvas photo which was closer to $50. I applied the code and got my free prints and ended up only paying… Read more »
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