(Updated 6/28/18) A couple days ago I saw that Amazon.com is considering bumping up the price of their Prime Membership by $20 or $40 bucks. It is currently $99 annually, so it will potentially be $109 or $119 per year. This story got me thinking about the Prime Membership, which for those of you that don’t know, gives members unlimited free 2-day shipping, some free Kindle books every month, and access to Amazon instant streaming (think Netflix after it got shot, run over, then run over again). Is it worth the money every year? Does it make you overspend? Does it make you a lazy shopper? To those 3 questions I say No, Yes, Yes. Keep on reading to see why…
Amazon Already Has Free Shipping on $25+
I mean sure, the free 2-day shipping all orders is a great incentive, but are you aware that Amazon already offers free shipping on $25+ orders? For those who say, “But most of my purchases are under $25 and won’t qualify for free shipping.” To them I say make sure and combine orders until you reach the $25 threshold.
Have a little will-power on purchases and wait until you have several items you need to buy before you make an order.
If you are a shopper that buys stuff online and always “Needs It NOW” and you’ll happily pay for expedited shipping to make it happen, then the Prime membership will definitely save you money, but I think this is a pretty small percentage of the population.
Prime Membership Makes You a Lazy Shopper
This may be the single biggest reason why the Amazon Prime membership is a bad buy.
Put simply, it makes many consumers flat out lazy. They don’t compare pricing anymore, they don’t haggle for a better price, they don’t take advantage of retailer’s price match policies, and they sure as heck don’t seek out coupons in order to get the best deal possible.
Instead they head straight to Amazon.com and click a single ‘Buy It Now’ button and viola!, it magically appears on their doorstep two days later.
Many shoppers at this point will make the argument that Amazon always has low prices so I don’t need to be a smart consumer. WRONG! Check out my article Price Smackdown: Walmart.com Vs. Amazon.com which clearly debunks this myth.
Amazon.com is a “Walmart-Wolf” in Sheep’s Clothing
When it comes to branding, Jeff Bezos and the marketing team at Amazon are absolute geniuses.
Over the years they have kept the brand “cool” in the eyes of consumers while the Walmarts of the world are seen as a company who ruins the little guy, pinches suppliers to death, and offers low paying jobs and sub-par health benefits.
One of the ways Amazon pulls this off is by not having a human face on the business. There is not some minimum-wage earning oldster greeting you when you shop at Amazon.com and there is very little written about the Amazon warehouse employees.
Employees toiling in the gigantic Amazon warehouses have very little voice and Amazon likes it that way. See True Stories of Life as an Amazon Worker from Gawker to get a glimpse behind the Amazon curtain.
So why do I bring this up? I don’t want you to just accept Amazon and the Prime membership as a alternative to the Walmart culture and way of doing business. In the end, there is not a huge difference between the two.
Ridiculously Easy to Overspend
I’m going to get a little psychological with you for a minute. I believe that many Amazon Prime members feel they need to shop with them as much as possible in order to recoup the membership fee.
I have talked with enough loyal Amazon shoppers over the years to confirm this phenomena.
So what is the outcome? People buying everything under the sun from Amazon, often paying much more than they would at their local store, in order to get the free 2-day shipping. Overspending up the wazoo.
I would also make the argument that the biggest reason for Amazon potentially raising the cost of the Prime membership is because they know people will end up buying more from them in an effort to make sure they “get their money’s worth”.
Prime Streaming is a Joke
If you’ve ever tried the Amazon Instant Streaming feature you already know what I am talking about. The selection is weaker than Michelob Ultra Light and it’s clearly an add-on designed to entice you into buying a movie or TV show because you’d rather shoot yourself than watch one of the free ones.
If you already have cable or satellite TV the Prime Instant Streaming will probably never be used. But if you don’t, you could definitely find something to watch for free. Just don’t expect anything made in the past several years.
Prime Membership Savings Tips:
If you’re on the fence about dropping the cash on an Amazon.com Prime membership, I have a few tips to minimize your costs.
- Free 30 day trial. Amazon offers prospective members a free 30-day trial. I typically recommend shoppers to sign-up for their trial just before Black Friday so they can do all their Christmas shopping and get free 2-day delivery. But since we are in mid February that doesn’t make a lot sense. Once you start your free trial, track your purchases and your savings in terms of shipping costs. Add them up at the end of the month and times it by 12 to get a rough idea of your annual savings.
- Invite family/friends and save. Not many shoppers know that you can invite four family members or friends into your Prime membership with you. So theoretically you could split the costs and only pay $15.80 per year making it a total no-brainer. It is also worth noting that only the primary member gets access to the free streaming service.
- Get Amazon price alerts. If you end up (or already are) a Prime member you need to be using CamelCamelCamel.com as it allows you to create Amazon price alerts on products you want to purchase. The website then emails you when the price drops below a predetermined price point. It’s a sweet little free tool with a totally stupid name.
Ask the Reader: Are you an Amazon Prime member? If so, do you think it is worth the current $99/yr price tag? What about if they raise the annual fee to $119? Also, do you think it makes you overspend and not research the best price?
By Kyle James