Amazon Prime: tremendous boon and terrible danger

The condundrum is my wife’s fault.

Last month, I signed up for the free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime is a program that provides free 2-day shipping with no minimum purchase required. It also allows you to opt for overnight shipping for the modest fee of $3.99. All they ask in return is a yearly premium of $79.00.

After years of resisting the siren’s song of FREE 2-DAY SHIPPING, I caved. No, caved is too harsh a word. It implies that it was my weakness that caused me to sign up for the service. And that’s not true. I signed up for the Amazon Prime trial because my wife’s birthday was in 2 days.

Erin doesn’t want things. I do ask her what she wants for Christmas or birthdays, and all she gives me to go on is “I don’t know. I don’t really need anything.” I used to be able to rest comfortably in the knowledge that the new season of her favorite TV shows would be out on DVD, but she’s run out of favorite shows. That well’s run dry.

So I’m faced with the reality that I actually have to listen to what she’s saying and make quick discrete note of when she says something that starts with “I need…” or “I wish I had….” And listening to someone is just not something that I do well, especially when that someone is the wife. Just ask her.

Anyway, I had already done some hard work to determine a sparse collection of items that could pass as a birthday present when she came to me with an idea on a silver platter: “I would like a book on gardening in Minnesota. One with lots of pictures, and one that’s organized in such a way that it would be easy to use.” Jackpot!

The only thing was…2 days to birthday! And I’m stuck at home with the baby! How would I be able to research and secure this mythical book?

Aside from the time crunch, it was a job perfect for Amazon. After some quick and easy research on the site, I found the perfect one, and I was about to check out and foot the spendy 2-day shipping, when I noticed that I could sign up for the free Amazon Prime trial. So I did. And it was awesome.

The book arrived on time. The gift was given and enjoyed. The day was saved. But I still had 28 days left in the free trial. Nothing to do but put it through it’s paces.

Thus far, I’ve ordered a couple of books, including the new Penny-Arcade collection. I’ve ordered Final Fantasy Tactics A2, which sits unopened on my desk as incentive and reward for finishing what’s likely to be the 80 episode, 100+ page script of Q-Burger Season 4 (I’m currently on episode 45 and page 58). And I’ve ordered a few gifts for various people.

So, with this experience, I’ve arrived at the following conclusion: There are two inherently good things about the service, and 3 innately bad things about it. And one additional bad thing.

Good things

  1. I’m able to get what I want very quickly. Free 2-day shipping and $3.99 make Amazon a feasible option for last minute gift giving.

  2. Because there’s no minimum purchase to get free shipping, I don’t have to sift through the virtual shelves of stuff to hit the $25 minimum purchase to get the normal super-saver free shipping. This no minimum purchase could save me money in the long run.

Bad things

  1. The yearly subscription cost of $79 means that you have to be a habitual Amazon shopper in order to make the deal pay off or just break even. I don’t know if I’m that hardcore of an Amazon man.

  2. The temptation for nearly instant gratification is strong. The pull to buy just because it’s easy, convenient and inexpensive is a powerful one.

  3. Not everything that’s sold on Amazon’s site is eligible for the discounted shipping. Which sucks. A lot.

The additional bad thing that might not be Amazon’s fault

One of the books that I bought took much longer than the advertised 2-day shipping. I placed the order on June 26th and didn’t receive the package until July 3rd. But the package was listed as having been picked up by UPS, so the snafu was as a result of the courier, but even so. Seven days is slightly over the line when I’m paying a premium to get it in two.

Decision time

So now, I’m at the point where the trial has expired and I’m faced with the decision of whether or not to actually pay for the service. And over the course of writing this little review, I’ve come to my decision (which was my motivation for writing it in the first place). And that decision is…

I’m not going to pay for it.

If you buy lots of stuff from Amazon, this might be worth it. I’ve heard tales from people who’ve saved hundreds of dollars in shipping by paying the $79, but my buying habits don’t stand to save me that kind of cash. Plus, most of the stuff that I would consider buying from them are either 1) not sold by Amazon and therefore not eligible or 2) they’re sold at the Target that’s about a mile from my house, and we go there at least once a week to go grocery shopping.

Amazon Prime info page