The day Finally came. I had been receiving Amazon Prime free via the company I worked for but received the dreaded email that Amazon Prime was no longer a perk for employees. I would either have to pay for it myself or live without it. At first this seemed daunting, after all, who could live without free 2 day shipping on millions of items that range from computer parts to blenders and will usually arrive within 2 days?
Yet simultaneously upfront membership and subscription fees for Stores like Costco and services like Prime always irked me. Yes, I know the obligatory arguments that over the long term they can save you money but plopping down $80 or so and not immediately receiving much in return can be mildly disconcerting. To add even more confusion to this quagmire Amazon Prime might be getting a price hike soon. I decided to take a closer look what I used Prime for if it could be replaced with a cheaper alternative.
I had been a heavy user of Amazon Prime, or heavy abuser, many of the items I ordered were below the $35 sweet spot for the free “super saver” shipping non-prime users are eligible for. Items such as USB hubs, Power strips, HDMI switches and cables, CD’s, water bottles, wireless dongles and rechargeable batteries; you get the drift. Keep in mind Amazon knows that my ordering habits are far from atypical, so much so that many inexpensive items are now Add-on items not eligible for prime. We could reasonably suspect that many prime eligible items today might become add ons tomorrow. For this and a few aforementioned reasons I decided to skip Prime for now.
I proceeded to check my order history on Amazon and see if I could get the same items for the same price overall without paying for prime. My real concern I would have to pay shipping for items under $35, but this turned out to be a superfluous fear. All the items from dongles to HDMI cables were available new from high rated Top sellers on Ebay and even from 3rd party sellers on Amazon and included free shipping. The Belkin 12 outlet pivot surge protector I bought with Amazon prime and love? Same price new (barring a few cents) from a top Seller on ebay yet shipping was free while Amazon cheapest shipping option was $7 and change. USB hubs? Without prime a Amazon basic hub is $6.49 plus $8.15 shipping. Yikes! Luckily Amazon had a similar one for $4.99 with free shipping from a 3rd party seller. Overall, I found Ebay to have a more robust selection of items that offered free shipping for inexpensive items, but Amazon’s 3rd party marketplace is impressive as well. The products I’ve bought have all worked fine, in fact sometimes they are better which was the case when I bought “Gator” HDMI cables from Ebay.
As for shipping speed, many of the smaller items ship first class mail which can be just as fast as prime, and honestly if it took a tad longer getting an inexpensive gadget a day or two early isn’t going to make or break things for me. The same goes for Big ticket items, many online retailers have free shipping and waiting slightly longer on some occasions is a small price for me to avoid a subscription fee. Best Buy matches prices from Amazon now, so you don’t have to wait at all if you crave your LED TV now.
Sometimes the convenience of Prime can actually be a hindrance. I remember I bought a water bottle from Amazon using prime. This is something I would have surely bought at a regular store if not for prime. Turns out the bottle was not really leak proof and my gym bag could attest to that. I found a much better one at a brick and mortar store. Sometimes it’s too easy to have an itchy trigger finger with prime, so much so you might not read the reviews as carefully as you should and just buy inferior products out of sheer laziness.
As the months passed post Amazon Prime I found it very liberating not to feeling “obligated” to use the service in a feeble attempt to squeeze every penny of value from it. Using Good ole’ Google to find places like B and H Audio and Video and Newegg etc. have prices that are very competitive with Amazon. When I buy from a small Ebay storefront it feels like the modern equivalent from buying from a Mom and Pop Store, for whatever that’s worth. Amazon has gotten some bad press due to how difficult it can be to work in one of their warehouses ; the paranoid consumer in me fears what might happen if the top dog puts a stranglehold on the rest of the competition. Best Buy certainly felt the sting of Amazon during this holiday season.
Don’t get me wrong, if you are not a fan of paying for Redbox and Netflix, Amazon’s streaming library of content can surely add a ton of value to Prime. But for me and I’d assume many others Prime never replaced Netflix or Redbox, in fact I never saw one movie on Prime.
All in all Amazon is still an amazing retailer with amazing customer service and prices. It is still one of the main places I check for a wide array of products ranging from a small accessory to a big screen TV. Yet since I don’t have Prime anymore it’s no longer the only place I predominantly shop, and I am just fine with that.