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Amazon Prime: Worth the Cost?

Just signed up for a month’s free trial of Amazon’s “Prime” membership program. Why not? A month of free shipping at Christmastime: hard to resist!

Do you think Amazon Prime is worth the annual membership fee of around $80 over the long haul? Hereabouts, sales taxes are now 9.7% and probably rising. With free shipping plus prices that often beat brick-and-mortar retailers, a savings of almost 10% on each purchase is significant.

Or is it? To break even on that $80 purchase, you’d have to buy almost $850 worth of goods every year. How many people have $850 worth of stuff shipped to their house?

Seems to me there are three hidden costs with Amazon Prime:

1. that $850 threshold you’d have to pass to pay for the $80 membership fee;

2. the severe temptation to pounce on every “bargain” that comes along, leading you to buy a lot of junk you don’t need; and

3. the enormous harm done to local merchants by just such massive mega-retailers as Amazon.

For many of us, the third isn’t very operative. The Phoenix area, which has cloned Los Angeles’s sprawl and embraced every soulless scheme of Big Business that ever came down the pike, is hardly what you’d call heavy on local merchants. I buy most of my groceries at Costco and Safeway. The few farmer’s markets feature more craft vendors than produce and meat growers, and they take place at inconvenient times, in inconvenient locales.  My clothing comes from Costco or the only two chains that carry outfits that aren’t too ugly on an old lady, and my electronics by and large come from Apple or the roundly hated Fry’s. No one who lives here has many choices: the malls host nothing but chain stores, and local enterprises are few and very far between. Amazon is not about to make me quit shopping at only local merchant I frequent, AJ’s.

But if you lived in a real city or in a small town with character, it could pose a problem.

The second, junkomania…well. That’s another matter.

I want this thing this thing, for example. Oboy do I want to try one of those! It’s called a “Ruby Stone,” and women all over the Web rave about it. Came across it on another site where a bunch of manicurists and their customers were doing some sort of dance to spring over it and decided it’s THE substitute for expensive pink emery boards whose sandpaper wears right off by the third use. I have a couple of glass nail files which work well and don’t wear out readily. But these women say the Ruby Stone is even better. It only costs $1.84, meaning that the cost of shipping, if you’re paying it, would about quadruple the price. So: free shipping? Junk acquisition!

But for just a dollar eighty-four…who could resist?

On the other hand, after I’ve paid the $1.84 plus $0 shipping, I’ll still have $848.16 to go before the free shipping pays for the membership cost.

Because Amazon plies you with “Today’s Deals” (OMG!! A large Moleskine ruled notebook for only $8.02!), you could very well rack up another $848.16 in a year’s time.

But…do you want to? do you need to?

How do I love it? Let me count the ways...

6 thoughts on “Amazon Prime: Worth the Cost?”

  1. Students get Prime for free for a year. Amazon, poised to take over the universe, wants them to buy textbooks. So…if you know a student (email w/ .edu), I would latch onto his or her account. I would never pay for it.

    But then…I’m cheap, I mean, FRUGAL.

  2. $80 a year?! Last I knew, it was $50 a year to upgrade to Prime. My son has it, we live in the same house so I order using his account on occasion when I need something really fast and want to make sure it arrives quickly. The thing is, if you want overnight shipping, it’s $3.99 PER item. Now if you’re ordering something expensive, like a widescreen monitor, then it’s well worth the $3.99. The other thing, since we have an Amazon warehouse in Avondale, when I order stuff over $25 and it’s all free shipping it usually gets here within a day or two just because it’s coming from the same state. I had been debating paying for Prime with my own account, but sheesh now that it’s gone up to $80, I think I can stand to wait two days and just make sure I always order $25 worth of stuff. Did you remember to go through someone’s portal before you shopped, Funny? Hint, hint. 😉

  3. So I just went to check and my son did pay $79 in January for his Prime shipping. I could have sworn it was $50 and we split the cost. Anyway, I found out that Amazon allows four people in the same household to use the Prime shipping. My son had wondered about that, and wondered if we were cheating by me using his account sometimes. But you just have to “invite” the other four people and there is no extra charge. It helps if someone else is power shopping from Amazon and you can split the cost. 😉 Same for businesses… if you pay the Prime for one account you can invite four coworkers to shop using Prime, too.

  4. I have it but don’t buy enough from them to make it worth keeping. I need to cancel but I just keep forgetting to do it! I think the free trial is great but you have to remember to cancel it before they charge you!

  5. Love prime! It is worth it for someone like me who pretty much orders everything on amazon, from my dogs food to baking supplies etc. Free shipping definitely saves me a lot. Figure shipping is 5$ an order so if I did my math right 79$ a year is about about 15-16 orders a year and I go wayyyy over that.

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