Amazon Prime

January 3, 2017

After a runaway script crippled my Plex box, I started searching around for video alternatives that I could use. I’m a Prime member at Amazon, so Prime Video was a natural candidate.

Once a year I put myself through the disappointing experience of clicking on interesting looking TV and movies only for Amazon to tell me about a dozen times in quick succession that the content I’m looking at isn’t available in Canada. A few minutes later, it’s pretty plain that 90%+ of their American catalog is missing, and that there isn’t much left over. That realization keeps me off the service for about a year until I forget, and do it all over again.

I’ve held onto a $99 Amazon Prime membership for five years now, and especially initially, appreciated how much thinking the service takes out of the brick and mortar purchase process. Where before you might have to keep a list of what you need the next time your visit the store, and make subsequent visits when you invariably forget things, with Prime you’d just hit the order button and it be on your door step soon enough.

The addition of add-on items 1 changed the dynamic. Although unquestionably better for the environment (and Amazon’s bottom line), they changed the consumer experience so that shopping cart management was back en vogue; the old convenience of “just hit buy” disappeared into history. Luckily for Amazon, by then most of us were used enough to having Prime accounts that we just let them auto-renew.

Despite Amazon’s efforts to sweeten the deal with Prime over the years by attaching new products to it (video, photos, Kindle book rentals, etc.), two-day shipping is still its only service that I use. Its major benefit really just becomes free two-day shipping because standard shipping is still free if you’re willing to accumulate products in your shopping cart until you hit the $49 threshold.

Out of curiosity, I took the items that I had in my cart right now and tried to duplicate the same collection over at Target.com. I found that they had the majority of the same goods available at the same price, and their free shipping threshold is only $25. Amazon’s selection is still considerably better (I couldn’t find a good equivalent for a few things), but Target is already a serious contender.

I have until my renewal date in March to make a final decision on Prime, but I’m leaning towards not renewing it. The convenience is nice, but having to wait until I hit $49 in cart, or occasionally ordering from an alternative retailer to save the $99/year fee is probably a compromise that I can live with.

1 Lower cost Prime inventory became “add-on items” that were no longer free to ship unless they were attached to a higher cost Prime item, or in aggregate reached a certain cost threshold.

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