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Amazon Free Shipping minimum is now $49 (amazon.com)
281 points by silveira on Feb 22, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 232 comments

This is just assuming that they'll even let you order $49 worth of items in one box.

I let my Amazon Prime lapse because I was rarely using it.

A few weeks ago I decided to do a bulk order. I ordered 18 items with a total of $110. They split my shipment into three packages of approximately $50, $50, and one item by itself in another box for $10. Since one of the boxes didn't have $35, they tried to charge me shipping.

I simply removed that item but instead of having two $50 boxes, the shopping cart removed an item from a box and put it into a box by itself to ensure that I had to pay shipping. I spent two hours adding and removing items to discover that there is no way to get free shipping for multiple items anymore.

Eventually I contacted customer service and they said they would take care of it and ship it in one box with no shipping cost.

Three weeks later and my order finally shipped, in 5 boxes, with 5 shipping fees charged to my card.

I believe if you buy Amazon items then, even if they split the shipment, they won't charge you. The above sounds like you were buying from different merchants.

All the items were eligible for free shipping, according to Amazon. Some of the items were from individual merchants, but all of those were FBA (so they were warehoused at an Amazon facility).

It's possible that even though they were eligible for free shipping, they weren't all in the same facility. If that was the case, I would understand why they were put into separate boxes.

What doesn't make sense is removing one item in a box by itself causing the shopping cart to reshuffle so a different item was placed in a box by itself.

I was irked enough that I want to find alternatives.

Even if they weren't in the same facility, why would that make it understandable? How are you, as a customer, supposed to be concerned with which Amazon facility has what stock? (information you don't even have)

Agreed. Feels like Amazon outsourcing part of its shipping algorithm to customers.

+1 I've had the same experience trying to get $35 of "qualifying goods" into my cart to only see that they weren't really telling the truth and having to pay for shipping with Prime for next day.

Oh and through some weird ability to rename time "next day" now means 2 days and "2 day" means 3 day delivery. Same day usually does mean same day -- which used to have a lot of items available for that but recently has seemed to have gone down. Still impressed that it can be done.

It sounds to me like the algorithm is deliberately trying to outsource some of the "free" shipping cost to customers.

It's sort of like that bank transaction-ordering scandal from a few years ago, where banks ordered transactions unintuitively to maximize overdraft penalties.

They already outsource fixing the errors made by their algorithms to customers and the businesses that ship for Amazon.


"Hey, lets merge these two colors, what could possibly go wrong?" is an algorithmic decision made by Amazon that happens far too frequently after I've gone home or to bed. :p

They could also just tell you "the items you want to buy cost $X for shipping" where X just happens to drop to 0 under certain circumstances. This is what everyone except Amazon does. Charging for shipping is entirely understandable. I too love free shipping, but it's actually us that have been spoiled by Amazon.

And with Amazon's low prices and 5% cashback I'm pretty sure even if they started charging for shipping that it would be still cheaper than anywhere else ...

>All the items were eligible for free shipping, according to Amazon.

What amazon says on their main page is very disconnected from reality. What it says on checkout is what matters.

When I buy stuff from Amazon, they have a little checkbox on the side that says "only items that ship to Iceland". Never the less, when I get to the checkout 90% of the stuff they show won't ship to Iceland.

I bet this is related to another quirk, where "sort by price" doesn't really result in things being in the expected order.

I suspect (because I have a similar challenge in our own ecommerce system) that the model underlying the representation of products has at least one additional layer of specificity, that's not directly revealed to the user. Consider that you're looking at Products, but what they're really manipulating are products as sourced from a particular supplier.

Each of those "supplier-items" has its own price (because with Amazon marketplace, the supplier gets to set their own), as well as its own potential shipping destinations.

When you project that into search results as a list of Products, what you wind up with is a list of "Products for which there's at least one supplier willing to ship to Iceland". And the sorting is something like "order by lowest price offered by all suppliers". When you click on that product to go to Product Details, and then just click "Add to Cart", they've lost the thread of "I need to select a supplier of this product that will ship to Iceland".

>I suspect (because I have a similar challenge in our own ecommerce system) that the model underlying the representation of products has at least one additional layer of specificity, that's not directly revealed to the user. Consider that you're looking at Products, but what they're really manipulating are products as sourced from a particular supplier.

There's no doubt that's the case, but it also isn't that big a problem to solve (at least for amazon, your mileage may vary, possibly my commiserations depending on how good/bad your system is to work on).

I know this because of the "Does amazon ship to...?" plugin, which can iterate over every seller instance of a specific item and return it's eligibility for shipping to your country, along with an independent shipping price and item price. It can process two dozen instances in about a second or two via whatever API it uses.

Considering this is possible and frankly not all that difficult, I'm placing the blame for amazon not using a bit of JS-foo to run this form of processing server side (where it will be way faster) and deliver results to my browser asynchronously as they are finished squarely at the feet of amazons marketing department. This has the stink of "if we show it to them anyway, maybe they'll buy it and send it via a shipping service" all over it.

hah, also from Iceland. Moved to the UK 2.5 years ago.

....man I love free shipping on Amazon... and also having a selection of product to choose from :)

I hope they don't up the UK limit as well, that would suck. I buy something from Amazon literally every week.

Quick question: 2.5 years means "two years and five months", or "two years and six months"?

Commonly converting to decimals like that means 2.5 is read as 2 and a half = 2 years 6 months.

If that's the case, then it is false advertisement. Don't blame that on the consumer.

Settle down sunshine, I'm warning him and giving him advice on where to get real info, not blaming him. Put your bush laywering back in your pocket.

This comment breaks the HN guidelines badly, and you've posted many uncivil comments before this as well. Please stop doing that.



Oh jesus buddy, there's always one of you. If you care that much go find a mod to ban me (or are you a mod? I don't care), and I'll go find some other corner of the internet.

You're welcome to slowly turn this place into a dustbowl by bitching at people for having conversations if that's what you enjoy doing in a community, don't let me stop you, but let me remind you of this:

You weren't involved in the conversation, and your comment history is nothing but wandering around sticking your nose in robust discussion and whining that people aren't talking to each other via the predefined rules that you like, as if human conversation is based on your two favorite links. You're not contributing here, and there's not a single post in the last several pages of your comments that implies you care about, understand or have an opinion on anything posted here, so please shush and let the rest of us get on with our sharing.

edit: http://joshldavis.com/2014/10/03/heavy-handed-hackernews/

Looks like you've been doing this for at least 16 months, congrats or something?

Yes, I'm a moderator here, and I agree, those comments are tedious and annoying (to write, as well as to read).

Please follow the rules from now on. That means posting civilly and substantively, or not at all.

If they were "Prime" you should have gotten free shipping. FBA doesn't matter and I don't know what "eligible for free shipping" is. This story sounds fishy.

He doesn't have Prime.

The non-amazon shipped stuff on Amazon honestly had been a pain ever since they introduced it. If you have prime it mostly is just a huge nuisance.

A lot of it is such JUNK, too. Amazon has no qualms whatsoever about selling stuff that, frankly, belongs in the garbage. I've cooled off on Amazon a lot since earlier years because shopping on there is an experience fraught with angst thanks to trying to find the best trade-off between price and utility. Oftentimes the cheapest items for any given category (e.g. snorkel masks and touchscreen gloves, two recent things I purchased) are pure junk that aren't fit for their stated purpose.

Whereas if I'm in a brick-and-mortar store, I can at least evaluate the quality of something hands-on, and then have a better idea of if the cheapest is good enough. This is exacerbated by item descriptions that are frequently inaccurate, even showing the wrong photos. The third party sellers especially don't seem to be held accountable for much, and processing returns through them is often a disaster.

I fear that Amazon is creating damage to their brand by not establishing some minimum floor for product quality. Right now they rank somewhere between a dollar store and a Walmart in my mind.

There are a lot of (POS) counterfeit goods as well. It is very difficult to be certain you're purchasing the genuine article. At least this has been my experience purchasing electronics from merchants on Amazon in recent years.

I know - its like revenge of the show room.. I look for reviews on Amazon and then get it somewhere else..

I always make sure I check off the "Prime Eligible" checkbox when searching Amazon. It sucks to find an item, go to buy it, and finding out it's going to take 4 weeks and $25 to ship from the UK or something.

I go a step beyond that, and will often also check Amazon as the seller. I've had too many mis-labelled products show up... Sometimes I forget, and that's usually when there is a problem.

I'm almost inclined to go prefer local stores again, as Amazon's pricing advantages seem to have slipped, and if they raise the cost of Prime again, I'm definitely out. I've been a pretty loyal customer to Amazon, but honestly, they're slipping a bit.

They should probably spend just a little more time on their core products.

I ordered something from Amazon, with Amazon as the seller, and with the Prime filter checked. It was marked as having low remaining inventory. After I purchased, and the item failed to arrive with the rest of my order, I saw that it had been moved to a separate order, from a different seller, with an additional $10 shipping charge and an additional week of delay.

Look, Amazon, you have a real problem with sorting and filtering. What I really want is a way to order goods by the final, bottom-line price, including all taxes and shipping costs. If something costs $20 plus $10 in shipping, it should rank after a similar thing that is $25 plus $0 shipping.

The Prime filter is the only way I can even approach that problem from my end. It forces the cost of shipping to be included in the price of all items, at the expense of not seeing potentially cheaper items. But even then, Amazon can't even manage to sort correctly by price. Nor does it handle quantities in a package very well.

A lot of stuff is fine though and you will probably get it in similar time to Amazon standard shipping.

It would be hard if they let you search by say < 3 business days, < 5 business days in the same way they let you search prime only.

I was going on a trip and needed some random stuff delivered the next day and was happy to pay delivery for it. It was a nightmare tryng to elimate marketplace sellers with longer delivery times and finding out that Amazon don't actually sell a lot of things I wanted.

Same here, unless it's the only option and I really need the product, I'll only buy Prime-enabled products.

I really don't want Amazon to turn into eBay or Alibaba, but for many categories it already is if you scroll/paginate far enough.

A friend of mine who does online arbitrage takes advantage of this. She'll take the lowest non-prime eligible price, mark it up 5% then set it to be 'fulfilled by amazon'. She knows that people will prefer Prime, even if a lower total cost item is available via free shipping.

How does she get the items back to Amazon to let them fulfill them?

Maybe I wasn't clear. She finds items in other places, ships them to the amazon warehouse, then sets the price +5%.

Same. Especially with items like Apple accessories, this is really starting to hurt Amazon's reputation. Most of the reviewers for those products complain about receiving knock-off products and have no clue that they need to select the ones sold directly by Amazon to get the original one.

Heck, I do most of my buying on Amazon and am a technical person, and still find myself struggling to get it right.

What do you mean turn into ebay or Alibaba?

A few months ago I was trying to buy some bright LED bulbs, and I tried Ebay and Aliexpress. I ordered some 7 watt bulbs, but (repeatedly and by different vendors) I was shipped bulbs that were closer to 4 watts.

Given that it happened several times with several vendors, I suspect there's a systematic problem due to incentives - higher power bulbs command higher prices, and most buyers don't have the test equipment needed to detect the fraud; and even when someone does detect the fraud you just have to refund them and claim it was an accident.

Needless to say, if the conditions of the market mean that fraudsters out-compete honest sellers, all the honest sellers have to quit or resort to fraud, and the market becomes useless to consumers.

I've noticed this with makeup. Amazon sellers have twice shipped me fake makeup "dupes" (not real products by the real manufacturer) instead of what I actually ordered. Now I go to sephora and buy makeup because I'm too worried about purchasing more fakes.

As the other commenter suggested, I mean offering an endless stream of low quality products, not necessarily knockoffs, but simply bad products. Another commenter mentioned Apple accessoires, which is a good example - I think it would be in Amazon's interest to at least mildly curate these and other categories. Currently Amazon is close to useless when you don't exactly know what you want, which results in me researching elsewhere and buying on Amazon when I made a decision.

a guess: full of shoddy and/or unsafe knockoffs

Agreed. Not that I ever expect them to do it, but if they had a global filter to block anything not being fulfilled by Amazon from ever being see on their site, I would set it and never look back.

100% of the reason I use Amazon is fast and consistent shipping. That is the entire value for me.

I think everybody's been burned by that once. We keep using Amazon, of course, so it's obviously sitll working out for them.

Then again, my in-laws got burned by Amazon's various dark patterns enough times that they've given up on it. Can't say I blame them.

We keep using Amazon, of course, so it's obviously sitll working out for them.

For now. The thing about reputations in business is that they can deteriorate slowly over time and up to a point it won't matter because customers will favour convenience and the brands they know. Sometimes that point can be much further from where you started than most people would expect. However, if you ever pass that point and lose a critical mass of customers, you're in real trouble.

If Play/Rakuten/whoever they are these days had a decent web site and content management, they could make a fortune out of my household given our increasing frustration with Amazon cluttering up their own site. Unfortunately, they're actually much worse and not really a useful alternative at all.

Amazon's inventory supply chain is so many light-years ahead of the competition, especially here in Canada, I think they'll be able to screw up the UI for a decade or two.

It may be light-years ahead of the competition, but if advantage doesn't produce a cost savings for the customer, it doesn't matter. I generally need about $20 of something from Amazon. At $35 I can generally find something else I will use. But if I have to buy $50 worth of stuff to get the cost advantage of free shipping, I'm much more likely to just go down to the store and buy it.

Back before my father and I decided to share a Prime subscription (I buy the stuff with my account and charge it to his credit card), I solved this by keeping in my deferred cart various items I wanted sometime in the coming months that I wasn't in a hurry to get. If you can take a long very about enough things it worked out pretty well, especially since your metric is to, over a year, pay less than a Prime subscription.

I've switched to specialty vendor stores for dog food (wag) and electronics accessories (monoprice). I'll keep switching as better options come online.

I agree. I literally just did this and got free shipping, even though the items were spread out.

This is really not meant in a mocking way and it could be different on Amazon Germany but are you sure you didn't check this box by accident which tells them to send your stuff as soon as possible? Before I had Amazon Prime I always made sure to check free shipping even if it meant that I had to wait longer until all items were available so they could be shipped in a single box.

Interesting. I've never had an experience with Amazon customer service that hasn't been outstanding. I'm assuming you were able to contact them and they gave you a full refund on the shipping costs? I would be shocked if they did anything less.

Shitty experience yeah but I would expect them to fix it too.

The customer service people you speak to on the phone or on-line generally seem to be reasonable, and certainly better than a lot of on-line stores. Still, this kind of thing happening in the first place is also poor customer service. Other dumb stuff is also far too common at Amazon in my experience.

They frequently seem to ship fragile items in nothing but a standard cardboard box with negligible padding so they're smashed to pieces by the time they arrive.

Recently I've seen several "new" and yet obviously not new items like books with bent spines or DVDs with fingerprints all over them.

They sometimes give wildy optimistic estimates of delivery dates particularly around holiday seasons when everyone is buying presents. Worse, they seem to have multi-week standard processes for deciding when something has really gone missing before they will try shipping another one, which is no use at all if say you're ordering Christmas presents in December.

Even if they are happy for a customer to return something for a refund, it's still a hassle for that customer to ship it back or arrange the collection every time something goes wrong. Even if they'll refund an order they found they couldn't ship when they said, the customer has still potentially lost several days in the process and might be too late to order it from somewhere else instead.

I suspect in some ways Amazon have been victims of their own success. I wonder whether anyone has ever tried to implement such personalised logistics at the scale Amazon does before, and given how often ordering from them does lead to a better experience than we used to have with bricks and mortar stores, I hesitate to criticise too much over things going wrong. There is definitely plenty of room for improvement in the customer service department, though, and at least part of it appears to be due to deliberate policies and perhaps cutting a few corners too many to try to shave off every last penny in running costs.

I have a business that purchases multiple items in a single order on a daily basis, and have never encountered this. We always get free shipping for orders, even if boxes are split.

I'm curious about your use case, were they non amazon fullfiled items?

Answered in detail above, but to sum it up, all the items were either Amazon supplied or FBA, so they would ship directly from an Amazon warehouse.

The paranoid engineer in me thinks this "box shuffling" is a feature flagged behavior and you ended up in an unlucky bucket.

I can't recall exactly where the option is but I do remember seeing an option that offered a choice between "ship my items as fast as possible, even if it means multiple, separate shipments" versus "put everything into the same shipment, even if it means it might take a little longer".

Customer service is way all over the place. I had a shaver that I wanted to return. It was a gift bought from a Prime-connected account. After 3-4 emails of getting nowhere, one rep finally told me that shavers can't be returned due to health hazards and they refunded the buyer the full cost of the shaver. Since then I've also had them unexpectedly give me 2-3 full refunds for things I threatened to return. I think they're trying very hard to retain prime members.

If something can't be resold they save money by not having to deal with the return you make. That kind of situation is a tough call, in theory they could simply not offer you anything, in practise they don't want to lose customers.

This is pretty epic. Did you call them back and demand a refund?

This happened when you selected "ship in as few packages as possible" option? That worked for me in the $35 minimum days before I and my father got a Prime subscription.

A related patience game to decrease the costs of your Prime subscription is to allow them to ship is slowly and give you a limited time, but several month, digital $1 credit, or if you to the pantry thing, I've seen discounts for it.

what's going on is an item that's FBA(fulfilled by amazon sitting at an amazon facility) is at a facility that's not near you, so it's physically further and although it says prime they won't expedite in a day since it's maybe east coast placed and you're in California so they don't do same day because of this unless the item standalone is over 35. This is sort of against the spend 35 and get free shipping but seems to be the apparent modus operandi as of somewhat recent.

e.g. 25 dollar item and 15 dollar item might both be two days and would have to pay for one or same day even though total is 40 since one is FBA'd from a further location, so the same day can be misleading happens to be sitting at a facility that the seller shipped to, what happens after shipping into fba and how they disperse inventory if at all for lower latency in shipping I don't know but I am seeing more and more where they split orders to not pay same day even if total is over the same day rate. Hope this sheds a bit of light.

Weird. I have never experienced anything like that with Amazon. The boxing appears totally irrelevant to me (as per what I pay Amazon).

The only issue I have found with Amazon Prime is more items I have bought have moved to the Marketplace and most of those items no longer qualify for prime.

So while it is great for many items if Amazon keeps offloading items to others it becomes less useful to me.

As for the shopping cart games, I have never had that issue as I usually check ship it all together.

..Priceless story.

One look at their finances and it's clear why they're doing this. According to their SEC filings, last year Amazon brought in $6.5 billion in shipping revenue [1], and spent $11.5 billion on shipping costs. Take those numbers together and they lost $5.0 billion subsidizing shipping. They lose more money on shipping every year than most startups make in a decade. It's a huge cost on their budget, not hard to see why management is trying to cut costs.

[1] Includes some revenue earned from Amazon Prime memberships; excludes shipping revenue of third-party sellers not under the Fulfilled by Amazon program

Data is from page 26 of their 10-K, linked below


In a certain way, isn't that like saying BestBuy spend $X billion on storefront real-estate and made $0 in people paying in "walk-out-the-storefront-with-your-item" charges?

Shipping revenues will never cover shipping costs as long as they provide even one free shipment a year (and don't overcharge people paying for shipping). Shipping is one of those costs that you have to pay like having storefronts. The goods have to actually be purchasable by customers somehow. Retail shops sink costs in their stores. It's made up for by the margins on the items they sell.

I'm not saying that Amazon shouldn't try to minimize their losses on shipping just as stores should figure out whether having one retail presence in a city is more cost effective than having two. But I think a more interesting piece for me would be a comparison of Amazon's shipping costs to other retailers' storefront costs. If the $5B in shipping subsidies is way lower than what Walmart or BestBuy are paying in "storefront subsidies", it isn't necessarily something so outrageous. It's a cost of doing business.

$5B sounds like a lot of money (and indeed it is), but what is it compared to the storefront costs of competitors? How much does Amazon save by having highly-productive warehouse workers as opposed to lower-productive retail employees?* Maybe $5B is huge compared to what Walmart spends on its retail presence. Maybe Amazon warehouses aren't much more efficient than BestBuy stores. Or Maybe this is simply a move that Amazon is making because it thinks it has gained enough market power (and enough buy-in to Prime) to start making anti-consumer moves rather than a cost that's unsustainable compared to the costs of retail.

Walmart's revenue was $485.7 billion in 2015. Amazon's revenue was $107B last year. Spending less than 5% of revenue on getting the products to the customers doesn't sound outrageous. Does it seem likely that Walmart spends $24B on store-front costs that Amazon doesn't have to get their revenue?

You're not wrong that companies will try to cut costs. I guess my question is simply: is this really an onerous cost compared to revenue (as judged by what competing retail firms pay)? If it's par for the course (or less), it feels like Amazon flexing its market power against consumers. If it is an onerous cost compared to what Walmart or BestBuy have to spend, then life has crappy trade-offs that need to be made to make things reasonable.

*This isn't a dig at retail employees. It's just pointing out that when customer traffic is low at a retail venue, they're around with less to do. By contrast, warehouse workers can be utilized more efficiently.

You make very good points.

For comparison, the lease amount of Target's Canadian (failed) expansion was for $1.3B USD for 220 stores. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Target_Canada


Target USA stores as of May 2015: 1795 http://www.forbes.com/sites/walterloeb/2015/05/22/what-is-th...

Amazon's $5B shipping loss now almost looks quaint, if one factors in absence of retail stores and presence of handful number of Warehouses.

I think it would behoove Amazon to have a network of "customer pickup centers" where you can order something on Amazon, it gets shipped by Amazon itself to a customer pickup center via air, and the customer drives to close off the figurative "last mile".

Alternate idea: Amazon builds a central warehouse in each major metro that contains the most-ordered items for that area, has trucks that run out to UPS Stores and drop off every hour, and the customer completes the last mile and goes to pick up his package at the designated UPS Store within 2-4 hours from the time he placed the order.

I'm sure they've already considered all this kind of navel-gazing, but if customers were able to pick up within 3-4 hours of placing an order under this type of system, it'd be awesome, and I think a big win for Amazon. One of the worst things about ordering on Amazon, even as a Prime member who lives in a place where free same-day is often available, is having to wait around with no control over when the product will arrive. This would beat free same-day, which for us rarely arrives before 8:30pm no matter how early you get the order in after midnight.

Really Wal-Mart and Amazon are not so different. The difference is that Wal-Mart keeps quantities of the product within driving distance of 90% of the population, so they can have the product a half-hour after deciding they need/want it. The ability to close this gap has got to be one of the most important milestones for online retail. Ad-hoc delivery networks like UberEats are kind of already doing this. Sure would be a crazy turn of events if someone started to knock down Amazon's retail business by leveraging the latent bandwidth in the city's existing retail and crowd-sourced driver networks.

> I think it would behoove Amazon to have a network of "customer pickup centers" where you can order something on Amazon, it gets shipped by Amazon itself to a customer pickup center via air, and the customer drives to close off the figurative "last mile".

They have these. Or at least, they are trying them out. In addition to the Lockers (which are scattered around at other stores), at least in Cincinnati, there is an honest to goodness Amazon pickup location. IN addition to normal shipping, you can get same-day pickups from anything that is at their local warehouse (maybe from their Indianapolis warehouse too?). I think this is more like an Amazon branded, dedicated locker site than a store front. But, at this point, that's all they need.


For me, and I suspect a lot of others, one of the best things about ordering from Amazon is that the amount of time I am personally tied up on the transaction after selecting the item is 1-5 minutes online, 1-2 minutes opening the outer box, and 1-2 minutes disposing of the cardboard. Asking me to drive and park at a UPS store or locker location doesn't work for me.

There are several Amazon lockers near me and I can't conceive of a reason that I'd personally choose to use one. (Single family residence, so drivers just drop the package on the porch. In a multi-unit building, I can see some security reason.)

I use them because my apartment is in a secure building and the office closes before I finish work. If lockers didn't exist I would order less stuff from Amazon and just drive around looking for the locally-available version. Now I can place an order and stop by 7-11 on the way home a couple days later.

NewEgg only has a couple of warehouses / distribution centers in the USA but one of them is about an hour away from me.

Recently, I needed a new SSD as quickly as possible and placed my order around 23:30 local time. Before noon the next day, I got an e-mail letting me know that it was ready to be picked up. Minus the drive, picking up the package was basically a five minute deal (i.e. out of my vehicle, going in and getting the package, and back into my truck took less than five minutes).

From now on, I'll only order from NewEgg when I need items urgently and am willing to make the two-hour (roundtrip) trek to pick them up, having been burnt by their shipping policy once before.

(Since someone will inevitably ask, I paid out the ass for one-day shipping only to receive my package three days later. Apparently, "one-day" only applies to actual shipping time. The two days my order was being "processed" didn't count.)

Just today, though, I found myself wishing both NewEgg and Amazon (who has their own distribution center very near to NewEgg's) had a walk-in retail storefront nearby. There is a Fry's about 90 minutes away but sometimes I just want to go in and browse and find things I wasn't really looking for or expecting.

They kind of have that with Amazon Locker but I found in practice, it was kind of annoying as not everything fits in the locker. If it's a smaller item (or items), it works great.

> I think it would behoove Amazon to have a network of "customer pickup centers" where you can order something on Amazon, it gets shipped by Amazon itself to a customer pickup center via air, and the customer drives to close off the figurative "last mile".


Ah, pretty cool. Didn't know they had this -- it's not available in my area yet.

Booking slots will probably come, its something they've always wanted to do and it becomes easier to implement as things like Amazon Fresh get rolled out. Re buying Uber - that would have been way too expensive, I think in this case it would be cheaper to slowly organically expand the logistics operation

I think that Amazon, may in the end be better off starting their own shipping company. It may sound weird, but I'm half surprised they didn't buy Uber or Lyft, not for the ride service, but for the drivers and the logistics in place. Large trucks from warehouses, to meet drivers in individual vehicles at drop spots, for final deliveries.

Amazon has their own shipping company, although I've found it to be subpar compared to passing the shipments off to the USPS or FedEx (largely because their deliveries don't have access to existing maildrops or mailboxes).

The recently rolled-out same-day delivery uses their shipping service without a handoff.

Yeah, as much as I appreciate their initiative there, the Amazon delivery drivers don't have access to my building and the company seems to be unable to solve that. So I have to buzz them in every time.

At least in the UK, Amazon already does that. Most things are delivered by Amazon's own drivers. The vehicles are not branded, so it may be an Uber-like model where the driver uses their own car, or they just rent white vans.

I think of it more as a Yodel-like model. The drivers mostly don't care, and a lot of my parcels get delivered into my bin.

Amazon logistics here in the uk is utter rubbish. It seems completely random as to wether you shipment will arrive the day they suggest or not and half the time it get lost.

With prime getting more expensive (we don't was the video stuff), the new "add on items and the rubbish delivery service we have given up on Amazon and very rarely use it.

It's already going that way

Brilliant, though I think they are investing more time in the drones

> and don't overcharge people paying for shipping

Do you necessarily believe they do this? Because I wouldn't be so quick to give benefit of the doubt...

Lots of (much smaller) companies do offset their free shipping in this way, even if they can't totally even it out.

Source: ran an online small business shipping small physical products.

That page has some explanations including what they will be doing, "We seek to mitigate costs of shipping over time in part through achieving higher sales volumes, optimizing placement of fulfillment centers, negotiating better terms with our suppliers, and achieving better operating efficiencies. We believe that offering low prices to our customers is fundamental to our future success, and one way we offer lower prices is through shipping offers."

Those explanations do not include what you're saying.

The problem isn't they increased the minimum order for free shipping or even that they charge for shipping - it is the deceptive advertising/wording. Among the big companies, Amazon has a reputation for treating their customers well (even if they screw their suppliers, workers etc). That seems to be slipping.

I love Amazon and I love Prime (the included streaming services and ebooks are great, on top of free shipping). But, lately I've been noticing cracks in the armor of Amazon, where they're leaving openings for competitors.

I have, just in the past year, ordered a huge variety of things from other vendors, because Amazon prices were far from competitive. And, with free two day shipping from merchants partnered with Shop Runner (which I get free when I pay with my American Express), the difference in experience, cost, and time to deliver is competitive. NewEgg got my server hardware purchases, saving me several hundred dollars on a ~$3000 order. An RV parts vendor sold me an RV air conditioner for ~$200 less than Amazon. I'm shopping for a tankless water heater right now, which is about $160 less from other vendors. And, on the lower end, when Amazon first started doing subscription groceries, they were competitively priced; now, not so much. I find I prefer just buying what I need when I need it from local grocery stores.

I still buy a lot of stuff from Amazon, but it's much less than it used to be. And, I don't know if Amazon knows what they're doing or not when choosing to lose these sales. Presumably the increased margins make up for the lower sales (or at least the loss of sales to me, which may not necessarily be the same as decreased sales overall). Surely they're doing the math.

This is the same thing. I bought from Amazon before Prime partly because of the free shipping. The further away the free shipping gets, the harder it would be to choose Amazon over getting it local or from another vendor, I think.

In the past year or two, I've noticed a dramatic rise in the number of counterfeit products. If you buy directly from Amazon, it generally seems ok, but all bets are off when you buy from a third party.

I've also noticed the increased gaming of the reviews system. If you read reviews of many of the highest rated products, you often find that most are shills who are given products for free in exchange for "fair and unbiased reviews." Funny how many of their unbiased reviews award five stars.

It's getting pretty bad.

For me it's the amount of spam i'm getting asking for reviews.

One of the big reasons i shop with amazon is so i know that i don't need to deal with making another account, giving someone else my CC info, getting relentless spam email every week telling me to buy more.

But now sellers are using the "contact customer" system to beg for reviews, and it's starting to get annoying enough that i want to avoid amazon.

Just a few months ago i ordered about 20 separate things for a project i'm working on, and over the next 2 weeks proceeded to get 30+ emails asking for reviews of the products, reviews of the sellers, asking if i'm satisfied with their products, etc. All of these coming straight from the sellers themselves right above the warning from amazon that this system is only to resolve problems with the product/shipping...

I tend to give negative product reviews when harassed by the sellers like this. In my opinion, the review should also be reflective of the company making/selling the product.

I did that once and the review got removed for "not appropriate" or something. I'm sure the seller flagged it for review for amazon knowing since I reviewed the seller and not the product, he could get it removed. (Which doesn't really make sense, because in buying the product I got harassed by the seller, so it affected my enjoyment of the product).

I've actually started giving negative seller reviews for this.

If you go to http://www.amazon.com/feedback you can review the sellers instead of the product.

Good idea, I'll be sure to do that too!

To be fair though, I believe people are much more likely to see a product rating than a seller rating. As evidenced by the number of "unbiased" 5 star reviews.

The same product is often sold by multiple sellers, though.

And Amazon's answer to all this seller spam is "oh, just unsubscribe from it". Completely missing the point that I'd have to do this once per seller.

Amazon is seriously undercutting their reputation thanks to the resellers that they allow on their site, many of whom have problematic product quality, authenticity, and accuracy of item description (to say the least). You really have to be careful that you aren't getting ripped off or buying junk. Most retail establishments protect their brands better.

I've yet to encounter a situation where saving a few bucks on an item was worth the combined cost of paying shipping at another site plus risking having to deal with their customer service. Just in the last two months my Amazon experiences have included:

- Bought a ~$60 item to give as a gift, that didn't arrive on time and the tracking info hadn't updated since it left the Amazon facility. Contacted them the day it had been scheduled to arrive and they overnighted a replacement, no questions asked.

- Bought a pair of pants just before Christmas, ended up getting two pairs of pants for Christmas (go mom). Went to return the ones I purchased (hadn't been worn yet), and Amazon refunded me without even requiring a return (~$25 item).

- Bought a heater a few weeks ago that arrived with one of the dials on its control panel knocked out of place, and no way to re-seat it without disassembling the unit. Amazon paid for return shipping and UPS pickup, and had the replacement item at my door on the second day after I requested a replacement.

I'm not a fan of many of many aspects of Amazon... but in terms of customer service, I don't use any other site that comes close.

I agree that Amazon is amazing at customer service. But, then again, so is NewEgg (in my experience). I've rarely had to deal with returns, but they definitely ship and deliver when they say they will; probably more reliably than Amazon, in my experience (though I order more from Amazon, so I may be skewing it in favor of NewEgg due to less negative experiences, even if the percentages are the same).

That said, two of your examples of great customer service are examples of poor quality in the shipping stage of your order. Amazon didn't deliver on time in one case, and Amazon didn't package the item properly in the third case. Amazon doesn't get an A+ from me for shipping me damaged goods or for losing something and then shipping a new one. (Though it happens to every vendor, and I'm sure Amazon is among the best at not screwing up the shipping process; the best customer service experience for me means I don't have to think about it...it just arrives, on time, complete, and functional.)

But, smaller companies are often much more difficult to work with, in general. I had to order some replacement parts for my motorhome from a small RV parts dealer because Amazon didn't carry them, and handling a cancellation (before shipping) and ordering a new item instead, required multiple phone calls and emails. It also took them several days to get it shipped out (I mean, it was literally several days before they put it in a box and handed it to UPS to be delivered to me).

It's hard to compete with Amazon on a small scale, is what I'm trying to say, but on big ticket items, I'm often willing to shop around. If a trustworthy vendor I've dealt with before has the item in stock for $100+ less, I'm buying from them and not buying from Amazon. It's just happening more and more often lately.

Combine this with Google Shopping Express (next day on my doorstep) and you have a lot of reasons to not use Amazon anymore.

Amazon Prime is still pretty awesome but I've had 3 returns in 4 months for incorrect or broken items (on Fulfilled by Amazon), and the pricing is not competitive with local retail (which Google Shopping matches for the items it does carry).

For example, recently I tried to buy a toy etcher/engraver so I could carve initials on my kids toys. Only place I could find it was locally or through e-bay... Amazon did not have that.

Thanks for the tip about Shop Runner. I hadn't heard of it before now but a quick look shows a couple of stores listed that I order from often enough that it will make the -- free (thanks AmEx!) -- membership worth signing up for.

I recently (during 4Q15) built myself a new server and ordered nearly everything from Amazon (with the exception of ordering half of the SSDs and HDDs from NewEgg, and picking up a spare one of each from a nearby Fry's).

I chose to order from Amazon both because of the free two-day (Prime) shipping and also because I had a new Discover card. In 4Q, Discover gives you 5% back on purchases on Amazon. In addition, at the end of the first year, they double all your cash back. Thus, in effect, I got an extra 10% discount off of all my Amazon purchases during 4Q (which added up to a few thousand dollars), although I won't "see" it until basically the end of 2016.

Agreed, most products above the $500 range can be found cheaper elsewhere, with the possibility of saving $100+ when compared tom amzn. that's why im working on https://percht.com.

Lately I bought a book (python machine learning) from a local bookstore for 15$ less than on Amazon. Crazy - never happend before. To me it seems like Amazon is constantly losing competitiveness as they try to get more profitable.

All I can say about Amazon is the quality of the item selection has gone down so much that most times I take my time digging through reviews to ensure the padded 4 star rating isn't done by bots because I've bought some items that were 4 star rated only to find they were utter crap later. And this is only in the last two years for Amazon. I'm not sure what's happening but I can say that I'm looking closer to home for stuff I need. Frankly, I think Bezos and company got too comfy with their dominant position and now they're being lax on the quality. I would happily load up an order 60+ USD easily from Amazon but now I have to double check to see what I'm getting isn't from a crap third party (that's the biggest thing I'd pay to remove is the third party sellers). If they want more customers they need to get back to basics by improving selection, kicking out crap third party sellers, and stop shuffling items between addon status or Prime only. Otherwise, I can see them going under in a hurry.

Ran into this myself very recently. Ordered a 5-star posture brace for my back, and what I got was nothing as described in the picture or description.

For the first time - ever - in using Amazon, I went back to the reviews to verify where the communication breakdown was. Indeed, every review was succeeded by "I was given this product at a small discount to review it with an honest opinion" -- which of course was a 99% discount. The process is technically legal by way of FTC, so long as the reviewers add the disclaimer.

Infuriated, I asked for a refund and was denied by the supplier. Escalated to Amazon and got the refund two weeks later.

I then opened several tickets, one after the other, trying to get Amazon to remove these fake reviews. Each one had the response of "We take your concern seriously. We cannot share any action taken by this ticket" -- and months later, nothing was done about the reviews.

So for the first time in years, I try to buy elsewhere before Amazon.

Their site is unbearably bloated with scripts and whatnot, I don't know why more people don't complain about that. The site is also filled with dishonest merchants peddling their misrepresented wares on it. I've had more issues with merchants on Amazon than on ebay.

I noticed that as well when trying to run their full site even on the Kindle Fire HDX. Luckily, it seems less of a problem since it seems to fall back to some less intensive setup, but if I go on Firefox or Chrome then it behaves oddly at times. I think Bezos needs to issue another edict against the "new hotness" when it comes to JS and UI libs for websites. IMO, less is more when it comes to making a website. But maybe I just have some weird extensions that don't play nice with some of those libs, who knows.

> The site is also filled with dishonest merchants peddling their misrepresented wares on it.

After purchasing fake makeup on Amazon TWICE, I checked on reddit and saw that they are notorious for selling knockoff fake makeup. So I've completely stopped shopping on there and gone back to going to Sephora. It's actually really sad that I can't trust amazon sellers to sell me a real product.

> Their site is unbearably bloated with scripts and whatnot

I don't think most people (outside of HN for sure and still a lot within HN) actually run NoScript or something that makes them aware of the number of scripts on a page. And frankly, 99.9% of the time, I don't care about that.

I wasn't talking about the number of scripts (even though it does have a lot) but about how unresponsive the site is at times because of said scripts.

My suggestion is to sort reviews by verified purchasers. You'll get closer to the truth that way.

They are really trying to force you into signing up for prime, aren't they?

I cancelled my prime subscription at the start of the year. Some thoughts:

- I buy less stuff on impulse. Since the price limit is (or was) $35 for free shipping, I usually have to wait until there are enough things I really want/need before ordering.

- The pricing is often better other places. Normally Amazon's non prime price will be comparable, but then shipping fees will be like 7 or 8 bucks, while other places have cheaper, faster, or even free shipping.

- If you do have prime, not everything with prime has free shipping. For small things they have "add on items", which don't ship to you until you have $25 worth of stuff in your cart. It wasn't always like this, and it was a big negative for me. I had signed up for prime because I didn't want to pay for quick shipping. Now I had to wait until there were other things I needed to hit their arbitrary number.

I ran the numbers over my three year subscription period with them and it turned out I wasn't buying enough stuff to make the math work. Maybe when it was $79, but at the current price it's just not worth it.

It's like they're going out of their way to piss off customers.

Yup, I also cancelled my prime subscription, for the exact same reasons as you. Their prices aren't as good as they used to be -- I shop around now.

All this stupid "add-on" shipping stuff is silly and was making my life a bigger hassle. I like Amazon because it was quick and efficient to buy, but that seemed to cause unnecessary friction.

And the real reason is that they made it very difficult to cancel Prime! 5 months into my membership, there was no way to cancel at the 1 year mark. They would only provide the option to cancel NOW, which is ridiclous. I actually had to put in a special request to customer service to do this. That was ridiculous and really changed my opinion of Amazon as a customer-focused company. It was like AOL tactics from the 90's.

"there was no way to cancel at the 1 year mark"

From personal experience, if you cancel "now", it simply doesn't renew at the one year mark. You still get the prime benefits you already paid for until then.

Ditto. I signed up for the free Prime offer, after a while decided it wasn't going to be worthwhile for me (a lot of the total delay between ordering and receiving seems to be on Amazon's warehouses' end of things, and not USPS/UPS physically moving it to my house), canceled, and kept using it for the rest of the month without problem.

If you cancel, you get a check for the prorated service you didn't use.

The Prime-nag-screen on every checkout is so annoying as well. The "no thanks" cancel link is very small and changed its location the last few months. Increasing the delivery time just to introduce Prime (I lived in an early test region of Prime back then).

Loyal customers that buy from the online shop since 1999, don't count anymore. If I as customer decide that I don't want your subscription service, better respect it!

Don't worry, as a Prime member they just replace that nag screen with one to watch Prime Video.

Prime Video, and some of the other non-shipping Prime services, are really getting on my nerves. They can't be cheap to operate and generally have a limited-enough selection that I don't bother checking them anymore (for example, the only notable books on their Kindle Lending Library service are Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, while everything else pushes you to the for-pay Kindle Unlimited). Add to that the awful UI work they do (they mix Prime and non-Prime, for-pay video, the completely confusing Amazon Music interface, etc), and it's a boondoggle they need to seriously re-think.

The flip-side of that is they do run some programming that likely wouldn't find a home anywhere else (Transparent is excellent, and I highly recommend watching it if you'd like something to challenge your world-view).

Amazon uses a surprising number of dark UI patterns considering how solid their market dominance is. And they really push their branded credit cards, too. I'm not interested and I never have been, but I've still been forced to turn these offers down for more than ten years now.

I have a different reaction. I view prime plus the occasional markup as a convenience fee. I'm paying to not spend an hour to 90 minutes of my life driving to the (poorly stocked) Target near me, hunting for the item I want that they may or may not have in stock, checking out, and driving back home. And I'm ok with that.

And to add to that, I'm not hunting around the Internet for the best deal, because I don't want to hand my card number out to everyone online. I'm willing to pay a little more to know who has my credit card number and who doesn't. The time it takes me to cancel a card, get a new one, and change all my auto-payments to reflect the new card is worth a few dollars more.

I didn't get a Raspberry Pi at launch because I had never heard of RS Components or Element 14, and I sure as hell wasn't given my card number to someone I didn't know. If it's not on Amazon, Newegg, Sparkfun, or Adafruit, I don't need it.

> because I had never heard of RS Components or Element 14, and I sure as hell wasn't given my card number to someone I didn't know

Farnell is significantly larger than Newegg or sparkfun or adafruit (even if you combine them). RPi distributes via Farnell or RS because many schools and colleges - the target audience for original RPi - will have accounts at RS or Farnell already.

Yeah, spending hours to save ten bucks here and there doesn't appeal to me.

I let my Prime trial subscription lapse for these same reasons, plus the apparently requirement that I update my two x laptops and TVs to be DRM compliant to stream Amazon Video. The non-DRM capable resolution was worse than Youtube 240p. No chance.

> I buy less stuff on impulse.

I've always got a couple of running "projects" and it's really nice to have Prime if I find out I need to buy a 20 Mhz oscillator, or a magneto cover gasket, or a pink buggy whip mid-stream.

I know what you mean - that's why I was so disappointed when they started marking small things "Add on items". Suddenly I needed to make it a $25 order just to get the free shipping.

I dumped Prime when they raised the price to $99/yr. I have been able to get just about everything I need via eBay with Fast 'n Free shipping and usually pretty quickly if I shop around a bit and look for merchants close to me. I logged into my Amazon account to look up a part number the other day and discovered I hadn't bought a single thing from them for over a year.

Do they have Add-on Items in the US too? They're incredibly annoying. They still show up when you filter for Prime only, but you need to spend £20 to get free Prime shipping. This is even if you're ordering other Prime stuff so already have a shipment coming.

"Profit was held back by a big jump in fulfillment costs, which increased 32.8% year-over-year in the fourth quarter and nearly 25% for the full year. Amazon spent $4.55 billion in the fourth quarter to fulfill customers’ orders, up from $3.4 billion in the same quarter a year ago, and the increase cannot be explained away by increases in Amazon sales, as the percentage of revenues spent on shipping also increased, from 11.6% to 12.7%." [1]

"There is more than loyalty at stake for Atlanta-based UPS. This year, its Amazon account exceeds $1 billion. ... The average cost to handle a parcel was about $8 last year." [2]

"Some analysts say the move could help position Amazon to offer shipping services to other companies, eventually competing with the likes of United Parcel Service and DHL Worldwide Express. ... Amazon rolled out thousands of its own trailers and launched an Uber-like delivery service last year to handle the so-called last mile of delivery, taking packages from distribution centers to customers' homes." [3]

1: http://www.marketwatch.com/mw2/palm/marketwatch/story.asp?gu...

2: http://www.nasdaq.com/article/amazon-seeks-to-ease-ties-with...

3: http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/amazon-drops-hints-it-...

> The average cost to handle a parcel was about $8 last year.

Thats still Amazing low cost considering what has to be done to deliver a parcel. Though I'm more surprised Amazon hasn't set up an Argos style business in high density cities.

For those that dont know Argos it's in the UK and its basically a collection shopfront with catalogues infromt of the counter. You browse the catalogue, write down the numbers and staff go out the back and bring you what you asked for. They have a huge range and while strange at first shopping in person from a book catalogue it works amazingly well for a bunch of shopping needs. It would merge perfectly with a Amazon like business.

In the States there was a similar company[0]: Best Products Company. You'd go in, browse the display models or thumb through a catalog, and if you wanted to buy you'd go to the sales counter, place your order, the clerk would fill out a form in triplicate, make a call, and about twenty minutes later, your item would come from the stock room on a long conveyor belt.

As a kid, it was great fun to watch, but I wouldn't put up with it these days. If I have to fight traffic and go to a shop, I like to get in and get out as fast as possible.

Best was best (ahem) known for its funky stores' architecture. The one in Sacramento, California, was especially interesting[1]. A corner of the building was literally removed to open the showroom then put back at night to close up shop.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_Products [1] http://www.emporis.com/buildings/1260719/best-products-showr...

Totally personal side note here.

I saw a 'That's incredible' TV advert mentioning but not explaining the Sacramento shop front with the sliding wall. I never saw the program. It was the early 80s, I was under 10 years old, and I was left confused until literally just now. Thank you. That's a personal 30 year mystery explained.

There used to be a Canadian chain called Consumers Distributing that did that business model in Canada/US - I remember loving their catalogues as a kid. They closed in the '90s.

I think the business model works better in Europe where floor-space is at a premium. Here in North America, they just build gigantic warehouse-styled stores with wide aisles and spartan decor and let the customers pick up their own crap. Presto, Wal-Mart and Costco.

I believe that the Argos-style staff-retrieving-everything is the way a high percentage of shops used to be, and there are still a few vestiges of it in some industries and areas. I'm not sure exactly where to find information on how the individual retail experience has changed over the decades, but I expect that direct consumer retrieval of items became the standard as larger stores and department stores became more widespread.

Notably in general retail, dedicated shoe stores in the USA are quite often like this though discount shoe stores now often tend to simply have stacks of boxes below a display shoe and it's up to the consumer to find which sizes/styles are in stock. It's also the standard for compact high-value goods such as jewelry. There are probably still also shops (even grocers) in high-crime areas that simply work everything this way.

I can't help but think the days are numbered for Argos. Since internet retailers have come along (which are usually a lot cheaper) the only real reason to buy from them is if you need something now rather than next day or in a few days. At the same time supermarkets have expanded into selling the same sort of products that Argos sells (small appliances, electronics, toys, etc).

I can't find any numbers on Argos itself, but the group that owns them (as well as a few other large retailers in the UK) made profits of £93.8m on revenues of £5.7B last year:


I don't think their days are numbered. I find them to be pretty competitive price wise against the likes of Amazon, with the advantage that I can get the item right now. Like you said, that applies to supermarkets, but if for example I wanted to purchase a kettle in my local Sainsburys I don't think they have a website that lets me check out reviews and order for my local store. I'm sure they could delver something but so could Amazon.

Also, if you order before 6PM you can get same day delivery: http://www.argos.co.uk/static/ArgosPromo3/includeName/fast-t... and they cover much more of the country than Amazon PrimeNow service. It's service like this that makes me think Argos are seriously fighting back against Amazon now.

They're mostly moving away from the pen and paper to entering it directly into a self-service touchscreen and paying on the spot. Much quicker. I've been in and out in 5 minutes. Of course they also do the pay online thing that so many bricks and mortar stores do. Many times I've ordered online, walked down 5 minutes from my office and it's ready when I get there.

Argos sounds cool, but yes, it seems like it'd only work in high density areas, where, surprise, it's easy to just go and buy such things in person. Amazon was a godsend for me when I went to college in rural TN, so an Argos like model wouldn't have helped there. I basically, yes, took advantage of their cheap shipping in that case, although I did have prime.

If by 'high density', do you mean a town of about 12,000? Because there are Argos shops here in Ireland in towns with populations like that out in the west coast where the population density is relatively low.

Lee Valley Tools[1] operates in a similar manner North America. But they specialize in woodworking and gardening tools.

[1] https://www.leevalley.com/

Prime Now (the same-day 2hr service to deliver items from a local warehouse) seems to be basically the same thing without having to pay for the physical space required to have shops with storage in the back.

Perhaps this is the kind of thing they're going for with for instance, their brick and mortar book stores?

First reaction: "NOOOOOOOO"

Second reaction: "It appears this does NOT apply to Amazon Prime."

I am assuming this is gamed to drive further conversion to Prime membership then.

Likely. Amazon seems to have made it clear that if you don't have Prime, they'd :RATHER: you shopped somewhere else. Arbitrary sets of items like certain Blu-ray discs or even like... razor blade replacements and diapers will randomly get set as "Prime exclusive items" for no reason with no warning.

Suddenly, buying a $10 Blu-ray requires you buy a $100 Prime subscription to go with it. And customers have found that usually, Target or Best Buy's websites offer the same products at the same price with free shipping... without Prime.

Here's a thread with 248 people complaining, and Amazon definitely not caring: http://www.amazon.com/forum/amazon/ref=cm_cd_pg_oldest?_enco...

Amazon is very quickly turning into the online version of Costco, and I think they've decided they're okay with that.

That's true, but without the 15% profit margin cap that wholesale clubs have. Lately I've found that certain Prime items (home decor and kitchen stuff) are 20-25% more expensive than what I can get them for locally.

Amazon prices change constantly. Even minute-to-minute sometimes.

At least on most of the stuff I've checked on CamelCamelCamel, Amazon has the lowest price on something maybe one day out of ten. Which is another way they push you towards Prime; if you have Prime, setting a price alert and buying it the day the price is the cheapest on Amazon is simple (assuming you can wait). If you're trying to combine items to get non-Prime free shipping, though, one item might be cheapest but the rest almost certainly won't.

Frankly, I think it's a fair deal.

I gladly pay the Prime fee and in return can be very sure that products will arrive tomorrow. I value that certainty and immediate availability. And that's not even considering the video and music services which I don't use that much.

I never said it wasn't a fair deal. It is, if you want it. But if arrival timing isn't critical, and you don't order enough time sensitive items for it to be worth it, and you don't watch Prime Video, it may not be a good purchase for you.

Prime is a very good service, but it isn't for everyone. Amazon is seemingly telling everyone who it isn't for to take a hike.

Amazon without prime is just frustrating at this point (and the price for prime is not worth it for the majority of people).

In the UK minimum shipping is £20: I recently bought an item for £19.99 and had to buy a random tiny item for £0.10 so that I do not get charged £4 for shipping.

Both items arrived separately...

In that case, the customer-friendly move would have been to charge you £0.10 for shipping rather than £4. As things stand, you had to waste time buying something you didn't want, increasing Amazon's costs, and others who did not discover the trick would have been unhappy. I wouldn't mind if the minimum shipping limit goes up, since it's a simpler system — I don't have to waste time figuring out these loopholes.

Yeah that is exactly my point.

Additionally Amazon has added more and more hurdles to the buying process such as add-on items and items shipped from a merchant who has his own shipping charges which do not count towards the 'free shipping minimum'. All of these things make the whole buying process for the customer ever more frustrating.

But while searching for that £0.10 item, some users will find another £10 item. That may be their strategy.

This site is aimed squarely at your use case:


(I have no financial or other connection except as a past user.)

Ah, nice one!

Can't believe I paid the extra 9p for a pill box instead :)

Supposedly http://www.fillerchecker.co.uk/ will help you find products to help hit that £20 total but a lot of their numbers seem to be off.

Seems like Prime shipping is still free on orders of any size, with a $35 requirement for free same-day shipping when applicable.

I'd be curious how many Amazon customers actually don't use Prime and will thus actually be impacted by this—seems like pretty much everyone I know has a subscription.

I for one have never bothered with "Prime." It's not that hard to combine Amazon orders until they cross the "free" shipping threshold.

Amazon Prime also comes with nearly Netflix-equivalent video on demand, nearly Spotify-equivalent streaming music, Prime Now 2-hour delivery, and currently free restaurant delivery a la GrubHub/Eat24 in a few cities, along with a bunch of other minor perks.

Just like abecedarius, I cancelled the free shipping service when it became something I didn't want or need.

Free shipping was great. I don't care about the rest (and cannot play it on my devices anyway. I try to avoid Flash, I don't want non-generic-purpose hardware like a FireTV or something and you cannot access the Prime content from my Kodi/Pi2 in any reasonable fashion).

If you like that offer it might be a great deal. If you pay the full price and only use/get a tiny fraction though...

I hope you and Amazon respect the decision of other customers who would rather not to even think about such stuff. Yet Amazon shows a full screen Prime advertisement & agreement with an small opt-out button on every checkout!

The increased bundling also came with an increased price, and that's why I canceled. I would have kept paying the original price for the original deal.

"free same-day shipping" Woah, what items do you get that on? I always wanted that so bad, but have never had anything delivered same day. Are you referring to Amazon prime now? Is same day shipping one of their Seattle only offerings?

Not the same as Prime Now (which offers one or two-hour delivery). Prime Same Day is an in-by-noon, arrives by 9pm service; if you order later than noon, you get next-day service. It covers a larger selection of items than Prime Now, and seems to be delivered by traditional courier services rather than Amazon Flex contractors. Apparently only available in 16 metro areas[1].

[1] http://www.amazon.com/b?node=8729023011

If you do any amount of shopping on Amazon, Prime is easily worth it. I buy as much as I can through Amazon because I get 5% cash back as a Prime member with an Amazon.com Store Card, the selection and ease of ordering is unparalleled, and the shipping is always free, fast, and convenient. We make extensive use of the video service since all Nickelodeon properties left Netflix.

Amazon is a huge thing for us, getting ever-larger, and Prime is a large part of why that's possible.

I don't have Prime, none of my immediate family members do, and most friends don't.

I'd say a fair amount still don't use it.

Have never had prime subscription. I try to combine if possible, and if not, just pay the shipping charges once in a while.

I've used Prime before, but I don't think it's worth it when I can (could) just spend $35 on qualified items (which would be qualified for Prime also), and I can get actually free shipping.

Now that Amazon has a de-facto monopoly on distribution and fulfillment with around a billion skus that rivals the likes of WalMart, it's no surprise prices begin endlessly ratcheting up.

Monopoly is a very/overly strong word for what Amazon has (even when qualified as "de-facto").

I've had my first two annoyances with amazon, after years of having zero.

  * Add on items. Can't buy them on their own, can't buy more than five. What's going on with these? Just let me buy them in bulk. 
  * Recently, I had an item that was prime, but wouldn't ship to a PO box. I've never had this – amazon always chooses USPS/Canada Post for PO Box orders. The item was small. I had even ordered it to a PO Box before, successfully. I was able to complete the order to a pickup point, *at* the post office, just not in my PO Box.
These are trifles. But the reason I buy everything at amazon is that they removed all trifles. I've been noticing more of them recently.

Of course, on the flipside, amazon.ca has massively expanded its offerings. Which is great. However, many of them are not sold by amazon/shipped by prime, and it increases cognitive overload. I have to calculate shipping, deal with third party merchant shipping emails/review requests, sometimes they don't ship to PO Boxes, etc.

Sorry Amazon, I don't care. And my Amazon Prime is still going bye-bye this year. The prices are always higher than other vendors so the free shipping is all but moot and your other services suck. I can't even get the Music service to work.

It seems that Jet.com (Ana Amazon-like competitor, I haven't used them yet, so don't know the experience) has a $35 threshold for 2 to 5 day free-shipping.

jet.com is OK. For most of the stuff, they are reliable but books, they rely on Barnes and Noble and at times there is delay in delivery.

Also your discount increases the more items you add to the cart, so jet actually encourages you to make one big shopping cart with their system.

Sadly, Amazon can just undercut and outspend them.

"Competition is for losers" - Thiel

I've been comparing and buying on either Jet or Amazon recentlly. As a result, I've been buying on Jet more frequently. Jet has a smaller selection but they usually have a good enough range on the price-value curve that it's not a big problem. Like for like, they are indeed cheaper than Amazon and free 2 day delivery is always a plus. Of course their model is lower prices with a bit more delayed deliveries.

I just ordered a few things from Jet.com and it was split into 3 shipments. A shipment of 1 item came within 2 days. A shipment of 3 items is on its way somewhere (although the tracking number gives no real details). The final shipment of 1 item is still 'processing' 4 business days later. It was supposed to be 2-5 day shipping, but I don't see the third item getting to me by tomorrow. We'll see, I guess.

They are trying to create lock-in via their customer loyalty program known as Amazon Prime.

Amazon finally decided to stop losing a little on every sale and making it up in volume. This looks like a classic dumping strategy -- sell products below cost (and evading sales/use tax, wink wink) to bankrupt competitors, and then raise prices.

And then watch competitors come back. I look forward to the return of some competition.

More incentive to apply for Prime membership. Prime locks in customers a little, which is good for business. Not for free market, though.

Prime subscriber here, though it's the UK model (next-day delivery on many things, plus Amazon Video as a perk).

My approach on it is somewhat different to many others here. I can order some stuff before 8pm and have it delivered next day. Things ordered earlier in the day (pre-noon) could be any courier, but the post-6pm orders are almost always delivered by DPD to my area (north Cornwall, EX23 postcode).

Talking with my regular courier, so take this as anecdotal rather than cited, there are apparently courier representatives (brokers) at some major depots that bid on the packages as they are being readied: presumably, lowest bidder wins the business.

I also use Prime for earning download credit. I can select a slow delivery option for my order [0] if I'm not in a hurry, and get 1GBP as a kickback. In November and December, this increases to 3GBP.

Over the year, I typically place 200+ orders (some for me, some for clients) and most are slow delivery. This effectively means I make money on the Prime subscription, and I can expand my Kindle library without spending real money. At any given time, I have about >5GBP in digital credit [1] - there are supposed to be expiry dates on it, but I've never fallen foul of it.

[0] http://imgur.com/MLPTR1H

[1] http://imgur.com/0190B9O

"though it's the UK model (next-day delivery on many things"

I order a couple of books today, for delivery to London. As Prime customer, I was offered several free options:

- same day delivery (6pm-10pm if I recall correctly) - next day delivery - timed delivery (day after tomorrow, within a 4 hour window)

Most of the UK is next-day minimum, as I understand it. Us rural folks don't have the same-day perk.

I live in Singapore and the free shipping to my country is USD $125.

Sometimes I really wonder how they make money when the items they ship are so heavy.

In my country, the shipping cost would easily be 2 to 3 times what Amazon would charge for their paid standard shipping. E.g. The box that I received recently would have cost USD $30-50 to ship from my country to USA. They either have a fantastic shipping deal or they really have deep wallets, the latter is probably true.

> They either have a fantastic shipping deal or they really have deep wallets, the latter is probably true.

Both are true.

Tried to buy some computer components of Amazon the other day, it became such a pita that I aborted the order and bought the SSD in person at the local PC World (for those not in the UK shipping at PC world is the last resort when in a rush) for a couple of quid more.

At this point I actively avoid Amazon, they lost their mojo and ruthless focus on customer experience.

This article seems to be talking about books, in particular.

I just checked and my free Prime shipping is still in effect.

What am I missing? Did Amazon once offer free shipping to people who didn't have Prime?

I'm pretty sure that they can't just change the benefits of Prime in the middle of my membership.

> Did Amazon once offer free shipping to people who didn't have Prime?

Yes. It wasn't next day delivery. You still get it, but there's a minimum spend requirement now.

> I'm pretty sure that they can't just change the benefits of Prime in the middle of my membership.

Don't they have a clause saying they can change the terms whenever they like?

I can't remember there not being a minimum spend. I can remember back to 2005 I think.

FYI: Prime one/same-day shipping is still $35 - this only seems to apply to non-prime shipping.

I figured this would happen soon enough. I just hope they leave Prime alone. I try hard not to "abuse" it any. I normally try to select the free no rush shipping and save the free 2 day shipping to the things I actually do need quickly when/if that need pops up.

Having free shipping on any order has certainly changed my online shopping habits over the years. Other than food, I pretty much don't even go to the store for anything. Even clothes, I just buy the brands I know fit me well off of ebay used (and been doing that for like that last 8 years now)

I don't consider using Prime to be abuse...but I also place a preference on buying locally when I can.

I don't think it's abuse either, but back when Prime was $79 and small items shipped free, I cringed at the thought of buying, say, a pack of razors from Amazon. It felt wrong.

Exactly, it offends my sensibilities to order such things 2nd day unless I'm likely to really need them that quickly. And with their incentives for slower shipping (but still pretty fast as a rule) like $1 in free digital goods for a limited time (a few months) they recognize that. They also use it to promote their Pantry system (regular bulky subscriptions that some in big monthly boxes).

And it makes me feel non-abusive when I order something for 2nd day that's close to the line.

In general I find it a sane system, would be even more so if I didn't live behind a slow broadband connection and had made my household 100% Linux.

Like you when I need something small, I usually just add it to my next Amazon shipment. Pantry and Subscribe and Save have almost made it where I do not have to go to the grocery store. Add in something like Blue Apron for fresh dinners and I may never have to go to the grocery again.

I miss when I lived in Denver and had a milk man. Every week he would deliver milk (obviously), eggs, bacon, bread, juice, etc...

I'm the opposite and will use the Prime Same Day if it is free, even if I know I will not need the item for a week. I pay for Prime and I want the 2 day delivery I paid for. If it's not profitable that's Amazon's problem, not mine.

They've already raised the price of Prime

Yes a whole $20, shipping prices in general have gone up as well keep in mind.

That's a 25% raise, which is large. They can do what they want but the OP was indicating that they haven't mucked with Prime pricing and they have.

I'm curious whether they would revert the change if they saw a large dip in sales as a result, and if so, how large it would have to be (relative to the savings on shipping costs).

Since everyone is sharing their Amazon stories, I shall add mine:

Story 1:

Buying the brand of catfood I do is cheaper through Amazon. I'd buy seven 24 can cases (one of each flavor) every 6 months or so, qualifying for the 15% subscribe and save bonus, plus charge it to my Amazon store card, getting another 5% on top of that.

Local stores charge $25 a case, Amazon averages out to a little more than $22 or so a case (each flavor is slightly different) and then I I pay about $18 after those discounts.

Almost every case I get from them is crushed due to improper packing. One time they shoved all 7 cases into the same shipment. I have no clue how the outer box itself didn't self destruct.

Yes, they would replace them at no cost, and the replacements would also be crushed. Between the original and the replacement, I would have around 24 cans per case worth keeping.

The most recent shipment is what killed it for me, only about 12 cans salvageable out of 3 cases. They refunded me in full after arguing with them a bit, and I'm just going to pay extra to buy it locally. This bullshit isn't worth saving a few dollars given how much time I have to waste fixing their problem.

Story 2:

I decided to not be a fatass anymore. Along that epic journey, I decided to start lifting weights, and bought a barbell kit (two bars, two sets of four plates, a plastic box to store them in, etc), and I started needing more weight to continue.

I purchased four 10 pound plates, they had them on sale for less than a dollar per pound. The box clearly self destructed, and was taped up by the fearless team at UPS somewhere between the warehouse and my house. Only three plates were in the box.

Amazon shipped me the replacement, but clearly there is no training being done at Amazon on how to properly pack boxes or choose a proper box size based on the weight of items in it.

Story 3:

I bought a $400 food processor, and a few other items for my kitchen, including a new frying pan. The shipping label was attached to the frying pan's retail box, and that was shipped. Everything else in the shipment didn't arrive, but the frying pan did.

Amazon, again, fixed the problem, but what the hell. How does that even happen.

Story 4:

Back to the subscribe and save again. Items I keep subscribing to either change price (to make them more expensive than just buying them locally), or stop being offered for subscribe and save altogether.

Same with Amazon Prime Pantry: I'll add stuff to a Pantry box, try to fill it (since I have to still pay S&H on that, even though I have Prime), and items I try to add either do not exist in Pantry, are out of stock, and are never all in stock at the same time (so waiting on some times causes other items to go back out of stock).

And I can't subscribe to Pantry items, nor can I tell Amazon to ship me my box when everything is in stock.

I've gotten one Pantry box ever. That is the only one I could ever get filled with things I want. It ended up being a box full of toilet paper. My hall closet, for the past 8 months, has had more toilet paper in it than it ever has in it's existence.

Story 5:

Amazon Prime Day. Amazon decided they didn't want to participate in Black Friday anymore (and thus, give out garbage Black Friday deals), and are holding theirs on a completely different day.

However, all they give deals on are on stuff nobody wants, and Amazon wants it out of their warehouse, and it is painfully clear this is what is going on.


So yeah, between all of that, and the fact every few years they increase the cost of Prime to pay for things I don't want: Kindle lending library (I don't own a Kindle, and their Android software kind of sucks), Prime TV (I use Netflix, and Prime TV doesn't work on non-Kindle Fire Android devices or Chromecasts (only Fire TVs)), Prime Music (massively inferior experience to Google Music), Prime Photos (again, why when I already have Google Photos), and countless other things.

I just wanted the free two day shipping when it was $79/year, and when Amazon had legitimately good prices. Given what I "save" on Amazon, I doubt I'm actually making back $99/year. Having to deal with all this bullshit isn't worth it.

I feel like Jeff Bezos has no clue how to just stop. He needs to learn how to just sit back and enjoy that Amazon won. We have reached peak Amazon, and it is only going to go down hill from here.

I feel as if these horror stories are why Amazon wants to get heavily into the shipping/delivery/freight industries these days. They can't rely on the shipping services currently available to handle their wares reliably and professionally.

All of my stories are Amazon's problem, though.

Story 1 is because Amazon did not properly pack boxes (only a couple air pillows to prevent shifting in the box, no bubble wrap at all); 2 is not splitting the order between multiple boxes OR using higher weight boxes, and also not using ANY air pillows; 3 is failure to attach shipping label to the box instead of the product's box; 4 is failure of Amazon policy before I even get to make an order; 5 is failure of Amazon policy and outright insulting.

Yes, I think Amazon should get into shipping, but they also need to start PACKING THEIR SHIT RIGHT.

4 and 5 are the worst, I want to give them their money and they can't get their shit together enough for them to take it. I am already their customer, they already did the hardest part, now take my fucking money.

Every single time I've had something come damaged from Amazon (which is far too often), it's been from inadequate/incompetent packing on Amazon's part. When you put a 20 lb item loose in a box with a bunch of other fragile items, the carrier is not remotely at fault when everything arrives crushed.

Amazon are involved in the delivery here in the UK under the name Amazon Logistics. They are terrible and are clearly putting minimum cost above all other factors.

Interesting. There have been rumors that Amazon are planning to set up their own delivery service in Germany, so they could possibly go from losing money to making money with the delivery.


Not surprising, they lose money for shipping. With the competition going down, they might feel it is a good time for price bump.

Sometimes I have a better experience looking up something on Amazon, finding the site of the merchant and ordering from them directly. Especially when things are not fulfilled by Amazon.

I let my prime membership lapse last year as I realized I was picking Amazon by default for a lot of things that were cheaper elsewhere.

Hmm. Being a Prime subscriber, I had no idea you could even get free shipping without Prime.

Yeah back in the day it was $25 for free shipping, then they bumped to $35, now $49. The free shipping is not the same speed as prime. Prime gives you 2 days. Free shipping is just that..free regular ground shipping which could take a few days to get to you.

Nice marketing work by Amazon, eh? Had the same thought.

Competitive note: Walmart does free shipping at $50 orders as well. Seems like this just shows that Amazon didn't think that they needed the additional $15 advantage.

It's interesting that oil/gas prices are less than half of a year ago, yet shipping prices have increased.

Can we assume then that a hike in the cost of Prime isn't far behind?

It's possible they raised the shipping minimum in order to get more people to sign up to Prime, so perhaps not.

Despite the temptation to bikeshed Amazon, I'd have to say this is quite justified. Amazon seemed TOO cheap for a lot of things. It was amazing they made any money at all. Now that they have a monopoly, they can stop with the freebies.

What was it before?

$25. Then $35. I forget what came before $25 -- back then, discount codes were so common it didn't really matter.

$35 for free shipping.

Reminder: just say no to amazon!

Well, that's fine.

I'll just buy more from AliExpress. Shipping is free, albeit long.

Would love to be a fly on the wall when Amazon decided on this, it's pretty much opposite the leadership principles which are essentially a religion for the people who make decisions like this.

I didn't realize anyone buys from Amazon who's not Prime. Only sort of kidding. At $100/year kind of a no-brainer.

$100/year is nice but $0 is nicer. It's usually not hard to combine items to reach the free shipping threshold, and there are plenty of alternatives if that doesn't work.

For me at least, the $100/year is quickly made up in those instances when I need overnight shipping. Prime gets you free 2 day and really cheap ($5 or so) overnight.

Having some random part break and be here the next day is a godsend.

If you need it then I can see where it would be totally worth it. Personally, I'm not sure I've ever had something to order online where I needed it overnight.

I don't buy enough in a year to justify it.

You also get Music, Video, Photos, Now and a bunch of other stuff. No-brainer at $100/year.

It's a no-brainer if their offering appeals to you. For me, it does not. I get the stuff they offer for free/cheap from other services, and they tend to have a better selection for my interests.

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