Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A strangely good deal

My wife signed us up for Amazon Prime earlier this year on one of those "trial" periods where it automatically renews after 30 days and charges you for a year of service if you don't cancel it. Well, we forgot to cancel the renewal so we got signed up for a year of it at a cost of something like $79. At first we were irritated that we had obviously signed ourselves up for some relatively useless value-added service scam. Even a dense or slow consumer should be able to see that the $79 we spent would be difficult to make up with the money we'd supposedly "save" on shipping and faster service.

And we were wrong.

This service has been an absolute godsend to us this year. Not only did we save several times over the money we spent on the membership, but we now have the convenience of ordering from Amazon and getting 1-2 day shipping on everything. We're busy people and we're parents, and getting to a local store wasn't always a viable option for us around the holidays or birthdays, let alone just to fit into our work- and parenting-dominated weekly schedule. Not only does Amazon have nearly every book, movie, music selection, electronic gadget, toy, game, and loads of other stuff, but they have it at prices that approach much closer to the national average than our local marked-up Chicagoland stores do (not to mention the horrific 11.0% sales tax in Cook County that literally feels like I got a pay cut). The end result: we saved a pile of money and internet shopping has never been easier.

Here's how it works:

You pay (all up front, I believe) a $79-ish membership fee for Amazon Prime. The primary benefit of this membership is that you get free (completely free, not just reduced) 2-day shipping on everything you buy. Amazon has things like bicycles and carburetors, etc, that aren't sold by Amazon itself but rather third parties, these items do NOT qualify for Amazon Prime, but nearly everything else does, including some of the "Used" sellers. If you absolutely have got ants in your pants about getting some purchase fast, you can upgrade your shipping to overnight/next day for around $3.99. Super cheap, when you consider that it's generally $20-ish for next day air on something small. For most things, though, even impulse purchases, 2nd day is usually plenty fast. If Amazon fails to deliver your item by the time promised, they refund the cost of the 2nd day shipping to you. This has only happened once in the several dozen purchases we've made this year, and they refunded it without question which I thought was more than fair.

Need to get someone a birthday present fast? No problem. Want to avoid completely the holiday gift rush? Screw malls. Want to take the guesswork out of painfully "tracking" packages delivered UPS ground that can take days (or weeks)? Never worry about it again. Want the Amazon selection (and more importantly their sale prices), without giving up the "get it now" convenience? Amazon Prime is for you.

I normally roll my eyes at people that get suckered into crap service upgrades like this, but I almost cannot stress enough how fun and easy this is. And the membership does easily pay for itself even if you're not a big internet shopper. But this service is almost like iTunes and TiVo were to music and television; once you get it, you never think the same way about internet shopping again. You start snorting and looking down your nose at internet vendors that refuse to ship second day air and you almost can't live without it. I occasionally walk into stores like Best Buy and Target looking for things like books or DVDs and even if they have them right in front of me to impulsively just buy I go home and get them from Amazon.

Last night I bought myself a Jawbone Bluetooth headset to replace my Samsung one that crapped out. This is a very nice Bluetooth that has an MSRP of $129.00, and a typical retail price around $110.00. Last night Best Buy was the only place I could find one on the shelf and they were selling for the full $129.00 (which with the sales tax came to a staggering $143.19, see what I mean about "brutal"?). I went home and picked up the same item through Amazon, shipped 2-day delivery, for dum-dum-daaaaaa: $82.00.

So the ability to (1) take advantage of Amazon's sales and middle-of-the-road pricing and (2) get the item shipped to me not just quickly but completely free, saved me $61.19 last night. One shipment with one item in it nearly paid for the yearly membership fee.

Anyway, my rant is over. If you're a busy person or you order a lot of stuff online, get Amazon Prime. It's sweet.

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