Amazon has designed their free two-day-shipping Prime subscription program well. For any item sold directly by Amazon, you can just order it while you sit on the couch and know you will have it the day after tomorrow with no shipping charge, or you can spend the time to drive to the store, find it, and buy it. Amazon knows that the certainty of having it the day after tomorrow (as opposed to a vague 3-5 days) will allow them to win sales that would have gone to brick and mortar stores.
For years, I had been tempted to get a subscription, but the math just wasn’t compelling. I added up how much I was already paying for shipping on products over the course of the year, and it was only about a third of $79 prime membership. This was due partly to the fact that many times I was able to use the free 1-2 week “super saver” shipping and partly due to items that shipped from 3rd party vendors that weren’t eligible.
The only way I would be able to justify it was by buying a lot more through Amazon Prime, and I wasn’t quite ready to sign up for that. Sometimes the fact that you have to actually have to go to a store to buy something is a barrier to making the purchase, and that saves money.
A few months ago, however, I decided to go ahead anyways. There was a specific item I needed in two days, so I figured if I was going to pay for the shipping, I might as well bite the bullet and subscribe.
My change in heart was largely due to the fact that our schedules have become much hectic, and we have had a lot less time to run errands. My theory was that if we could save time by ordering more stuff through Amazon, it would be worth the $79. Also, every time we walk into Target, we leave with three other things we hadn’t planned on buying, so perhaps reducing the frequency of these trips would help compensate for the likelihood of buying more stuff through Amazon.
My wife was initially puzzled about why I suddenly subscribed after always stating it wasn’t worth it, but she immediately started using it happily. And it is certainly paying off for Amazon. Our mentality for gifts and many other items that would have meant a trip to the store has become “Let’s see what we can find on Amazon Prime”.
Exactly what Amazon was hoping for. And we are happy customers.
But the happiest member of the family is probably my son Rafael, who is about to turn 3.
While we were on vacation a few weeks ago, we spent a day at the Santa Monica beach in California. We went for a walk to get lunch, during which he slept the whole time in his stroller, clutching his monkey lovey. When we got back to the car, we suddenly discovered that the lovey was gone. We retraced our steps, but we couldn’t find it. We had spares at home, but we had only brought one on the trip.
As we drove back to my sister’s house where we were staying, my wife and I discussed what to do. I thought he might manage okay without it, but my wife was less convinced. She started to make phone calls to see if she could find a store that sold it in LA.
I pulled over and looked on my phone. Amazon sold it direct, making it eligible for Prime shipping. Two days would be free, but I could get a reduced rate for next day shipping for just $3.99. We ordered it and continued on our way.
That night we explained to Rafael that we had forgotten his monkey at the beach, but we called the beach people and were sending it to us tomorrow. He agreed to borrow a stuffed animal from his cousin.
The next day, a delivery van showed up with a small package. We opened it and gave it to Rafael, saying, “Look, they found your monkey and sent it back to us!”
He looked at, then held it up to us with a big smile and said, “A new monkey!”
My wife and I looked at each other and said “Um, yes, the people at the beach found it and sent it!”
My son turned and ran into the house saying, “A new monkey…a new monkey!”
Well, at least he was happy.