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In just over twenty years, the innovative online bookseller has mushroomed into the ubiquitous purveyor of all manner of goods, from fresh food to consumer electronics and all things in-between. Amazon has become the go-to place for many people for the things they need to make their everyday lives run like clockwork. However, as we have become used to buying at the click of a mouse, we often get frustrated waiting for our purchases to arrive. Amazon recognized there is a need for quicker fulfillment and a few years ago introduced its Prime membership plan. For a flat annual fee, the company provides free shipping, guaranteed to get a delivery to your door in just two days. It also gives members access to streaming video, music and ebooks. Since the service started a hundred million people have signed up to the deal.
The basic service offered by Amazon Prime is an expedited delivery service of either one or two days. For a membership fee of $99/year plus a 30-day free trial, shoppers on Amazon can have most items purchased delivered free within 48 hours of clicking to buy. There are other perks available for Prime subscribers which we will come to a little later.
For shoppers in the United States, the Amazon Prime service offers free two-day shipping on items that are marked as eligible on the site. This offer is only available to the contiguous US and does not apply to Alaska, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico. Some Zip Codes in the US can get next day delivery, again free.
Recently, Amazon introduced its Prime Pantry fresh food delivery service to members. Again, this service is only available in the contiguous United States. However, for a flat fee of $5.99/delivery members can have grocery, household, and pet care items delivered in what is known as Prime Pantry box.
More recently Amazon has started an immediate response delivery service in selected US cities. Tens of thousands of items are available for delivery within one hour from stores in major cities such as New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles.
As a Prime member, if you opt for the no-rush shipping option, which can take up to five working days, savings can be accrued to pay for music, video and ebooks. If you advise Amazon customer service if your Prime package does not reach you within the two-day window, they are likely to give you another month’s membership as compensation.
Signing up for Amazon Prime gives members access to discounts and special offers. Early Access gives members a 30-minute head start on other Amazon shoppers when the company initiates its lightning deals and other discounting events. New mothers who sign up to Amazon Mom receive a discount of 20% off diapers, and a further reduction on some products in their baby registry. Video gamers get a 20% discount when pre-ordering physical games, and get them delivered free on the day of release. Avid readers with a Kindle get the chance of downloading a new book for free every month.
However, it’s the Free Time Unlimited option that has attracted many to sign up to Amazon Prime. Prime members get a $2.00 discount on the monthly subscription service offering TV, movies, and books to enjoy. Following the purchase of the Whole Foods chain by Amazon in 2017, the company is offering extra benefits to Prime members from the vast range of grocery items available in store. In some cities, a free two-hour delivery service is available to Prime members from selected Whole Foods outlets.
Prime membership also includes a range of exclusive entertainment and other online services. Prime Video gives members access to unlimited movie and TV streaming in the US and Puerto Rico. Third-party streaming subscriptions are also available at a discount. Also available in the same area are millions of songs on Prime Music. Photo storage is available on the Amazon Cloud Drive using Prime Photos. Fans of football have the chance to exclusively see almost a dozen Thursday night NFL football games included in their membership. Prime members in the US who also own a Kindle can make use of the lending library where users can borrow a book for a month, before returning it or being charged.
Amazon has been making the Prime package more attractive by giving exclusive offers to members. For example, some favorite video games are only available to Prime subscribers to purchase. Items that have limited availability are sometimes just made available to Prime customers. Some retail watchers have suggested that this is a sign of how Amazon intends to do business in the future, becoming more like Costco, where you require membership before you can shop. Prime members also get access to the new Amazon Elements, an own-brand line of popular household products. The company differentiates its products by giving the purchaser exact details of where the item was produced, and where the ingredients were sourced.
If you’re an infrequent Amazon purchaser, then the $99/year membership cost is probably not worth it alone. Anyone spending more than $25 on an order from Amazon automatically gets free shipping, even without the membership. If you get your ebooks from Apple or one of the other retailers the free monthly Kindle book will hardly make up the value of your annual subscription. Also, if you already have a subscription to Netflix or Hulu, then the more limited streaming content Amazon Prime offers may not be enough to tempt you. However, as the service grows this might make the Prime package more attractive.
If you are unsure a Prime membership is right for you, why not try the 30-day free trial to see how much you will use the services offered. Be warned that if you do not want to continue the membership, you will have to cancel before the 30-day trial is complete otherwise your debit card will be charged an annual or monthly fee, whichever you signed up for.
Not all of these services are offered outside the United States, the service in Canada is similar to the US, whereas only some are available in the UK, Japan and parts of Europe.