Amazon Prime and I Are Breaking Up. Here’s How I’ll Survive Without It
When Amazon announced in April it would raise the price of Prime membership from $99 to $119, I shrugged.
As with many pleasures of my high-tech life, I was convinced I needed the service. I needed to be able to order any number of goods from my bed at any hour of the day or night and have them delivered to my doorstep in two days.
Then, Adam Clark Estes wrote a piece called “I’m Starting to Have Serious Doubts About Amazon Prime” for Gizmodo, and I second-guessed myself.
“Amazon is the monster I invited into my home over a decade and a half ago, when I started buying books for college online,” Estes wrote, “and it’s been living in my basement since then, eating my spare change and growing.”
Estes analyzed his Amazon spending and found that it increased through the years as he grew accustomed to his Prime membership.
“Most of my orders are in the $50 range, and most of the stuff I buy, I could also buy locally and carry home in my backpack,” Estes wrote.
I started to wonder what my own Amazon consumption looked like. When I first signed up for Prime, I was on the Amazon student program that offered access for half-price. I was also living car-free in a city. Prime was more than a luxury for a twentysomething with $49 to spare each year. It was downright practical.
But that first foray into Prime took place a number of years ago — which year, I’d rather not mention. It’s 2018 now, and there are more options available for online shopping.
So before my membership renews at the higher rate this fall, I decided to look my Prime purchases from the last year right in the eye. All of them.
Here are the categories to which my mortal coil has been reduced.
What 12 Months of Amazon Prime Spending Looked Like
This simplified rundown shows what I purchased most within the warm confines of Amazon Prime during the period between Sept. 1, 2017, and Aug. 31, 2018.
19.1%: Health and beauty products, such as specialty shampoo, protein powder and vitamins. So many vitamins…
19.1%: Books. Please do not ask me how many of them I have actually read since purchasing.
17.6%: Home. Mainly home improvement items I didn’t want to wander Home Depot asking about.
17.6%: Tech accessories, such as cords and bits of podcasting equipment.
8.8%: Pet supplies. Mostly cat food and litter.
5.9%: Toys, because I am a super cool aunt.
4.4%: Used books. This didn’t need to be a separate category, but I was curious.
2.9%: Halloween costumes. Sometimes you need weird stuff, and you don’t want to spend all day in the car looking for it.
1.5%: Amazon tech, in the form of one item: the new Amazon Kindle I traded my 2011 version for on Prime Day.
The contents of my shopping history weren’t nearly as embarrassing as I feared. Sure, there were a few late-night splurges I regretted. But the majority of orders were for very specific items I looked to Amazon for, rather than the result of aimless browsing.
Many of my purchases could easily fall under the category of “things I need but don’t want to risk driving out of my way only for the store to not have in stock.” I was willing to wait for the item to ship in exchange for that convenience. And it shows when you look at my yearlong track record.
I placed 57 orders in a 12-month span.
Of those orders, 54 contained just one item.
Only 15 of the items I purchased were gifts.
77.2% of my orders cost less than $25, the free-shipping threshold for nonmembers.
Overall, I spent $1,058.28 on Amazon.
Could I Replace Amazon Prime With… Everything Else?
The obvious alternative would be to cancel Amazon Prime and wait until I hit the $25 threshold to place an order.
But Amazon isn’t the only e-commerce giant worth a glance anymore. I decided to search for a selection of my previous purchases on other major websites.
You can probably guess where this is heading.
When I searched for a random sampling of items I had purchased from Amazon, Walmart had either the same product or a very similar product for each. Four of the six items offered free shipping from third-party sellers, albeit probably not so quickly. Prices were comparable for every single item.
Target offers free shipping on orders above $35. The site had similar options at comparable prices available for all but one of the items I tested.
But the cat food I searched for was only available through Restock, which brings me to my next option…
Target rolled out its next-day shipping program for 35,000 “popular essentials” earlier this year.
You can get up to 45 pounds of merchandise shipped overnight for $2.99. I’ve used it a few times so I wouldn’t have to lug pet supplies up the stairs to my apartment, but when I searched for the other items I had previously purchased on Amazon, the only one that was there was the cat food.
I’ve also previously used Chewy to order pet supplies. (Are you catching the pattern here?) Chewy offered the same cat food at nearly the same price as Amazon, Target and Walmart, but requires a $49 order for free shipping.
So… Can I Cancel Amazon Prime?
It’s not a question of can. It’s a question of willpower.
Before you write in asking, “What about all the other Prime benefits?” — let me tell you: I don’t use them. I only follow one show Amazon distributes via Prime Video. I don’t use Amazon Music Unlimited. I don’t regularly shop at Whole Foods. I borrow Kindle books from the library.
I really am only in this for the convenience of two-day shipping. Which means I can probably make up for it elsewhere, while keeping my $119. I can probably refrain from one-click buying in the late-night hours.
So this is it. I’m definitely not breathing into a paper bag as I type this: I’m going to break up with Amazon Prime.
I can’t promise I’ll never order from the website again. But this year, I’m going to keep my $119.
I don’t know if I owe Amazon a formal breakup. Maybe a Post-it note.
Maybe I’ll just ghost. I don’t think it will miss me.
Lisa Rowan is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder covering the retail and grocery industries.