Why Amazon Prime Membership Is a Waste of Money
How I Became a Prime Member
When I first signed up for an Amazon Prime membership, it was because they cut the price on it every January, so I could try it for $79/ a year instead of their usual price of $99. I renewed it last year at the $99 rate. The benefits I used during the last two years have mostly been with shipping and music, since I think their selection of free-for-Prime-users movies and anime flat-out sucks, and because options like Prime Now and Prime Pantry are way too expensive for me (which I'll talk about why they suck later).
And, basically, the music was mostly music I already own on iTunes and can access on my iPhone, and most of the time when I ordered a textbook or other item, I saved more by buying it used and paying shipping than buying Amazon's version and getting free shipping. So, basically, I've concluded that Amazon Prime over-promises and under-delivers. So no, Amazon, it isn't a problem with my payment method. It's a problem with you that is causing me to not renew for another year.
Did "Free Two-Day Shipping" Save Me Money?
I just didn't use this enough to justify the cost of "free." You have to know that it's not on everything you buy on Amazon. If you buy from a seller directly, not from Amazon itself, you still have to pay shipping and it's not in 2 days. Basically, for anime, manga, and related paraphernalia, which is the bulk of what I buy online, it was almost always cheaper to buy from a seller and pay for shipping than to pay Amazon's prices and get their free shipping.
According to Amazon, I placed 19 orders in 2016. I mainly bought sewing supplies, manga, and books. Of those, about 9 were through Amazon directly, which is the only kind of order that gives you the "free 2-day shipping" they promise. So, only roughly half of my purchases saw any Prime shipping benefit at all. It all seems like it's just set up to make you pay more for an Amazon-fulfilled order than you would pay for the same product ordered directly from a third-party seller, because Amazon makes less on such transactions. At any rate, I'm pretty sure that even if all 19 orders had been through Amazon and eligible for Prime shipping, I still would not have saved enough money to justify the $99/year spent.
Are Free Release-Date Delivery, Free Two-Hour Shipping, and Prime Pantry Worth It?
- I didn't use the Release Date thing, because I never purchased anything right when it was released (I usually don't, I prefer to see public opinion and critical reviews before buying anything).
- The "Free Two-Hour Shipping" is far from free. Prime Now, which offers things like delivery from local restaurants, costs $7.99 and has a minimum. I never used it because I always preferred to get food myself than to pay their premium and wait longer. And this is coming from a committed hikkikomori who would love nothing more than to be able to avoid traversing the Chicago crowds and harsh weather to obtain the city's legendary pizza. Seriously, make it a little cheaper and I might be all for it.
- Prime Pantry: I always felt like 1) the prices of the items were way too high, such as $5.99 for a 12-can pack of soda cans, and 2) you have to buy a ridiculous amount of things to get free shipping, to fill a "box", but then it was really hard and frustrating to figure out how to get the correct amount of items to fill a "box" without going over. So, I never used this option. I had a box all set up in "Save For Later", but I eventually deleted it because the total was way too much relative to what I would pay even at the pricier grocery stores. If they want to deliver groceries and promise that, they need to find a way to make it cheaper than what it would cost me to take an Uber to and from Aldis. So, yeah.
Other Things I Paid for With Amazon Prime but Didn't Use
- Photo Storage: Seriously? I already have iCloud and OneDrive for that. Why would I give one more company all that info? How would it benefit me exactly?
- Amazon Elements: I guess this is like Prime Pantry for baby products, which is stupid because I don't have a baby, and that's a stupid name because it doesn't even sound baby-related. Unless the baby is on lithium. CNET said "And as part of Amazon Family, you can score 20 percent of diaper purchases via Subscribe & Save and 15 percent of eligible products in your baby registry." No, Amazon, I'm not squirting out a kid just for your diaper discounts. I don't think I could get my significant other on board with that.
- Amazon Dash: This is a stupid way for them to get you to repeat business. Stupid, stupid, stupid. They're just hyping up their idea of smart homes and buying things "at the touch of a button". And if I did have a baby, I would be terrified that the little sucker would get a hold of this button and make me the proud owner of 300 jugs of Tide. Which I guess you would need when you have a baby, but whatever.
- Kindle Lending Library: The selection sucks, like it does for every bit of electronic fiction they give you with Prime. According to CNET: "The catch: This particular library offers a relatively small selection; don't expect a lot of new titles or bestsellers." Eeyup. This is basically Amazon's way of unloading onto you their basement trash novels. So they can advertise themselves as "free books". In the same way that dumpster diving for rotten meat in the ally behind a restaurant is "free food".
- Audible Channels for Prime: I have an Audible account. I never bothered to use this service. Didn't even know about it. Probably, I'm not missing much.
- Ad-Free Twitch: I think I don't really mind watching ads while I watch a bunch of hyperactive brats ruining my favorite video games. You deserve ads for being on Twitch. The worst ads. The ads about gross medical devices for people over 70.
- Lightning deals: I never impulse buy. If I'm buying something, I like to think about it beforehand. I don't like any scheme like Amazon or Groupon has that encourages impulsivity. Unless of course the thing I'd been hoping to get anyway shows up on sale. But as an anime fan, nothing I wanted from Amazon ever came up on a Lightning deal.
- Premium video subscriptions: According to CNET: "Amazon Prime lets you add premium video subscriptions -- Starz, Showtime, and so on -- to your Prime Video viewing umbrella." I did not do this, because I'm broke. Also, Prime Video had a crappy selection. If you have a Starz, Showtime, or HBO subscription, you're better off with just that by itself. And why would it need to be "under" your Prime umbrella? Like they think my brain can't handle viewing videos on two whole websites? Unless they want to give me a discount to Showtime or HBO, they can fuck right off with that.
Their Selection of Music, Movies, and TV Was Disappointing
I had the Amazon Music application on my phone, and I enjoyed having Amazon Music. You don't pay for individual songs, and most music you can think of is on there (my favorite genres: classic rock, alternative, punk, metal, and emo were all represented). However:
- The selection is not as good as iTunes.
- I can't keep a music library with them of stuff I've already downloaded, like I can with iTunes or Windows Media Player. So if you like independent, local bands and like to download songs directly from the band, you can't use Amazon Music to keep and listen to those files.
- They lose contracts suddenly and that means you lose music suddenly. Love that awesome love song you got off of their library 2 weeks ago and want to show it to your friend? Too bad, it's gone, Amazon no longer has the rights to it.
I watched all of one movie on Amazon Prime in all of two years. And this is coming from a huge film buff who wants to become the Roger Ebert of anime. Their anime selection is pitiful (there's a video I'll show below about how their new Anime Strike, a service for anime streaming, is also terrible, in that you would be paying an additional monthly fee on top of an existing mandatory prerequisite Prime membership, for a lackluster anime selection compared to the bigger guns of Crunchyroll and Funimation). Honestly, I think it's because I'm a cinephile that I can't get interested in Amazon Video's selection. They're only going after blockbusters that have done well at the box office. Since what I'm trying to do right now is research the greatest films of all time and study the history of cinema as an evolving art form, I think I'm better off with a combination of Netflix and piracy.
I Don't Want Their Echo Dot Listening In
(Note: I know this isn't part of Prime, but I also want to talk about this, because it's so prevalent in Amazon's advertising these days.)
I don't want to get paranoid, but the Echo Dot is creepy. Why not make it even easier for the government, if they pressured Amazon to, to get an ear into my home? Or for a third-party marketing company to pay Amazon to listen in on my heart rate, chewing habits, sex life, conversations, you see where this is going...
I'm not the only one who's found their Echo Dot (which they advertise so heavily on the site these days) sounds creepy (check this Guardian article). It's like Amazon has become in love with the idea of the "smart house" that they're not realizing that humans also have a need for privacy in their homes. Also, from the Guardian article, it sounds like Alexa will reprimand you for using foul language, and who needs that kind of back-talk from a robot? I want a robot like Bender, who will react to my foul language with witty comebacks, not nanny-like rebukes. At least Bender would know enough Spanish not to make the mistake Alexa did there.
Well, I don't want this to sound like I just hate on Amazon. I like Amazon. That's why I wish they would do better, why it kind of saddens me that they would seem so promising one moment only to let me down because they want to make wild, pie-in-the-sky (literally, if you picture pies being carried by little drones) plans and schemes that will revolutionize everything about shopping. But of course, they can never deliver on most of the things they promise.
They're also trying, I think, to stick their fingers into too many businesses, and doing none of them well. They should just be one Amazon, not try to be hundreds of smaller enterprises like they're currently doing. So, as of writing this (Jan., 2017) I can say: Do not get Amazon Prime. It's most likely not worth it. Everything about it is set up to benefit Amazon more than her customers. It's a series of lies on top of lies. It's a false promise. No need to bother with it.