I'm a frequent Amazon shopper. Until recently I'd resisted the invitation to sign up for Amazon Prime:
Amazon Prime is a membership program that gives you and your family unlimited fast shipping, such as FREE Two-Day shipping and One-day shipping for $3.99 per item on all eligible purchases for an annual membership fee of $79. Eligible customers can try out a membership by starting a free trial.
But when I needed to have a book delivered quickly to prepare for a discussion group meeting, I decided to use the free trial to get it shipped to me in two days. And now...
Damn you, Amazon, I'm hooked! (just as you planned)
So soon my VISA card will be charged the $79 annual fee, because for a frequent Amazon shopper like me, Amazon Prime is an excellent deal for reasons I'll explain below.
First, though, let's examine a question that I raised at the above-mentioned book discussion group, where we talked about globalization.
"When the UPS or Federal Express truck delivers an item ordered online to my home, is this more, or less, ecological than me driving into town (7-10 miles) to go shopping?"
I asked this because my Prius-driving environmental soul has been feeling a pang whenever the doorbell rings and I find another Amazon package dropped at our door. That large truck coming all the way into the south Salem countryside, just for me.
Which, of course, isn't true -- as another group member pointed out. He thought that online shopping saved energy, since the UPS truck continues on to deliver stuff elsewhere in our neighborhood. That's more efficient than lots of people driving around in their separate cars buying things.
A Center for Energy and Climate Solutions study supports this intuition.
In business-to-consumer e-commerce, for instance, a warehouse holds far more product per square foot than a retail store, and uses far less energy per square foot. We calculated the ratio of building energy per book sold in traditional bookstores versus on-line retailer Amazon.com to be 16-to-1. And contrary to what most people think, Internet shopping uses less energy to get a package to your house: Shipping 10 pounds of packages by overnight air -- the most energy-intensive delivery -- uses 40 percent less fuel than driving roundtrip to the mall. Shipping by truck saves 90 percent.
Most of the comments on a TerraPass question, "Is online shopping bad for the environment?", were similarly supportive of buying over the Internet. It saves energy, reducing carbon pollution, and thus is Earth-friendly.
Yay! No more guilt when the UPS truck pulls up. I can fully embrace Amazon Prime for these additional reasons.
Shipping cost is no longer a factor. Like this person, sometimes I used to buy something extra just to earn free shipping on a $25 Amazon purchase. Now I can order an $11 bottle of leather conditioner for a few bucks off the list price, pay nothing extra, and have the product in two days. (Of course, it's still sitting on our kitchen counter because I haven't gotten around to applying it to a couple of coats, but that isn't Amazon's fault.)
Fresh shopping options. I feel like a whole new shopping world has opened up for me. Meaning, I no longer have to wander around physical stores and shop as much. My wife, being a female "gatherer," enjoys browsing aisles a lot more than I do. As a male "hunter" of some specific product, I simply want to get ahold of the thing as quickly and easily as I can. Clicking a few keys on my laptop -- perfect!
Instant gratification closer at hand. Living as I do in our increasingly fast-paced world, it bothered me when I ordered something on Amazon and it'd take -- gasp! -- at least five days to get it. That'd seem like an eternity. Almost. Two day shipping is psychologically much more comfortable. Picturing an order arriving day after tomorrow puts the purchase in a different light. The instant gratification portion of my brain feels a lot more positive about ordering online now. And if I want something tomorrow, that's just $3.99 away.
I haven't worried much about whether I'll make back the $79 Amazon Prime annual fee in shipping costs. Since I easily order a couple of dozen items from Amazon each year, probably I will.
But as noted above, the other benefits of Amazon Prime make it a good buy for me even if the monetary aspect doesn't quite pencil out. Since I don't like shopping in stores, and find that buying online saves me both money and time, taking shipping charges out of the ordering equation has made me a happier Amazon customer.
Sure, not everything I want qualifies for Amazon Prime. So far, though, most of my purchases have.
And since I'm also helping to save the Earth with every lessened carbon footprint order, Amazon Prime appeals to both the materialistic and idealistic sides of me.