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Is Amazon messing with its Prime program?

I was an early adopter of Amazon Prime, the membership program where you get unlimited 2-day shipping at no extra charge for an annual fee of $79. The program has over the years been enhanced with a limited selection of free instant videos and free Kindle books, but the shipping is what I really like. It’s a great feeling to be able to see something, want it, and know I’ll have it in 48 hours without paying express shipping. It’s definitely led to some impulse buys which were probably better for Amazon than for me. And it’s conditioned my family (immediate family members also get the free shipping, though not the other features) to look at Amazon as their primary shopping modality.

So with all those mutual benefits, I haven’t felt more than a tinge of guilt about buying the occasional five dollar item knowing Amazon is probably paying more to ship it than I’m paying for it. But now that seems to be changing. Some low priced items (I’ve noticed this in their grocery and baby departments) are now “add on” items where you get free shipping only if you combine them with another purchase. And others have been raised to outrageous price points: a box of kosher salt, which costs $3.29 at the supermarket, is now $10 at Amazon. I’m not sure who would buy it at this price so wonder what purpose it serves to even offer it.

The net result is that I’m now questioning my relationship with Prime. I don’t have an alternative in mind… nobody else offers such a loyalty program combined with a huge selection to make it meaningful… but that means my roving eye should be all the more troubling for Jeff Bezos and crew. It’s hard to break such an ingrained shopping habit, but I’m thinking it may be worth the trouble. And I’ve definitely got my eyes open for a price increase or other future limitations, so I won’t be automatically renewing as I have in the past.

If a lot of other Prime customers feel as I do, Amazon may want to do some rethinking.

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