Amazon Is No Longer My Go To Store

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been nearly the frequent Amazon shopper that I used to be.

Back in my peak Amazon shopping, we bought things all the time.  When they first introduced the Amazon Mom program, we got diapers at a really cheap price, as well as Prime shipping benefits.

We bought pretty much everything we could through there.

Even before Prime, we were pretty regular shoppers.

Eventually, they cut back the diaper deal so that you had to get a paid Prime membership to get the best percentages off, and even then, the percentage off had been cut.

They also cut the percentage off on many other Subscribe & Save items that I had previously purchased (such as razors, soap, etc.)

Turns out, it’s not just me that has noticed these things. I saw a recent article on Seeking Alpha with hard proof that Amazon has been raising prices and such.

The biggest tidbit that I found interesting was that they don’t really have that much better margins than a traditional brick & mortar retailer, even though you think they would.  The article really doesn’t specify why, but it does point to some pretty solid numbers that back up this fact.  And, it discusses how the fact that they’re raising prices close to, or in many cases, above brick & mortar stores, is eroding the competitive advantage that they had in the customers eyes.

I would say that’s definitely true.

We’ve deferred a number of purchases away from Amazon for a variety of reasons.  Here’s a few examples of items we once would have purchased from Amazon but instead purchased elsewhere just in the last six months:

  • Diapers – When they insisted that we pay $79 to continue getting the discounts in the Amazon Mom program, and also cut the discount from 30% to 20%, this was a double whammy that I just couldn’t stomach. One or the other would have been fine, but both at the same time just didn’t work for me.  We look for coupons and store specials.  Our grocery store often has a deal where if you buy a box or two of diapers at a sale price, they give you a gift card to use on your next purchase.  We stack that with coupons we clip, and since we buy groceries there anyways, it just takes that gift card total from our next amount.
  • Car seat – It’s about time for Baby Girl Beagle to get out of the car carrier and into a car seat, as she’s crossing the threshold of being able to fit in it.  We looked online a week before we were leaving for a long trip.  The price that they had was great.  I knew that Super Saver shipping likely wouldn’t work, but I knew that Standard shipping was 3-5 business days, so I figured this would be perfect. Not so much.  Even though we were looking in the morning, Amazon said it wouldn’t ship until the following business day.  This would leave us at risk of the car seat not arriving in time if it did take five business days to ship.  We went to the baby store and purchase it instead for just $2 more.
  • Camping Stuff – We’ve been buying a lot of supplies to stock the new camper.  While we did buy quite a few things on Amazon, I actually cancelled one order because of the ridiculousness of shipping time.  I had an order of six items.  One was back ordered by about 4 weeks.  Instead of shipping the other items, they were holding the entire order.  I finally got sick of it and cancelled the whole thing.  Granted, I know with Super Saver Shipping, they have every right to do this, but in the twelve years I’ve used Super Saver shipping, I’ve never had them hold an entire order for that long for one item.
  • Customer service – I wrote Amazon about the changes to Amazon Mom and they never even replied, not even with a form letter.  I realize they may have gotten inundated with queries/complaints about the changes, but I always received a response to any inquiry I made with them in the past.

It’s nothing big and it’s not like I dislike Amazon.  I just don’t hold them in the esteem that I used to.  If they’re not careful and they lose the ‘automatic’ ordering of many customers, it will start to add up and quickly.  Amazon is one of the most established and well thought of names in the business, but that doesn’t mean that they can rely on that to keep customers all while making business decisions that are customer unfriendly.

Just ask Netflix.  They were once the darlings of entertainment. Their model was awesome and everybody loved getting those little red envelopes in the mail.  They could do no wrong.  Then, a few decisions later and their stock price had fallen 80% and they’d lost hundreds of thousands of customers along the way.

Oops.

Amazon isn’t there. Yet.  But at the same time, they haven’t won many points lately.  At least not in this customers eyes.

Have you noticed any changes to Amazon lately?  Any change in buying habits?

Making It In Diapers Without Amazon

We were big fans of the Amazon Mom program when it first came out.  When it first debuted, you got 30% off diapers and free shipping, plus a year of Prime benefits.

It was pure awesome.

I kind of figured that it might be too good to be true, and sure enough, it was.  They cut the discount from 30% to 20%, then they rolled out the kicker: To get that, you had to pay $79 in Amazon Prime membership.  If you didn’t subscribe to Prime, you got a measly 5%.

We went back and forth on whether to subscribe or not.  It was really nice getting anything we ordered in two days, and the diaper discounts were nice.

In the end, we decided against the membership.  At first, there was a withdrawal period.  Instead of just having diapers show up at our door, we had to go get them.  Instead of having anything we need in two days, we had to either wait for it (and sometimes scramble to hit the $25 minimum on Free Super Saver shipping) or go get it ourselves.

In the end, though, we’ve managed just fine.

My wife always seems to find diaper deals at either Target or Meijer, where they’ll have an in-store coupon that they will allow you to combine with a manufacturers coupon, plus sometimes they’ll do a deal where if you buy a couple of packs, you get a gift card that you can use on your next order.  We might be paying slightly more for diapers than we would have with Amazon, but when you factor the additional $79 that Amazon would have wanted, I think we’re at least breaking even.

It also helps that our little boy is potty trained which as cut his diaper consumption down quite a bit (he still gets a diaper during nap and overnight).

And, if buying stuff got a little less convenient, well that’s OK too.  It probably saves us money on buying stuff that we might not otherwise buy.

It was a nervous couple of weeks when Amazon first announced that they were effectively curbing the Amazon Mom program for us, but after we settled in, we realized that we are doing just fine.

At some point, Prime might be worth it if we look for the streaming movies and TV shows it gets you, but with summer coming up, camping trips planned, and a 10-month old that looks ready to walk within the next few weeks, well let’s just say that we have plenty to keep us entertained!

Any parents out there affected by the Amazon Mom changes earlier this year?  How did you handle it and what changes has it meant for you?

Amazon Mishandles A Necessary Change to Amazon Mom

I’ve written before about the Amazon Mom program.  When it first came out, the deals were too good to be true.  They basically gave a free year of Prime shipping benefits, plus 30% just about any baby item, namely diapers.  As soon as the program came out and I found out about it, I signed up, and we’ve saved plenty in the meantime.

It was such a good deal that I figured it would really have to pay off big for Amazon, otherwise they’d probably scale it back or eliminate it.  I noticed the first signs a few months ago when some of the deliveries seemed to be taking place by non-traditional (read: cheaper) carriers.  Next, they cut the discount from 30% to 20% on items you weren’t already buying.

So, the e-mail I got last Thursday wasn’t really a big surprise:

The Amazon Mom program is changing in 2012 and we want to make sure you know about it. Some of these changes affect your membership. Here’s how:

  • Starting on January 24, 2012, the maximum discount available on diapers and wipes subscriptions will be 20%. This includes a 5% Subscribe & Save discount plus an additional 15% exclusively for Amazon Mom members who are earning free shipping benefits or have an active Amazon Prime membership.
  • Customers who join Amazon Mom in 2012 will get three months of FREE Two-Day Shipping benefits. Once the initial free period is over, customers can join Amazon Prime to continue to receive full access to Amazon Mom and Amazon Prime benefits.

Since your free shipping benefits have ended and you have not yet joined Amazon Prime, the additional 15% Amazon Mom discount on diapers and wipes subscriptions will expire on January 24, 2012.

We hope that you have enjoyed the value and convenience of your Amazon Mom membership over the past year. To continue receiving all the benefits of Amazon Mom, join Amazon Prime for $79/year. As a Prime member you’ll receive:

  • 20% off diapers and wipes subscriptions with Amazon Mom and Subscribe & Save.
  • FREE Two-Day Shipping on millions of items.
  • Unlimited instant streaming of thousands of videos with a wide range of content for the whole family, including Sesame Street and Phineas and Ferb.
  • A Kindle book to borrow for free each month from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.
  • Membership sharing benefits: invite up to four household members to share your shipping benefits for free.

Long story short, in order to get even the 20% discount, you have to pay the full subscription price for Amazon Prime.  To add insult to injury, Amazon also made it so you couldn’t get an ‘extra shipment’ of any item you were already subscribed to, effectively ending the program immediately.

Now as I said before, I get that they needed to make changes to the program if it wasn’t making them money.  My guess is that they hoped that the people that joined would buy a lot more, offsetting the ‘loss’ they were taking in the deep discounts.  I’m guessing that didn’t happen so the company felt it was costing them money.  Therefore, I can’t agree with the many other members who feel that Amazon should re-instate the program at no cost.  It doesn’t make sense.

I also get why they had to put a lid on the extra shipments.  You figure that if they gave people two weeks, people would simply stock up on items in advance of the January 24th cut-off date.

However, now that I’ve given reasons I sympathize with their decisions, I’ll say this:

I still think Amazon blew it.

Let me explain.

MSNBC.com wrote an article in the thick of the holiday shopping season about how mommy bloggers are becoming the biggest voice of influence when it comes to toys, and other kids products.  I have no proof of this, but I’m going to guess that 90% or more of mommy bloggers who have kids in diapers were a member of Amazon Mom.  Those mommy bloggers, who have a powerful and very fast growing voice, are now certain to express their displeasure to their readers.  Personal finance bloggers (of which I am of course one), are probably not far behind and are going to share their similar displeasure.

If Amazon doesn’t think that this will make a difference, they might want to take lessons from two little companies called Netflix and Bank of America, and how their unpopular decisions cost them big time.

I think Amazon needed to change the program.  I think with a couple of simple tweaks, they could have had a much more positive reaction.  If anybody at Amazon is listening, here’s what should have been done:

  1. The reduction from 30% to 20% on items was fine.  However, it should have been more properly communicated.  They never sent an e-mail or did anything to explain it, so when I went shopping and found new items were coming in at a bigger cost, this seemed a bit underhanded.
  2. If Amazon wants more Prime members and wants Mom members to pay the Prime membership cost, fine.  However, I think they should have offered Amazon Mom members a discounted membership, either by lowering the cost from $79 to $59, or by charging the full amount and offering an immediate $20 credit toward diapers or other baby items.
  3. As I said, I understood why they couldn’t allow people to stock up on items at will between 1/12 and 1/24, but they should have allowed each customer to purchase one item as an ‘extra shipment’ between those dates.  Personally, I set every item in six month intervals, and did all my ordering by adding ‘Extra Shipments’.  This worked out good for me because I never failed to miss an alert and therefore didn’t end up with product I didn’t need.  However, I knew that we would need a pack of nighttime diapers for our son soon, and planned on ordering them…this week.  Now, I can’t.  By allowing one purchase per customer, you allow the program to truly continue until January 24th.  By cutting that off completely, the January 24th date is just lip service.
  4. They should have agreed to price match in the event that customers were able to obtain better deals.  One of the common things I’ve seen in response to this change is customers who feel that there’s a chance that Amazon could get customers to pay into Prime, then raise prices even more so that the 20% isn’t truly a 20% discount, making the payback period such that it might not be worth it.

Would all Amazon Mom participants have stayed on board with the changes above?  No, of course not.  But, I’ve seen nothing but complaints blowing up all over the Internet since this was announced.  I think if they would have handled things as I suggested, you would have seen a lot more responses like ‘Oh that sucks, but I understand why Amazon is doing this, and they are showing that they want to do something for people in the Mom program’.

That would have been the tone of this article, anyways.

As it is, I’m not sure what we’ll do.  I’ve been debating getting a Prime membership anyways, so if I were to go by that standard, this would push me into getting one.  However, the way Amazon has handled this has actually disappointed me to the point where I don’t feel that they should be rewarded with a $79 charge.

It’ll definitely be something my wife and I will be talking about over the next few days.

Are you an Amazon Mom?  What are your plans for the changes?

What’s The Latest With Amazon Mom?

It’s been a year since Amazon introduced their Amazon Mom program, where you got an extra 15% off baby items, including the biggest baby item expense of all: diapers!

I signed up a few weeks after the program was introduced and it has been an absolute lifesaver.  I’m curious, though, if anybody that signed up from the get-go knows what Amazon might be doing.

The initial sign-up granted you three months of the extra 15% off items in the subscribe-and-save program (which granted you 15% off to begin with, for a total of 30% off), as well as free Prime benefits so that you could enjoy free 2-day shipping on many items.   You could extend that for up to a full year by making regular purchases in the baby store.  This means that you could earn up to a full year of benefits.

Well, looking at my calender, I can see that we have a few weeks to go, but was wondering if anybody could chime in who was among the first to sign up, which according to what I could see, would have been about a week ago.  Knowing what’s happening will certainly help with planning whether we should buy a bunch of stuff before our extra 15% ends.

I guess I would see Amazon’s options as:

  • Allow more months to accumulate with the same benefits (extra 15% plus free Prime)
  • Allow the extra 15% to continue but remove the free Prime shipping benefits
  • Make you pay to be part of the program, which could get you the 15% and discounted Prime shipping
  • Let it expire altogether, in which case you’d be back to getting a maximum of 15% off
  • Something else

Anybody who’s initial year ran out have any insight on what Amazon is offering?

We’d Better Order Those Diapers Early

We’ve been enthusiastically participating in Amazon Mom for month now and have loved it.

I almost had a minor panic attack the other day.  We’ve always ordered diapers and had them shipped with two day shipping, which is a great perk in addition to 30% off.

Maybe the two day thing was temporary or maybe they had to change it (as I’m sure margins are thin) but when I went to order diapers last week, it said it would take 5-7 days to get there.

I guess I had gotten too used to ordering them close to the end of our supply that I didn’t leave myself much of a cushion.  If they would have taken a week to get there, we would have had to make an intermittent run to the store for some to get us through.  The end of the world?  No.

Luckily, the diapers did show up early (actually with the two day timeframe even though the shipping date was listed for three days following) so we were fine, but just to be safe, I’ll have to remember to order diapers a few days in advance moving forward.

Any other Amazon Moms out there?  Have you noticed this ‘change’?