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Customers Are NOT Pleased With the Amazon Free Shipping Increase

Amazon recently upped its non-Prime member free shipping minimum from $35 to $49. We surveyed users to see how they felt about the $14 jump.
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Most Amazon shoppers probably realize the online retailer isn't above raising prices for its services. Two years ago, the yearly cost of a Prime membership increased from $79 to $99. In October of 2013, the minimum amount required for non-Prime members to receive free shipping went from $25 to $35.

Now, the price has been raised again, to $49. This puts Amazon in line with other online retailers who often charge minimums of $50 to qualify for free shipping — but Amazon is the largest online retailer in the country by far, and practically a utility for many, not just "another online retailer." How is this latest change going to affect shopping habits of Amazon customers?

How Did Customers React?

Not surprisingly, customers aren't particularly happy when they have to spend more money to snag those perks they've become accustomed to receiving.

In our survey of 1,360 people, 96% of participants without Prime reported that the higher minimum will change how they shop at Amazon. When asked why, a full 75% said that they're more likely to shop around now to find the best price.

Since Amazon increased the free shipping minimum to $49, non-Prime users are now more likely to shop around at other stores for the best price.

These respondents were able to select multiple reasons why the change would affect them, and a few additional grievances rated highly; 67% said they were less likely to place smaller orders because they wouldn't earn free shipping, while 52% were annoyed about the change and plan to avoid shopping there as much on principle.

That irritation about the change might be influencing shoppers' opinion of Prime as well. When asked if these non-Prime users were more likely to subscribe to the service now that the free shipping minimum has increased, 97% said no. Whether their opinion softens after the initial shock of the change has subsided remains to be seen.

Alternatives to Amazon

Amazon's new minimum for free shipping puts the store on par with, or even higher than, some of its competitors' offerings. If you're looking to shop around more in the future, then check out our list below of the shipping details for the most common alternative retailers. Some of these vendors offer in-store pickup as well, which could be more widely available than the Amazon locker pickup locations, and also save on shipping charges.

These prices are based on standard shipping costs, which takes approximately three to seven business days for orders to arrive, depending on the store. Certain items might also tack on various shipping surcharges, so be sure to carefully inspect your total before placing an order to ensure you're getting the best deal.

Home, Grocery, and General Items

  • Target: Target offers free standard shipping when you meet a minimum of $25. However, depending on your order, an oversized handling fee could apply.

  • Walmart: Meet a minimum of $50 to earn free shipping to your home. Anything less than that, look into ordering online and selecting in-store pickup to save big.

Home and Clothing

  • JCPenney: Orders that are at least $25 qualify for free shipping to any store, and orders of $99 and over are good for free shipping "anywhere."

  • Macy's: Purchases under $99 ship for a flat-fee of $9.95. Purchases over $99 are free to ship, plus all beauty orders ship free as well. Occasionally we see free shipping promotions that require lower minimum purchases.

  • Sears: Sears has recently lowered its minimum amount to earn free shipping. Qualifying orders of $35 or more now ship for free and Shop Your Way Max members also receive free two-day shipping on most items. A Shop Your Way Max membership is $39 per year.

Electronics

  • Best Buy: Shopping here will net free shipping on minimums of $35 as long as the items qualify. However, the My Best Buy rewards program has three tiers of membership and offers different shipping benefits with each. The basic level requires a $35 minimum purchase. The second tier, elite, can be reached by making $1,500 worth of purchases in a calendar year. Shipping benefits for that level include free standard shipping and scheduled delivery for a year, with no minimum purchase required. The third level, eliteplus, is reached when you make $3,500 in purchases in a calendar year; it then provides free expedited shipping and scheduled delivery for a year, with no minimum purchase required.

  • Newegg: Newegg might seem a bit tricky at first. Several items qualify for free shipping on their own, but it's dependent on what you buy. Otherwise, you can purchase a Premier membership to get free 3-day or less shipping on select items. Members also receive discounted 2-day and 1-day shipping, among other benefits. Currently there are a few special offers for buying into a Premier membership. The normal rates are three months for $19.99, six months for $29.99, or 12 months for $49.99. However, shoppers can download the mobile app to get a 3-month membership for free right now. Students at qualifying educational institutions can also get $20 off a 12-month membership, making it $30.

Books

It's still too early to know what kind of response Amazon will see over this latest price increase. However, our survey seems to indicate the retailer might have to work hard to win back some customers.


Staff Writer

As a college student, Julie wrote for the college newspaper and freelanced for the website College Candy. Since then she has worked as freelancer through Textbroker and has written press releases, feature pages, and other miscellaneous pieces for a software company. She enjoys writing both as a hobby and a career, and is always working on some kind of story.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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21 comments
chadley25
"If you don't feel a Prime membership is of value to you, you're better off shopping some place else." -- gigahurtz
___________

Thank you for that stunning little parcel of insight. It's right up there with "If you don't think Honda is the right car for you, you're better off buying another make." :)
dcarno
I quit Prime years ago, when I realized Amazon was pricing products higher for me as a Prime member than non-Prime members, thus their "free 2-day shipping upgrade" was actually NOT free. I tested this by having non-prime friends view the same products I was viewing and seeing the lower prices. I contacted their customer service about this practice, and they did not deny it, they simply avoided answering my question. I don't know if they still engage in this practice, but that was enough to lose me as a customer. Now I find that I can find everything they sell on eBay, usually at a lower price and with free shipping regardless of purchase amount.

Amazon has transformed from a leading-edge, customer-focused, new-era online retailer, to a mainstream big-box-type corporation looking to maximize profits however they can, including using misdirection and deceit to the extent they legally can. eBay is the new Amazon.
CJOnYaMind
Jet.com is a great alternative to Amazon. I even have a Prime membership through Amazon Mom and cost-comparatively, I saved more money in 2 months shopping at Jet than I ever saved in my year with Amazon. I'll keep Amazon Prime for the HBO and Nick Jr shows though, that's worth it to me :)
edchuy
The last few things I bought since they changed I bought through eBay and got them shipped free. eBay appears to offer more options of sellers. Seems that a lot of vendors that are from the Amazon marketplace are also selling there without the $49 shipping minimum. I also was able to buy some items in bundles of several of them at a discount, which I couldn't at Amazon. Also, I have noticed that some of the items I have bought in Amazon regularly have increased in price several times over the last year. Perhaps if they offer a discounted Amazon Prime membership I'll jump but otherwise I'm probably less likely to buy at Amazon unless I can meet the free shipping minimum or they have something I'm unable to find elsewhere.
gigahurtz
I have been a Prime member for several years. I find a lot of value in the Prime membership, not only for two day shipping but in Prime Music, Prime Video, Kindle Lending Library, etc.

Many people complain about the experience. They want the best customer experience and service. Amazon Prime gives you that and much more. You get fast shipping (and in some cities same day delivery) as well as excellent customer service. One of the biggest reasons I order from Amazon is that I know I will always be backed by their customer service. If something doesn't work right on delivery or even after, I know that I can reach out to them and they'll make it right.

I've ordered from many other sites including Boxed, Jet.com, NewEgg, B&H, Best Buy, Kohls, JCPenney, Sears, etc. The customer service experience at Amazon is like no other. If you don't feel a Prime membership is of value to you, you're better off shopping some place else.
Luke
Amazons customer service is the best and that's why I am a proud Amazon Prime member. The Amazon Prime service is more than just fast shipping you have access to Amazons vast other services that are great!
tradderjohn
You misspelled cheapskates.
abjones
I am a Prime member. I also make online purchases at online sites for Home Depot, Best Buy and others. Then, I pick up my purchases at the store. Shorter lines, and shorter waiting times.

My thumbs are down for Walmart, however. Their pick up location is in the back of my local store and it's rarely staffed.
maydepot
3 of last 4 purchases were made via Jet and Boxed. Has nothing to do with shipping increases since I have Prime. The prices of the items were much cheaper. Saved close to $100 by not buying them on Amazon. Also helps that I have free ship with no min through Jet. Boxed requires $49 like Amazon but they gave me a coupon that paid for shipping charge.

My point is shipping isn't what's driving me away from Amazon but higher prices and lack of sales.
R1one
love or hate but i think I am going to like it. one reason. I am not stuck or limited to just one retailer amazon. Now other retailers will have a change to be competitive and work for more customers. I want other retailers to strive as well and not want amazon to kill them all. Its good for everyone for now. I use to spent at amazon alot but for the past 1 year, i have been spending elsewhere as well and i love it. love the variety and shopping experience and those who love to find good deals
JACOBJK72
I've already doing my electronic shopping at BestBuy, nowadays they are giving the best price and also do price match with Amazon. I can "see and feel" the item I buy, not the pictures, this is most important for me. And off course BestBuy rewards is another attraction. With this shipping price hike, I would definitely consider other options.
Sunny12
I went to buy a 300 printer and needed 2 day shipping because of work the cost was 70 dollars so I signed up for Prime and canceled they refunded me the difference I have used. I bought a drill for my husband i did not have prime and it took them over two weeks to ship it. It's a huge difference when u don't have Prime.
from50613
Many people will constantly say they would pay more for a better experience. This is where that idea comes to fruition. For Prime members, Amazon is a top retailer for many reason. Last week, I purchased a laptop with a faulty keyboard. Within 2 minutes of chatting with a CSR, I had an issued UPS label. I dropped the computer off at the UPS store and was refunded within 10 minutes. No questions, nothing. Simply amazing.

$49 pushes people to Prime. With Prime you get shipping, music (which is very good), book lending, photo storage, TV/Video, and likely other services I haven't used.

Final Thoughts:
- Anyone who shops exclusively at one store is foolish
- $49 will become the new standard for online retailers
- Memberships have to have perks or you wouldn't join (Costco/Sams/Amazon)
LightRunner
My purchasing habits have definitely has changed. I'll check Amazon and if I like what I see the product will go into the wishlist as most of the products I order are around the twenty dollar value. I also check the private sellers for low shipping costs. Then I go out and search other sites for a better deal on the item I want.

The $35 minimum for orders was my tip rate and I used the wishlist then. The $25. I could always find something else to fill in at the time. Now it's better to look elsewhere.

The last four purchases would have been on Amazon, however I found better deals for the items elsewhere. When aggregated it adds up, unfortunately You don't know what you always need at the time. Even when you have it in the wishlist it may go on sale for a better deal elsewhere later.
LightRunner
My purchasing habits have definitely has changed. I'll check Amazon and it I like what I see the product will go into the wishlist as most of the products I order are around the twenty dollar value. I also check the private sellers for low shipping costs. Then I go out and search other sites for a better deal on the item I want.

The last four purchases would have been on Amazon, however I found better deals for the items elsewhere. When aggregated it adds up, unfortunately You don't know what you always need at the time. Even when you have it in the Wish List it may go on sale for a better deal elsewhere later.

The $35 minimum for orders was my tip rate and I used the Wish List then. The $25. I could always find something else to fill in at the time. Now it's better to look elsewhere.
Ovaltine
I used to place 1-2 orders monthly at the old minimum. Since they instituted the $49 minimum, I haven't bought anything at all. Maybe in another month when I have enough items to meet the minimum.
Ardbeg
I clicked this link worried until I realized it has nothing to do with me as a Prime member. Amazon with Prime is simply awesome. I recently had a big Subscribe & Save box where 2 items in a ten pack of food busted and leaked all over the rest of the rest of the box. After five minutes in a chat room they agreed it wasn't practical to do a return (several things, including the outer box, were soaked) and resent the entire order next day air (even though I told them there was no hurry, even though I admitted several items in the box were undamaged other than external packaging). And there's the fact Prime is a big reason I've been able to cut out my $1000/year cable bill.

So I guess Amazon will have to decide if the non-Prime backlash is enough to change course, and customers will have to decide whether to join Prime, accept the new hurdles, or shop elsewhere. But I can't really feel bad for people on either side making voluntary decisions based on costs and benefits.
ctbowers
Tip: Go eBay! I've found that almost EVERYTHING you find on Amazon can be had for less (even if you pay shipping) from a vendor on eBay. I've recently ordered at least a dozen of new items and each and every one has been cheaper and I received them within the week. And guess what? I don't have to pay $100 for the "honor" to order from eBay. As if holding my Amazon items for several days before shipping because I wasn't a Prime member wasn't enough the $49 shipping requirement put me over the top. So long Amazon!
AndrewSipe
If you have a Target Red Card (Debt or Credit or Both) you get free shipping on Target.com ordered with your Red Card, plus you get 5% back. Sorry for the pitch.
deidralw
eBay is also a viable option. I've purchased a lot of Buy It Now items on eBay for less than Amazon's price with free shipping.
iPlus10
I cancelled my Amazon Prime membership a year ago and have seen firsthand how Amazon treats customers that have Prime versus those that do not. I have been very disappointed in the fact that Amazon will purposely hold an item for days rather than ship it right away just because I do not have Prime. No other website will sit on an item purposely just because I do not pay for expedited shipping. Factor in the fact that they are now charging sales tax then I have absolutely no reason to shop with Amazon any longer.

Especially when many stores are now price matching Amazon!
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