Amazon Free Shipping – Not the deal it once was

May 24, 2014 at 8:08 am Leave a comment

Back a few years ago, I almost always selected the Free Shipping option every time I ordered from Amazon.  The items I ordered usually arrived about 3 days later, sometimes 4 days.  Every once it while, it was longer.  Mostly it was about 3 or 4 days.  At order time, they always seemed to show a delivery estimate way later than when it actually arrived.  I always suspected those long estimates were worst-case to encourage you to use one of the paid shipping options.

Back some years ago, Amazon started using these new hybrid services for Free shipping.  Either Fedex or UPS would initially receive the package in a single large shipment.  They ship all of those packages to a USPS center close to the destination.  USPS handles the “last mile” delivery to the customer.  I honestly don’t remember getting too many orders shipped this way, but when it happened, it seemed to add a day or two to the ship time.

Then I got Amazon Prime.  There’s something very nice about not having to worry about the cost of shipping and still getting your items in two business days.  Since I live in Florida, and this year they were going to start charging sales tax because they were building a distribution center in Florida, (not to mention the $79 price wasn’t in the budget), it seemed like a good time to let Prime expire.  Without the automatic 6% discount (FL sales tax), I expected to shop at Amazon less, so why pre-pay for shipping when I’m likely to order less from them.

I’ve purchased a few items this year since Prime expired.  Two items have been purchases for work and I’ve used the Free shipping each time.

#1:  Ordered 3/27, delivered in 5 business days
#2:  Ordered 4/19, delivered in 4 business days#3:  Ordered 5/4, delivered in 5 business days
#4:  Ordered 5/13, delivered in 6 business days
#5:  Ordered 5/19, likely to be delivered in 5 business days

When I ordered item #5, an Amazon Fire TV, it was late on Monday evening.  I figured that even using the Free shipping option, I had a good chance of having it delivered before the weekend, even though the Free Shipping estimate was for late the following week.

Order #5 was ordered late Monday and  “left seller facility and is in transit to carrier” at 11:13 PM on Thursday.  Why did it take 3 business days to get the order out the door?  Fedex Smartpost scanned it in at their Orlando facility at 7:06 PM on Friday.  It’s already made it to my home town as of 7:40 AM this morning (Saturday), so I’m expecting it to arrive by USPS on Monday.

There are a few possibilities I see here:

1. Amazon has to fill a tractor trailer of “free shipping” packages before anything in that lot ships
2. Amazon sits on the order a couple of days to make sure Free Shipping isn’t the great deal it used to be
3. Amazon’s shipping is much more complex than I can imagine
4. The partnership between UPS and USPS, and between Fedex and USPS are super cheap for Amazon at the cost of being painfully slow.

I don’t know if #2 is happening, but given that they have an incentive to delay shipping on that option (to encourage shoppers to get Prime or pay for shipping), it wouldn’t surprise me.

I found out after I ordered the Fire TV that they are also sold at BestBuy.  Had I known that and considered that option, I’d just have picked it up there…

Perhaps most surprising about this to me?  Amazon missed a perfect opportunity.  They could have included free two day shipping for all online orders.  The push for this device is really to get customers into the Amazon ecosystem.  Give them a free taste of the streaming you get through Prime (30 days), and the voice search (that only searching through Amazon’s content, as of today at least).  Make it easy for customers to consume content that Amazon sells.  Just like Apple.

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Entry filed under: General.

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