Amazon announced surging profits of $14.3 billion in the fourth quarter, and it's costing Prime members. The trillion-dollar company is raising eyebrows as it's raising the price of Prime membership. Unlike its $10 delivery fee that comes with one major perk that can help the environment, the additional $20 per year should prompt a wakeup call to Amazon business-to-business and retail customers: Take a close look at what you're really spending on Amazon. If you do, you will realize that comparison shopping can put hundreds -- or even thousands -- back in your pocket.
As new and existing members learned that they will now have to pay $139 per year for membership, I learned how to save big time. No coupons or black-hat tactics required.
Like millions of other Prime members, I depend on Amazon for nearly every everyday item, from toothpaste to pet supplies. But while Amazon enables us to shop in our pajamas without schlepping to the store, it isn't the only modern-day mall where you can find just about anything in one location online.
So as Amazon makes the short-sighted mistake of thinking it is, I found myself forced to do something I admittedly don't love to do: I went shopping. But not on Amazon.
I went back to the first place you would go just a decade ago when you wanted the simplicity of knowing you were getting the lowest price: Walmart. Being the adult that I am, I took off my pajamas and put on my yoga pants for the event. And I was amazed.
Complacency and the Competition
After years of shopping on Amazon, I knew that, while Amazon was convenient, it wasn't the cheapest. But I didn't realize how much more expensive it is for a number of everyday products I purchase frequently.
For example, I could save $65 per year on shampoo alone. And I'm not talking about buying fancy, salon-quality products, but my late dad's favorite (and very pragmatic) pick, Pert Plus. At Amazon, one bottle costs $8.30 -- a price my dad would have thought outrageous. But over at Walmart, it's a practical price of $2.88.
It wasn't just some strange difference in shampoo prices. There are dozens of common items that add up to savings between $20 to $100 or more per year each. From paper towels, which cost over $16 on Amazon, and just $4.92 at Walmart (for a two-pack of Bounty Select-a-Size), to toothpaste, deodorant, and surge protectors. Never mind things like home goods, plants, toys, clothing, or electronics.
What I also didn't realize is that I didn't need to put on pants to shop at Walmart.
Not because Walmart gives shoppers a pretty loose dress code, but because it gives you other ways to shop beyond in-store. In addition to curbside pickup, it offers free two-day shipping for orders over $35. And to directly compete with Amazon Prime, there's Walmart Plus, which offers free, same-day shipping.
Of course, Walmart probably isn't even the cheapest option. Especially when it comes to business supplies. You can expand your comparison shopping to Costco Business Center, Sam's Club business membership and the old standbys, Staples and Office Depot/OfficeMax. They are happy to compete on price and convenience when it comes to your business purchases, including candy and snacks, disposable items, janitorial products, and a range of other necessities.
But while Amazon has become something of a necessary evil -- just as Walmart once was (and for many, still is)--it's making a mistake that no company should: It's getting so comfortable that it's getting complacent.
The reality is that while the $20-per-year price increase is nominal at just $1.67 per month, the higher price isn't what will end up pushing customers away. It's the lower-priced competitors that might lure them in. Because it's not just that Amazon isn't paying enough attention to its customers -- it isn't paying enough attention to its competition. And though your competitors shouldn't run your business, you also don't want your customers running to your competitors.
For me, the price of Prime is still worth its value between its unique and hard-to-find products, extensive product reviews, extras like Prime Video, and its game-changing features. And of course, there are a number of items there that are priced below the competition. But moving forward, I am going to save more money with the same income by being a more conscious consumer and taking advantage of competitors who offer the same products at cheaper prices.
After all, it's about time Amazon gets some healthy competition.