Lots of people flock to Amazon in search of great deals. After all, it’s incredibly easy to compare a store on the site, explore a wide range of brands in a category, and even have it all shipped right to your door for free. For families on a budget, signing up for Amazon and saving it might seem like an especially good deal. Besides having important items sent to you automatically on a set schedule, you get a discount for using the software. But is there a darker side to this arrangement? If you’re curious, here’s what you need to know about the ugly side of Amazon Subscribe and Save.
What is amazon sign up and save?
Amazon Subscribe and Save is a program that gives shoppers a discount on their purchases if they sign up for automatic deliveries from the same seller in a specific time period chosen by the shopper. There are thousands of products eligible for service. Plus, joining doesn’t cost a dime.
How Amazon Subscribe and Save works
The concept behind Amazon Subscribe and Save is very simple. When a shopper finds an eligible product for the program, they can choose to sign up for a recurring purchase directly from the item page. If they persist, they can set a delivery time interval.
With lead times, Amazon will offer the most used option. However, customers can update it based on their needs. Options range from every two weeks to every six months. Plus, shoppers can adjust that time period at any time, as well as unsubscribe whenever they want.
When it comes to volume discounts, it’s usually 5 percent off the purchase price. In some cases, you may get a higher price when you buy your first Amazon subscription and save a specific item, allowing you to get savings of up to 15 percent. Plus, if you have five or more products in one shipment, you’ll get a higher discount across the entire order, typically 15 percent.
Although Amazon Subscribe and Save includes automatic shipments, customers retain a great deal of control. Besides being able to change their intervals, they receive a notification before subsequent order processes, allowing them to modify or cancel an order as needed.
Another convenient option is the ability to include a backup product. However, if your favorite item isn’t available when it’s time for your shipment, you’ll receive your chosen replacement instead, ensuring that you don’t have to go without an important household item.
The Ugly Side of Amazon Subscribe and Save
While Amazon Subscribe and Save is very convenient and has some benefits, there are potential drawbacks as well.
Product prices fluctuate
One of the biggest drawbacks of the program is that you don’t charge a price with the Amazon Subscribe and Save product. While you will get the published price on first delivery, subsequent reimbursements may cost more or less. Even if the latter is in your best interest, the former can spoil your budget if the change is significant. Plus, it can make what was once a good deal less competitive in the broader market.
There is no guarantee of the best price
Amazon does not compare prices across different sellers for subscribe and save orders. Repeat buying always uses the same seller, even if there is a lower priced option available.
Now, the notification from Amazon about an upcoming shipment gives you a chance to compare the store before it’s processed, but the window for changes is small. If you miss the message, you may get stuck with a higher price tag.
Getting the biggest discount is not always easy or convenient
Another challenge with the program is getting the highest discount possible. It usually takes five items in the same shipment to get the highest discount. The problem is that the different types of products don’t always go out at the same time.
If you only have a limited number of products in the Amazon Subscribe and Save program, it could mean you haven’t been around for a while, end up with unintended inventory, or have to split deliveries. However, if you place items on unique timelines, that means accepting the lowest discount, as you likely won’t meet the five-item minimum with each delivery.
Alternatives are not guaranteed
When it comes to alternatives, Amazon will send one if you list a backup product for that subscription and save item. However, if you don’t have a backup listed, or if the backup you choose isn’t available either, then nothing will be shipped to you at that time.
Now, they won’t charge you unless an item is shipped, so you won’t have cash if the product in that order isn’t available. Additionally, you may be able to request that an item be sent in as soon as it is in stock. However, this can be a bit inconvenient in some cases.
Delivery times are not guaranteed
While you can specify a delivery date for Amazon Subscribe and Save orders, this is not actually a guarantee. Just like regular shipments, an Amazon subscription can be delayed and purchases saved. This may come as a surprise because Amazon knows your request in advance.
In addition, there is little recourse if there is a slight delay. After only several days you can take action, such as requesting a free replacement or refund. Until that passes, you have to go without, pay for another order, or get the product somewhere else. Depending on your budget or the time available, this can be a huge inconvenience.
How to Avoid the Ugly Side of Amazon Subscription and Save
In many cases, it is possible to avoid the ugly side of Amazon Subscribe and Save with a little planning and diligence. Here’s how.
Subscribe to notifications
The best way to avoid accidentally paying too much is to stay informed of upcoming delivery notifications. Besides enabling emails, consider turning on push notifications to ensure you get an alert on your phone as well. This increases the odds of knowing a delivery is coming with enough room to make changes, giving you a chance to compare the store before the shipment closes.
Having a backup product listed is similarly smart. This ensures that an alternative product is on the way if your preferred option is not available at the time.
Sign up only if the smaller discount is a good deal
Unless you have five products bundled together by chance or you’re comfortable without or creating an occasional stock, just sign up for Amazon Subscribe and Save if the lower discount on offer is a good deal. This way, you won’t have to bother lining up a large enough shipment just to get a higher discount rate.
Plus, you’re not adding items you don’t actually need just to hit the 15 percent discount mark. If you are able to make it happen, it becomes a great bonus, not a necessity that you have to force every time an order is ready to ship.
Choose a delivery schedule with room for delays
Since the delivery date is not an actual guarantee, consider creating a delivery schedule that provides plenty of wiggle room in the event of delays. For example, having products arrive about one week before they actually need replacing is not a bad idea. This gives you a buffer, making potential shipping delays less of a concern. Plus, even if you have to wait until you can get a free replacement, it will likely arrive at the time you need it.
Have you experienced the ugly side of Amazon Subscribe and Save? How was your experience, and how did it affect your style of shopping at the retail giant of the future? Do you have any tips that can help people avoid those challenges? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Tamilla MacDonald has worked as a financial advisor to the Army for 13 years. She has taught personal finance classes in every subject from credit, to life insurance, as well as all other aspects of financial management. Ms. MacDonald is an AFCPE certified financial advisor who has helped her clients achieve their short and long term financial goals.