Backlash from Amazon Prime price hike may be worse than Amazon thought, report finds

Maybe Amazon didn’t just pull off the perfect price increase, after all?

amazonprime“Based on immediate Prime member reactions, they may have underestimated the negative effects of the increase,” said Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, a customer loyalty research consultancy.

Four days after the Amazon told its Prime customers that it will be charging $20 more, or $99 a year, for its loyalty program, customers are still showing their dissatisfaction on the company’s forums.

Many had believed that Amazon played its cards perfectly: More than a month before the price increase, it warned customers prices would go up — as much as $40. So, when it finally increased prices by $20, it seemed cheap. Additionally, the retailer sold the price hike as a way to offset transportation costs, with members still getting other perks, like streaming video and book rentals, for free.

It was speculated that Amazon’s price hike was going to go down similarly to when Costco raises prices for access to its warehouses. Costco finds that the renewal rates actually hold steady or climb each time it hiked fees.

But, in fact, Amazon’s 25 percent rate hike is just steep enough that it’s making customers second guess whether it’s worth it.

Amazon is known for its cheap prices, and with the $20-price-hike looming, customers are doing the math. They are pointing out that many are now paying for sales tax in some states, where they weren’t before; and they aren’t watching the 40,000 TV shows and movies that come bundled with the membership; and that often two-day shipping takes more time than promised.

According to a survey conducted by Brand Keys, which measures brand engagement and customer loyalty, Amazon’s rating fell from 93 percent to 83 percent in the two days following the price hike. The survey, which was reported earlier by CNBC, was conducted among 1,050 Prime members from March 14 to March 16.

“Consumer expectations are always on the increase, and when it comes to online retail, they operate in a ‘what-have-you-done-for-me-recently?’ paradigm,” Passikoff told CNBC.

The company’s help forums are also active with customers discussing a number of factors that are contributing to their decision to flee. In a discussion called “Who else won’t renew Amazon Prime at $99?,” there’s 83 posts, which may or may not be small given the roughly 20 million Prime members.

One company benefiting is ShopRunner, which jumped at the chance to sign-up Prime customers to its competing service. For a limited time, it’s offering a $79 membership for free. Today, it told GeekWire that it has seen sign-ups increased by 850 percent the day of the announcement compared to the number of sign-ups ShopRunner normally sees daily.

“Time will tell if this was a brilliant or bonehead move on Amazon’s part, but for us, the scales do not tip in this family’s favor. We will not be renewing,” one customer wrote in the forum.

Another unhappy customer, under the name Jason Byrd, wrote that he doesn’t think Amazon Instant Video is a good enough perk, and that two-day shipping is not very reliable. “The Prime movies or horrible and there is NO guarantee to their 2 day delivery which I might get 50% of the time. Just don’t see renewing it as a result. Not for $99.”

In the forum, another customer raised questions about whether Prime eligible items were the cheapest way to shop: “I realize that shipping costs have risen over time, but I’ve also noticed that the prices of “prime-eligible” products are higher (sometimes considerably higher!) than ones that don’t qualify for prime. The way I see it, Amazon has already been compensating for higher shipping costs through price increases for quite some time.”

If you are asking many of the same questions, Slate.com created a handy widget to calculate whether Prime is worth it for your family. It asks how many items you purchased last year and how many of them were Prime eligible.

As an example, I purchased 23 items that were all eligible. It found that I’ll be paying an extra $7.23 a year under the new regime, so it recommends that I only continue paying if I find that Amazon’s library of e-books, movies and TV shows is worth that amount.

Since I also pay for Netflix, maybe not.

  • andyg

    Are people really this dumb? Prime hasn’t increased prices in 9 years and when it chose to do so by $20/year (<$2/month), people are complaing. Someone complained he gets Prime deliveries in 2-days only 50% of time. Maybe he lives somewhere where it's difficult for UPS to drive their trucks. You get everything on Amazon, which no other websites can even come close to. Do we stop filling gas in our cars when gasoline price hikes by 20%.

    • DonewithPrime

      People are not that dumb. They are simply using their head rather than emotions. Prime pricing is often far from the cheapest, and many many many many many people are not getting shipments in two days now that Amazon has increased their shipping via SmartPost or SurePost – where the POST OFFICE actually does the final delivery to the customer. You don’t get “everything” on amazon either. As a long time Prime member, I still do a considerable amount of purchasing elsewhere. Finally, you are totally incorrect about this being the first price increase in 9 years. Amazon actually significantly increased (and I mean by orders of magnitude) accelerated shipping (next day) at the end of last year. In some cases, next day upgrades went from $3.99 to over $39. Quite frankly, the problem Amazon ran into is that many of the Prime customers were already less than pleased with the Prime service levels and pricing at $79. When you hike the membership fee by 25% (not 20%) and dramatically increase next day charges- all at the same time that shipping service levels are getting worse, it’s easily understood why Amazon is getting a black eye.

      • SargentRock

        While it’s trendy to blame the Post Office, they are typically the most efficient carriers out there (they are the most cost effective as well). The Post Office shipments have been on time more often than Fed Ex or UPS–particularly over the holidays. UPS was flat out awful and put most of Amazon’s deliveries behind schedule: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/01/08/amazon-considering-options-after-ups-delays.aspx
        That doesn’t excuse how bad the Prime service has been with late deliveries (for any reason), and the HORRIBLE interface for trying to find anything to watch on their streaming service.

    • Cccccc

      I agree…..I have ordered items on 3 separate occasions this month and all three have been prime items and all three have missed the 2 day delivery window….one of the items that missed the delivery window I found out came from a fulfillment center less than 50 miles from my home….I do NOT live in a difficult to reach area….and very close to a large metropolitan area….aside from the fact with as much as I order, I am sure there is a way for Amazon to let me know at the time of ordering if they see some immediate problem with items being delivered on time….

    • Steve O’Leary

      Amazon actually includes the shipping in its price for Prime eligible goods.
      Do a price compare, almost everything you can buy with “free” Prime shipping is offered elsewhere with free shipping or even less priced “item, with shipping”.. As well,,,any things i have ordered do’t make it in 2 days.. they have off loaded it to Smartpost or whatever.

    • Jesse Levesque

      Are YOU really that dumb? Customer dis-satisfaction regarding Prime Membership is not limited to Prime Shipping. You ever hear of Prime Instant Videos? Amazon has been changing the prices constantly. One day a movie is free with Prime Membership – the next day it’s not! Amazon also seems to have more and more good movies that you cannot rent, but have to buy! I’ve been a Prime member for two years and I’m considering this year to be my last.

  • rrrrrrrgg

    but another issue… what happened to all the Discovery content? We do buy occasionally on Amazon for material goods, but the Discovery shows are primarily what we have it for. If these are removed, then there’s no reason to keep it & it’ll be back to PBS then. We refuse cable, but this was a good alternative. Now it isn’t worth it.
    The real issue behind this: who’s decision was it? Discovery or Amazon…. haven’t been able to track that down.

  • irritated

    prime sucks now we usually watch the hgtv shows or diy but now you have to pay for all the episodes this is crazy in a matter of days and now they charge even for amazon prime instant video we will be cancelling might have to go back to netflix or hulu smh

  • JeffreyS

    Frankly, the $20.00 is a realistic bone of contention for the simple truth that the price of shipping fro Amazon has already been passed on through several other means not the least of which is the Amazon Add-on item.
    The Add-on item policy treats prime customers like a non-subscriber by subjecting us to a $25.00 minimum order which must contain all items from Amazon in order meet that minimum. Not every prime eligible item is actually sold by Amazon and that is where the majority of us first found a price hike if we were not willing to wait until we had enough in the cart to qualify for free delivery. (Not at all what a Prime customer should experience)
    This factor alone is the more problematic service cost than increasing the annual fee. The other reviewers have been right to mention that animosity has been developing for reasons beyond the annual service fee. It is adding insult to injury and there have been articles and studies that suggested that Amazon could be close to reducing the price because the Prime customer spends multiples more than a non-subscriber that a price reduction would encourage even more subscribers and commensurately increase their sales.
    The change in carrier delivery to USPS may have improved deliveries for some customers but has brought with it some other less than pleasant results for people in some areas where mail delivery is inconsistent and that carrier change reveals a defect in the USPS tracking and processing where notification as a delivery scanned at Post Office for receipt at Post Office is registered by the system as delivered to the customer. I found that out the first time I got a delivery notification on my phone and walked to my door and found no package, not the case when it is delivered by UPS and USPS phone calls are near useless because they either don’t track the carriers well or don’t care to help track down where the delivery is when it is out for delivery.
    The price increase is just the event that is common to the most amount of prime members in a similar time frame as to bring the dissatisfactions of the masses which has been brewing below the surface to a boil.
    So, while it may require a little more effort to get free delivery on some items and delivery expenses and methods may have changed, for someone who buys often and a lot it is not as good as it used to be.