Should Customers Have To Pay Extra For Good Service?

As of today Amazon has raised the amount you must spend in order to get free shipping from $25.00 to $35.00.  Although this is the first time the required purchase amount for free shipping from Amazon has gone up in the past ten years, the reason behind the increase has nothing to do with the rise in shipping costs.

The plain truth is that Amazon wants its customers to join their Amazon Prime members program.  Members pay an annual fee of $79.00.  In return they receive two day free shipping, no minimum order size, unlimited instant streaming of thousands of movies and tv shows, and one Kindle book per month – given on loan – from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.

My question for you is this:  Do you think Amazon’s new purchase requirement hike will work in getting more people to purchase the Amazon Prime membership?

Personally, I purchase many books as well as other merchandise from Amazon.  Years ago, when I first became a customer and Amazon had no membership program, I could place an order with Amazon and receive it within about a week.  I was impressed at the time with how quickly Amazon would process my order and get it shipped.

All that changed when they instituted their new membership program.  One day I placed an order and it was shipped promptly.  The next time I placed an order it took them them nearly two weeks to ship it out the door – and this was an order they had in stock!  They didn’t ship it until the delivery date was just a couple days away and I knew why.  They wanted to coerce their customers to buy the new membership program.

Sure, I could still get free shipping, but there was no longer any concern for getting my order out the door in a hurry, nor even within a reasonable amount of time – say 48 hours, and by today’s standards that’s very generous.  In short, Amazon no longer impressed me.  In fact, they now irritated me.  They wanted me to pay for something I had been getting previously and felt I deserved – good service.  

So, you can imagine how I feel about this latest tactic, and I’m betting I’m not alone.  I don’t use instant streaming, don’t own a kindle (though I do have a desktop Kindle reader which I was able to download from Amazon for free – however I rarely remember to finish books I start reading there!), and I don’t care about free two day shipping (which really isn’t free because you’re paying for a membership in order to receive it) since once my items are shipped I usually receive them within just a few days anyway.

In comparison, Zappos gives me free two day shipping and stellar service and they don’t charge me a membership fee to receive it.  In fact, when they didn’t have an item in stock that I wanted to order, they upgraded my “membership”  to preferred status for free – for life!

Now, as anyone who has ever shopped at Zappos can tell you, they hike up their prices quite a bit to make up the difference for this.  They’re not really giving you anything.  But, if you do some comparison shopping – and most people do – then you know this going in.  And because Zappos gives such fabulous service I don’t mind paying extra.  It’s not being required of me.  There’s no double standard.  I can buy their items or I can shop elsewhere, but if I shop with Zappos I can expect my items to arrive the following day.  Period.

All that said, I will continue to shop with Amazon, though they won’t be my first choice.  I will seek out other options and only purchase from Amazon when I can’t find an item elsewhere.  And then, if it isn’t urgent, I’ll place that item in my shopping cart and let it sit until I have enough items to add to receive the free shipping.

For me it’s the principle of it.  I could pay a few dollars and get my single item now if it doesn’t meet the purchasing requirement for the free shipping.  I could even purchase an Amazon Prime membership – most of which would be useless to me – in order to receive better service.  But I won’t because I feel that I’m entitled to good service simply for choosing Amazon in the first place.  In today’s world there’s too much competition, too many other places for a customer to shop, and too many other alternatives available for any company to take customers for granted or offer less than their best.

It will be interesting to see how Amazon’s other customers feel in the coming months.  If they haven’t already jumped on Amazon’s Prime membership bandwagon, there is a reason and trying to force them to join isn’t going to solve that problem.

Anyone with any kind of business can learn from this, but it is especially relevant to those of us in publishing – booklets or otherwise – because we so often deal with customers via the internet and it’s easy to take those customers for granted.  Don’t do it.  Always, always, always give your best.  Doing business with you should be more than a pleasure.  It should be such a wonderful experience that people can’t help talking about it.

What are your thoughts?

To your riches!

Kim Hillman

PS:  Have you heard about my free ecourse, “12 Ways A Booklet Can Turn Your Writing Into Cash!”  Get it here now!

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