This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here is a collection of past columns.
I quit Prime. And it’s fine.
As I noticed in the Wednesday newsletter, that makes me a nerd. Almost 98 percent of Americans who have been members of the Amazon shopping club for at least a few years are constantly renewing. Prime is one of the toughest consumer goods in the United States.
I was a Prime member for about three years until I stopped renewing in 2019. Friends and colleagues are often stunned when I tell them this. But no worry. I will be fine
That doesn’t mean that I live without Amazon. Here’s a secret: you are legally allowed to order from the site without being a Prime member – though it takes a little more planning to deliver orders with no shipping costs.
Why do I pass my shopping habits on to strangers? (Though On Tech readers are no strangers!) Each of our personal experiences is a way to reflect on whether we stick with Prime out of love or out of habit. It was relatively easy for me to quit when I questioned the value of the subscription.
This is not advice to quit Prime. You do you. And my experience is not representative. I have no children and live in New York, where many of the things I need quickly – a roll of aluminum foil or a new cell phone charger – are often just a short walk away.
I know that many Americans live far from shops, have caring responsibilities, live with disabilities, or have other circumstances that do not give them as much flexibility when shopping.
More than 300 readers wrote to On Tech about Prime, and many said they felt they were more than worth their money for the convenience, reliable shipping, and other perks that Prime offers.
“I got my Prime membership when my husband was sick and I was his caregiver.” wrote a reader in Carol Stream, Ill. “I couldn’t go shopping and that was perfect for me.”
I was a relative late-comer to Prime. I signed up in 2015 I think because I moved and rated streaming entertainment services. I mainly signed up for Amazon’s Prime Video service and thought that being able to get faster shipping at no extra cost was a bonus. (I hope my memory isn’t flawed. I can’t fully recall my 2015 brain.)
Most Prime members in surveys say that shipping at no additional cost is the number one reason they signed up and stuck with it. Quite a few On Tech readers said, like me, that Prime Video helped make membership worthwhile.
I shopped more on Amazon in the first few years of my membership. This is typical Prime member behavior. But over time I found that I was ordering less.
My extension was due and I just shrugged and stopped paying. That changed my behavior. In 2020 and the first few months of 2021, when online shopping went through the roof as many people tried to avoid stores, my order history shows that I didn’t add anything for myself other than a few Kindle e-books Amazon bought.
I have shopped online regularly at Walmart, Target, and other websites. I shopped in local stores, partly because I didn’t want Amazon and other giant retailers to be the only ones after the pandemic. Without feeling like I had to get out of a Prime membership, Amazon was just an option, and not the only shop I was considering.
For me, shopping online now requires more patience. I keep a list of things I might need on my phone and order multiple items at once to meet the minimum order quantities for free shipping from Amazon and other sites. (An Amazon order over $ 25 often qualifies for free shipping.)
The list currently includes a nonstick frying pan, lightbulbs, toilet brush, puzzles, and a pair of headphones. My life is very exciting, yes. I may not get the package in a few days, but that’s fine with me.
I think I also buy fewer things without being a Prime member because it’s not that easy to buy spontaneously from my sofa. Some On Tech readers said they had the same experience.
The real magic of Amazon, and Prime in particular, is that they remove thinking from shopping. Prime members tend to reflexively go to Amazon and that works great for them and the company most of the time. For me, the lack of Prime makes me pause for a minute before buying. That’s perfect.
Tip of the week
Sell this old junk!
If you’re like me, you’ve got unused electronics lying around in your home. Brian X. Chen, the New York Times’ personal technology columnist, tells us what to do with this annoying mess.
The unwanted technical equipment of my family is getting harder and harder to ignore. My outdated PlayStation has been gathering dust for over a year. My wife’s iPad has been in a drawer since I’ve known her.
In my experience the easiest way to get around clean electronics you don’t want is to drop them off at a Best Buy – which offers free electronics recycling – or donate them to a charity like the Salvation Army. (Please check first. Charities do not tend to accept all electronic devices.)
However, if you want to make money, there are other options. I was lucky in selling old iPhones and iPads gazelle, a company that buys and sells used electronics, and Amazon’s trade-in program. Both sides will ask you to answer a few questions about electronics before sending them out with a prepaid label.
I was also surprised at how much success I’ve had on eBay lately. Last week, I sold my eight-year-old PlayStation 4 console on the website for around $ 230 – which is pretty good considering it was around $ 400 when it was new in 2013.
It only took us 10 minutes to take a few photos and write a brief description. I reused an old Amazon box for shipping, printed out a label and handed the package over to the post office.
Next, I plan to list my wife’s iPad. All in all, I estimate I will make about $ 500 from cleaning my electronics. Aside from the reward of having a cleaner house, that’s a pretty nice payoff.
Before we go …
this Kiddo comforts a fish, and it really is the best.
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