Most people who have paid for Amazon’s “Prime” membership, which offers faster and free delivery and a host of other benefits, have always assumed that the premium service at least gives them the best rates, if not better ones.
Transparent pricing, the ability to compare and a button that asked if one had found better prices elsewhere were the hook that lured people to shop online.
So, imagine the sense of shock and feeling of being let down when you discover that a Prime member is sometimes shown prices that are significantly higher than those available to a non-Prime member. I stumbled on this quite by chance and, after tweeting the difference, discovered that people are unaware that this could happen, and that I am not the only one who has caught this anomaly that works against Prime members. Before going into details, there is a caveat. Higher prices for Prime members is not the norm; it happens only in some products—in a vast majority they are the same for Prime and non-Prime members and, in a few cases, they are even slightly lower.
So, do we blame it on some algorithms used by the retail giant? Or is there something else at play? Moneylife wrote to Amazon, but here is what I discovered.
I was looking for sticky mouse traps on Amazon and noticed they were charging for delivery (as I don't have a Prime subscription). So, I requested my wife to order the same via her Prime account. She searched but could not find the same item at the same (low) price on her Amazon app. So, I shared the item link via the Amazon app from my mobile, and voila, we stumbled upon a real sticky problem.
The same items that were costing me Rs745, including delivery, without Amazon Prime, were costing her Rs1,020 with her Amazon Prime membership.
The same items were costing Rs275 (36.9%) more with Amazon Prime!
I posted this info on Facebook and Twitter and received many responses sharing the same experience. I checked them and found them all true!
Nishant Mody (@modynishant) posted about the price of Kodak photo paper, and voila!
Rs369 on Prime, and Rs319 without Prime. Same item, same supplier, same everything!
And the best part is delivery one day earlier, without Prime.
Suraj Talreja (@suritalreja) posted about extension boards, and we found the same spike adaptor from the same supplier for Rs760 without Prime, compared to Rs785 with Prime.
Interestingly, the maximum retail price (MRP) was shown differently. It was Rs971 for Prime subscribers and Rs1020 for non-Prime members of Amazon.
We searched some more and did find some products that were more expensive without Prime. Rs890 for Tide washing powder without Prime and Rs865 with Prime membership.
But, here too, the same product, from the same supplier, had different MRPs, like Rs930 without Prime and Rs989 for Amazon's Prime subscribers.
It was interesting to stumble upon this sticky-pricing policy by Amazon. Hope sharing this info helps you look for a better deal when buying on Amazon!
p.s. No mice were harmed in this post. The right way to dispose of stuck rats is to take them out in the open, pour a little oil to melt the glue, and let them run off into the open.
p.p.s. Checking all these 'lowest' prices on Amazon reminded me of my neighbourhood kirana shop. Let's not forget the price we will really pay if we put his little shop out of business. Do remember to support your local shop the best you can.
Moneylife sent an email to Amazon India. An official from Amazon mailed back, saying, "We will investigate this internally and will only be able to comment once such investigations are completed. While we will try to respond within your deadline, we would appreciate your understanding should the probe take longer than expected."
This was on 14th January, we have not heard from Amazon at the time of writing this at the end of 16th January.
(with inputs from Moneylife Team)