Amazon Slammed for Slashing Free Shipping Option

Many of us have come to rely on Amazon for everything from home decor and clothing basics to cleaning supplies and pet food. But if there’s one thing we associate most with the online retailer, it’s fast and low-cost shipping. Where else could you order something one day and expect it on your doorstep the next?

If you have a Prime membership, you get this perk for free on every order—and even if you don’t, you get free shipping on most orders if you exceed a certain threshold. But now, that may no longer be the case, and shoppers aren’t happy. Read on to learn how Amazon is slashing its free shipping options.

Amazon increased the amount you must spend for free shipping—but only for some people.

Amazon’s famous free-two-day shipping used to extend to all purchases made by Prime members and people who spent at least $25 on their order. However, in recent weeks, that’s changed.

The online retailer rolled out a new pricing model in which shoppers in some zip codes must meet a $25 minimum to qualify for free shipping, and shoppers in other zip codes must meet a $35 minimum. Amazon told Checkbook (via KOMO-TV) that it’s randomly testing the new pricing in different regions; however, it hasn’t made a formal announcement.

“We continually evaluate our offerings and make adjustments based on those assessments,” said Amazon spokesperson Kristina Pressentin. “We’re currently testing a $35 minimum for non-Prime customers to qualify for free shipping. Prime members continue to enjoy free delivery on over 300 million items, with tens of millions of items available for free same or one-day delivery.”

Prime membership costs $139 a year and includes perks like free shipping, Prime Video, Whole Foods grocery delivery, a free Grubhub+ membership, and more.

The pricing appears to be arbitrary.

The updates Amazon has made appear somewhat random. Edgar Dworsky, founder and publisher of Consumer World, found a few instances where pricing was at one level in one part of a city and another in a nearby area.

For example, people in Manhattan must meet a $25 minimum, but those in Brooklyn must get to $35. In Bethesda and Chevy Chase, Maryland, the minimum is $25, but it’s $35 for the nearby Dupont Circle neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Some Boston towns have a $25 minimum, while others are at $35.

Shoppers feel the increase is unfair.

Because the change isn’t the same everywhere, many shoppers feel they are being priced unfairly.

“It makes me a little annoyed,” David Bookbinder, an Amazon customer in Massachusetts, told Checkbook. “They seem to do this a lot where select customers are treated differently. And how do they pick and choose who gets what and who pays what? I think it’s unfair.”

He says this is especially true during times of economic uncertainty.

“It is unfortunate while consumers are still struggling with inflation and higher product prices that Amazon has chosen to pile on and charge for shipping that previously was free,” Dworsky added.

Amazon remains a leader in fast and free shipping.

Although this change is jarring, it’s worth noting it’s not the first time Amazon has toyed with its pricing. According to CNBC, it raised the minimum to $49 from $35 in 2016, then dropped it back to $35 a year later, before dipping again to $25.

That drop was at least partially inspired by a need to compete with Walmart, which has a $35 minimum for free shipping. Walmart’s loyalty program, which offers free shipping on all orders, costs $98 per year.

What’s more, the change comes as the online retailer has been aggressively cutting costs, slashing more than 27,000 corporate jobs, and stopping free grocery deliveries for Prime members on orders less than $150.

There’s a hack to get around the change.

Some shoppers have found a way around the change by shipping their items to alternative locations, like an office or a relative’s house. Change your zip code in the delivery location, and you’ll get an updated price. If you’re lucky, you might be able to spend $10 less to still get free shipping.

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