Prime seems expensive: the upfront annual cost went up to $99 since I signed up years ago. But if it was worth it to me then, it is a steal of a deal now, if you consider all the newly added benefits you get access to.
Get Prime by the month: Don’t have $99 lying around, or don’t think you need an entire year of Prime? Sign up by the month and pay $10.99. And you get a deal if you qualify for low-income benefits: it’s only $5.99 per month for customers with an EBT card. Sign up for Prime around Thanksgiving and cash in on all the online Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals, with free shipping to boot, and then drop it when you’re done.
Prime Student: Use your school email (ending in .edu) to score four $49-years of Prime. Act soon and you can get 6 months free.
Amazon Household: A Prime account is for your whole household, not just one person. Two adults living in the same house, and with separate Amazon accounts, can link their accounts to share the benefits of a single Prime account. You can share payment methods, and even add profiles for up to four children so your kids can take advantage of all the free reading and streaming of videos and music without being able to order anything. (You cannot use Amazon Household if you have a Prime Student discount).
Prime Wardrobe: Try before you buy. Choose 3 or more items of clothing, and have them shipped to you to try on. Send back what you don’t want in a prepaid box, and only pay for what you keep. Keeping more items earns you discounts, too: up to 20%. Currently, Prime Wardrobe is in beta, but you can ask to be notified when it launches.
Prime Video: Originals like Transparent and Catastrophe are available. They also have Downton Abbey, The Wire, and you can pay a little extra for channels like Showtime and HBO.
Unlimited cloud storage for pictures: Store as many precious memories in the secure Cloud Drive as you want, and stop worrying about losing them.
Prime Music: Choose songs, albums, or a station. More than 2 million available songs and you can also upload your current collection and listen on any device with the app. There is also a paid subscription that gives you access to tens of millions of songs for $7.99 a month; however, the family plan is $14.99 per month and allows up to six family members to use it. That’s $2.50 per person! Quick, I need five people! Anybody?
Food: Have some grocery staples shipped to your door: Prime Pantry boxes ship for $5.99, and you can save 15% with Subscribe and Save. Weekly deals and coupons also make grocery shopping online attractive.
Prime Rewards Visa: For serious Amazon shoppers, the 5% back (in credit, not cash) may be a draw. Add a $70 gift card for signing up.
Free two-day shipping: Of course, this perk is awesome, but it can only be used for certain items. If you shop Amazon for everything, this perk may be worth the fee on its own: leading up to Christmas, the free shipping alone more than pays for my account. However, sometimes you can opt in for slower shipping and get credits for books, music, and more.
Prime Reading: There is a large rotating collection of books, magazines, comics and more available free with your Prime account, and some even have Audible narration, if you would rather listen.
Video games for Prime: Twitch Prime includes a Twitch subscription and free content. Prime discounts on video games could save you some real money, and some pre-orders are delivered ON THE RELEASE DATE. That means you can skip the line and still get that new game the second it is released.
It’s hard to resist all those perks for about $8.25 per month if you pay by the year. Amazon Prime members are much more likely to only shop at Amazon (I can see why), but beware: sometimes they have the best deal, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they really don’t, and getting free shipping may not make up the price difference, especially considering that other online retailers like Walmart and Jet are making a major effort to compete by offering their own free shipping. So remember to shop around.
Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods has been big news for the last week, but why the online retailer would want to further expand into fresh foods—along with all the shipping complications that implies—has just become clear. Amazon’s patent on several unique designs for tower warehouses has just been published by the US Patent and Trademark Office. The towers would be warehouse on the bottom, drone hub on the top, and possibly come in beehive, cylinder, or UFO styles.
These new warehouses would still support ground-bound methods for transportation of goods, and even allow customers who live nearby to come pick up their order (though if I wanted to do that, why would I be shopping online? Anybody?)
The tall and skinny warehouses will allow placement within cities, rather than being located farther away where space can be found for the sprawling retail hubs, peopled (roboted?) mostly by robots. This will allow much quicker delivery within dense population centers.
Drone delivery pros and cons
According to digitalspy.com, there are some unique abilities and limitations to drone delivery (PrimeAir), as it operates now:
- Package weight is limited to 5 pounds.
- 30 minute delivery time.
- Flies at 400 feet, out of the way of larger aircraft, and has cameras and sensors to help dodge birds and obstacles.
- Can fly straight up and straight down, so it will descend directly over the landing zone.
- Battery has a 15-mile range.
Some other patents filed by Amazon that sound like something dreamed up by Willy Wonka are:
- Blimp warehouse/drone hubs
- Software to communicate with self-driving trucks
- Pocket-sized drones
- A system for drones to hitch rides on trucks in case of emergency or to conserve battery power
- Delivery between fulfillment centers and airports via rail, conveyor belt, or pneumatics in underground tunnels.
- Drone recharging or emergency landing on street lamps or utility poles.
- Drones that can connect together to share battery power or team-lift larger packages.
Click here to read the original roundup of strange Amazon patents on recode.net.
Pioneer of big ideas
Of course, a patent doesn’t mean that all of these ideas—or even any of them—will ever roll out in a practicable way, and some critics have pointed out that the logistics of drone delivery are likely to cost a pretty penny. However, two-day shipping already costs Amazon a pretty penny, and founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is known for his willingness to pour capital into innovation that keeps Amazon at the cutting edge of online retail. Putting customers’ wants and needs first, while keeping prices low, has built Amazon into a titan of retail with happy investors, and little profit.
Bezos said in a 2013 interview for 60 Minutes: “I would define Amazon by our big ideas, which are customer centricity, putting the customer at the center of everything we do, invention. We like to pioneer, we like to explore, we like to go down dark alleys and see what’s on the other side.”
This certainly qualifies as a “big idea.” Whether or not there is anything on the other side of this particular dark alley, I’m interested to find out, and this patent indicates that Amazon is too.