Is It Time to Quit Amazon Prime?

Probably, but it won’t be easy

Key Takeaways

  • Amazon’s Prime membership fee will go up by $20 next month for existing customers.
  • Quitting Prime doesn’t mean quitting Amazon, but it will break your worst habits. 
  • Try shopping local, or just not buying new stuff at all.
A tiny robot made from Amazon boxes sitting in the fork in a tree.

Daniel Eledut / Unsplash

Amazon is hiking its Prime fee by $20 per year, but the real cost of its membership is not paid by the users. 

Prime started as a way to avoid delivery charges on Amazon parcels, but now it offers music, TV, and movie streaming, games, Kindle books, photo storage, and more. Giving up Prime is a major pain, depending on how many of these services you use. And yet, with regular news stories about Amazon's abusive labor practices, anti-union tactics, and the general feeling that one company shouldn't control all of retail, many of us are thinking we should ditch it. Is now the time?

"I contemplated quitting Amazon for quite some time because I didn't agree with the ethics of many of their business practices. I finally let our Amazon Prime membership expire in the fall of 2020 and haven't looked back. My kids have a favorite show they used to watch via Amazon Prime and now watch through a different content provider. When we shop online, we buy things directly from brands more often now or choose alternative retail chains that can remain competitive with Amazon," Jen Panaro, author of several guides to quitting Amazon, told Lifewire via email. 

Prime Beef

Amazon's shopping service is just amazing, and during the pandemic, when many local stores were closed during various lockdowns, it became the default store for many people. The friction from thinking you need something to having it delivered to your door is almost zero. And with Prime, you can get next-day or same-day delivery with no extra charge. That makes Amazon a hard habit to break.

Add to that the constellation of Prime benefits, like Prime Video, and Amazon's $12.99 monthly fee is a great deal. 

"... I wish more people would consider whether Amazon Prime is actually serving them well in its entirety."

But morally, it's another story. In the UK, downtown shopping areas in towns and cities were decimated by out-of-town supermarket chains, Walmart-style superstores, which gradually added everything from clothing to Indian takeout meals. Now, there are few independent local food stores left, and there's no way to reverse the catastrophe.

With one-day deliveries and a return policy that's so friendly that it's practically try-before-you-buy, there's little reason to shop locally—especially when local stores rarely carry the breadth of stock that Amazon does. 

Then we get to Amazon's warehouse and delivery employees. Barely a week passes without another news story that mirrors the NYT's big 2021 expose inside Amazon's warehouses. Buying from the retail giant is a tacit acceptance of those practices, yet we all still do it. 

But it's not impossible to quit the behemoth. You just begin by canceling your Prime subscription. 

Past Its Prime

Apart from Prime Now's Amazon-only exclusive TV shows and movies, there's very little you can't get from elsewhere. And for those times you simply cannot find that weird adapter cable you need in any other store, online or physical, you can always buy it from Amazon anyway. Quitting Prime doesn't mean leaving Amazon altogether. We just want to stop using it as our default. 

A shipping warehouse full of boxes and plastic bins.

Adrian Sulyok / Unsplash

"Without an Amazon Prime account, I have an opportunity to take a pause and think about another way to obtain the item. In many cases, I realized I already have something else that works, I can borrow it from a neighbor, or I just don't really need it at all," says Panaro. "I think the natural barriers to consumption that Amazon Prime removes or diminishes—by design, I understand—are actually helpful in reducing overconsumption, and I wish more people would consider whether Amazon Prime is actually serving them well in its entirety."

And when you do finally decide to quit, Amazon won't want to let you go so easily. The company might have some of the best customer service around, but it falls back on the same dirty tricks as everyone else when you try to leave. 

"Finally ready to drop Amazon Prime and hit with this bit of dark pattern," writes iFixit's Kevin Purdy on Twitter. "Membership would be up July 7, [but] which button lets you use what you've already paid for? Implication is that you're rage-quitting early. Which, maybe I should!"

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