Are consumers really overpaying for products by signing up for Amazon’s premium service, Amazon Prime?
Well, it's complicated, according to an investigation by KPIX-TV in San Francisco.
The $79 annual service provides customers with free two-day shipping, streaming video services and access to online books. But some customers have complained that their Prime accounts have been returning higher featured prices for product searches.
After reviewing multiple items, everything from hygiene products to baby needs, KPIX reported that it seemed like many products did cost more with Amazon Prime.
One Prime customer said they noticed the price of an Apple iPad Mini on Amazon Prime was $389.99, but that the regular price was $369.99.
“I’m actually surprised. I have never compared Prime versus something that is not Prime for the same exact item," customer Gecel Garcia said.
An Amazon representative responded to customer concerns: “There is only one Amazon site. You will always see the same price whether you are logged in as a Prime member or not. The price does not change.”
And here's the thing: Amazon hosts millions of third-party sellers who list their products at different prices. Yes, third party sellers, not Amazon, are the ones who set the price.
Certain items may cost less when it's non-Prime, but that has nothing to do with Amazon. That has everything to do with the sellers. If you see an item, say a DVD, for $4.00 on non-Prime and it's $5.00 on Prime, that's because the Prime-eligible seller set that price. Not Amazon.
Further, Amazon notifies customers of the fact that certain items may be available from non-Prime sellers for lower prices elsewhere on the site. Prime is basically the normal service with some added benefits.
It’s also worth pointing out that Prime members have the option during searches to switch on the “Prime only” filter, meaning if they forget it’s on they’ll see only Prime items and possibly miss out on the cheaper listings. So some non-Prime items may be available at prices that are on the surface "cheaper" than Prime items, but when you factor in shipping and other Prime services, many feel it’s still a good deal.
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This post has been updated.