The pros and cons to Amazon Prime in Hawaii.
General: Product Review
Living in Hawaii and considering an Amazon Prime membership? Or maybe you already have one and are wondering if the $99 annual fee is worth it or not. We cover this topic a bit in Hawaii Living: Island Time but in this article will go into greater detail. Keep reading as we go over the pros and cons to Amazon Prime in Hawaii.
When it comes to the pros of Amazon Prime in Hawaii the most obvious thing to talk about first is the free shipping. While the shipping is 100% free on many items Amazon carries, it isn't free on all items. Many items shipped by 3rd party sellers (not from an Amazon warehouse) will still have a shipping price.
But the biggest difference between Prime in Hawaii versus Prime on Mainland, USA is that we don't get free two day shipping in Hawaii. Instead, we get free "regular" shipping in Hawaii which can take anywhere from a few days to weeks. We'll cover more on that further down in this article.
In addition to free shipping on many purchases, Amazon Prime memberships include access to Amazon Prime Video. Never heard of it? It's a service identical to Netflix in that you can stream shows on a variety of devices like Smart TVs, a Roku, an Xbox One, your smartphone, and so on. Our favorite streaming device is currently the Amazon Fire TV which is also fun if you have an Amazon Echo device as they can work together.
Amazon Prime Video is like Netflix as I mentioend, but without all of the good content and adds in a horrible user interface that often makes zero sense. Chances are good it will get better with time (even if that hasn't been true over the least few years) but chances are also good that if it gets really good it may not be included with your Prime membership (or membership fees may go up).
Finding certain items in Hawaii isn't always easy. Sometimes when you do find an item the price is insanely high so having Amazon's huge selection of products and (often) reasonable prices can be a big deal here.
Prime also offers some other benefits that deal with free music, photo storage, some free Kindle books, and so on. Amazon's attempt at streaming music can be okay at times but songs appear and disappear all the time and their collection is far from great. In this sense, Prime is very much a jack of all trades but a master of none so these "add on" benefits aren't really worth mentioning.
The Bad & Ugly
The first con to Amazon Prime in Hawaii (and anywhere) is the $99 per year fee you pay to join. That's just over $8 per month. If you just buy 1-2 items from Amazon a month then maybe Prime isn't a deal for you. However, once you order 2-3 (or more) items per month then it may pay off that annual fee quickly.
It's hard to talk about Amazon without talking about the death of brick and mortar retail stores, especially mom and pop style shops. Without a doubt, Amazon is putting a lot of businesses out of business. Then again, the Internet in general has had the same impact. But Amazon is the giant so it's the one we blame. And even big box stores have put smaller shops out of business as well. It's the cycle of business life.
Is this a big deal? Yes and no. The same thing happened to American manufacturing as Japan started making electronics. China has since taken over. We all complain about that but we all allow it. So is this really any different? We'll all complain as our local shops go under but we're also not willing to pay pennies (much less dollars) extra for an item if we don't have to. This is just business. As with any business, you have to adapt to the times or you go out of business. Of course, the more we rely on Amazon the more clout they have and at some point they could be the only place to buy certain items and then forget about getting a deal. This is the ugly side of Amazon.
Earlier I talked about the selection of items Amazon has. It's amazing what they sell, but not everything they sell will ship to Hawaii. A lot of times this is because of restrictions on what can be shipped on planes (yes, pretty much everything they ship comes on a plane) and they don't seem to be willing to ship by boat.
Items deemed hazardous can't be shipped here. This seems logical until you realize that simple items like some batteries can't be shipped here. Many chemicals also can't be shipped here. In other cases, if the item is too large or heavy they won't ship it here. And, if the item is shipped via a 3rd party seller (not shipped from an Amazon Warehouse) it may have an extra shipping fee or the shipper may refuse to ship here. It's a bit of a mess since you often have to add the item to your shopping cart and get all the way to checkout before they let you know it can't be shipped here.
All of these are annoying but there's something even more annoying about Amazon Prime in Hawaii (which we touch on a bit in Top 12 Reasons Not To Live In Hawaii) and that's delayed shipping. This is the ugly side of Prime and not really mentioned anywhere. You'll see an item and buy it but Amazon might hold that item for a few days, maybe even a week or two, before they ship it out. This is why some items take weeks to arrive in Hawaii, sometimes even after the "expected delivery date" they show on their site.
Why would they do this? My best guess is that when they realize you place orders often they're simply holding them so they can combine multiple orders and save on their shipping costs. They claim that they don't do this but it seems to happen a lot to me. Either that or they're taking the idea of Island Time (see Hawaii Living: Island Time) too seriously.
I buy a lot of items from Amazon and over the many years I've been a customer I've seen this happen a lot. I'll buy something and it will sit in their warehouse rather than being shipped. Days will go by. Maybe a week or more. Then I'll order another item and a couple of days go by and then it all ships out. In other cases I've had to contact Amazon support to ask why the item hasn't shipped and have been told there was a "glitch" in their system and they had to manually push the order through. Well, maybe that's true but that glitch happens a lot. A lot!
As Amazon continues to grow and potentially put local businesses out of business, it's easy to see why some don't want to contribute to Amazon's world domination. But as we cover in Hawaii Living: The Paradise Tax, it's quite expensive to live in Hawaii so it's understandable to want to get a deal when possible.
Is Amazon Prime worth the money? For now, we say YES, Amazon Prime in Hawaii is worth the money even though it's far from a perfect system. We hope to see the day when Amazon has some actual competition but for now, there is a reason they're number one in the online retail game. They have a lot of work to do still, but nobody is better.
With that said, supporting the local Hawaii economy is incredibly important so before you buy with one click on Amazon considering visiting a local retailer first. In many cases, you actually can find the same item for the same money (sometimes even cheaper) as Amazon. If not, ask the store if they'll price match as many stores do this now. This way you're at least giving the local stores a chance to compete.
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