Last spring, Amazon made a decidedly unwelcome announcement: It would raise the price of a Prime subscription from $99 to $119 per year, a whopping 20% increase.
Reader, I am nothing if not averse to paying for subscription memberships. Call it my deep penny-hoarding roots, but the evidence is everywhere — perhaps most obviously in my password manager, which is a veritable graveyard of exes’ Netflix logins.
I like fast, free shipping as much as the next millennial, but $119? It just seemed like too much. I didn’t use any of Amazon Prime’s other features, like cloud storage or video streaming, and I doubted I’d top $119 in paying for standard shipping on individual orders over the course of a year.
So in September, when my membership would renew at the higher price, I made up my mind and broke up with Amazon. I followed the rabbit trail to the page where I could cancel Amazon Prime and told them that yes, I was really, really sure.
And then I proceeded to engage in a fraught, on-again-off again relationship with Prime like a lovelorn high-schooler.
This is how it happened.
How to Cancel Amazon Prime but Still Eke Out Free Shipping
Here’s the thing. While I don’t use Amazon all the time, when I do, I’m accustomed to getting my goodies quickly.
For instance, I didn’t want to wait a week for a new set of sweat-resistant earbuds when my old pair gave out because cardio without bad hip hop is just unconscionable.
Neither, of course, did I want to pay the inflated prices for a Bluetooth-compatible set from Target. I was in a bind… and in that particular case, I ended up using my then-boyfriend’s Prime membership to replace my headphones quickly. (Note: His login credentials are now, indeed, part of the Netflix cemetery.)
I stayed loyal to my determination to cancel Amazon Prime for a few weeks, replacing my white noise machine by ordering from the manufacturer. In fact, at the time, it was actually a better deal than the one I would have gotten from the online giant, because LectroFan was running a 15% off promotion.
But then things started to fall apart.
I’d filled up my existing Moleskine notebook and needed a new one — and since I’ve started with Moleskines and am just finicky enough to really care about the collection looking cohesive, I’m stuck with them now even though they’re expensive.
So I ran around looking for one in the Real World, first checking Office Depot and then Target. Office Depot didn’t have one, and Target’s cost significantly more than the on-sale iteration on Amazon, which had this weird, zig-zaggy cover, but that was fine by me.
By the time January rolled around, I found myself taking advantage of the week-long free trial membership Amazon had unexpectedly offered me. I spent a handful of days placing boring orders for Sharpie pens and protein bars and Ziplock bags, saving me trips to Walmart.
When that was over, I moved on to a $2 week-long trial period the company offered, which seemed obviously superior to paying $5.99 in shipping for a single item.
At the end of March, I took advantage of a single month’s membership because I wanted a honing steel for the fancy knife I’d gifted myself at Christmas.
What I mean to say is, I am a certified Amazon Prime addict. Prime and I are in a co-dependent relationship. If you have a recommendation for a counselor, let me know.
So What’s the Deal With All These Trials, Though?
I have to say, when I first quit the service, I didn’t expect things to go awry. But I was offered free or discounted trial memberships almost constantly — which was really surprising, given the fact that Amazon is trying to make more money off its Prime subscriptions.
I got curious about the algorithm behind how these trials are offered: How many times can you re-up your abbreviated version of Prime before you have to spring for the real deal?
But poking around the Amazon Prime Terms doesn’t offer much clarity. It turns out the retailer doesn’t want to tell you how to cancel Amazon Prime! As they state, the company “sometimes offer(s) certain customers various trial or other promotional memberships,” leaving lots of leeway for them to serve up (or not serve up) trials as they see fit.
Some sources say that users are only eligible for one free Prime trial per year, but that doesn’t take the discounted trials into account — and I was definitely offered a free week within the first few months. Obviously, these nitty-gritty details are the type that can probably change on a moment’s notice.
What I can say for sure is this: The psychology of not wanting to pay for shipping once you’ve become accustomed to free shipping is powerful, especially when paying for another trial membership is the cheaper option in the short run.
I’m pretty good at setting reminders to cancel trial memberships, so I don’t regret my turbulent relationship with Prime.
Jamie Cattanach is a freelance writer whose work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Motley Fool, The Huffington Post, Roads & Kingdoms and other outlets. Wave hi to @jamiecattanach on Twitter, or learn more at www.jamiecattanach.com.