[Clarification] Amazon’s Awful Subscribe-&-Save Tactic – Price Not Locked in for your First Shipment

Update 6/17/20: It was never clear why this sometimes happens and sometimes does not. There’s a recent DDF thread which sheds some light on this: apparently, if you update the S&S to ship within a month of the order (e.g. today is June 17th and you update your date after initial order to any date until July 16th), you should not lose the discount as the order ‘updates’. However, if you change the date to a date more than a month away (e.g. today is June 17th and you update your date after initial order to July 17th or beyond), the system then ‘cancels’ and reorders, so you lose the discounts.

Original Post on 12/31/18:

Amazon’s subscribe-and-save program is a nice way to save 5% or 15% on many everyday items which are needed on a regular basis. Multiple Slickdeals members report today a shocking find that the price you see at check out for S&S orders is not necessarily the price you’ll end up paying, EVEN ON YOUR FIRST SHIPMENT.

It’s well-known to veteran Amazon users that after the first shipment the price on your S&S orders are subject to change, but it became apparent today that Amazon will often adjust the delivery date, even when no adjustment was requested from you end, and that results in the order being cancelled and reordered in the backend of Amazon’s system. The system treats it like any subsequent S&S order, and charges whatever the current going price is. That’s not necessarily the price you initially agreed to, and it won’t include other things, like coupons, attached to the order.

Worse yet, no email is sent out from Amazon with information about the cancel/reorder, it’s a behind-the-scenes adjustment. To be clear, I don’t think Amazon is processing a reorder just to gain an extra buck. Rather, the system requires a different delivery date (or you push out the delivery date), and the Amazon system views the first order as if it were a subsequent order with the price not locked in, rather dependent on current market prices.

Initially, I had the word “shady” in the title, but changed it to “awful” since it’s probably unintentional, just the result of computer programs. Folks on Slickdeals point out that this issue also affects affiliates (blogs, etc.) who lose out on their commission for that first order since Amazon considers it cancelled. Obviously, the much larger hit is to the consumer who loses all their coupons, offers, and discounts on the first order. It’ll be interesting to see if this gains traction resulting in corrective action from Amazon.

You can check your cancelled Amazon orders here, that may help you find some (not all) of these issues. Or keep an eye on your Subscribe & Save orders here.

[Update 3/3/19: Another issue with Amazon S&S is discussed in this SD thread with the 15% discount not always reflecting properly.]

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Tommy
Tommy

Even when changing the shipping address for SS, they would cancel and you lose the locked-in price for first order. This is what happened to me when I had to change my shipping address when I move back to the burbs for the lockdown in the city.

Electroman
Electroman

Also remember that if you donate to a charity via smile.amazon.com, that doesn’t apply to “Subscribe and Save” orders, except *possibly* the very first one.

Losingtrader
Losingtrader

Amazon’s gross margin is 3 percent : That’s before credit card fees and all their other costs. They make money on FBA and AWS. The latter is suffering from competitive pressure. Amazon isn’t putting anyone out of business anymore except possibly themselves.This is a $200 stock masquerading as s $1600 stock

debit
debit

Wow. This post aged well.

Bobo
Bobo

Mad props, though, for the poster’s highly accurate name — Losingtrader!

Mel
Mel

This comment did not age well.

Laurel
Laurel

It’s actually true though. Whether or not the stock price is valued appropriately is another story but Amazon makes most of its money on AWS and barely breaks even on its retail operation; it can continue because of its profits from AWS but if allowed on an ongoing basis has scary implications if they put most other retailers who don’t have a cloud services division to subsidize losses and then start to price gouge due to lack of competition.

TB
TB

“barely breaks even” is quite an understatement. Amazon does allegedly make ~60% of its profits from AWS but for a company making close to 12 billion dollars in profits, 3.6 billion income is no joke.

Stryker
Stryker

Incorrect. Amazon makes money on the sales to retail consumers. They just plough it back into other capabilities like AWS, Amazon Video, Whole Foods and constantly show losses.

Ro
Ro

Used to be you could purchase something via S&S and that price would be locked for the 1st shipment. Meaning I could click “Skip” on that first month and get it a month or two later for the locked price. I did this for years.

About a year ago I noticed that this stopped working; if you didn’t get the item the very first month you locked it the price could inflate to whatever Amazon was currently charging.

So now I never skip the first scheduled delivery and I always cancel the subscription once I’ve received it. Never had a problem…

Sam
Sam

I just added a new S&S order and noticed this on the “confirm subscription” page right below the big item price.

“The price of your subscription may change based on the price of the item(s) in your order at the time the order is processed.”

I don’t recall seeing that in the past, but I was on the look out today. I will definitely complain if any item ships at a price other than the original invoiced price (for the first shipment).

Brandon
Brandon

If this happens, chat with Amazon. They generally are more than happy to help you by giving you a credit for the amount. I’m not saying it doesn’t take time, but you at least get something.

Kid
Kid

They did that to 4 of my S&S items. Never got the 1st shipment, no cancellation notice. Just rescheduled the delivery date with new higher price.

Lia
Lia

I’ve used Subscribe and Save for a while. Just checked my Subscribe and Save and found a few items more expensive than I have thought. It is a good idea to check the price and change as necessary for Subscribe and Save. Thanks to this article, I just made a change and saved almost 10$.

shak
shak

I’ve been using Amazon S&S for several years now. When I add an item to my S&S order, Amazon immediately issues an invoice with the date ordered, S&S 15% discount, any coupon savings, gift card credits, Amazon Visa 5% CC points/dollars. It’s all there…and it’s immediately viewable in/on your order’s page. Just before the items are ready to ship Amazon sends an email giving you a chance to make last minute changes. At that point…I always check the items’ invoices one more time. I’ve never had any problem with a canceled/changed/reissued item on an S&S order. My Amazon Visa 5% CC online billing has clickable links to the Amazon orders…and those amounts always matches the bottom line total for each item on the Amazon invoices. So, I haven’t experienced any of the problems outlined here.
One more note…The prices change from month to month…so I often cancel a subscription for an item, and find a comparable replacement that’s on sale…most often this occurs when $2-5 coupons show up for everyday items like TP, paper towels, dish washer detergent, laundry soap, shampoo, etc.

Lisa
Lisa

I noticed it once before on a vitamin coupon I found which I used s & s.. Luckily the coupon was only a few dollars so I didn’t return it. But yeah it’s really annoying that what I agreed to pay for is not the price charged. Can’t believe that’s legal.
I know they don’t charge you till the package is being shipped but I’d rather they charge me when I press pay so I know what’s charged.