Does it seem like everybody else gets their stuff faster from Amazon than you?
Not everyone gets the super-speedy, one-to-two-hour deliveries. That’s understandable.
But same-day and one-day delivery options can vary by ZIP code, even along the Tacoma-Olympia Interstate 5 corridor.
Same-day vs. one-day deliveries
Amazon does not give out exact numbers, but Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated in April that 80 million people are enrolled nationwide in the company’s Prime shipping program (including this reporter.)
For rural areas, Amazon’s emphasis is on supply. It is, after all, the everything store. For cities, it’s about convenience. Why go out for toilet paper when you can have instant delivery?
Amazon has same-day and one-day delivery options in more than 5,000 cities and towns. Its two-day Prime shipping is more the standard outside urban areas.
Urban areas often get an array of Prime options, including same-day, one-day or “Prime Now,” which is free, two-hour delivery on qualifying items.
If even two hours is too slow, in “select cities,” Amazon also offers one-hour deliveries for $7.99.
For “free” same-day delivery, you must place a minimum order of $35 for qualifying items, according to Amazon’s customer service page. Orders under that amount cost $5.99 for same-day shipping and $3.99 for one-day shipping.
Prime for the rest of us
For now, Tacoma has same-day and one-day Prime free delivery options, while most of its surrounding area has the one-day option.
A check last week on Amazon’s site showed ZIP codes for McNeil, Anderson and Vashon islands, and Key Peninsula all qualifying for one-day Prime free shipping on qualifying items.
Thurston County ZIP codes and points south and west to the coast didn’t register on Amazon’s site as qualifying for either same-day or one-day Prime free shipping.
But delivery zones and options change. Tom Caporaso, CEO of Clarus Commerce, which owns Freeshipping.com and ShopSmarter, said that might be the case for more customers as Amazon expands its Prime options.
“As Amazon continues its fight to get its drone delivery program off the ground and builds more warehouses across the country, the dream of same-day delivery of groceries or physical items could become a reality,” Caporaso wrote in response to emailed questions.
Amazon has more than 70 “fulfillment” centers, including in DuPont, Kent and Sumner, with more than 90,000 full-time employees. It recently hired even more workers for its Kent centers in a multiday hiring event in Pierce County.
On Thursday, Amazon announced it will open another warehouse later this year in Sumner.
This growth means a lot more distribution centers for Amazon to choose from, meaning more items can be shipped in time for Prime qualifications and all the various delivery speed options.
Different fulfillment centers are assigned items in an order for faster delivery, which is great when it comes to speedy delivery, but not so great for those who don’t want to hang around the house multiple days for the arrival of different items in one order.
Amazon did not respond to questions as to whether the growth in fulfillment centers means more split-up deliveries now for customers. Caporaso contends warehouse space remains a factor.
“Shortage of warehouse space, the expense of added personnel and lack of infrastructure all have proportional weight in the battle for unilateral same-day delivery and equal delivery expectations,” Caporaso said via email. “Inevitably, the logistics/shipping space is still an industry predicated on the concept of creating a profitable ecosystem.
“But, for now, consumers are pretty satisfied with receiving their items in two days. A recent study found that all other non-Amazon retailers are averaging five-day standard shipping times — which emphasizes the value of Prime shipping even more.”
Five days are an eternity in Amazon’s delivery world. That makes two days of waiting for the UPS truck not so bad, until we have drones delivering boxes in our driveways.
The Prime sales tax and other payment options
Amazon Prime seems so simple: For $99 a year, at the very least you get free, fast delivery on Prime-qualifying items.
But that advertised $99 membership is the base price, and doesn’t include sales tax, which is applied in the District of Columbia and 30 states, including Washington.
That might be news to the Prime subscribers who live in those states when they see their credit card statement.
Why the sales tax?
According to an emailed response from Amazon Customer Service: “For sales tax purposes, electronically delivered products are considered to be shipped to your credit card billing address.
“Electronically delivered products typically include subscriptions, e-books, digital music, video downloads, digital games, online gaming subscriptions, digital newspapers, digital periodicals, ringtones and electronically delivered software.
“Amazon Services, Inc. has received guidance from the state of Washington that Prime is considered a taxable service and subject to the applicable state and local tax rates. As a result, $7.82 in tax was added to your $99.00 Prime Membership.”
Unhappy with paying $99 plus local tax (if applicable)? Then you might prefer the $10.99-a-month Prime option, which is not a bargain if you go the whole 12 months.
If you are a student enrolled in a college or university with a valid .edu email, you also can qualify for Prime Student at $49 a year after a free trial.
You also can peel off Amazon Instant Video and just pay for that at $8.99 a month (though that doesn’t get you any parcel delivery deals).
Or, just skip Prime. In May, in a bid to undercut Walmart and Target’s shipping charges, Amazon started offering free shipping on all orders of $25 or more of eligible items without Prime (sorry, no same-day turnaround with this), which is lower than its previous threshold of $35.
Debbie Cockrell, staff writer
Walmart asking workers to deliver packages on their way home
Walmart Stores is testing a program that sends store employees to deliver online orders at the end of their shifts, a new push by the world’s biggest retailer to use its large physical footprint to match Amazon’s options for web purchases.
Workers can opt in to earn extra money by making deliveries using their own cars. They’re assigned packages based on where they live so the route aligns with their commute home, according to the company.
Walmart didn’t specify how the employees will be compensated. The test began at three locations in Arkansas and New Jersey.
Walmart is tapping into its 4,700 U.S. stores and more than 1 million retail employees as it seeks to redefine itself in an age of e-commerce dominated by Amazon.
About 90 percent of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of a Walmart, and the company is using those locations as shipping hubs to compete with Amazon on the last mile of delivery. By using workers in their own cars, Walmart could create a vast network with little upfront costs.
“Imagine all the routes our associates drive to and from work and the houses they pass along the way,” said Marc Lore, who took over Walmart’s e-commerce operation last year. “This test could be a game-changer.”