If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you probably got an email today announcing “Amazon Prime Pantry”, a new service that, uh, lets you pay Amazon more money. But what is Prime Pantry… and why would you use it?
1. It’s A Restocking Service, Essentially.
In the broad strokes, it’s fairly simple. Prime members pay Amazon a $6 flat fee, and that gives them a box that can be filled with up to 45 pounds of household necessities. Amazon tracks the amount of weight and space used, and tells you when your box is full. Then you just ship it.
2. It’s Amazon’s Attempt To Fight Off Bulk Stores.
Tellingly, Amazon tries to talk up visiting Costco and the like as if it’s an enormous pain in the butt, and don’t you just want to pay Amazon $6 instead? It’s a pitch that we’re a bit skeptical of, especially as we haven’t done the math on what you might save compared to buying in bulk. But it’s undeniably a convenient service.
3. It’s For Non-Perishable Everyday Items.
Essentially, it’s all the stuff you’d normally go to the store for: Cans of soda, diapers, canned foods, pet food, laundry detergent, cat litter… all the stuff you’d normally just run out to the store to get can instead be chucked in a box and shipped to you. Normally, $6 is a bit high of a fee for that convenience. On the other hand, depending on where you live, that could save you a surprising amount of money in gas.
4. Sorry, No Off-Brands.
A big setback to the service, as far as we can see, is the near-total lack of generic products. If you were hoping to save a little money by buying generic through Prime Pantry, sorry to disappoint but it’s not happening right now. This even extends to variants of popular products; as a fan of Quaker Oatmeal Squares, I’m profoundly disappointed that the superior cinnamon version isn’t available. Perhaps, as the service broadens, it might start adding other brands, but we’ll have to wait and see on that one.
5. And No “Luxury” Brands, Either.
Anybody hoping to perhaps save themselves a trip by purchasing something higher-end through Pantry is also probably going to be disappointed. It seems that Amazon is currently limiting the service to the absolute best-sellers of each category, and that doesn’t include even popular high-end brands like, say, Blue Buffalo in pet food, and organic fans will find a more limited selection than they’d like. It’s essentially limited to the stuff you find in a convenience store. Which does raise the question of why you’d even bother to use this when convenience stores are, well, convenient.
6. It’s Convenient, But Too Limited.
Granted, being able to just click and fill up a box of necessities is incredibly useful. But by the same token, Amazon’s pricing isn’t particularly competitive in some areas, and the limited selection raises a few eyebrows. True, the local Costco isn’t rife with options in some areas, but it’s still got more than this. If you’ve got a college student, this is a good way to fire off a care package, but otherwise, Costco is still your best bet.
Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.