Tuesday 3 September 2013

Subscribe & Save with Amazon.co.uk - A handy way to save money or a shopping addicts worst nightmare?

I admit I have a problem with shopping, it could be considered one of my favourite hobbies and my most expensive. Without internet shopping these last couple of years, where I've been mainly stuck at home, might have been a bit cheaper. I don't exactly have expensive tastes, I love a good bargain, I save money when I can, I buy second-hand, love charity shops and car boot sales, I only buy multi-buy offers on things I use, I consider myself pretty thrifty. I just can't work out whether the Amazon Subscribe and Save service is really the best thing for me.

I have a love hate relationship with Amazon, they have some great qualities, huge selection, pre-order price promise, easy to buy from other sellers and easy to pay but with slower delivery than others and unwieldy packaging it drives me crazy. 

I've dabbled with the subscribe and save previously, the first item being a low fat pasta sauce that was impossible to buy in town, the next thing I subscribed to was some manly face masks for my partner but nothing that would arrive monthly. With funds being tight I decided last month I should make a concious effort to look on the site for items both myself and James use regularly. If you have 5 or more items a month then the discount goes from 5% to 15%, a pretty handy saving as long as you need the items in question. With both toiletries and groceries it shouldn't be hard. 

There always seems to be so much stuff you can subscribe to but when I started to look for stuff we regularly use I lucked out. I managed to find 13 items on top of the previous two, most we would use all the time but some are treats. There could be so much more we would happily to subscribe to that we regularly use but I did struggle. I found a roll-on deodrant for James but nothing suitable for me, there just wasn't a wide selection. There are some fabulous items you can subscribe to that you can't usually buy that easily in the UK so it is wonderful for specialist items and the fact that you can subscribe to make-up is wonderful if, like me, you forget to keep up with the basics like foundation and face powder.

The downside is you aren't guaranteed a price. You are given fair warning beforehand, around two weeks so you can either cancel or just skip that month. I found myself doing that this month with the Veet Hair Removal Spray, It had been £4.30 in my July subscription but last month it went up to £5.77 which is still a great price for this product but as I hadn't used the previous one I decided to skip a delivery, a really simple process. I have around 5 items that arrive monthly which means I always have a 15% discount, some items come every two months and Head & Shoulders (500ml) which comes in a pack of 3, I only need once every 5 months, at £8.92 it's still a much better deal than the normal offers in the shop. When you subscribe to an item the longest you can go between deliveries is 6 months, the shortest is 1 month, you can alter when the next delivery of a product is just by choosing the next month you want it arrive without changing the frequency. The maximum you can order of a product is 5 units. 

Some items you can purchase individually others come as they would if you were buying wholesale. I'm a tea snob and will only drink Clipper earl grey along with seasonal Christmas and herbal teas. My local Waitrose stopped stocking the earl grey and the next supermarket I have to rely on my parents going to, to pick it up, I rely on them too much so being able to get them in the subscription is great but it's a pack of 6 x 80 tea bags so I only need 1 every 2 months. It is a bit random the unit size we also get Clipper coffee but that is only a pack of two so we get this once a month.

The principal of the system is good but execution is the thing that bugs me. I've been an Amazon customer for over a decade and I'm well aware that if you want items to arrive in a couple of days you have to pay for postage, if you order multiple items you can wait until they all become available or pay for them to be posted individually. Okay I'm fine with this but when it is the other way round surely Amazon should do the same? Whether it has been 10 items or 6 the orders have come in separate boxes. I can understand with food and toiletries but I doubt anything we order would be effected. In our household it has always been a bit of a joke with the Amazon deliveries, we just laugh as it is only the occasional delivery so not as irksome but now with guaranteed deliveries each month we are seriously filling up the cardboard recycling. Being an enormous company you would think their choice of box sizes would be the envy of most packing companies but in my experiences they never quite get it right. Add to that advanced orders like the subscriptions it shouldn't be that hard to be prepared..

On top of them not sending items boxed together if you order and item a week (or less) beforehand they won't send that order until the subscriptions go out. With the subscriptions going out in several boxes it seems a bit redundant. 

One half goods, one half padding

The contents of the box, not much considering, we were able to pack everything that came in the Amazon boxes that day in just the one box and padded it where necessary

These three items are all subscription items but arrived in a box each

Another box, not subscription items just goods ordered 7-8 days beforehand, items were not dispatched until the same date as the subscription items but at least the steelbook is well protected.

The steelbook worth protecting, The Fall of the House of Usher Arrow steelbook release mine came with the Foxy Brown postcard. The packaging for the steelbooks from Amazon have always been nicely done in my opinion.

I felt so despondent with the packaging from Amazon I actually emailed a very sad complaint, not that I expect much, I got a nice quick response and I didn't expect anything to be done as it has always been this bad. I leave packaging and feedback for items when I can, in future they might cut down on wastage and improve their delivery service. At least we have things for a cheaper price, cardboard to start the fire this winter and as long as you don't order things of vital importance it is worth the wait.

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