Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I'm Prime Stuff !

That's right, I'm a Grade A: USDA Prime: hunk-a beef !

Wait . . . That can't be right.*

*Actually, truth is I am a superb example of a ripped and cut specimen of a man, but you don't know that because I'm really good at disguising it under a fluffy layer of excess calories.

Oh . . . Right . . . What I meant to say is that I'm now an Amazon Prime Member.

For some membership is a coveted accoutrement to be collected like a lothario collects notches on the bedpost. Be it that coveted golf club, or the book club, maybe that not-so-exclusive gentleman's club, (not that I have any firsthand knowledge of gentlemen's clubs! - OK - so there maybe a little knowledge there, but not enough that they know me by name) or even just a seat at the morning McDonald's coffee gathering table, but, being the crotchety old bastard I am, membership is not usually my thing. (Does Sams Club count?)

But for many months now I've been non-member-shamed at Whole Foods.

For years we've been making a trip into the city every week or two and stocking up on produce at Whole Foods and ever since Amazon bought them out the cashier has bugged me for my Prime membership number and I've been forced to admit that I am not one of the elite.

Well no more!  At least for now. . .

I finally broke down and became a Prime Member so now when, after letting that skiny wisp of a spandexed woman with a single carrot in her hand go through ahead of us, we go through the checkout at Whole Foods with our high priced organic-crap-that's-going-to-make-us-live-longer beeping across the scanner and riding the little conveyor down to be stuffed into our socially-responsible reusable bags, I can haughtily hold up my phone and get my membership scanned with a jaunty beep of its own, and then walk away secure in the knowledge that I have claimed my rightful savings.

But the jury is out on whether being a member of such an exclusive club is worth it.

In order to break even on the cost of being a PPM (Proud Prime Member) we will need to realize an average savings of about $2.30 per week at the Whole Foods checkout. I've set up a spreadsheet to track the numbers (and now I have to remember to check the receipt before shredding it because checking after shredding sucks!) and so far it's not looking good, but then again, as a neophyte it could be that I just haven't figured out how to work the system yet and am missing out on some of those Prime Deals.

And throwing the entire fiscal responsibility for my coveted membership onto Whole Foods isn't exactly fair either, after all, there are some 20 additional benefits to being a PPM.

There's the two-day "free" shipping. (Just how the hell is it free if I have to pay to get it? But I suppose calling it "included in the price of membership" just doesn't have the sort of ring that sucks us clueless rubes in as readily as "free" does.) In the past we've always just collected things in our Amazon cart until we made it over the minimum dollar limit for the other, the true, free shipping, then waited patiently for the week-and-a-half to two weeks for stuff to arrive.

That's been good enough for many years now, but it sure was nice the other day to order a low-dollar power-converter for the 12V TV that came out of The Van and have it arrive in a couple days on our Prime membership. I'm not sure how to value that convenience so for now I'll just track what 2-day shipping without membership would have cost, although, now that my account has been activated for Prime, coming up with the non-prime shipping cost is proving to be a challenge.

The other thing I've been threatening to do for a long time now is try out e-reading. With that in mind, and my new Prime Membership in hand, (and desperate to squeeze all the value I can out of my dues) I took a hard look at the various Kindles out there. Fortunately, during my poking around I discovered a free Kindle app for my phone and went that route instead.

It took a while since there is no obvious 'help' button to tell me that instead of touching the universal, but-non-existent-here, app-menu icon I should just tap once anywhere on the screen, but eventually I figured out how to download multiple books at a time and once a book is in the app a data connection is no longer needed which is great. Now, when hiking I won't have to carry a paperback with me, even in signal-less territory, because I always have my phone in my pocket. And it turns out reading on the 2.75 x 5.5 inch screen is a heck of a lot easier than I expected. Between the stark-white background and the screen-optimized font I don't have to take my glasses off and hold the print a few inches from my nose (I'm nearsighted) to read it like I have to do with some paperbacks with non-optimized fonts in faded ink on yellowed paper. (discount books tend to be old books)

In addition, when unexpectedly held up somewhere, such as in the long line at the Post Office the other day, or when The Wife suddenly decides she wants a haircut during one of our supply runs, I have reading material right there in my pocket without having to plan ahead and grab a book before heading out.

Through experimenting I've found that in the dark, like when reading before going to sleep, or in my camp-chair while watching stars and jumping at every monster-like noise out there in the pitch-black woods, I can turn the screen brightness down to about 5%, saving not only battery, but my night-vision too, without compromising the ability to read without straining.  Cool!

Prime Reading, one of those many benefits of Prime Membership, gives me access to a whole bunch of titles I can read for free. Granted, best-sellers are conspicuously absent from this list of titles but then again, I'm not exactly an elitist reader either.

Through what seems like a convoluted process to me at the moment, I can also grab one free book a month off a list of 6 hot titles picked by somebody over at Amazon that are not included in the Prime Reading list.

Since I never buy a book at full price, and almost never at even half price, I'll track my reading savings by valuing each title read at $1, what I normally pay for a paperback.

(by the way, I have no plans to give up paper books and go exclusively e-book, especially since I have nearly 100 unread paperbacks squirreled away on various shelves at the moment.)

Obviously there's a bunch of other"benefits" to Prime membership, such as exclusive Alexa deals, (I'll have enough 'home assistance' when I'm senile and crippled, for now I can manage to turn a light switch on by myself, thank you very much, besides, why the hell would I voluntarily invite yet one more thing that talks into my house?!) Prime Video streaming, (we don't have enough internet or data-plan bandwidth for that) or phone discounts. (so far I've averaged one new phone every 10 years so I don't see that helping out much) All stuff I've lived without so far and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

So now only time, and my spreadsheet, will tell if being a member of this particular club makes any sense for us.


  1. I like the sound of the word spreadsheet and collecting data to analyze. After cancelling my Costco card a few years ago, tiring of the 180 mile round trip and a trunk full of stuff I did not plan to buy ... I have held off on the Amazon Prime. Like you my data limits my online movie watching. I have gone back to paperback and hardback book reading from e-books. I still track every penny spent on a spreadsheet and fear if I had Amazon Prime I would spend more than I have budgeted myself. Good luck on your new adventure and keep us readers updated ... should be fun.

    1. When I signed up I automatically got a 30 day free trial and just yesterday when I was checking my account there was a "if you want to extend your free trial another 30 days click here" button.

      I clicked the button.

      Of course now I not only have to track dollar amounts on savings but also dates, otherwise my end year-end results will be skewed.

  2. When I'm at home, I make full use of the library which can get me just about any book that I want for free. For awhile, I caught up on a bunch of shows on Amazon Prime video, but I'm all caught up now. It's pretty much just the two day shipping which is very convenient. My nearest shopping is about 30 miles away at home, so it does save me some gas. I didn't know about the Whole Foods thing, but there's that 30 miles to get to Whole Foods... Hmmm, maybe I need a spreadsheet too.

    1. Our local library is part of a 5 county e-book consortium that seems to have only 2 copies of e or audio books (We listen to the audio books on the long trips into the city) on hand, most of which are loaned out so we have to get on a waiting list. Then when a book does become available we can only keep it a max of 7 days. If we haven't finished we have to go back on the waiting list for it again. (At this moment there are 1200 audio titles in the catalog and less 100 of them are available without waiting.)

      Needless to say, it's a pain in the tail-regions and we may just go ahead and try paying the $2 to convert a Prime Reading book, which we can keep as long as we want, to audio. The reduction in hassles just might make the cost worthwhile.

      Oh, and since we can't get delivery to our door (or rather gate in our case) we still have to spend gas money to pick up the "free shipping" items. . .

  3. Might I suggest that when you order anything online that you click on this link first. It belongs to a good friend who gives any commission she makes to a family in dire straights in the US. They are able to order food from her earnings which do not affect the cost of your purchase at all. Every little bit helps and it makes no difference how you order from Amazon so please consider it. https://www.amazon.com/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&linkCode=ur2&tag=travwithmir05-20&linkId=PCCBVE4JSU7PGZ2N

    1. Thanks Contessa. We have our own family member who is constantly economically challenged and has her own 'associate account' and the commissions from it do help. The Wife and I are not big spenders, but as you said, every little bit--