My first experience with Amazon was in college – I believe they were only in business for a year or so and only sold books – and I decided to order a textbook from them. I was tired of paying ridiculous textbook prices and like so many of us, I was looking for technology to improve my life.
I ordered the textbook UPS BLUE (2-DAY expedited delivery) as I had to read chapters of the book over the weekend for a test the following week. The book showed up late, and I barely had time to read what I needed before class. When I called Amazon to complain, not only did they reverse the shipping charges, but they reversed the entire cost of a very expensive textbook making the entire transaction free. To a young, minimum wage earning kid struggling out on his own…that kind of customer service is all it took. I was hooked.
Since then I have easily spent tens of thousands with Amazon. I enjoy my Amazon Prime Membership with all the TV shows and movies and their free shipping, their new radio station, the free cloud storage, and my Amazon Kindle was an extension of my body for several years until I got an iPad and now use the Kindle app daily.
But another benefit of Amazon is how it has improved my shopping trips to the grocery store. I know many people use Costco or Sam’s Club to buy large bulk items, but the annual entrance fee*, the frenzied mobs, long lines, full parking lots and old people sample-hopping their lunch discourage me when there is only so much I want to buy there. There is a value to having something delivered right to your front door, no hassles, for free.
And at the grocery store, how many times have I bought the Super-Max cost saving giganto-block of paper towels, and the mega-block of toilet paper and the biggest box or bottle of laundry detergent their shelves can hold without bending only to find I have just enough room left in my cart for a Pez dispenser? Who wants to decide, due to space constraints, if toilet paper or a loaf of bread is more important this week?
For three years now I have stopped buying anything that large that comes in a commodity form from the grocery store, and now I get all of it from Amazon, to my door, for free, at comparable or better pricing.
The following is a list of bulk items I buy at various levels of regularity from Amazon.
Boardwalk Laundry Detergent in a 40 pound pail. The last pail I bought lasted me 1 year and 7 months for a family of four, delivered for free to my door for $39. A comment on Amazon says it will do about 328 full loads ($0.12 a load). I keep the pail wherever and just use it to refill a plastic container with a scoop in it that I keep by the washing machine.
Scott Tissue in a 27 count/1000 sheet bundle for $19.77 ($0.73 a roll).
Sparkle Paper Towels, 24 giant rolls for $25.99 ($1.08 a roll).
Coffee Bean Direct, whole bean coffee, 5lb bag for $36.33 ($0.45/oz). They have dozens of varieties for sale including decaf and decaf made without chemicals.
Dial Shower Soap, 30 bars for $27.99 ($0.93 a bar).
Great Northern Popcorn, 50lbs to produce 3,200 oz’s of popcorn for $58.97 ($0.018/oz). For comparison, Regal Cinema’s large popcorn tub is 20 cups (160 oz). That means you could make 20 large popcorn tubs for $2.94 each.
AJM White Paper Plates is the ultimate in thrifty shopping for 1,200 9″ plates at $28.26 ($0.02 a plate) but I found that they stuck together too much for my taste and you’d need two if the food had sauces or liquids so I switched to Dixie Paper Plates (soak proof, cut resistant, a little sturdier) for 220 10″ plates at $17.99 ($0.08 a plate).
So what does this mean for you?
By example, let’s say you buy the Palmolive Dishwashing Liquid that I buy in a 5 gallon pail for $62.47 ($0.097/oz). Target sells the typical 38oz bottle of Palmolive for $0.10/oz so right off the bat, it’s a better deal. Now add in the personal time and gas saved not driving there, pushing a cart, standing in line and multiply that by the 16 times you’d have to pick it up while your at Target to equal just one 5 gallon pail delivery right to your door. Then add in the 5% or 15% subscription savings (see details below) and sales tax savings and you’re down to $0.079/oz (depending on your sales tax). Amazon is actually cheaper across the board, and even if it were the same price or even slightly higher, all of the additional time savings to you is worth having it delivered right to your front door and you can focus on buying what you really want at the grocery store instead of all the humdrum needs that are constant and never changing.
Let’s look at WalMart which does much better. WalMart sells a 90 oz bottle (not in all stores) for $0.054/oz which is $0.043/oz cheaper than Amazon which means you would pay $3.87 more for that same volume on Amazon than at WalMart…but…you’d only pay $1.62 more for those 90 oz after you factor in the subscription savings and sales tax savings. Is your time worth more than $1.62 just so you can buy 7 bottles of Palmolive (equivalent to one Amazon pail) across multiple trips to WalMart (gas & time) when you can have just one pail delivered to your front door and never have to think about it again, or go to do the dishes one day and find out you have none and you have to make a special trip? These are the decisions we each make.
Some final thoughts…
If you sign up for Amazon’s “Subscribe & Save” service you get an additional 5% off of everything in your subscription, and 15% off if you sign up for 5 or more subscription items and you can decide what the frequency will be for each item and each can be different.
It pays to look at the “other sellers” section because if you don’t have Amazon Prime, you can often buy it at the same price as Prime, the sellers simply break out the shipping. If you do have Prime, sometimes the other sellers will beat the Prime price, so always worth taking a look.
Prior to the impoverished and bankrupted Communist State of Kalifornia grabbing for tax money, you could order all of these items from Amazon tax free, which was an additional savings of 7.5% up to 10% (depending on city) compared to store shopping, however your state may not have joined the communists yet and you can still bag that discount.
When you add in your state sales tax savings, plus the 15% subscription savings, you could knock another 20% to 30% off these prices.
It pays to check on the price of these items from time to time as new sellers and new products come to Amazon all the time so it’s always good to vet your bulk products occasionally against other similar products and the “other sellers” to make sure you are still getting the best deal.
I often buy more than just one box of these items, for example, I will order four boxes of the toilet paper so I never have to think about buying toilet paper ever again, well, at least not for a long, long, long time which means I never run out, there are no frantic calls to anyone to remember to buy “x” on the way home for something as boring and mundane and irritating as toilet paper. If that’s not a quality of life improvement, I don’t know what is.
*I know Amazon charges more for their subscription than say a Costco subscription, but I honestly purchased Prime for their streaming video selection which at the time was $6.58 a month, comparable to Netflix at $7 a month (which I also have, and in combo with an HD leaf antennae to get the basic channels in HD I have dumped cable as a result), the “free” shipping was just a bonus and I don’t use it half the time anyway as Amazon gives a $1 credit on your order towards video rentals or book purchases if you don’t choose the expedited Prime shipping, so I get several “free” movie rentals every year as I don’t always need birdseed to be at my doorstep in 48 hours, and the birds are cool with that.