Is Amazon's Subscribe and Save System a Scam?

Ok, I know what the Ozbargain mob mentality is like so I expect every idiot and his dog will come out calling me a moron, but hear me out.
As you all know, deals are regularly posted here for Amazon products.
Many of them are pantry staple types that have a subscribe and save option.
This option solicits entering into an ongoing arrangement with Amazon by:

  1. being the default purchase option on many of these types of staple product, and
  2. offering a 10% discount.
    The subscribe and save box tells you that you get a discount, that you can choose the number of items, and the delivery frequency - but it does not tell you that the price you are agreeing to buy the product at is not the price Amazon might charge you next delivery.

It is not until you click the 'learn more' button that this information is revealed.
I strongly suspect that Amazon relies on people not clicking this button and not knowing that they can change the price at whim for the next delivery - because

So, Ozbargain community, is this dodgy behaviour on Amazon's part?
Is their dodginess countered by our dodginess is signing up for the initial discount and then immediately cancelling our S&S after we scored the extra 10%?

Poll Options

  • 18
    1. The Subscribe and Save option is dodgy by Amazon
  • 22
    2. The Subscribe and Save then cancel after getting the initial 10% option is dodgy by Ozbargainers
  • 134
    3. Neither is dodgy
  • 6
    4. Both are dodgy
  • 7
    5. Bikies.

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  • +4

    If they stooged you with a price hike you could just do free returns?

    Also what kind of self respecting ozbargainer doesnt instantly cancel the subscription/ read the terms and conditions before signing up?

    • +1

      Well, I do, but not everyone is a professional like your friendly neighbourhood Ozbargainer.

      • I will add Jimothy that I did feel a little guilty cancelling my subscription after my Coco Pops arrived, having taken the 10% benefit.

        • +5

          1 less ivory butt-scratcher for Bezos

        • They're still making money, don't sweat it. The other 90% of people who didn't cancel their subs are paying for your 10% off. Also see:

          • Credit card late fees and interest
          • Crazy big new credit card sign up bonuses (AMEX Explorer and ANZ Black for example)
          • "First month free" subscriptions
          • New subscriber discounts
    • +1

      Are you able to buy a subscribe and save item once and then cancel immediately every time to get that 10%?

      • +1

        Yes happens all the time

      • +4

        Yep, I’ve done exactly this each and every time.
        S&S to get the initial 10% off, set it at 6 month recurrence.
        Then just go into my subscriptions once in a while to cancel all S&S.
        Haven’t been caught out so far (touches wood).

        It’s like having credit cards, the benefits shouldn’t cost you anything as long as you know what you’re doing.

        • They do make you jump through quite a few pages to cancel, I regularly have 20-30 subs to cancel and is a bit annoying.

        • Also, if you buy something on S&S that is sent to a different address (as a gift or for a friend), it is shown in a separate S&S section.

          ie. it is not aggregated in the same list together.

        • One of the options for cancellation reason is literally “just wanted the initial discount” in the dropdown selection. So they know and don’t care.

  • but it does not tell you that the price you are agreeing to buy the product at is not the price Amazon might charge you next delivery

    Guess you didn't read the comments on all the other threads.

    • As you would have identified had you read my post, I am aware of this, however, most Amazon buyers are not sophisticated, worldly, knowledgeable Ozbargainers - and it is no answer to the claim that Amazon is far from transparent in their selling practices to say that buyers could have found this out by trawling the Ozbargain forums…

  • +1

    Like you've said, when you click "learn more", it says the following:
    "Save on auto-deliveries
    Choose from thousands of eligible Subscribe and Save products. Note that prices may increase or decrease from delivery to delivery."

    That isn't at all hidden. It's the first thing (of 3 short sentences) that you see when clicking "learn more". Maybe it could be made more clear. But I think it's already pretty clear.

    • Understood, but I would say that if they wanted to make it clear they could easily put it in the initial subscribe and save box so you don't have to click through to see it.

      • +3

        Maybe a personal phone call to each person globally that signs up explaining the situation?

  • I just worked this out that the prices fluctuate on some products. I've got a few items on S&S. Picked up some ongoing great bargains. Learnt my lesson and regularly check the page and the new prices for the next round of deliveries.

    • +1

      Be careful - the mob here will tell you that you aren't Ozbargain worthy because you didn't inherit this knowledge feeding from your mother's teat.

      • +1

        Haha yeah yeah!
        Well I was getting Omo sensative 2L for $9.50- supermarket is $22. The cheapest you can get it is 50% off at $11. Amazon is still cheaper.

        Huggies Dry Nites are $8.50 a pack on Amazon. WW Darwin was $15 and CWH is $12.50. Even on special I haven't seen them lower than Amazon's price.

        You've got to shop smart and know your prices

  • +2

    I like it. It’s convenient.

    • Would it still be convenient if the price doubled between deliveries?
      I would actually love the system - if they locked in the price you agreed to pay when you signed up.

      • +8

        That isn't practical as prices do fluctuate, both up and down. That's why you're given a pre-dispatch e-mail to confirm the products and prices in next S&S order. You can review and cancel if you wish. What's dodgy about that?

        Forgot or weren't able to review in time? Simply return products free for full refund. What's dodgy about that?

        S&S being the default option is because it's the cheapest offered. If it was the other way around, you'd probably be calling them "dodgy" for listing the higher price option as default instead of the 10% off one……

  • +10

    You get an email before each shipment asking you to review the upcoming delivery. You can see the price at that time and make changes if you want. I don't see any other way to do it.

    • +1

      This. Just check the email to see if you want the item at the price and schedule. I often push some items back another month. e.g. drinks for work, if we already have enough of something I adjust the timing.

  • Yes to some extent, no to some extent.

  • +4

    You have to confirm your delivery the next month anyway. It tells you exactly the difference in price, up or down and then you have the opportunity to skip that delivery or cancel altogether. If you forget to review and get the delivered, you can return for free.

    I fail to see how they could be anymore generous with those terms?

  • You can't save stupid people from themselves. Some will get burned; some will learn, some will not.

  • +1

    Not dodgy at all. Of course prices of products fluctuate over time. Sign up, get the discount and cancel. Repeat as needed whenever I want the same product - easy win-win for me.

    • Of course prices of products fluctuate over time

      Exactly.. they do in bricks and mortar as well… why should online be different?

  • They send you emails regarding future deliveries with the prices. If you don't like them you can just cancel, like I did in many occasions.

    Maybe learn what is a scam?

  • I think it's just an incentive to get people to use subscribe option. Even if the prices were locked in having customers rely on subscribing would be worth it. The price changes are probably out of Amazon's control. I wish there were an option to get even bigger discounts if you committed to subscribing to an item over a period of a year or so, instead of being able to cancel whenever you want. If Amazon could provide me my noodle soup at cheaper than Woolworths then I'd commit to a year's worth.

  • I think you are trying to conflate 7/11 Fuel Price Lock App features with Amazon items for sale.

    Amazon can't really be locked in forever allowing for that you are already getting an up-front discount by subscribing.

    It is true that Amazon may derive some volume purchasing discount or be able to forward buy against "locked-in" orders.

    Wouldn't you rather have the upfront saving and forward option (but not the obligation)?

    If not, then don't subscribe.

  • How about if I phrase the question this way:

    "Do you think the average punter [not the professionals on Ozbargain] signing up to S&S might think that they will continue to get the same price for future deliveries?"

    This is really the heart of the issue for me. If I put it this way, does it make anyone else think that maybe it could be more clear by Amazon?

    • They might.

      But do Amazon represent that they might still enjoy the same price (and if so for how long).
      (or it is some people might assume).

      And if you subscribe, do you enjoy the lower price if the price falls?

  • +1

    The products we subscribe to already match the 50% off specials at Colesworth, and then beat it by 10% and then deliver it for free!

    • Well, for $60 pa.

      • No, I don't think you need Prime. My subscription is delivered with free delivery whereas I needed to pay delivery when I needed an extra one outside the subscription schedule

  • +3

    Average consumers these days: ‘Oh no, I didn’t read the terms properly. What a scam!’

    • To be fair - when was the last time you read an entire EULA, or even the FB terms of service?

      • +1

        That’s Appeal to Ignorance.

      • Not a valid comparison. This isn't a multiple page document. It's the first sentence (of 3) when you click 'Read more'.

  • +4

    I actually wish there was a function to only send my subscriptions if below a certain price. I’d leave more active that way instead of constantly cancelling them.

  • +1

    I think even if a person automatically cancels their S&Ss Amazon win by getting the person to engage with their ap/website.

    I usually don't cancel straight away, but review them at a later date (99% I cancel - even if the price hasn't changed I can't seem to commit to any schedule!). There's a good chance I'll browse around and therefore a chance I'll buy something else.

  • it does not tell you that the price you are agreeing to buy the product at is not the price Amazon might charge you next delivery.

    Some non ozbargainers don't care about price. They want convenience and even tell Alexa to order dishwasher tablets regardless of the price.

  • I've never let a S&S ride until the next delivery, but don't they email you before the next delivery with the price?

  • -1

    They usually sell postage free… there is no need for you to subscribe to yet another subscription… you don't need Spoterfy… you don't need 50 subscriptions floating around in your name… make your life simple…. don't do it

  • +2

    I think it is sneaky .. I have no problems canceling it immediately but I feel bad for the people who get ripped off since normally subscriptions lock in the price. For example, it’s not like Spotify charges people a random price each month.

  • Set and forget customer is obviously ideal for any business but it must suit a lot of sheeple too.

    • I definitely think they rely on the lazy/dumb tax.

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