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Amazon Subscribe & Save Program Can Save You a Bundle: A Review

Updated on June 19, 2015

Amazon Subscribe & Save Purchases Include Automatic Free Shipping

There is no Costco in my area, nor do I shop at Sam’s Warehouse. In fact, because I have some mobility limitations, I do as much of my shopping online as possible. The challenge is to find “basic necessity” products at a lower cost than they would be in a bricks-and-mortar store and get free shipping as well. If there are additional costs for shipping, they take a bite out of savings.


I Discovered Amazon

Nine years ago I discovered that not only stocked just about anything I might want to purchase other than perishable food, but sold many products (including those ‘everyday use’ items bought regularly) at discount prices and delivered my purchase to my door—often with no shipping fee. At the time Amazon had a Super Saver Shipping plan, and any product eligible for it only required a total purchase of $25 to be shipped (standard) free of charge. Recently, the “Super Saver” designation disappeared from the site, and the total purchase of eligible products (noted on the product description screen) required for free shipping increased to $35 per order. Still, in comparison with many other online vendors, a $35 order is reasonable.

CAUTION: When you check out on Amazon with $35 or more products that are eligible for free shipping, you must manually check the category “Free Shipping”—it isn’t done automatically. If you forget to select free shipping and realize it after submitting your order, however, there’s a fail-safe procedure that allows you to change your shipping or payment method if you do so before the order is processed.

I’ve usually been pleased with my Amazon purchases and, when I wasn’t, Customer Service willingly accepted returns and provided replacements or refunds with no hassle. I’ve long been a cheerleader for Amazon and encouraged my family and friends to check out the site.

Subscribe & Save Program is Great for Family Budgets!


Are You a Subscribe & Save Customer?

Do you shop Amazon's Subscribe & Save Store?

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Subscribe & Save Program = Major Savings

Then my Amazon experience got even better. I discovered their Subscribe & Save program. Most (but not all) of the products listed in the Subscribe & Save Store on the website are sold in multiple units or bulk. The original prices for these products are often lower than you’d find anywhere else. However, when you select a product and choose the “subscribe” feature with a date of delivery and the monthly period you desire between deliveries, you receive a discount on top of the original listed cost. If you select a minimum of five products in the program during one month’s delivery date, the S&S discount increases from 5% to 15%. There is no price minimum required on a Subscribe & Save product; however, the higher the original cost, the more you save through the larger discount. NOTE: The 15% discount does not extend to some baby care products, such as diapers and wipes. Amazon has a special “Amazon Mom” program combined with their PRIME shipping feature that anyone purchasing regular baby supplies should consider.

There are so many products you may currently buy in various bricks-and-mortar stores (supermarkets, discount department stores, pharmacies, pet stores, dollar stores, etc.) that you’ll be amazed how much time, money and effort you can save by buying them the Amazon Subscribe & Save way.

The schedule you select for purchase of any product will depend on the quantity of a product you select from Amazon S&S, how long it will take for you to use it and how much storage space you have to accommodate bulk purchases. (Merchandise eligible for Subscribe & Save is consumable and must be periodically replaced, which is why the program offers great cost savings to the consumer.)

A good example: paper products. I prefer the Viva paper towel brand because the quality is superior—almost as soft as cloth, yet strong. If I purchased Viva towels at my local Kroger supermarket, the largest size roll they stock is Large, and the lowest price I’d find would be $13.99 plus tax for a package of six—and that’s when they’re on sale. (The regular package price is $14.99.) The Giant size roll is not sold at that store, and the Regular roll (which should be labeled ‘Small’) sells singly for $2.12 each plus tax. If I bought 24 of the size Large rolls (four packages) when they’re on sale at $13.99, the total cost would be $55.96 plus $5.04 tax, or $61.00($2.54 per roll). Twenty-four of the single Regular rolls would cost me $50.88 plus $4.07 tax, or $54.95 ($2.29 per roll). Remember—these are smaller size rolls which contain less total amount paper toweling than the Giant size Viva roll, which is not available at the Kroger in my area.

A recent subscription on Amazon S&S for Viva Giant paper towel rolls provided me two 12-roll packages, or 24 Giant rolls of Viva, for $29.22 ($1.22 per roll), with my 15% discount, free shipping and no tax currently due in my state when purchasing on Amazon. (The tax-free feature may change with legislation.) That's a savings of $31.78, and remember, the Kroger towels are a smaller size than those I bought from Amazon S&S.

I fortunately have storage space for all these paper towels, which will last me three months, at which time they will be automatically shipped to me on the “every-three-months” schedule I selected unless I choose to change the delivery period, skip a delivery or cancel it altogether. I might also decide to change paper towel brands in order to get a better buy.

In addition to the Viva towels mentioned previously, here are some products I’ve purchased from Amazon Subscribe & Save at the maximum discount (15%) on a delivery schedule of every three months, showing the savings compared with Kroger at that store's regular (not sale) prices:

Northern Ultra Plus Tissue/48 double rolls

S&S Discounted (15%) price: $20.35 or 42 cents per roll

Kroger price with 9% tax added: $69.59 or $1.45 per roll

Savings: $49.24


Glad Kitchen Can Bags w/Febreeze & Drawstring/90 ct.

S&S Discounted (15%) price: $11.02 or 13 cents per bag

Kroger price with 9% tax added: $21.79 or 24 cents per bag

Savings: $10.77


Community Coffee & Chicory, Medium Roast, six 12-oz. bags

S&S Price: $28.05 or $4.68 per bag

Kroger Price including 9% tax: $65.27 or $10.88 per bag

Savings: $37.22


Sweetleaf Organic Stevia Packets/70ct. in Box/ Purchase 3 Boxes

S&S Price: $6.26 per box/ $18.78 for 3 boxes or 9 cents per packet

Kroger Price including 9% tax: $13.07 per box/$39/21 for 3 boxes or 19 cents per pkt.

Savings: $20.43


Simply Organic Brand Certified Organic Ground Cinnamon, 2.45-oz. bottle

S&S Price: $2.71 per bottle or $2.11 per oz.

Kroger Price including 9% tax: $13.74 per bottle or $4.51 per oz.

Savings: $11.03


On the five products shown in these examples plus the Viva towels mentioned previously, I saved a total of $160.42 buying them through Amazon’s Subscribe & Save subscription program rather than purchasing them at my local Kroger supermarket. That’s a substantial savings. If you have a budget and need to watch your paper money (as well as your coins), this may be a way for you to stretch your shopping resources.

And, although Amazon's corporate headquarters and a growing number of warehouses are located in the U.S., they now have a local presence in many other countries as well, plus they ship internationally.

Buying in Bulk Saves Even More


Amazon’s Subscribe & Save Store offers the following product categories: grocery; beauty, baby and child care; household supplies; vitamin and dietary supplements; personal care; sports nutrition; OTC healthcare; pet supplies and business supplies.

Within these categories are literally thousands of products from which to choose. Since many of these items are products most people use every day, Subscribe & Save is a great way to save money on things you plan to purchase anyway.

If you see terrific bargains in bulk lots, but don’t have sufficient storage space to make such a purchase practical, why not join with a family member or friend and go ‘halfsies’ on bulk purchases. You can even spread the savings among three or four people.


Pros and Cons: Nothing’s Perfect—Not Even Amazon

Even with Amazon’s huge volume sales and (usually) bargain prices, it’s still up to you to do your research and shop wisely. Numerous vendors sell on Amazon Marketplace, and their prices are not consistent. In fact, both vendors and prices fluctuate frequently within the site, sometimes creating broad price ranges, so you should always comparison shop before you order. You may find a lower price from another Marketplace vendor on Amazon, at another online site or even at a bricks-and-mortar store in which the price includes tax. (Just remember to count any shipping charges added by another online vendor as part of the overall cost.) A majority of merchandise sold on Amazon is fulfilled within the store’s numerous (and increasing) warehouses and shipped to you. Other products are shipped directly from the vendors.

It's just smart shopping to manage your S&S subscriptions monthly to ensure you're still getting the best deals before shipment.

This FedEx-delivered box arrived enclosed in a large plastic bag through which powder was visible

I open the box...hesitantly.
I open the box...hesitantly. | Source
Everything in the shipping box was covered with powder from an open container.
Everything in the shipping box was covered with powder from an open container. | Source
Many items were ruined. On top of that, I had a horrible mess to clean up!
Many items were ruined. On top of that, I had a horrible mess to clean up! | Source

Speaking of Shipping....

Delivery: This is my pet peeve—Amazon uses UPS almost entirely for delivery. Even when shipping small items, they ground ship via UPS in a two-part procedure to the nearest post office, from whence it’s delivered by a postal delivery person the remainder of the way to the door. (If it's damaged by UPS, the USPS delivery person is embarrassed to give it to me.) I will tell you without hesitation: I hate UPS! I state this because, of all the shipping boxes that have made their way to my door during the past decade, too many of them with the UPS label have been damaged. “Damage” refers to the outer shipping box, smaller interior packing boxes, as well as merchandise within the boxes.

When one of my grandsons was in school, he worked part time for a local UPS warehouse, and he confirmed what I’d assumed: UPS employees routinely mishandle shipping packages because the company’s priority is speed, not careful handling.

My grandson described the method by which he was trained to unload and stack shipments. Boxes are THROWN from one person in a line to another to another until they reach the area where they are to be temporarily stored. At that point, they are thrown again to their resting place—even if it is high atop eleven other large boxes. Even if the box is clearly marked, “FRAGILE,” and glass can be heard clinking inside, it’s still THROWN. Need I say more?

I’ve lost track of how many boxes UPS delivered to me that were completely torn open, punctured with holes and/or the contents damaged as well. There have been more than a few totally wrecked boxes dumped on my porch by UPS delivery persons who RAN back to the big brown truck before I could get to the door. (If they can reach the truck before I yell at them to wait, they pretend not to hear and drive away.)

I also ship a lot of packages, but never by UPS. In the United States, the USPS system has the best record (for me) of delivering packages (those I send and those I receive) without loss, theft or damage. I think USPS service beats that of UPS, FedEx and all other delivery services combined--by a mile!

Amazon allows customers to leave feedback about shipping as well as products ordered, so I’ve continuously complained about UPS for years. Either they don’t receive enough total complaints to warrant a change in delivery companies or UPS gives them such a good price to keep their huge volume business that Amazon can afford to replace all the merchandise ruined by UPS. In my opinion, that lowers Amazon’s overall standard of customer service. I’ve even conveyed this to CEO Jeff Bezos in a long email (which he passed along to a director to answer), but UPS remains the main delivery option for anything bought from Amazon.

Even with the company’s “no hassle” policy of refunds or replacements, having to cope with damaged products is exceedingly frustrating. After waiting for a week to get my order, it’s maddening if I have to wait another week to get something replaced because it was ruined by UPS. “Frustration” doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about cleaning up something that’s broken open and spilled within a shipping box.

UPS delivery is one of the reasons why I no longer buy anything from Amazon that is: (1) liquid; (2) powdered which might not be sealed; or (2) canned. (I also don’t like badly dented cans.) This policy of mine significantly reduced the number of products I once bought from the site. I either purchase these from other online vendors that pack carefully and use USPS or FedEx (the latter is somewhat better than UPS, though not as good as USPS), or I buy from a bricks-and-mortar store.

The other reason for not buying liquid, unsealed powdered or canned products is that, as Amazon expands its warehouse system and adds employees, their packing methods are suffering. I’ve experienced a couple of shipments for which the product damage couldn’t be blamed entirely on UPS (though I feel certain their mishandling worsened it). There is a right way and a wrong way to pack and cushion products for shipment. When they are improperly packed, they’re prone to damage in transit. (I included my thoughts on this issue in my message to Jeff Bezos. It remains to be seen if the problem will be addressed. Probably not, since I’ve read that Amazon actually pays disgruntled employees a bonus to quit rather than try to resolve problems, even if those employees are reporting internal Amazon issues.)



In spite of less-than-stellar shipping practices and prices that fluctuate frequently, I still find great bargains on—particularly within the Subscribe & Save program. As long as I buy products that are unlikely to be damaged in transit (paper or other products that I know are tightly sealed inside other packaging)—regardless of the shipping box’s condition upon arrival—I continue to take advantage of huge savings on some everyday products. You can, too. Why not check out the broad variety of products on Just look for the phrase, ‘Shop the Subscribe & Save Store.’

UPDATE, June, 2015: Amazon has been limiting some items in the S&S store only to Prime members (usually labeled "Pantry"), but recently my favorite bathroom tissue showed up on the Amazon site as available at a discount only to Prime members. That really made me mad, so I fired off one of my infamous "assertive" emails to Amazon telling Jeff Bezos that he can't force me to become a Prime member and that tactic could backfire in his face.

That was yesterday. Today I received this reply:

If you started a Subscribe & Save subscription for an item when it wasn't available exclusively to Prime members, your subscription will continue normally.

However, if you cancel your subscription you'll only be able to subscribe to the item again if the item stops being available exclusively to Prime members or if you become a Prime member.

SO . . . be careful not to cancel a subscription that you may want to buy at a discount again. If you don't want it right now, just change your delivery schedule to a longer range and check it periodically. Subscribe & Save can still give you bargains, but the term "Buyer Beware" is very much in order. Keep a close eye on your S&S account (via the link "Manage your Subscribe & Save Items") and be cautious about what you order in the same month that might suffer packing and shipping damage if sent all at once.


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© 2014 Jaye Denman


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