Amazon Student: When A Paying Customer Isn't A Paying Customer

When is a discount not a discount? When the product discount customers get isn’t the same thing that customers who pay full price get. See, people finishing up their free year of Amazon Prime as students can sign up for a half-price Prime account for next year. Except they’re not entitled to all of the perks that paying Prime customers get, like sharing free shipping between all members of a household and their different Amazon accounts.

A number of readers have written in about this issue. We’ll let reader Kyle explain how it worked in his situation.

Like you have mentioned before on Consumerist, student Amazon Prime members are having their free year expiring, and I, like all others, received an offer to continue Prime service for a discounted price.

In a way, I had been looking forward to this because the student form of Amazon Prime does not contain all the benefits that paying members of Amazon Prime receive. One benefit, for example, is access to Amazon’s movie and television streaming service. This benefit, however, doesn’t interest me as much as the ability to share benefits with other people in your house. Christmas was less fun this past year as my wife, in order to save on shipping, used my Amazon account to purchase gifts for me. It’s tough to maintain a surprise when my own order history reveals what I’m getting and vice-versa.

So when I received an email telling me that my free year had ended and it was time to start paying, I figured that it was worth it. As an added bonus, the email said that while the price of a paid account is normally $79, I could get it for $39. I bought it, and immediately used it to buy a book that I had been eying with free shipping.

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However, a couple days later, I mention to my wife that I can finally give her free shipping on her own account, and go online to do so. But the option isn’t there. I can’t find out any reason why not because the only documentation on sharing Amazon Prime benefits says that it is available to paying members, which I now am. I end up in an online chat with a help desk representative who traces down some internal documentation which states that, because I paid the discounted rate, I still am a student Prime member with a restricted account. I point out that their website doesn’t make that distinction anywhere and instead makes the exact opposite distinction. He apologizes and says that that’s the way it is. I point out that the email I received clearly implies that I am getting a discount on regular Amazon Prime service, $39 instead of $79, and in no way does it state that the product is cheaper because it is inferior to regular service. He again apologizes and says that that’s
the way it is.

By now, a lot of my frustration is because the representative this calling is a “misunderstanding.” It’s not a misunderstanding, it’s a misleading if not a direct lie. Plus, I have already ordered a product after signing up so I can no longer voice my frustration by cancelling the account. I’m stuck with either biting the bullet on the $39 or paying $79 to get the product that I thought I was ordering in the first place. What they did was a pretty standard bait and switch.

I can understand that they want to prevent students from sharing their benefits because its so easy to be abused when you live in a house with 5 other people. But I’m not in that situation anymore, I’ve graduated and am living with only my wife. If they allowed me to share the benefits with just her, they could have kept me as a customer for life instead of just for the next year.

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