At the moment, Amazon Prime customers can enjoy free grocery delivery via the company's Fresh service for checkouts worth $35 and above. It's a reasonable and pretty affordable minimum purchase requirement, even for those live alone. But starting on February 28th, people would have to add a lot more items to their cart if they don't want to pay extra to get their order delivered to their doorstep. As The Verge has noticed, the e-commerce giant has updated its Fresh grocery page to note that only orders worth above $150 will be delivered for free within a two-hour window by the end of next month.
Amazon will deliver orders between $100 and $150 for $4, while orders between $50 and $100 will incur a $7 service charge. If a customer's items come up to less than $50, they'll have to pay a whopping $10. Since the Fresh service is only available to subscribers already paying for Amazon Prime, which raised its annual fee to $139 from $119 last year, it will become a much pricier option by the time March arrives.
A company spokesperson told The Verge that it's "introducing a service fee on some Amazon Fresh delivery orders to help keep prices low in [its] online and physical grocery stores as [it] better cover[s] grocery delivery costs and continue to enable offering a consistent, fast, and high-quality delivery experience." The spokesperson continued: "We will continue to offer convenient two-hour delivery windows for all orders, and customers in some areas will be able to select a longer delivery window for a reduced fee."
Based on that statement, Amazon could jack up grocery prices if it doesn't charge delivery fees. But as it is, customers will end up paying more anyway — a lot of people can't afford its $150 minimum requirement these days, and those who can may not be able to consume everything they bought before they go bad or are no longer, well, fresh. Amazon has started notifying customers via email about the new service fees, and some social media users are pointing out how outrageous the price jump is to get free delivery.
Customers have come to rely on Amazon Fresh for grocery deliveries when the pandemic started, including folks on the government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program. People who have SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) debit cards can order via Fresh even without a Prime subscription, making it a good (and in some cases, the only) option for people with disabilities. But now they'd have to pay extra on top of their purchase. According to Amazon's website, they can't even use their EBT cards to pay for the shipping fee and will have to provide another form of payment.
"Customers with an EBT card will continue to receive free grocery delivery on orders more than $150."
Uh, the average benefit a single person gets is only $197 *FOR THE ENTIRE MONTH*. This price-hike for delivery fees is going to hurt low-income disabled folks horribly.
— Megan E. Doherty, PhD (@MeganEDoherty) January 27, 2023