Looks like it’s Prime or nothing

Online shopping addicts rejoice: The coveted Amazon Prime is now available in Singapore. Starting this week, Singapore customers who sign up for Prime will be able to enjoy benefits like exclusive access to free two-hour delivery on orders over $40, and unlimited free international shipping on orders above $60 (on qualifying goods).

Members can also stream or download Amazon Prime Originals like The Grand Tour (premiering Dec 8), plus access Twitch Prime, a gamer’s heaven for free in-game loot. Membership starts at $8.99 a month, but is available now at an introductory promo price of $2.99 a month.

It all sounds well and dandy—if the e-commerce giant hadn’t secretly removed free shipping to Singapore just a day before. Previously, Singapore customers could enjoy free shipping on orders for qualifying goods above US$125, even without a Prime membership. The introduction of Prime Now in July, an app that didn’t require Prime membership either, meant that on top of that, customers here could shop from a limited catalog of over 10,000 items and have it delivered within two hours.

A staff member picking out items. Photo credit: Amazon

So what do all the new changes mean? First, that customers will now have to pay for shipping on any orders to Singapore, regardless of how large the order is. That means that if you want to have an item delivered here for free, you’ll have to sign up for a monthly Amazon Prime membership—which, sure, entitles you to great perks, but pretty much makes one-off purchases on the US site (shipped free) impossible. No more incentive for a collective haul.

Also, the selection available to Singapore customers is reduced drastically—from what’s on the entire Amazon site (more than 390 million items), to what Prime customers here can actually order (more than 5 million items).

Of course, there are perks to this. As opposed to the original offerings of 10,000 items via the Prime Now app, Prime members will now be able to shop from a larger albeit still limited inventory. You’ll also get a guaranteed shipping time of seven to nine days; while shipping straight from the Amazon US site takes up to eight to 15 days. And there's no denying the attractive subscription price.

It all comes down to what kind of a shopper you are—one who makes few but large orders, or one satisfied with small, frequent purchases. If you fancy yourself the latter, the new changes will benefit you (especially at $2.99 a month).

All we'll say is it’s quite a smooth tactic—subtly influencing online shoppers who want to make the most of their paid subscription, to place regular orders. And because nobody ever likes paying for shipping, it’s essentially an ultimatum for customers to sign up for Prime.

While we ourselves weigh the pros and cons of these new announcements, we can only ponder the wise words of one astute netizen: “Who needs Amazon when we have Taobao?”

Who indeed.