I will always remember my first home computer. It was an AST; an acronym for the company’s three founders Albert, Safi and Thomas who were one of the first to enter the PC market. The year was 1995.
As soon as we picked it up from the store, I dove into the box, removing hardware and cables and began plugging B into C, A into D, D into E which resulted in unplugging B from C, D from E etc. There was a learning curve.
Undoubtably, however, when I inserted the CD labeled “The AST Experience” into the drive and it began to share an encyclopedic slideshow of random historic events complete with cutting-edge graphics and sound, it thrilled me to my core. As a communications and mass media major, I was excited for this groundbreaking opportunity to connect and communicate with the world, or at least the World Wide Web. It’s like I had just stepped into the Technicolor world of the Wizard of Oz where it went from the sepia tone to full-on color 19 minutes into the film. There would be no looking back. Ever.
The first step was to insert an AOL disc into the drive and create an account where I could read up-to-date news, play a game and most importantly, send emails, photos or documents out into cyberspace. The final frontier. Of course, Microsoft’s program Word would become integral in my life shortly thereafter. It helped me land my first series of free-lance assignments with a local newspaper.
And I continued to be pro-technology as I used EBay to sell Beanie Babies (my furthest shipping address was from Chicago to Japan), bought too many books on Amazon (when books were their only product!) and I loved searching for information through Ask Jeeves; one of the first search engines. (It re-branded as Ask.com in 2005.)
In 2007, after watching Tory Johnson on Good Morning America do a segment on the growing industry of work-from-home jobs, I researched the niche, submitted my resumes and was hired by Legacy.com.
For me, the internet and computer processing equaled magic and I’ve taken advantage of so much of what it’s historically had to offer. But I have been a hold-out for 17 years on a particular service which one would think I’d have joined immediately: Amazon Prime.
First, here’s a bit of Amazon’s back story. In the first month of Amazon’s launch in 1994, they had already managed to sell books to customers in all 50 states and in 45 different countries. Talk about reading a market. It only exploded in growth from there.
Jeff Bezos liked two names to launch his dream. The first was “Cadabra” (I can appreciate the magic reference) but he was talked out of it. He also liked the name “Relentless.” In fact, if you visit Relentless.com, it actually navigates to Amazon.
In 2005, they launched Amazon Prime for an annual fee of $79.00. This would give the buyer unlimited two-day shipping. They dubbed it “all-you-can-eat express shipping.”
Next, Prime expanded to include unlimited, commercial-free instant streaming of more than 5,000 movies and TV shows in 2011. In 2014, they raised their annual subscription price to $99.00 where it stayed until it went up again to $119.00 in 2018.
I watched all this from the sidelines. They still offered free shipping with either a $25.00 or $35.00 purchase minimum, so why would I pay to get it maybe 2-3 days sooner? (I practically feel myself yelling “hey, get off of my lawn.”) If I really needed something fast, I would pay the $4.99 or $5.99 shipping cost. Plus, we had a streaming subscription with the behemoth Netflix, so that particular carrot didn’t interest me.
And speaking of carrots, Amazon purchased the grocery giant Whole Foods in 2017. A Prime membership would give subscribers discounts on certain food items. There was a standing joke among many that Whole Foods nickname was “Whole Paycheck” since that’s what it would cost to shop there; a discount which still didn’t lure me into the Prime fold.
What would it take to get me to sign up? Oddly enough, a birthday.
My husband and I were watching the NFL championship game, when an ad appeared for Amazon Prime. He started to fast-forward though it, then stopped and rewound. They were advertising a new streaming show. Reacher.
Many readers will recognize the name either from the popular Lee Child books or the two Reacher movies starring Tom Cruise (which Reacher fans always thought was a questionable casting choice for this 6’5” drifter, but I digress.) Since I had very few leads on gift ideas and I knew he was a Reacher fan, it took nanoseconds to put Reacher and birthday together. Prime would be his present.
I get it. In the long run, that is one expensive birthday present. But it won’t clutter the house with another gadget, or be a new sweater that hangs in his closet. Plus, I get to be part of it too through Amazon Household. After 17 years of holding out, I think we’ve saved enough to indulge. We happily watched the first Reacher episode that night (ironically, it’s just o.k. so far.)
Bezos gets the last laugh though. Literally on the exact same day that I ordered Prime, they announced a price increase from $119.00/yr to $139.00. Ouch.
They say it’s because of rising costs related to wages and transportation. They do have an enormous fleet of their own delivery vans now canvassing business and residential districts everywhere. Plus, I’m seeing television ads about Amazon employees getting better healthcare. That is probably part of the equation too.
In case, you’re wondering, they have 150 million subscribers in the U.S., and now it’s 150 million plus one. I’m still going to hold out on one feature though. Alexa and voice shopping. She concerns me. To paraphrase Meatloaf, I would do anything with Prime, but I won’t do that…well, probably not.