clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What's So "Prime" About Prime Pantry?

If Prime Pantry frustrates Prime members who are spoiled by free, two-day shipping, who wants it?

Amazon’s smiley logo is a good fit for me, a relatively happy customer — an Amazon Prime member, even. I’m also a new parent; the two tend to go hand in hand.

You see, the $99-a-year Amazon Prime service has saved my baby-raising, city-dwelling self umpteen hours of battling traffic en route to the ’burbs for a visit to Buy Buy Baby or Babies R Us, where I would hunt tirelessly for some obscure infant item. Instead, I pick up my iPhone, open the Amazon app, select the item I want and tap the one-click button to order. Two days later, it’s on my doorstep, shipped for free — unless someone steals it, which is another story.

It seemed almost too good to be true … until Amazon started raining on my Prime parade.

Last week, I tried to order a pack of diapers for my 10-month-old. He’s just about to grow into size four, so I didn’t want to order our usual 128-count pack of size threes; instead, I selected the 28-pack of Pampers overnight diapers. A fancy new logo appeared onscreen beside the diapers, announcing that they were deemed part of Prime Pantry, Amazon’s latest effort to deliver certain grocery items to your home.

It works like this: For a flat rate of $5.99, you fill up a box with as many Prime Pantry items as possible. As you browse eligible items, Amazon tells you the percentage of space your item would take up in that flat-rate box. Items include things like a 12-pack of Coke, a cylinder of Pringles and a pack of Old El Paso taco shells. This four-foot cubic box can hold up to 45 pounds of goods.

An Amazon spokesperson said Prime Pantry includes large, bulk items (like a 40-ounce jar of Jif peanut butter), as well as products never before carried on Amazon. Among those things are individual items, such as one stick of deodorant, and smaller packs of diapers, like the 28-count I tried to buy. The confusing thing is that diapers were available before Prime Pantry, but never in such small quantities. This will frustrate lots of parents who, like me, just want to order a pack of diapers (now!), and find what seems to be an item that was previously available for Prime shipping, but now isn’t.

I take issue with three things in this scenario:

I don’t want to pay for shipping. Ever again. Anywhere.

So spoiled am I by Amazon Prime’s free two-day shipping that if you press your ear to the Internet, you can hear me groan upon seeing a shipping charge added to anything I buy online. Customer-service-oriented stores like Nordstrom clearly hear my Prime whines, touting free shipping and returns for nearly all products. But buying — even browsing — on other stores’ websites is now an effort. I have shifted to searching for things on Amazon before looking at a particular brand’s own website.

Take Coolibar, a company that my sister recently told me about. It offers cute clothing, blankets and other stuff with built-in UPF 50+ sun protection. Instead of browsing and buying on, where I’d be forced to wait longer for non-free shipping, trust a new company and enter all new data for my shipping address, credit card and billing address, I first searched for Coolibar items on Amazon. Bingo: I found a Coolibar blanket that can be ordered using Amazon Prime’s free shipping and two-day delivery.

So even when Amazon sells new items and dangles an empty box just itching to be filled with 45 pounds worth of stuff, I don’t want to pay $6 to ship it. I want my free, two-day Prime shipping for everything I buy.

Prime Pantry items take an eternity to arrive.

Nearly everything I buy with Amazon Prime arrives in two business days, but Prime Pantry takes from three to five business days, which feels like forever to a spoiled-rotten Prime member. We want this stuff on our desks yesterday!

So, not only am I paying to ship an item, which I’m not used to doing thanks to my Amazon Prime habit, but it might not arrive until next week. Mmmkay.

And let’s not forget that these are diapers that I’m trying to order — a time-sensitive item in the baby-raising routine.

I can see a grocery store from my front steps.

I realize that this point doesn’t apply to most people, but I live close enough to Safeway to run back if I forget to buy paper towels. I also use Safeway’s iOS app while I shop, and it digitally stalks everything I buy, popping up coupons for those items and making it easier for me to save money. Yes, it’s creepy. But since I’m getting the benefit of a discount on products I would already be buying, I don’t mind. (Just imagine how you might change your buying pattern if Amazon’s “Recommended For You” items came with personalized discounts.)

While you might not have a grocery store across the street, perhaps you simply prefer picking your pantry items off a shelf in person, rather than paying $6 (on top of your $99 Prime membership) to fill up a Prime Pantry box. Or maybe you buy your pantry items in bulk at Costco, where you also pay an annual membership.

The problem is that when something is labeled Prime Pantry, there’s no way to get it other than putting it in a slowly shipped $6 box. One item or several items, they are all coming to you for a fee, and might take up to five days to get to your door.

Where is the magic button that takes Prime Pantry away and lets me buy anything I see using the good, not-so-old-fashioned way: One-click and two-day delivery? Mama needs diapers, stat!

Guess I’ll have to add these to my grocery store list for my next trip across the street.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.