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Is Amazon Considering Ditching the $299-a-Year Fee for Its Fresh Grocery Delivery Service?

Amazon keeps pushing back the end date of free trial periods for new customers, raising the possibility that the company may be reconsidering the price point altogether.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

When Amazon launched its Fresh grocery delivery program in Los Angeles two years ago, it said that customers would have to pay $299 a year after a 30-day free trial for access to the service. The membership, dubbed Prime Fresh, would be an upgraded version of the popular $99 Prime two-day shipping program that also includes access to a photo storage service and streaming movies and music.

But a funny thing has happened since then. Amazon keeps pushing back the end date of free trial periods for new customers, raising the possibility that the company may be reconsidering the price point altogether.

An Amazon spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment, so for now we’ll have to follow the bread crumb trail. First, some context: Amazon began testing its grocery delivery service of items like fresh produce, milk and steaks back in 2007 in the Seattle area. In 2013, the company finally expanded outside of its hometown to parts of Los Angeles, and has since added grocery delivery zones up and down California, as well as in certain areas in New York City, Philadelphia and northern New Jersey. Orders that are placed in the morning can be delivered on the same day and orders placed later in the day can be delivered the following morning. The service also includes a pretty large selection of non-grocery goods like books, toys and tools that can be combined into Fresh orders.

When it launched in New York in October, a free trial was supposed to run only through year’s end. Eight months later, customers can still get Fresh deliveries in New York without upgrading to the $299 membership, and the site now says they’ll be able to do so through September. The same goes for regular Prime members in Seattle, Philadelphia and parts of New Jersey, too, where the initial free trial cutoff for Fresh deliveries was supposed to be the end of June.

In addition to these changes, Amazon has also rolled out a new pricing option in California, according to Seattle tech blog Geekwire. It allows Prime customers to choose to simply pay $7.99 per delivery instead of upgrading to the $299 a year Prime Fresh membership.

To make matters even more confusing, Amazon has started offering some refrigerated and cold grocery items through its Prime Now two-hour delivery service in cities like Baltimore where the full Fresh grocery service isn’t available.

So what does all of this mean? Amazon could be pushing back the free trial dates because it hasn’t built up enough demand in these areas to start charging for the service. Or it could want to give itself more time to gather results from the new pay-per-delivery option in California before potentially rolling it out in other markets. There’s also the possibility that the extensions are premeditated as a way to get people to try the service multiple times before having to pay up for a membership, with the hope that they get hooked along the way. Finally, Amazon could be considering folding all of its Fresh grocery catalogue into the Prime Now service.

The only thing that’s clear is that eight years after Fresh first launched, Amazon still hasn’t landed on a uniform pricing strategy.

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