Thanks a lot, Amazon Prime Pantry!

In order to confidently live off of savings, we’ve committed ourselves to frugality. It’s kind of like a spending diet; quick fixes or fasts don’t work. What’s effective is making lifestyle changes and sticking to them. Of course, after months of ‘being good,’ we sometimes digress slightly. Splurges may happen for the most admirable of reasons, for example, a birthday. None-the-less, as with a diet, a little fissure in discipline is when all hell can break loose.

Recently, the in-laws visited. We indulged in some expensive meals out*. I treated to a cooking class at the local tropical spice garden. We ran air conditioning in the main house. While we normally don’t engage in these activities, they were all perfectly reasonable while we had guests.  After all, a commitment to frugality should not make one cheap.

But as it is with a diet, deviations from discipline can feel like small cheats and trigger the ‘oh what the hell’ effect. Soon, both feet are off the wagon as one gorges on a foolish spending spree. For me personally, even as I realize I’m being manipulated by master marketers, I spend my money anyway! My frugality muscles go flaccid and the old ‘consumer-suckah‘ me is back, right where I left off. It’s like people I know with drug addictions. Once they slip up, it’s a quick descent to whatever rock-bottom they previously climbed out of.

After our visitors departed, I thought about our daughters in the US. I decided to send them an early Easter basket (to the devout Christian) or Zombie Day baskets (to the atheists). Instead of chocolates, though, it’d be basics – dental floss, pasta, olive oil.

These things might not sound exciting, but all three girls are at various stages of starting their adult lives. I suspect they might be scrimping on personal care items and pantry necessities. I worry they may not be flossing their teeth or replacing their toothbrushes! It’s important to take care of your teeth. I wish I’d taken better care of mine when I was their ages.

In the end I placed three $100 orders with Amazon Prime Pantry. One order to each daughter. $300 total, even though I intended to send maybe $30 worth of floss and pasta to each daughter.

Amazon Prime Pantry is based upon a brilliant business model**. Items are shipped for a flat rate of $5.99 in a big box. While selecting items, Amazon reports *in real time* the % volume of the package that has been filled. They don’t offer various box sizes. Just one size. So, when you go to place your order and see the box is only 28.7% filled, it’s pretty hard to press the order button. The urge to fill the box to capacity is strong. So, you go back in and add more rotini, some shampoo and bulky items such as clorox wipes, paper towels and toilet paper.

Take that Amazon biz-natches; Oh yeah, I got to 99.2%! ‘Order’.

Back up. I spent 3x what I’d intended. Even as I chose between Charmin and Angel Soft, I understood that filling the box was exactly what Amazon wanted me to do. I knew I wasn’t gaming the system. The Amazon marketers astutely studied their behavioral economics. They designed a cattle shoot that nudged me right into the killing chamber. And I happily mosied in, fully aware, even as I pulled the trigger on my Chase credit card that discharges with a 1% cash kickback. Three times over, I watched as $100 bullets exploded into an arc eastward, toward Amazon.com HQ in Seattle Washington, USA.

Thanks a lot Amazon Prime Pantry! Actually, yes, thanks. I’m glad I did this one last splurge while off the frugality wagon. Our daughters are definitely worth the extra money. That said, we are now climbing … back … on.

*Full disclosure – the in laws treated to most of these expensive meals out, but it still had an ‘off the wagon’ feel to it.

**Amazon Prime Pantry is based on a brilliant, but not perfect business model. It lacks one fundamental feature: the ability to include a note with the package. To each daughter, I wanted to explain,

“Happy Early Zombie Day / Easter _daughter’s name_,

This package is to help you take care of yourself!  The intended message is ‘floss your teeth!’ Although, it’s understandable, that if you miss this note, you’ll read, ‘wipe your butt.’ While both activities are worthwhile, what we really want to say is this: Since we no longer take care of you directly, we hope you take care of yourself with all of the love that we have for you! Happy Easter/Zombie Day.”