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Amazon Wants Patent for All-You-Can-Eat Shipping

timothy posted about 8 years ago | from the patent-system-still-broken dept.

76

theodp writes "USPTO documents released Thursday show that Amazon is seeking a patent covering subscription-based shipping, aka Amazon Prime. Among the seven listed inventors is Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who has been singing the praises of Amazon Prime to Wall Street."

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I don't understand... (3, Informative)

mrxak (727974) | about 8 years ago | (#15839132)

How can you patent a payment method? This doesn't make any sense.

Re:I don't understand... (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 8 years ago | (#15839165)

In America you can sue anybody for anything. Same with patents, apparently.

Re:I don't understand... (4, Interesting)

teflaime (738532) | about 8 years ago | (#15839169)

So, it's almost guaranteed that they will grant the patent. Because a room full of cocker spaniels could exercise better judgement than the US Patent Office.

Re:I don't understand... (1)

Xichekolas (908635) | about 8 years ago | (#15839202)

If I had mod points you'd get a +1 Funny... mainly for working cocker spaniels into the discussion...

Re:I don't understand... (2, Funny)

B11 (894359) | about 8 years ago | (#15839396)

How dare you insult the intelligence of a room full of cocker spaniels, you insensitive clod!

Re:I don't understand... (0, Flamebait)

Roody Blashes (975889) | about 8 years ago | (#15839618)

Yea, they're so wholly idiotic that they're raking in huge amounts of money from corporations without having to do much work, since they don't really vette the applications any, leaving the legwork up to the company legal departments, thus basically engaging in a business model in which rich people willingly hand them huge wads of cash for no actual service in return.

What morons they are!

Jesus, I wish I could be that stupid.

Just out of curiosity, is there anybody on Slashdot who actually thinks their comments through anymore, or is it pretty much the norm these days that no matter how successful a process is in its goal, the people engaging in it are "idiots" and "stupid" if the nerd collective finds it unappealing?

Re:I don't understand... (2, Insightful)

teflaime (738532) | about 8 years ago | (#15839653)

is there anybody on Slashdot who actually thinks their comments through anymore Conversely, how many Slashdotters read what other people actually say? I didn't call anyone stupid or an idiot. I said they exercise poor judgement. Oh, and btw, the US Patent office is supposed to exercise judgement in determining what is patentable. That they may choose not to is, in and of itself, poor judgement.

Re:I don't understand... (-1, Flamebait)

Roody Blashes (975889) | about 8 years ago | (#15839697)

Blah blah. You made a snide, derogatory remark without any justification for it. The specifics are unimportant, and if you're that much of a prick about technicalities, do the substitution between "idiots" and "people lacking judgement" yourself, because the content of the post is just as valid whether it's directed specifically at you or at the Slashbot community as a whole.

Now sod off you pedantic little whelp. I don't have the patience to deal with numbskulls who want to bicker over the specifics of a thing to try and cover their asses after they say something stupid. The USPTO is pulling in hundreds, in some cases thousands, of dollars in fees per patent application and leaving most of the work up to the businesses anyway. They're doing a fine job of handling applications, and your idiotic take on the matter doesn't change that.

Re:I don't understand... (1)

hackstraw (262471) | about 8 years ago | (#15841330)

the US Patent office is supposed to exercise judgement in determining what is patentable. That they may choose not to is, in and of itself, poor judgment.

"Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment."

-- W. Wriston, former Citibank CEO

From what I know, there is something like a 60% annual turnover rate in the USPO. The only exception is the "other" office that patents porn and dildos.

Patents started as a good theory turned into yet another form of payola and big business practice.

Re:I don't understand... (1)

Amalas (949415) | about 8 years ago | (#15839190)

Because it's X, on the internet!

Re:I don't understand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15839295)

Because it's X, on the internet!

Yep.

1. A method, comprising: an e-commerce site receiving over a network input identifying a user; based on the input identifying the user, determining whether the user is a current subscriber to a subscription-based shipping program that provides a plurality of subscriber shipping options for each of at least some items offered on the e-commerce site for the duration of a subscription; receiving over the network input specifying at least one of said at least some items that the user wants to order; if the user is a current subscriber to the subscription-based shipping program, generating an order for the specified item directing the item to be shipped according to one of the plurality of subscriber shipping options instead of a non-subscriber shipping option.


Over a "network input"? That's a horse of a different color! Patent granted!

Re:I don't understand... (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | about 8 years ago | (#15839193)

That's how it works these days. The most trivial idea is reworked as some kind of novel, "intelligent" apporach that obviously no one would have ever used if they hadn't introduced it. For example, the whole "Just In Time" approach. "Um, you're shortenging warehouse time." "Yeah, but we're like doing it a cool, intelligent, systematic way, pay me big consulting dollars." Next, we're going to have "customer-oriented solutions" being patented.

Re:I don't understand... (1)

intrico (100334) | about 8 years ago | (#15839213)

You can *apply* for a patent for anything. You can apply for a patent on your own style of walking if you wanted to. That does not mean the patent would be actually granted. What's curious is the fact that these companies even dare apply for patents on such obvious concepts.

Re:I don't understand... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 8 years ago | (#15839272)

You can apply for a patent on your own style of walking if you wanted to. That does not mean the patent would be actually granted.

But with the current incompetancy of the USPTO, it's a safe bet!

Re:I don't understand... (1)

Aladrin (926209) | about 8 years ago | (#15839382)

Actually, if they didn't, someone else probably would come along and try. And if the other company DID manage to get a patent, Amazon would have a lawsuit on their hands.

They can't just say that's what they are doing, though, or the patent wouldn't be granted.

It's a sad, sad system.

Re:I don't understand... (1)

StarvingSE (875139) | about 8 years ago | (#15839580)

Even if a patent was granted to another company, wouldn't Amazon still be safe under prior art?

I thought patents were supposed to be for actual inventions. You know, those innovative ideas that change the way we live out our daily lives? Since when does a subscription service count as an innovative idea. Why doesn't amazon just apply for a patent for "a web-based ecommerce sevice where people click on shit, buy it with a credit card, and have it shipped to their house???" This is asinine.

Re:I don't understand... (1)

rk (6314) | about 8 years ago | (#15841243)

Insert "Ministry of Silly Walks" reference here.

Re:I don't understand... (3, Funny)

Wyrd01 (761346) | about 8 years ago | (#15839263)

With stupid patents like this:
I wouldn't be surprised at any new patents that come out these days. Let's all just hope for a complete overhaul of our patent system.

Re:I don't understand... (1)

EEBaum (520514) | about 8 years ago | (#15841108)

Hope? How about less hoping and more writing to congresspersons...

Re:I don't understand... (3, Interesting)

PFI_Optix (936301) | about 8 years ago | (#15839290)

It's not a payment method, it's a subscription for flat-rate shipping. I find it quite creative, and very useful for those who buy a lot more books than I do. That said, it's not an invention, and shouldn't be protected by patent law.

What we need is something like a short-term copyright/patent where a "minor innovation" is protected for a short period of time so that its creators can get some benefit from being the first to do it. 6-12 months would be sufficient for Amazon to establish this program as being "theirs" and make it obvious that anyone else who does it later is an imitator.

I like this idea (2, Interesting)

paladinwannabe2 (889776) | about 8 years ago | (#15839641)

Having 'mini-patents' that only last a short period of time- say, 3 years- would be neat. In fact, all software patents and 'business method' patents should have this shorter limitation. 3 years is enough time for people to make a profit off software (if it isn't, they will probably never make a profit off it) and having limited protection might help companies feel safer about investing in new technology. Plus, it means that stupid stuff like this would only be an issue for 3 years, instead of 20 (and if Moore's Law holds, who knows what computers will be like in 20 years?)

Re:I like this idea (1)

PinkPanther (42194) | about 8 years ago | (#15840423)

Having 'mini-patents' that only last a short period of time- say, 3 years- would be neat.
But what is the point to these mini-patents? Someone comes up with an idea that is simply an increment to existing ideas, so they get a 3-year exclusivity window?

The problem with the 'mini-patents' idea is that it opens the floodgates to abuse. The overseers of such a program (e.g. USPTO) would not put too much effort into evaluating the validity of a 'mini-patent' as the worst case is they block innovation for a "small period of time".

At least with the 'major-patents' there are today, the effect of being wrong (exclusivity for a long (indefinite???) period of time) is enough that bureaucrats and judges are obliged to take a look at any patent that is in dispute...heck, it might be nice if they'd spend some more time evaluating them prior to awarding them.

The USPTO can't keep up with the flood of today's normal patents. How would the ever keep up with the flood of 'mini-patents'? Outsource the work??

Re:I like this idea (1)

numbsafari (139135) | about 8 years ago | (#15842697)

Quick, patent these:

"A system and apparatus for automating 'mini-patent' reviews."
"A system and apparatus for awarding 'mini-patent'."
"A system and apparatus for resolving disputes of 'mini-patents'."

Then we can license it back to the USPTO who will have to pay a fee for every mini-patent they review!

No more ads on slashdot!

Re:I like this idea (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | about 8 years ago | (#15845442)

Having different "types" of patents is problematic in any case. For example, the same patent might cover algorithms in software used in pharmaceutical manufacturing. Would that be considered a "software patent" or a "drug patent"? What happens when the patent office (inevitably) miscategorizes a patent?

How about this: Make the patents themselves always last the same amount of time. In fact, get rid of the whole notion of patents "expiring". Instead, put different time limits on enforcement of the patent for different ways of practicing the patent. After 3 years, it no longer constitutes infringement when the patent is practiced solely in software. After 20 years (or whatever), the same goes for when the patent is practiced in a pharmaceutical product. Same patent, but different monopoly powers last for different amounts of time.

Re:I don't understand... (2, Interesting)

macdaddy (38372) | about 8 years ago | (#15839848)

I use it. I buy on average about $3k in books per year plus other misc stuff off of Amazon. If they can expand their grocery inventory a little bit I'll probably buy some non-perishables that way too. Imagine getting him from work to find a box of grocery items on your porch that are ready to go right into the cupboards? Forget about that trip to the grocery store and the hours spent plowing up and down each isle looking for what's on your list, trying to remember what was on the list that you left at home, and being tempted by the flashy stickers and box labels on displays of non-so-good-of-a-deal special price displays. My 2-day shipping is free with Amazon Prime. If I need a book in a hurry it only costs me a couple bucks to have it the next day. I'm a fan of it.

Re:I don't understand... (1)

trix7117 (835907) | about 8 years ago | (#15840804)

That's great that you're a fan of Amazon Prime, but that really doesn't have anything to do with whether or not it's a valid patent. I used Amazon Prime when they offered me the free trial. It was pretty nice and actually resulted in me buying items from Amazon that I might normally have purchased somewhere else if I would have had to pay for shipping at Amazon (or wait the two weeks or so it takes a package to be delivered using their "Super Saver" shipping). However, whether or not it's a good product doesn't change the fact that this patent application should be rejected (of course, it won't). I'm a huge fan of buy-one-get-one-free promotions, that doesn't mean that Vons should be able to patent the business plan of giving customers two cases of Pepsi for the price of one.

Re:I don't understand... (2, Interesting)

Jtheletter (686279) | about 8 years ago | (#15840091)

where a "minor innovation" is protected for a short period of time so that its creators can get some benefit from being the first to do it. 6-12 months would be sufficient

In a capitalist society we call this window of protection "first to market".

Seriously, there's not need to create ANOTHER class of patents when the current system is in such obvious shambles. Such a "short-term" patent would also likely be abused heavily, with the patent owner adding small tweaks just before the expiration term to magically extend it, or something similar. Obviously available expoits would depend on the rules for such a patent class, but do you really trust those to be written well given how the current system is working? Again, no need for this, if you implement it first it will likely take your competitors about 6 months to reverse engineer and adapt to offering the same thing, no special short-term protections needed in that case.

Re:I don't understand... (1)

Elektroschock (659467) | about 8 years ago | (#15840197)

It is a business idea, no invention, not even a business method patent.

It is time for US citizens to take action and stop the USPTO madness.

Re:I don't understand... (1)

dave_mcmillen (250780) | about 8 years ago | (#15841110)

What we need is something like a short-term copyright/patent where a "minor innovation" is protected for a short period of time so that its creators can get some benefit from being the first to do it. 6-12 months would be sufficient for Amazon to establish this program as being "theirs" and make it obvious that anyone else who does it later is an imitator.

Nice idea in theory, but I think the trouble would be that such protections always seem to grow longer and more powerful over time. Just look at copyright, now closing in on a full century's worth of automatic, iron-clad protection for everything you scribble down, anywhere.

Re:I don't understand... (1)

Christopher Cashell (2517) | about 8 years ago | (#15846445)

It's not a payment method, it's a subscription for flat-rate shipping. I find it quite creative, and very useful for those who buy a lot more books than I do. That said, it's not an invention, and shouldn't be protected by patent law.
It's actually not new either, and even if it were an invention, shouldn't be protected by patent law. International Male [internationalmale.com] has been doing this for years with their "Advantage Club". By paying an anual membership fee, you get free shipping on all of your orders.

This one is even worse than the one-click stuff Amazon did earlier.

Re:I don't understand... (1)

Znork (31774) | about 8 years ago | (#15854840)

"What we need is something like a short-term copyright/patent"

We already have that. It's called the first mover advantage, and it has the huge benefit that it requires no administration or legal involvement at all.

"6-12 months would be sufficient"

The trouble, you see, is that nothing is ever sufficient. Granting protection from competition means the protected party simply becomes that much less efficient. Essentially, the theoretical reward simply gets eaten in increased costs instead; take a look at the state of the music industry, they can _fail_ to make a profit on sales of _millions of units at $15_ of an item which can be produced for cents. Take a look at the pharmaceutical industries; they're wasting twice as much on administration and marketing as they are on actual research.

If you want a system specifically tailored towards rewarding innovation, then just outright pay for it with tax money. Intellectual monopoly protections simply means your costs are hidden in higher prices while the reward is lost in economic inefficiency.

if you want to catch up you should start running (0)

Burlap (615181) | about 8 years ago | (#15839182)

It's really getting time that the USPTO was gutted and brought up to standards with the rest of the world

Re:if you want to catch up you should start runnin (1)

Damastus the WizLiz (935648) | about 8 years ago | (#15839225)

You should patent the method for revamping the system, License it to the patent office, and and then file for a patent on the method for filing a patent.

Re:if you want to catch up you should start runnin (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | about 8 years ago | (#15839235)

Unfortunately, the US is pushing the rest of the world to be brought 'up' to their standards...

Re:if you want to catch up you should start runnin (1)

Burlap (615181) | about 8 years ago | (#15839376)

doubt that will happen.... when youre the only kid on the playground trying to change the rules it doesnt matter how big you are when everyone else is playing by the same rules.

Re:if you want to catch up you should start runnin (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | about 8 years ago | (#15845444)

Um... except it *is* happening. Have you seen the DMCA-like bills and/or laws in Canada and Australia, for example?

Re:if you want to catch up you should start runnin (1)

Burlap (615181) | about 8 years ago | (#15846037)

thats copyright, not patent

All-You-Can-Eat Shipping? (4, Funny)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 8 years ago | (#15839246)

Does anyone know if All-You-Can-Eat shipping means, All-You-Can-Eat shipping? After all, we wouldn't want this to occur, now would we?

-----------

Lionel Hutz: Now, Mrs. Simpson, tell the court in your own words what happened after you and your husband were ejected out of the restaurant.

Marge: Well, we pretty much went straight home.

Lionel Hutz: Mrs. Simpson, remember that you are under oath.

Marge: We drove around until three in the morning looking for another open all-you-can-eat seafood restaurant.

Lionel Hutz: And when you couldn't find one?

Marge: [crying] We... went... fishing.

Lionel Hutz: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, do these sound like the actions of a man whose had ALL he could eat?

Re:All-You-Can-Eat Shipping? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15839502)

Only shipping? I'm going to patent all you can eat trucking, and all you can eat airplaning. If I can get the patent for all you can eat walleye, I'll put half the restaraunts in Springfield [illinoistimes.com] out of business!

Re:All-You-Can-Eat Shipping? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15840231)

Lionel Hutz: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, do these sound like the actions of a man whose had ALL he could eat?

--

The word is you're. As in, "You're an asshole if you spell it as 'your'."



Ahem... while we're correcting other people's errors, the word is who's.

For pity's sake. (5, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | about 8 years ago | (#15839249)

A clerk with the USPTO released the following response:

"OK, Amazon, I get it! You like patents. You like them a lot. Everywhere I turn in my crappy office, it's "Amazon!" "Amazon!" "AMAZON!" Well screw it, you can just have all the goddamn patents! Yes, all of them,! They're all yours! Just LEAVE ME ALOOOOONE!!!"

Said clerk followed up by darting into a shadowy corner of the file room, and crying for several hours.

Re:For pity's sake. (1)

pete6677 (681676) | about 8 years ago | (#15839669)

I guess Amazon needs something to make money off of, since they sure as shit can't make any with their business operations. Or should I say, they certainly can't allow themselves to ever become profitable. Maybe if their latest web grocery thing fails, like most online grocery concepts, they will become the Rambus of the e-commerce world.

Re:For pity's sake. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15841767)

Amazon has been profitable since 2003 [itworld.com] and they're still profitable [yahoo.com] .

Disclaimer: I work for Amazon. This is all public information.

Re:For pity's sake. (1)

pete6677 (681676) | about 8 years ago | (#15842047)

Have you looked lately? They're barely profitable, their stock got whacked by more than half and its still overpriced. I'll buy Amazon shares when they get to about $10.

Re:For pity's sake. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15842581)

You said Amazon "can't allow themselves to ever become profitable." They are profitable. Please stop posting.

Cool! (2, Funny)

famebait (450028) | about 8 years ago | (#15839308)

I'm off to patent shipping exactly three items in the same parcel.

Re:Cool! (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about 8 years ago | (#15839660)

You're too late. That is covered under my patent of shipping n+1 things in the same parcel :-p

Re:Cool! (1)

pjp6259 (142654) | about 8 years ago | (#15839899)

There is clearly prior art for shipping 3 items in one package. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any prior art for 'all-you-can-eat' shipping.

Re:Cool! (1)

Sleepy (4551) | about 8 years ago | (#15841565)

>Off the top of my head, I can't think of any prior art for 'all-you-can-eat' shipping

There's plenty of prior art for an 'up front fee' (membership) that gets you a discount on further purchases. Costcos, BJ's Warehouse and Sams club folow this model.

Yes, it's not SHIPPING, but that's Semantics. It's a customer fee to lower an undertermined number of recurring future fees. Even if you believe a BUSINESS PROCESS is a valid patent (and that is debatable), this example does not pass the non-obvious invention test.

I would not be surprised if USPO they allow a patent for a particlar COLOR. Just describe the physics of bouncing white light off it, and how the resulting light is affected (colored). You think of a slick marketing name for it to nudge the clerk that this is legit. I'm pretty sure anyone can come up with a color shade that will thwart ALL attempts at prooving prior art. It's still fails the obvious test.

Prime will kill them eventually. (5, Interesting)

Corvaith (538529) | about 8 years ago | (#15839469)

I'm now on my second 'sample' of Prime. The first was given to my account, the second to my sibling's. In the course of those two, I have had such items as a 60-pound piece of exercise equipment shipped next-day to my home for $4 so it'd show up on my day off. I've ordered tons of books and had them shipped singly. And I have paid Amazon not a dime for the privilege, and wouldn't, ever.

Why? Because once upon a time, you could get free shipping and have something a few days later. Then, Super Saver started taking longer... and longer... and longer. They'd wait a week to ship an item that was 'ships within 24 hours'. I suppose this probably happened around the time that Prime was taking shape. But then, and this is the kicker, lots of items on the Amazon site started showing up as longer ship times than they'd had before. 'Ships within 3-5 days' or something like that for an item that used to be 24 hours. As someone who has a Prime membership, free or not, I found that irritating. But then the worst part:

They still often ship the items the next day. They just ship them by a method that will take longer to get there, even though you've used Prime for 'free second day shipping'. The excuse for this is that it 'still arrives within the delivery window', even though they're the ones who set the delivery window as being a week later for an in-stock product.

I'd rather they patented this, to be honest, because I don't want any other company copying it. I don't want to pay for the people who buy 'all you can ship' packages and then ship a huge piece of furniture on it, when all I'm usually shipping is small items. But I think that, patent or not, this will eventually either start costing a lot more or vanish entirely. The delays are a symptom of a system that doesn't work. They're having to cut corners now to afford Prime. They can't do that forever, because people won't pay for prime if *everything* starts taking a week to arrive with 'second day' shipping.

I don't want other companies doing this. I'm fine with paying for shipping if it's a reasonable price. Free is cool, too, because I know I'm still paying for it but it's packaged into the prices I'm paying, I don't have to add things to my cart to figure it out. I don't want to show up at other online sites where I shop to find that I suddenly have to shell out $80 to get things promptly because the 'free' shipping suddenly takes three times longer than it used to. It's not fair to the customers.

Re:Prime will kill them eventually. (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | about 8 years ago | (#15839548)

I don't want other companies doing this.
I DO want other companies doing this. I want as many as possible to try their hand at their own version. Because, as in any other element of commerce, the competition will force them all to provide the best service they can to their customers at the best value, and whoever provides it the consumers will win better service as a result. I don't feel Amazon has any right to be the *only* one doing anything other than writing their own logo on their packages, and hoping that they do their job better than the competition.

Re:Prime will kill them eventually. (1)

Corvaith (538529) | about 8 years ago | (#15839661)

Except that this is a model which is unlikely to *ever* work unless they dupe a lot of customers who don't need it into buying it or place limits on its use, and both of those are not what I consider to be acceptable. The ones who don't ship much have to pay for the ones who ship tons. It's just like a buffet, only on a much larger and more expensive scale, and just like a buffet, they have to either screw over the small consumers or put major limits on the big ones in order to make it pay. The difference is, at a restaurant, there's not going to be too much of a difference dollar-wise between the big customers and the small ones. A couple plates of food. Here, we're talking the difference between someone who does $800 worth of shipping in a year and the one who does $15. The person who uses $15 worth of shipping gets screwed. The one who uses $800 worth screws Amazon, because the increased margin is unlikely to cover it... unless Amazon cuts corners wherever they can to increase their margin.

Competition can't change things like that.

Not normal prime (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 8 years ago | (#15839588)

First of all, Prime may be free to you as a trial but normally it's around $70.

Now while you may not be paying for it, many are. And while you may be shipping furniture, I'm mostly shipping small packages here and there.

As long as the majority of people are going with normal buying habits Prime works in Amazon's favor, and can more than pay for the outliers or people who ship chairs or other large items. What it does help Amazon capture is semi-impulse buys where you know you want something in the next day or so and plan to make a run for the store... now you can use Amazon with free 2nd day, and perhaps save a bit of money over what you would have paid in the store. A good deal for everyone and it keeps people using them, remembering they exist.

Also I'm sure with the volume of 2nd day shipping Amazon is doing, they are getting quite a price break on 2nd day shipping through multiple carriers - shipping that is becoming an increasingly cheap option anyway. I find myself mostly selecting 2nd day air whereever I shop online, so why not have that covered for a whole year with Amazon?

Re:Not normal prime (1)

Corvaith (538529) | about 8 years ago | (#15839833)

Most are, I'm sure. But that doesn't actually change anything. Because you don't get a good deal off of Prime unless you ship more than $80 worth of shipping. *They* don't get a good deal unless you ship less, unless the sheer volume which you spend with them is so much more now that their margin makes up your shipping costs and then some. That won't happen if all you're doing is shipping single books.

Amazon's only able to hype this up now because it's a novelty. It's not likely to work in the long run because those 'impulse purchases' aren't going to pay for themselves. Even if they're getting an amazing deal on shipping, it's still going to cost them a couple bucks to ship a single book two-day. They've already cut their packaging, which helps a little and is much more environmentally sound, but there's only so far they can reduce that cost. Let's say it costs them $5 to ship that book, which they'd charge someone $9.48 to ship without Prime. (It could be less than $5, but I wouldn't bet on it. Amazon can negotiate shipping rates, but the shipping company still needs to make a profit off of them, and with fuel rates where they are...) They get 16 ships out of the $80 fee before it starts having to come out of their margin. Most folks who shell out for Prime will probably ship more than 16 things in the course of a year, so now it's being paid for out of their usual profit margin. Except that if you don't order something that has a $5 margin--and most books certainly won't--then they haven't made any money. Only big purchases will have big margins, but those purchases will also cost a lot more to ship.

Leaving Amazon drowning in their 'bright idea' and trying to figure out ways to ship as much of this stuff out by discount 3+ day ground rates as possible. And, oh, hopefully to convince you to add a few more things to that order, so it'll all go out at once instead of you coming back next week for something new. I wouldn't be surprised if they institute a minimum for Prime before long.

And you, overall, what do you as the customer get out of it? Lots, at first, presuming you're a regular customer. Much more than what you paid for it, especially if you split your membership among family members and everybody orders a lot. We'll assume you're willing to deal with having paid actual money to find out that your 'second day' shipping will take a week in some cases, it's still a pretty good deal for you. That is, for now. Amazon can't make money on this as long as you're getting this good a deal, I'm sorry to say. It just won't work. Like Super Saver shipping, which used to arrive sometimes only a day or two after you ordered, soon you'll find it taking longer and longer, with more and more limitations, because they won't be able to keep it alive any other way.

I'm not saying it can't last because it's free for some people. It just can't last, period, the way it's going right now. They're not taking in enough money in exchange for what they're giving out. The shipping costs have to come from somewhere.

Shipping costs come from excess (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 8 years ago | (#15839939)

I'm not saying it can't last because it's free for some people. It just can't last, period, the way it's going right now. They're not taking in enough money in exchange for what they're giving out. The shipping costs have to come from somewhere.

But again you are only hypothisising based on how you use it.

It could be that many people are adding a few more items to an order - I know I do.

And yes, shipping costs have to come from somewhere - which is either people who pay $80 and then never quite use it all, or simply making slightly lower margins on the items they are selling. An item sold at a slightly lower margin is still better for Amazon than an item bought elsewhere.

I honestly am not quite sure I quite make up for the cost of AMazon prime in a year, as I do not order that much... but I do know that every year I'll be ordering at least a few things that I am going to want quickly. By making it easier to use Amazon for quick shipping I also from time to time will pay a little more at Amazon than I would have with shipping included somewhere else, because Amazon is a little more reliable than some other stores.

I actually have never seen a delay with Prime shipping the way you describe. My thinking is that people are abusing it with high numbers of single items might have shipping slightly delayed in the same way that people who send back Netflix movies as quickly as possibly have service speed degraded. To me that seems perfectly reasonable - I am paying $80 a year to get true second day shipping on demand, whereas you are getting the service free but they are also paying less to ship for you, and you'll be gone in a year whereas I'll remain paying for the service. Possibyl it's also just because the free service is always degraded so you get a taste of somewhat faster shipping but they focus on keeping the "real" prime customers happy.

Re:Prime will kill them eventually. (1)

trogdor8667 (817114) | about 8 years ago | (#15839744)

I have Amazon Prime, and while I agree with the parent's post on some levels, overall, I haven't had any of the problems he has had.

There are only two complaints I have about Prime: one is that if you have an order of 2+ items, you can't have one show up overnight for their standard 3.99 fee and the other ship two day, you have to place the order seperately.

The other complaint is that a lot of Amazon items that are more expensive to ship are no longer available on Amazon Prime. For example, I want to buy the larger George Foreman Grill that is $15 cheaper on Amazon than in our local stores ($95 here, $80 on Amazon). Unfortunately, even though it ships from Amazon (not a 3rd party like some items) and I have Prime, they want $14 to ship it. So, for $1 less, I could get it in 2 weeks on Amazon, even though I've paid them $80 for the benefit of Prime.

Other than that, I've been using Amazon for years, and have only had one ACTUAL problem. I purchased a schoolbook from them this past January (on Prime), and waited for it to ship, and waited. It took them two weeks to notify me that they had to cancel the order. No reason why, they just had to cancel it. So I ended up being a month into class when I got the book from them. I would have bought it locally, but it was twice as much in my town.

I still remember my first Amazon purchase where I bought two books, and they were a day late shipping one of the two. So, they shipped both seperate and upgraded the second order to overnight shipping, free of charge. I know they don't do that now, but its things like that that got me using Amazon in the first place.

So, do I want them to patent Prime? Depends on how they word the patent. But overall, I don't see many other internet businesses having a diverse-enough business to have it work for them.

Re:Prime will kill them eventually. (1)

Jtheletter (686279) | about 8 years ago | (#15840172)

So, do I want them to patent Prime? Depends on how they word the patent. But overall, I don't see many other internet businesses having a diverse-enough business to have it work for them.

How will they word it? As exclusively as possible, obviously. They don't want anyone else to muscle in on this and likely already have lawyers salivating over a few sites that come close enough to infringing to be used as test cases. They are not filing this patent for the good of humanity, they are trying to get a competitive edge that they will use directly to their own advantage. There is no such thing as a philanthropic patent, otherwise they would simply put it in the public domain immediately.
As for other businesses using such a system, just because you can't imagine anyone else using it doesn't mean they don't - or won't - exist. It's shortsighted comments like that which lead to stifling innovation. And you're wrong anyway, here's a few other internet companies off the top of my head that could probably benefit by implementing such an all-you-can-eat shipping service: overstock.com, buy.com, thinkgeek.com, staples.com...... Get the picture? Any online store with a diverse range of products and customers who use them for repeat purchases could use this.

Also, depending on how this patent is worded Netflix could be infringing. After all, you pay one fee for the service and can ship 1 to X DVDs per month with no extra shipping charges. Hell, I'll bet Netflix is one of the first companies Amazon would go after for infringement if this patent is accepted.

Re:Prime will kill them eventually. (1)

goodcow (654816) | about 8 years ago | (#15842898)

For example, I want to buy the larger George Foreman Grill that is $15 cheaper on Amazon than in our local stores ($95 here, $80 on Amazon). Unfortunately, even though it ships from Amazon (not a 3rd party like some items) and I have Prime, they want $14 to ship it. So, for $1 less, I could get it in 2 weeks on Amazon, even though I've paid them $80 for the benefit of Prime.

It probably depends on individual order history, but I've gotten such shipping fees waved as a Prime member, and I've even gotten things like tvs, with $100 delivery fees delivered for free as well. How? I simply call them up and ask. It never hurts to just ask, the worst they can do is say no, and of course, there's the chance they'll actually do it.

I do, however, order practically daily from Amazon, have had a paid Prime membership since the day the service debuted, an order history dating back to 1999, and I order stuff for co-workers under my account so they get items in two-days, and I get 3% back in Amazon VISA rewards.

Re:Prime will kill them eventually. (1)

Generic Guy (678542) | about 8 years ago | (#15840225)

once upon a time, you could get free shipping and have something a few days later. Then, Super Saver started taking longer... and longer... and longer.

I'm sure escalating fuel prices have a hand in the corner-cutting you've seen and written about. I've noticed a lot of other online vendors no longer offer the free shipping options, and the regular shipping has crept upwards over the last year or so.

Given Amazon's recent stock price woes, It's quote possible that your subject line is correct... Prime will probably kill them eventually.

If they get that (1)

TheRequiem13 (978749) | about 8 years ago | (#15839542)

then I want a patent on what I call "breathing."

All this patent-whoring is ridiculous. You can't patent ideas. That's stupid. You can patent designs for things you've invented and/or spend significant time and effort developing, but it needs to end there.

Re:If they get that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15839703)

then I want a patent on what I call "breathing.

Sorry, there is already prior art. I have the patent on exhaling, and my brother holds the patent on inhaling.

They still might grant it accidentally, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

/ my brother would, though. He'll either pass out or explode soon.

It actually changed my buying habits (5, Insightful)

dleewo (80434) | about 8 years ago | (#15839712)

I've paid for the Prime service and I actually love it. When I added up my shipping costs for stuff Ihad ordered in year before getting Prime, it was more that the prime fee.

Now that I have it, I don't even bother to try and combine orders. I just order when I want. Last week, I bought 2 ink cartridges for my ink jet for about $6 each. I ordered one in the morning and the other in the evening.

What Prime does though (and obviously the reason Amazon offers the service) is that when I want to order anything online, I always check Amazon first and in 95% of the cases, I order it from them.

Re:It actually changed my buying habits (4, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 8 years ago | (#15839984)

Sorry I don't have mod points, but this is exactly the value to Amazon.

I do the same thing, and usually weigh the increased amazon cost against the pay-for-shipping, but cheaper unit-price vendor. It works, imo, because nobody else does it. If everybody had the option - say a Buy.com Prime membership - it would lose its value. I'm not going to pay three or four vendors $70/yr - it's only be aggragating a large percentage of my purchases in one place that makes it worthwhile. (I'm not sure there's a resonable logic in there, to be quite honest). Also, $3.99 for an overnight shipment of a reference book I really need or a gift I've forgotten to buy/send is a bargain compared to the usual shipping rates.

Re:It actually changed my buying habits (1)

clm100 (758897) | about 8 years ago | (#15840926)

I do the same thing. Amazon with free 2nd day vs cheaper vendor with $$ ground. Amazon wins sometimes. I just wish I could exclude vendors that don't offer Amazon Prime.

The greatest thing about it is that I can share it. Sure, I order from amazon a lot. But I share it with my father, my girlfriend and my boss. My boss has an amazon CC, always has the A9 discount and with my amazon prime he orders almost everything from amazon, down to condoms.

Low self-esteem or something. Very sad. (1)

Wolfbone (668810) | about 8 years ago | (#15839771)

An acutely embarassing situation for their friends and relatives too, I would think, and if I were one of them I'd sue the USPTO for its part in facilitating this disgraceful and unnecessary exposure of these poor people to public ridicule. They need counselling or some other form of psychiatric help, not to have the symptoms of their illness recorded for posterity so that future generations can laugh and sneer at what they will no doubt see as seven lunatics or cretins who thought they were inventors.

so its a cash-flow scam, so what? (1)

acroyear (5882) | about 8 years ago | (#15840625)

My (insanely) brief understanding is that this is merely a ploy to get more cash flow through amazon up front without expenses - pay a "fee" up front to get allegedly cheap(er) shipping later. works for the buyer if they buy enough (like paying $25 at B&N for 10% discounts later), works for amazon up front in that they get cash without immediate expense which can sit in an interest bearing account.

its really no different from any other "discount membership club" except the product you save on.

worthy of a patent? no. but this is the same PTO that patented a laser pointer as a cat toy, so fuck 'em.

oh wait, they patented that, too...

Re:so its a cash-flow scam, so what? (1)

acroyear (5882) | about 8 years ago | (#15840707)

oh yeah, side effect of more cash in interest account is that it can bump up the stock value, which for now is all that's important at amazon.

Re:so its a cash-flow scam, so what? (1)

Sleepy (4551) | about 8 years ago | (#15841624)

>its really no different from any other "discount membership club" except the product you save on.

Bingo! I posted exactly this sentiment in a post just moments ago. Amazon's threshhold for patentability is, 'has this scenario' been patented. A scenario is a situation, not an invention.

Now, I bet you $2 either:
* you get marked down redundant (even though you were first -- moderators don't REALLY check timestamps), OR
* A testy moderator marks this post 'flamebait', for no reason other than noting the above. (WTH, my karma's maxed for the last 5 years anyway. Bad moderators burn in hell.).

Let's see. ;-)

Re:so its a cash-flow scam, so what? (1)

acroyear (5882) | about 8 years ago | (#15842009)

"'has this scenario' been patented"

they're just playing by the rules the PTO has already established and publically stated (even back in the 90s when /. first started and patents was a hot-topic). the PTO's sole guideline for "prior art" is "is there a patent on it yet?", nothing more. they don't research the industry, they don't look for unpatented preexisting stuff, they just look at their patent application history and that's the sole decider.

anything more and they defer to the courts to handle it. why? policy encourages it -

if a patent clerk passes a patent, he's no longer responsible for it - parties have to fight out the validity of it in the courts and the PTO never gets involved.

but if a clerk rejects a patent, that clerk may be called into court to defend the rejection.

thus, the system is screwed in favor of patents - its not in the best interests of the PTO to reject patent applications, so they don't.

Re:so its a cash-flow scam, so what? (1)

ig88 (19976) | about 8 years ago | (#15844156)

Powells.com (online bookstore) has had the same thing (free shipping for upfront
fee) since 2004.

Mmm...peanuts (1)

hockpatooie (312212) | about 8 years ago | (#15840933)

Am I the only one whose first thought on reading the headline was "edible packing material"?

I actually know someone who got a candy shipment as a gift, opened the box, and tried to eat those styrofoam packing peanuts.

All-You-Can-Eat Shipping? (2, Funny)

dzfoo (772245) | about 8 years ago | (#15841829)

Is this like a Godzilla reference?

      -dZ.

This is hardly novel... (1)

WarPresident (754535) | about 8 years ago | (#15843390)

Performance Bike [performancebike.com] has lower cost shipping and a 10% discount if you're a paid member, you can even sign up online. I can think of a half-dozen other sites I've seen that do the same.

This is stupid and Prime usually sucks (1)

shotgunefx (239460) | about 8 years ago | (#15843767)

The idea that this is patentable is retarded.

That aside, Amazon Prime is ok except for one giant flaw, you can't search for items that are available via Prime. So if I want to grab, say an extension cable or something, I've got to wade through pages trying to find a seller that is eligable for Prime shipping.

Re:This is stupid and Prime usually sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15893591)

i just found a blog that makes amazon prime worthwhile. It shows you how to add a tag to the end of your URL to only show prime eligable items. http://www.vuhn.com/2006/08/07/search-amazon-for-f ree-shipping-items-only [vuhn.com]

Isn't this just "members get shipping free"? (1)

bflynn (992777) | about 8 years ago | (#15859677)

This is just "free shipping for members" where the only perk of membership is free shipping. There's nothing at all novel about it. The patent is absurd. The idea of patenting a transaction is absurd. My only concern is that the PTO has shown the judgemet of a very small fungus, so they might actually allow this.

If this continues, the cooperation required for international IP treaties to work will collaspe. What must other countries think of the US?
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