The Double-Edged Sword of Repeat Deliveries

by Barrett

Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program is a great time saver, but over time it may be more than you need. Here’s why…

Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program originally made me feel like I had been transported to a Star Trek-like future where people could focus on higher-level cognitive challenges as opposed to pondering if they were about to run out of toilet paper.

It was a magical leap forward in shopping design, where you could automatically receive your supplies without worrying that you’d forget to reorder. Plus, you’d get an ongoing discount on these Subscribe & Save orders. How great is that?!

It was set-it-and-forget-it, and your stuff showed up.

What could possibly go wrong?

Too Many Vitamins!
This morning, I woke up, walked downstairs to the kitchen and opened up the cupboard to take some vitamins, including my daily Omega 3 supplement. I grabbed the plastic bottle, unscrewed the top and took out the very last capsule.

I smiled, because I knew I was ready for this moment. There would be another Subscribe & Save bottle in the back of the cupboard ready to go. I peered behind some other vitamin bottles, and I squinted to be sure what I saw. I didn’t see a replacement bottle. I saw three.


Clearly my family and I weren’t consuming as many Omega 3’s as my subscription was providing. You might say it’s an easy arithmetic equation to figure out. It is, but somehow it had gotten way off balance.

And I hadn’t been paying attention, because it was set-it-and-forget-it.

Inevitable Imbalance
I sat down at my desk with my cup of Joe and finally allowed myself to fully face the other recent clues of imbalance in my shopping utopia from the future.

  • I had collected in my basement an extra year’s supply of AC/furnace air filters.
  • My paper towel subscription for the premium Bounty brand had been inexplicably cancelled and replaced by the less luxurious Brawny.
  • My toothpaste subscription was also cancelled, and I needed to actively replace it, which I didn’t. (I was supposed to “forget it,” right?) Then, I ran out of toothpaste.

The Best Price?
Amazon clearly states that prices go up and down. If you’re looking for the best pricing over time, I’m not sure that repeat deliveries will get you that, even with the subscription discount.

You’ve got to keep track. And that doesn’t align well with the set-and-forget mentality.

The Easy Fix
Yes, the odds are running out of supplies are certainly lower with repeat-delivery subscriptions, although it can happen if your subscriptions get cancelled, and you don’t choose an alternate item (guilty).

But unless your estimated consumption metrics are perfect, you’re likely to over order.

Subscribe & Save will save you shopping time, but over the months, your supplies may start to pile up.

It’s not like I was entirely unaware of this, and it’s easy to fix by going online and adjusting the frequency of the repeat deliveries. But it’s the kind of thing you tell yourself you’ll do tomorrow.

And then tomorrow never comes.

Until you realize you’ve got an extra year’s worth of Omega 3 tablets piling up in your cabinet.

So today, I reviewed all of my subscriptions and made the necessary adjustments.

It’s Time to Wake Up
Amazon would tell me that I regularly receive reminder emails to check and adjust my Subscribe & Save items. And I do.

So why didn’t I just follow their ongoing recommendations to perform a little subscription maintenance?

Because I wanted to set-it-and-forget-it.

Autopilot-mode is nice. But you really shouldn’t disconnect for too long. Otherwise you may wake up one day and realize you’re surprised by what you see.