As a cheapskate, I'm willing to look around for free shipping when I buy stuff online, and I'm willing to wait a week to get my purchase. That's partly why I'm a regular shopper at Amazon.com, which offers free shipping on orders of $25 or more.

But now I learn from the New York Times Bits blog that Amazon is rolling out a service offering same-day delivery in seven cities for $6 per item for Amazon Prime members, who pay $79 a year for free next-day shipping. But non-Prime members will pay $15 for same-day delivery.

I don't know what the average amount is that Amazon customers spend, but spending $15 on a $50 purchase to get it the same day is like a 30% tax. Is it worth 30% more, or whatever it is depending on how much you spend, to get something the same day?Instant gratification is great, but not at that price.

I still don't understand the Amazon Prime members who pay $79 per year for free two-day shipping. They must be buying a lot of stuff that they want right away.

That's one of the drawbacks of buying on the Internet: Things don't arrive in the mail immediately. And maybe that's a good thing. Waiting a week for a new book to arrive builds anticipation and teaches patience.

Buying an item on the Internet usually saves me money, and to me that's a fair trade-off for having it delivered a week later. If it's something I want immediately, I'll go to a local store.

Amazon doesn't mention the non-Prime delivery fee in its press release. Maybe they don't want to highlight a $15 delivery fee. But even for Prime members it seems steep.

The "Local Express Delivery" is available if an eligible item is ordered between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., depending on the city. The service will roll out in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, Baltimore, Las Vegas and Seattle. Chicago, Indianapolis and Phoenix are coming soon.

Amazon touts this as a way to get last minute gifts before the weekend without having to go to the mall. I'm all for avoiding the mall, but a fee of $6 or $15 makes that trip to the mall a lot more palatable.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area who can be reached at www.AaronCrowe.net


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