What Amazon Prime's 'Two-Day Shipping' Really Means 

Patrick Allan 03/28/2018. 24 comments
Amazon Amazon Prime Online Shopping Delivery

Amazon Prime’s free two-day shipping is a pretty great deal, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get your order two days after you order it. Confused? I was too when my recent in-stock order took nearly a week to get to me.

Last week, I ordered a new video game from Amazon to take advantage of that sweet, sweet Prime discount. I ordered it Thursday morning, so I figured it would arrive Saturday evening—just in time for me to enjoy it Sunday morning. However, come Sunday, my game was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t in the mailbox, at my doorstep, or in the bushes the delivery guy sometimes hides my packages in (I believe this to be a theft-thwarting tactic). Did I accidentally forget to confirm my purchase? I opened up my Amazon account to check, but sure enough, I had indeed ordered it. Maybe it wasn’t in stock? No, it was. But now the delivery was slated for Tuesday, five days after I had placed my order. Why was I suddenly not getting the two-day shipping I had gotten so used to? I live in a big city and Prime had never failed me before...

In a pouty huff, I reached out to Amazon customer service to find out what happened. When I asked, the rep didn’t answer my question of “why” at all. They simply regurgitated what I already knew—that the delivery was scheduled for Tuesday. Thanks. Again, I asked why it was taking so long, explaining that they were failing to uphold their two-day Prime shipping agreement. After several reps had popped in and out of our chat saying the same thing over and over, one of them finally told me something I didn’t know, or at least something I had never properly grasped:

Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping doesn’t kick in until the item is actually shipped from a fulfillment center.

Okay, this makes total sense, especially when it comes to items that aren’t released yet or are out of stock. I mean, how could they possibly ship something that’s not available? But apparently it also applies to items that are listed as in stock and available for purchase. My game wasn’t available in a nearby fulfillment centers, so it had to be shipped from somewhere much farther away. It was still technically “in stock” somewhere, just not anywhere near me. That meant they didn’t actually ship my order until Saturday, two days after I had placed the order. I didn’t like that logic, so I argued with the rep saying they could just never ship something and still fulfill their two-day shipping promise, but it was fruitless.

Now, I’m not actually all that upset with Amazon about this silly interaction. There are a number of things on my end that could have made this situation possible: In my haste, I may have misread the estimated delivery date during the purchasing; or they may have sent me an email telling me my delivery date had changed and I failed to notice it. Also, I could have paid more attention to how two-day shipping actually works to begin with. Live and learn.

If anything, I’m sharing my story as a cautionary tale, explaining the nature of Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping. If you already knew this, good on you! If you didn’t, now you can avoid feeling like a fool the way I did.

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