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Amazon drops free shipping to northern ‘remote locations’

Online retail giant Amazon will no longer offer free shipping to what it calls “remote locations” in the Northwest Territories.

Some Amazon Prime customers in the NWT and Nunavut received a message from the company on Wednesday. Their Prime subscriptions are being refunded in full.

The message says that as of today, free shipping is no longer available “due to the economic and shipping complexities in remote locations”.

Customers in affected areas must now pay $29 per shipment, plus $22/kg per item on top of that, for shipping.

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Hay River appears to be one of the communities affected, though Amazon has not produced a definitive list. Free shipping remained available in Yellowknife when we accessed Amazon’s website on Wednesday morning.

‘$40 for diapers, $162 for shipping’

Hay River resident Adam Hill was one of the first to receive the message.

Hill immediately checked to see how the change had affected the shipping he would pay for Amazon items.

“I woke up this morning and got the notice,” Hill told Moose FM.

“As a new father, it’s diapers or formula. Formula is the big one for us. We order it from the UK as they don’t have any corn syrup in it there.

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“I checked the date and, of course, they had cancelled it already – so you can’t make any more orders, just in case.

“I looked up the cost of buying one more box of diapers. It would be $40 for the diapers… and $162 for shipping.”

Screengrab of diaper order
Adam Hill’s online diaper order.

Hill says even buying a $13 book now costs $50 for shipping with Amazon.

“I’ve already looked for other places online and, unfortunately, other online distributors don’t offer free shipping to the NWT either,” he said.

“Northern local retailers will definitely see a benefit to this. In the past, there was such a huge price discrepancy between buying online and buying northern. I’m all for buying north, but you’ve got to watch the bottom line.

“I think you’ll see a lot of people driving south again, too.

“Amazon have lost me as a customer.”

At the moment it’s not clear where, exactly, Amazon’s change in shipping policy applies. There is no definitive list of communities affected.

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Amazon’s updated policy on shipping to remote locations says “towns far from a shipper’s hub, towns that are infrequently served by shippers, and Canada Post Air Stage locations” are affected, but does not specify individual communities.

Moose FM asked Amazon to clarify its policy and provide comment. The company refused an interview but issued this statement: “Our goal is to offer fast, affordable shipping to all of our customers and we are committed to exploring new delivery solutions that better serve customers in remote locations.”

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