Amazon tweaks its diaper program, moms vent and a competitor pounces

February 23, 2012 04:19 PM Inc. has changed the discount and shopping terms of its baby-products online shopping program, leaving some moms angry and creating a potential opening for a fulfillment competitor.

Under the new terms for the Amazon Mom program, discounts on diapers and wipes ordered via subscription are 20%, down from 30%, an Amazon spokeswoman tells Internet Retailer. New members to the free program would receive three months of Amazon Prime, which offers unlimited two-day shipping on all orders, and which normally costs $79 per year. Previously, Amazon Mom members could also receive up to nine months of Prime extensions, but now, after those first three months, members must pay to stay in Prime, the spokeswoman says.

Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, has for more than 16 months operated Amazon Mom, which was designed to attract new and expectant parents, and caretakers of children up to toddler age. “The goal is to help parents and caretakers, in the prenatal days through the toddler years, find all the products a family needs at low prices with fast shipping,” the Amazon spokeswoman says.

Late last year, Amazon stopped accepting new members for Amazon Mom, which is free to join. That policy remains, though Amazon has not officially said why it stopped enrolling consumers, or how many members the program has.

The changes have proved unpopular with at least 1,600 consumers—the number of online shoppers who have taken the trouble to sign an online petition at that asks Amazon to restore the previous Amazon Mom terms.  The petition seeks support by referencing the decisions by Bank of America to kill a proposed debit card fee increase and Verizon to drop its idea to increase billing fees for its mobile phone customers—both reversals came after consumer uproars.

“Times are very rough, unemployment is high, money is getting harder and harder to come by. This discount is the only way some people can afford to buy the necessities they need for their children,” the petition reads. “Imagine what we can do if we ask CEO Jeff Bezos to remove the charge for Amazon Mom and give us back the original discount.”

Amazon did not comment on the petition. But at least one competitor is trying to profit whatever discontent there may be flowing from the changes in the Amazon Mom program. ShopRunner, a members-only program that charges $79 per year for two-day shipping of products from 60 retailers, today said it would offer free 90-day memberships to U.S. consumers who sign up online with the service. The offer expires Friday at midnight Eastern time, or when 100,000 consumers sign up, whichever comes first. ShopRunner also said that new ShopRunner members who make a $50 purchase during that period at a participating merchant will receive another year of membership for free.

“While we won't be asking for proof that each of our new members is a mom or caregiver, our hope is that consumers will use the ‘We Love Moms’ promotion for what it was intended, to help make life easier and more affordable for busy moms and families,” says a spokeswoman for ShopRunner. “If a non-mom also needs ShopRunner's assistance navigating a hectic life, so be it. But the ultimate goal of the promotion is to give frustrated moms an alternative to Amazon.”

Among the retailer served by ShopRunner are Toys 'R' Us Inc., No. 29 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide; Inc., No. 46; and Babies ‘R’ Us.




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