WELLESLEY, Mass. It’s the first day of school in this upscale suburb of Boston, and Tom Clarkson is feeling the pressure that falls on him as a stay-at-home-dad-of-three this time of year. “From now until the holidays, its’ rush, rush, rush,” he says. “Then at Thanksgiving my mother-in-law arrives and it gets worse.”
Right now, Clarkson is scurrying around the Whole Foods market here, trying to get the food he’ll need for dinner and the kids’ snacks for the rest of the week when he sees a bargain he can’t resist: a ten-pack of Uggi’s yogurt for only $10, a savings of almost $8. “Oh my God,” he says. “This is incredible, my kids go through this stuff like . . .” He pauses, realizing that if he continues his thought he will see the words “shit through a goose” appear on the internet, and will have to pay a fine into the family’s “swear jar.”
But when he reaches the checkout line, more immediate problems arise. First, the checker can’t get the scanner to read the barcode on the large cardboard box, then the price shows up as $17.90 on the cash register screen. “That’s not what it said back at the display case,” he says glumly as he reluctantly fishes in his wallet.
“Oh, was there a blue or orange or yellow sign above it?”
“Someday, we’ll be like the folks who live in the big house on the hill and have an Amazon Prime membership.”
“I don’t know,” Clarkson says, a bit confused.
“That price is for our Amazon Prime customers.”
Clarkson hesitates, not knowing whether he should bite the bullet and pay the higher price, or sheepishly admit his cheapness in front of several bejeweled and increasingly impatient women behind him.
“I guess,” he begins hesitantly, torn in two directions, when a short bespectacled woman in religious garb steps in to save the day.
“I’m a member,” says Sister Mary MacKenzie Bezos as she holds out her Amazon Prime Store Card to process the sale.
Clarkson is speechless, and his Good Samaritan escapes before he has time to thank her. “Gosh, that was awfully nice of her,” he says as he hands his re-usable grocery bag to the checker to qualify for the dime rebate. “I wonder what her story is.”
You can’t get high-quality programming like this unless you’re a member.
The tale behind the retail mission of mercy is the Little Sisters of Amazon Prime, a religious order that uses its membership in the paid subscription service to aid shoppers in need. “The sisters, they’re the best,” says Tony Duclos, a devotee of Prime Original Series such as The Tick who was forced to cancel his membership last year when he was laid off as a cable TV installer. “They help me stay on top of the hottest music, and I can even download Editor’s Picks for free in case I should ever lose my mind and want to read a book.”
“It is only natural that the Church should hook up with Amazon Prime as we are first and second largest membership organizations in the world.”
Pope Francis I says the religious order is the fastest-growing under the umbrella of the Roman Catholic Church. “They’re the future, not old-fashioned brick and mortar orders who go around helping the poor, the sick and the hungry,” he said in his weekly address from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. “We need to go after the demographic that would blow $1.79 on a fancy container of yogurt–they can fill up the collection baskets.”
“I forget–does he like Coffee or Cappuccino flavored?”
Amazon Prime has been criticized by consumer groups for signing up members unwittingly who only wanted to search for quotes by Goethe but mouse-clicked the wrong button. “I swear, I don’t need delivery to the trunk of my car for a flat annual fee of $119,” says Ronnie Scalzine, 26-year-old model-car racing enthusiast who lives at home with his parents. “Well, maybe for my plus-size lingerie catalogs.”