* Our experience in shopping at Amazon.com (and through Amazon with 3rd party sellers) had been excellent --for over 15 years and through hundreds of purchases. I've not had to return anything sold directly by Amazon and the only two problems (that I can recall) with 3rd parties were quickly and cordially resolved.
* Circa late 2016, however, my frustration level with their obscure shipping costs reached a point at which I thought: "enough!" --after trying to purchase an outdoor television antenna --one which promised free shipping.
Free shipping use to require a $25 purchase --which we easily spent per order. Then it was raised to (just under) $50 --not at all unreasonable.
* Toward the end of 2016 (and I'm vague on the details now), I got the impression (having ended up with a shipping charge --after I'd placed an order) that book totals weren't necessarily added in with other purchases --in order to qualify for free shipping.
So the next time we ordered, I made a screen capture for an item which seemed to indicate "free shipping", but I couldn't get it to come out of the bill by spending more. I also made that purchase anyway, but later on I did a back-and-forth with Amazon's help desk to learn what went wrong. I included the screen shot, but it seemed like I was simply being stone-walled. (Maybe I'd missed something obvious. That happens often enough :-)
* On 2/12/2017, I think I figured it out --at least with respect to my attempted antenna purchase. When the product description stated (something like) "free shipping for qualified orders", the qualification sometimes turns out to be that I should also sign up for their "Amazon Prime".
To make that determination, however, I ended up having to Google "Amazon Prime" to find out what Prime status would cost me. As of March-something, 2017, it meant sending Amazon.com a welfare check for just under $100 --for a year's subscription. (I think that's gone up to $119, as of July, 2018.)
I did not appreciate the lack of transparency and being gamed into that.
* I tried to find out what the shipping on my antenna would be without sending them an annual welfare check but I struck out --short of going through the steps of making my purchase, then backing out near the last step. Although I'd gone through with doing that before, I just grew too crabby and weary of the process --and bought nothing that day.
---Hey, Amazon: just show me the guldarned total cost --with shipping!---
* Through 2017 I returned for book and DVD titles, noticing ever more "free shipping with Prime" flags along the way. Since there was no indication that the old shipping bargain also held (free shipping with whatever total purchase was required), I started buying everything used and from 3rd parties. (Such purchases are charged a constant $3.99 per item for shipping and handling --fair enough, but in 2018 we gave that up as well.)
* My time and equanimity being worth something, I ended up buying our antenna locally. (But first I made one!)^
(Seeing no apparent or convenient way to email/contact Amazon.com,
I'm venting via this web page.)
^The little loop antenna I made (see: "my
homemade antenna") was very helpful for finding the best location,
but I needed a more directional, multi-element antenna, due to the multi-path
TV signals here --and I was able to buy one locally at a BiMart store.
* As of July, 2018, there are 3 (important to me) items which have become locally unavailable or way overpriced: shirt pocket protectors; thin, transparent, bendable, plastic, 6 inch pocket rulers (a real "vade mecum" for my activities); and Hewlett-Packard, mat finish, inkjet, "Presentation Paper". To my delight, all 3 are available through Walmart.com --AND: shipping is always free if I pick up my order at the local Walmart store.