Amazon and its grocery store chain Whole Foods announced this morning that savings for Prime members will make their way to more states across the U.S. this week, including Arizona, Georgia, Oregon, North Carolina and Washington, among others. The tie-up gives Amazon shoppers another reason to join the Prime membership program percent off on-sale grocery items at Whole Foods, and other deeper discounts on a weekly basis.
The discount program was first Announced in mid-May, starting in Florida, with promises to soon expand across all U.S. Whole Foods Market and Whole Foods Market 365 stores throughout the summer. Amazon has been making good on that goal, with a rollout to 12 more states, including California, Texas and Colorado later that same month.
Meanwhile, Target has been expanding its own grocery delivery business, Shipt, across the Southeast and Midwest at a rapid pace as it prepares to go coast-to-coast. And it’s expanding its Drive Up curbside service for everyday items, though for now excluding fresh and frozen groceries. The retailer has plans to remodel more than 1,000 of its stores, too, in order to better accommodate the new ways people shop — like offering bigger Order Pickup counters and more space for Drive Up orders.
Amazon needs a stake in the grocery business to remain competitive, but it also needed a way to bring Whole Foods’ high prices down to drive loyalty, given its reputation for costly groceries. (“Whole Paycheck” was the joke.) Rebranding the price cuts as a Prime member benefit seems to be a good way to go about that.
The savings are available by providing your Amazon account’s phone number at checkout, or by using the updated Whole Foods app.
Not only that, but many states have begun the process of establishing their own net neutrality rules, some even stronger than the 2015 ones being taken out of play. These will lead to numerous local conflicts, as the FCC claims its authority preempts that of states, while states claim the FCC has abdicated that authority by changing the statute under which it enforces the rules. (This is largely untested legal ground.)
Not only that, but the kinder, softer federal rules may not be the ones they have to worry about. When states pass their own laws, it’s likely (or at least possible) that they will stay in effect during the inevitable legal challenge. It’s no good to try something shady but now legal under federal rules if by doing so you find yourself in violation of 20 individual state laws.
A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.
Altogether this makes for an incredibly fraught situation for broadband providers. They are perhaps under the closest scrutiny ever; their past misdeeds haunt them even as they make pious promises of dedication to a free and open internet. While no doubt they will attempt to get away with a few raids on the customer cookie jar via relatively innocuous (but frog-in-pot dangerous) practices like zero rating, serious larceny is almost certainly not on their minds, at least for the next couple of years.
Following the highly visible and unpopular passage of a rule that unshackles them from serious regulatory oversight, any dramatic changes to their offerings or business deals will be seen as a breach of their newly acquired principles.
Something you can expect is a bit of PR from the FCC and broadband companies soon talking about how the new rules took effect and nothing bad happened. Sure — but they probably won’t mention the bad stuff that happened long before: the retraction of the broadband privacy rule, the relegation of abuses by broadband providers to the slow-to-act FTC, the endless favors given to telecoms and media companies like Sinclair, the total withdrawal of oversight in practices like zero rating that could easily morph into something worse, the mystifying reticence to address serious issues surrounding the rulemaking.