Amazon said it wants to cover growing delivery costs with fees instead of raising grocery prices.
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Amazon puts a lot of effort into getting customers to join its Amazon Prime subscription service. Along with the program's signature free shipping, Amazon has continued to tack on other benefits: Prime Video, Prime Music, Prime Day….And when Whole Foods joined the Amazon family in 2017, the upmarket grocer was tossed into the mix — things like Whole Foods Prime deals and free two-hour delivery. Plus, Amazon has to keep up with itself, so in 2019, Amazon also dropped delivery fees on its own Amazon Fresh grocery service.

Long story short, for years, the freebies have kept piling up, which makes a recent announcement especially surprising: Beginning August 30, Prime members in six cities will now be required to pay a $9.99 fee for Whole Foods delivery. An Amazon spokesperson confirmed that the fees will be launched as part of a new pilot program in the greater Detroit area; the greater Boston area; the greater Chicago area; Portland, Maine; Providence, Rhode Island; and Manchester, New Hampshire.

Amazon Prime delivery bags with Whole Foods groceries
Credit: Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images

"This service fee helps to cover operating costs, so we can continue to offer the same competitive everyday prices in-store and online at Whole Foods Market," Amazon stated in a notice sent to customers in the areas, according to Bloomberg.

Amazon reiterated to Food & Wine that their growing delivery business has increased operating costs — with the brand delivering three times as many orders in 2020 as in 2019, and with larger basket sizes per order — so instead of raising the prices of groceries to cover these costs, they've decided to test adding fees to the delivery itself. Amazon also said they believe the fees are comparable to similar services offered by competitors.

Meanwhile, all other Prime benefits at Whole Foods will remain the same, including exclusive Whole Foods Prime deals, an additional 10 percent off all sale items (outside of alcoholic beverages), and 5 percent back with the Amazon Prime Rewards Credit Card. Grocery pickup will also remain free in these areas.

And what about Amazon Fresh deliveries? Though Amazon said that their Fresh service is not available in all of these locations, that service will also remain free.