Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, January 04, 2017
 
My Amazon Prime experience in Belgium

Wikipedia describes Amazon as "the largest Internet-based retailer in the world". But once you scratch the surface a little bit it turns out that instead of having one large international company, Amazon is run as a bundle of now 19 local companies. And if you don't live in one of those 19 countries, things sometimes get a little weird.

Last month I signed up for Amazon Prime, a service that bundles access to a video streaming service with other advantages like free one-day shipping. However it quickly turned out that this is a very local offer. If I sign up from Belgium, I sign up for Amazon.fr and nothing else. Free shipping only from Amazon.fr, and access to Prime Video only to the selection of Amazon.fr. Unfortunately Amazon.fr is frequently more expensive than let's say Amazon.de, and the Prime Video catalog is by far the smallest. And often dubbing or subtitles are only available in French, which is my least favorite language of the three I speak. That is especially annoying for the Dutch speaking half of Belgium, but isn't ideal for expats either.

During my Christmas holidays in Germany I thus signed up for Amazon Prime for Amazon.de. I had to use a different e-mail address for that, as signing up for Amazon Prime on two Amazon sites with the same e-mail is causing an error message. The big upside of Amazon.de over Amazon.fr is cheaper prices and a much larger selection of films and series on Prime Video. The downside is that the free shipping only applies to shipping addresses in Germany and Austria. And as soon as you leave the country your Prime Video access is limited to Prime original series. Just like Netflix you can circumvent that using a good VPN like ExpressVPN.

In balance I finally cancelled the French Prime and went for the German one. I only get free shipping when I send things to friends and family in Germany, but for the items I send to Belgium the lower price on the German site more or less makes up for the shipping cost. And I never subscribed to the notion that circumventing regional restrictions for media somehow constitutes "piracy", there is a big difference between smugglers and pirates. The one series I really want to watch, The Grand Tour with Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May is a Prime original anyway and can be watched without regional restrictions. Maybe one day services like Amazon and Netflix become really international and serve people not living in their native countries better.

Comments:
In Ireland there are a number of companies offering a virtual UK address with shipping to Ireland. Very popular for Amazon purchases. The one I use drops your parcels off at a local petrol station so I don't need to be home when the driver calls. Costs about €4 per parcel but worth it because I can avail of free UK shipping. Not sure what will happen after Brexit though.
 
Yea, as an expat in the Netherlands, this amazon prime stuff has been rather confusing. Fortunately here amazon.de is default, but my main account was always on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. It was a total clusterF when i tried getting the app on my phone, and trying to prove to whichever appstore i was in that i do have prime access on the german store. So i will see how it goes, it is certainly alot cheaper than netflix at this point,but this nonsense with being forced into regional sites that isn't even in english is absurd. I usually buy from the german amazon too, but i never find stuff on there because you need to search in german terms and reviews needing translation . So i usually search on the american/uk sites and hope to find the same brand on de.
 
Isn't it sad that you are paying a fee for such a shitty service that will have you jumping through hoops for the "privilege" of enjoying it?

If you could see my blu-ray and gaming collection, you'd be able to tell that if something is available locally, and with little fuss, then I have no problem paying for it. But for the situation you described, piracy all the way, with absolutely no regrets. And if the only way to be treated as a paying customer is to set up a VPN, then it's time to fire up that torrent.
 
It makes sense if you look at it from the view of the copyright holder. They don't WANT you as a customer for pennies a view, they want you as a customer of blu-ray discs and downloadable digital movies that they get a much larger payment from. It's like free to play games... it's the whales that have huge blu-ray collections that are the prized customers. The rest of us are content fighting for scraps.

That said, I'm glad the US is a Republic. I can't imagine having to choose between "Netflix Illinois" and "Netflix Central States" or however the country would be carved up. And on top of that, those people in Illinois speak a completely different language! I, of course, as a native of Califirnia, would speak Californian, and would have had to learn Redneck when I moved to Missouri.

So you might say... "But why does Netflix care! They don't own the actual copyrights, only the distribution rights." Yup. And the copyright owners would want that to be as difficult and fragmented as possible to drive sales of individual items.
 
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