Many large companies, including Amazon and Target, now offer auto-ship programs, where consumers can set a pre-determined schedule to have their day-to-day necessities delivered to them at regular intervals. This convenience means consumers no longer have to worry about running out of groceries, toilet paper, or even dog toys.
The tobacco industry has also taken advantage of this trend. Three of the largest electronic cigarette companies, JUUL, Vuse, and blu, offer auto-ship options for their nicotine pods often coupled with additional discounts and promotions. Vuse offers a 10 percent discount off pods ordered through auto-ship, and blu offers free shipping on auto-ship orders. JUUL promotes auto-ship the most heavily. It offers free shipping and every sixth pod is free. JUUL also offers temporary promotions where users can get limited edition JUUL devices for free when they sign up for auto-ship. The regular price of a JUUL device before tax is $49.99, so this is quite a deal. On its website, blu promotes its auto-ship program with an article entitled “Autoship: Hassle-Free Vaping is Easier than Ever.” It seems like this decision might be worth the hassle.
Auto-ship inherently removes some level of consumer agency from the point of sale and encourages continued use of products. This is particularly troubling when the items for sale are e-cigarette pods high in nicotine. The tobacco industry is keeping consumers hooked with auto-ship, when addictive products conveniently show up on the consumer’s door step every month.