Sunday, May 06, 2018

Is it wrong to take student discount if I'm not a full-time student?

Partly because she wants her online purchases of books and products delivered swiftly and free, and partly because she wants to follow-up on friends' and colleagues' suggestions of shows to watch on Amazon Prime's streaming television service, a reader we're calling "Sally" has decided to sign up for Amazon Prime. Colleagues at the large university where Sally works regularly chat up one another about their latest weekend binge-watching activity, and Sally finds some of their entertainment choices intriguing enough to want to get in on the binge.

Given that she already pays for cable service, internet service, a Hulu subscription, and a Netflix subscription, Sally wasn't crazy about the $119 per year fee to join Amazon Prime. But a colleague who works with her told her that the price for college students with an .edu email address is only $59 a year, plus students can get a six-month free trial, before the annual fee kicks in.

Everyone who works at the university has an .edu address, even if they are not students. One of the perks of working at the university is the ability to take one course every semester for a nominal fee, or, if you've been working there as long as Sally, for free.

"I've tried to take a course every semester," Sally writes. "So technically, I guess this makes me a student." But she acknowledges that the reason she has the required .edu email address is because she's an employee of the university, not because she's a student.

Sally wants to know if it would be wrong for her to sign up for the student rate on Amazon Prime even if she is not a full-time student.

It's certainly worth a shot. If Amazon's intention is to give those taking college courses a break on the price, then taking even one course a semester seems to fit the criteria. Some students go to college part-time, so Sally's level of engagement with college might not be all that different from many other college students.

"I'm not sure if it's something I want to keep," she writes, "so the six-month trial is really attractive."

If Sally wants to try out the service, the right thing for her to do is to go to the online signup page and begin the process of signing on for the six-month trial. As she fills out the application to join, she might find that some questions posed make it clear that she is not eligible for the college discount. But if she finds that she is able to fill out the form successfully, providing all the information asked for, then she should rest easy with her decision to join her friends and colleagues who get free two-day shipping on purchases and access to however much programming Amazon Prime offers.

Of course, given that Sally already has cable television, Hulu, and Netflix, she might find that adding yet another streaming television service to her life finally pushes her over the edge on entertainment. But that's a different conundrum for another day. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of, a blog focused on ethical issues. 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 


1 comment:

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