There was a time many years ago — we’re talking before smartphones roamed the earth and in order to connect to the Internet you needed a dial-up modem that made a horrific screeching sound — when Amazon was a bookstore (remember books?). In fact, the original tagline for Amazon was “the world’s biggest bookstore”.
Well, fast forward a few decades, and while Amazon does indeed still sell books, it also sells diapers, essential oil diffusers, furniture, pet supplies, brick repair epoxy, watches, computers — and the list goes on and on. In fact, it’s more interesting to explore what you can’t get on Amazon these days, than what you can (by the way: don’t try and do brick repair yourself or you’ll regret it — call experts instead!).
Yet with this being said, many long-time, hard-core Amazon shoppers — including folks who have been around since the book and dial-up days — aren’t aware of some important aspects that impact their buying experience and, indeed, their wallet.
Here are three things in particular that you probably don’t know about shopping on Amazon, but certainly should:
- Prime shipping doesn’t always mean two-day shipping.
In theory, Amazon Prime customers are entitled to two-day shipping, while the rest of the Amazon buying population has to settle for 5-10 days shipping (or pay extra for faster shipping). But in reality, sometimes Prime shipping is 4-5 days; or even longer Why? It’s because not all items available for the Prime program are fulfilled by Amazon; they are fulfilled by merchants who are part of the Prime program. And even when items are fulfilled by Amazon, they may not be rapidly shipped or distributed from a local warehouse.
The bad news is that there’s no way to solve this — it’s not a bug, it’s just how things work. But the good news is that you can double-check to see how long shipping is really going to take just before you process your order.
- Prices changed. A lot!
Here’s another eye-opener for most Amazon shoppers: prices on the site change throughout the day. For example, you may be looking at a really cool Amazon Echo Spot smart alarm clock on Saturday and see that it’s selling for $129.99. Yet when you return to the site on Monday, it’s selling for $139.99 — or possibly $119.99. What’s going on?
It’s like this: Amazon constantly and automatically collects and analyzes an enormous amount of data — both from its own site, and by keeping an eye on what’s going on at other sites like eBay, and so on. It then uses this information to dynamically adjust prices; sometimes up, sometimes down. While some items have relatively stable pricing, others can fluctuate many times throughout the day (though usually not by huge amounts).
There’s no known way to anticipate when prices may drop or rise. The general advice is that if you’re looking at an item that has a reduced price, then don’t assume that the discount will remain. In fact, it could expire by the time you put it into your cart and checkout (so you’d better hurry!).
- Pay close attention to search results.
When you’re searching for an item, Amazon doesn’t necessarily show you the best deals first. Instead, you’ll see featured and sponsored items, or just those that Amazon wants to push — such as its own brands.
To find the best deals, you’ll probably need to do some research and scroll through a few pages. Also, keep in mind that the lowest selling price isn’t necessarily the best deal if you’ll be required to pay shipping. Plus, some sellers use smaller units and quantities to offer a lower price.
The Bottom Line
If you keep the above three things in mind, then you’ll increase the chances that your Amazon shopping experience will be rewarding, instead of regrettable. Have fun!