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What not to buy at Amazon

The e-commerce giant is not always the best place to go for these items.

By Money Staff Jul 28, 2014 2:38PM

This post comes from Catey Hill at partner site MarketWatch.

MarketWatch on MSN MoneyWhen we need books, soap, diapers, electronics — pretty much anything — many of us head right to Inc., assuming it has the lowest prices. But for some things, you may be better off shopping elsewhere.

A parcel moves on the conveyor belt at Amazon's a logistics center © Michaela Rehle/Reuters 
Last week, Amazon released its quarterly earnings, making one thing crystal clear: Customers are dropping a load of cash on the site. For the 52nd straight quarter, Amazon’s sales grew double-digits with revenue increasing to more than $19 billion, up 23 percent from a year earlier.

In many cases, it isn’t a bad idea to shop on Amazon., which just launched the PriceJump browser plug-in and app that compares Amazon prices with prices around the Web, examined the prices of roughly 1,500 new products priced $10 or more on a day in May.

It found that about half of the time, Amazon did, in fact, have the best price (which is pretty good, considering that it compared Amazon’s prices to those of 5,000 other retailers). In particular, Amazon tends to have the best prices on digital downloads like books, inexpensive items (things under $10, which were excluded from the survey) and on items you buy in bulk, says Meghan Heffernan, a spokesperson for — which is a lot of what we buy on the site.

"The cheap stuff on Amazon is cheap," says Matthew Ong, a senior retail analyst at

There’s also the issue of shipping. For $99 a year, Amazon gives its Prime members free two-day shipping. If you order multiple items a month and would otherwise pay for two-day shipping, a Prime membership may save you a pile of loot, says James Crompton, an analyst with IBISWorld — and that’s particularly true if you buy multiple, inexpensive items or bulk items, which Amazon tends to have cheaper, the data revealed. This analysis will help you determine if Prime makes sense for you. Furthermore, some consumers use Amazon’s Subscribe & Save feature to save up to 15 percent off items when they get automatic delivery on some of their frequent purchases (just be careful that this doesn’t make you stock up on items that you don’t need at that time).

But sometimes, Amazon’s prices aren’t the best, according to the analysis by Here are a few of those items.   Amazon has not yet responded to request for comment.

Items over $100

"For more expensive, bigger ticket items, you have a better chance of finding a better deal off Amazon,” explains Seth Barnes, the director of marketing for The analysis found that on these items, you had a 70 percent chance of finding the item for less at another online store. Items that the analysis found for significantly less than Amazon’s listed price included some home-improvement items like power tools and kitchen purchases such as a microwave and blender.


Another category where Amazon often had less-than-stellar prices was in electronics like televisions and laptops, the data revealed; showing that you could get a better price elsewhere on electronics 58 percent of the time. Sometimes, this is because electronics retailers (relatively) often have get-them-in-the-door/site teaser rates for big-ticket items that are great deals — with the hope that this will get you to buy the item from them, along with some higher margin purchases as well.

Photography supplies

“Photography stands out [as not being as low-priced on Amazon], especially as you get into more expensive cameras and equipment,” says Heffernan. Indeed, the deepest discounts compared to Amazon were found in this category, the data revealed. Heffernan says this is largely due to the fact that speciality photography retailers — facing stiff competition in today’s camera phone world — are “making a big effort to be competitive.”

There are surely deals found on these kinds of items on Amazon. Plus, this study only looked at just a single day of Amazon pricing, and since the retailer frequently changes its pricing, it may be worth it for consumers to check prices even on expensive things like electronics and photography supplies there.’s Ong noted that Amazon changes its prices on items “much more frequently than other retailers” (research firm Profitero says they make more than 2.5 million price changes every day) though he adds that the price changes were typically only minimally changed from their previous list price.

Bottom line

Amazon is often just what it claims to be: low-priced. Plus, “it’s a convenient and a trusted retailer,” says Crompton. “If you’re only going to save a few bucks elsewhere, it might not be worth it.” Throw in an existing Prime membership, and that may be particularly true for some.

Still, consumers cannot just assume it always has the lowest prices, particularly on items over $10. Use a browser plug-in like or’s PriceJump or an app like RedLaser if you don’t feel like comparison shopping. (PriceGrabber and PriceJump will alert you with a message on your computer screen when you look at an item that is priced lower elsewhere, and with RedLaser you scan a barcode of an item in a store and it will compare prices for you — both of which take much of the legwork out of comparison shopping.) Be sure to consider shipping costs as well (look for coupons on and factor in whether a Prime membership might be worth it to you.

More from MarketWatch

Jul 28, 2014 7:10PM
Ok, all of you that want to bad-mouth Amazon, they provide a valuable service for those of us who live out in the country (by choice). Our closest Walmart is 10 miles away and they are notoriously not well stocked. Closest big box is 40 miles away, large grocery stores are 30+ miles. Yes, I paid $6 for a two pound bag of organic pearl barley, but it was delivered to my door in two days (prime). I did internet search (as well as phone calls) and could not find it available anywhere in a 50-mile radius. Our small local grocery stores do not stock specialty items that I want. I don't have the time to drive 50 miles (one way), waste gas, time (fighting traffic), or energy, when I can find exactly what I need that will be delivered to my door.
I've made many purchases (thanks to reading reviews) where I got exactly what I needed from Amazon that I could not have found locally, or even anywhere close. BTW - many of the suppliers are NOT big box guys. Walmart is who crushed the local Mom & Pop stores and put them out of business. I try to avoid Walmart at all costs unless it is the only place I can find what I need. I use local grocery stores (that still have a real butcher) for meat, and buy local produce in season from our local growers. I support our local restaurants, avoid fast food or chain restaurants. I do what I can to support our local businesses. They need our support to survive.

Jul 28, 2014 3:43PM
I don't know. I got a fender guitar for 300.00 that was 350 and up everywhere else. Most of the time, Amazon is the way to go.

Jul 28, 2014 8:08PM
I usually find the same items cheaper on Amazon than on eBay.  I often check Amazon prices against other online retailers before I buy.  My experience is they are generally pretty comparable.  If another retailer is slightly less, I will still buy from Amazon because of a comfort level that Amazon will step up if there is a problem.  They must put the fear of God in their sellers to make it right with customers.

Over a few years and dozens of purchases I have had only a few issues and they took care of it with zero argument.  Amazon has never let me down. That's worth more.

Jul 28, 2014 8:54PM
I love amazon and use it every week. I hate shopping in a store and having to drive around looking- no thanks. amazon may not be always the cheapest , but price is not the only consideration to buy something. they have the best customer service of any company online or other. I even have an amazon credit card. there are other good sites such as smart bargains, overstock, wayfair  , etc. amazon is still the very best in my mind.  
Jul 28, 2014 3:25PM

This is true with any inter-store competition...brick and mortar OR around.

Even back in the 70's , I could find the 2x4x8 cheaper at lumber yard 'A' and the sheetrock  cheaper at 'B' AND...the plywood cheaper at 'C'.

-- but you'd waste all day and a tank of gas trying to prove it out.

At least online you can visit many before buying......ecept for those surprize discounts and coupons AFTER the sale !


Jul 28, 2014 6:55PM

I buy books and movies from Amazon.

I have been extremely pleased with their service and quality.

Jul 28, 2014 11:54PM
I used to go to online Walmart a lot, but now I'm getting where I like Amazon a lot better. Amazon also gets it to me faster than Walmart. I like Amazon shoes a lot more than Walmart's poor quality shoes. I do a lot of online shopping, and I'm learning who has the better quality and better price on what I want. I don't let any so-called "experts" tell where to shop or where to buy what I want. I can think for myself, and I trust my judgement over anyone else.
Jul 28, 2014 5:54PM
I'm sorry but does not work to compare with Amazon
Jul 28, 2014 10:57PM
i don't know who wrote this article. go into any chain store to buy a big ticket electronics item. at best you have a choice of 20 different versions and that's it. go on amazon for a big screen TV, and you have hundreds of choices available, and no salesman breathing down your neck. not only that you have actual feedback from buyers of these items to help you make a better informed decision as to your final choice. add to that, delivered to your door, and it's a no brainier. the gas and time saved alone makes online shopping the more viable option unless you are talking about groceries.
Jul 28, 2014 6:58PM
I get all my auto parts from Amazon. Much better way to go instead of the name-brand auto part stores. 
Jul 28, 2014 3:20PM
Ha, I get tons of free $5 gift cards for amazon by farming bing rewards points ;)
Jul 28, 2014 5:10PM

Last year was shopping online for a powerline broadband adapter found one on Amazon for $50.00 did some searching

and found exact same unit @ another site for $10.00.It pays to shop around.

Jul 29, 2014 3:18AM
Think that's bad... I checked on Ebay for a metal detector that same metal detector on Amazon $100 cheaper.  Ebay is still the worst place for a deal.  Used to be Ebay was king but, to many people trying to rip you off on there.  Amazon still better then 99% of everyone else.
Jul 28, 2014 8:27PM
I ordered a mail order bride from Amazon!!!
Jul 29, 2014 11:11AM
Customer service is great with Amazon. However, the feature that i like the most about them: the reviews !!
Jul 28, 2014 9:21PM
I always buy items that cost more than $100 from Amazon. Nobody can beat their price. I recently bought a brand new Dell Venue 8 pro tablet for $224 from Amazon. At the Dell site they sell for $249+. Their customer sevice is impeccable.
Jul 28, 2014 7:22PM
I see someone has stock in another company. 

I shop around and even if amazon is just over in price it is easy to get free shipping and the return policy is great. I have never had a problem when I deal with Amazon. I don't buy from the people that are just on the site but the guaranteed products. Really I like it because I can send it back free and the prices are often competitive if not better. Lots of times they are higher or much higher and I don't buy those things but I will look.
I've had better deals on video game systems from them than anyone, except this christmas when they wanted 200.00 more for a wiiu than anyone else. Literally you could go to a store and get it for 199.99 and they wanted 400.00 for it. If anything this article should be advice on when not to listen to MSN.
Jul 28, 2014 7:38PM
I would add toys to this list, especially LEGOs.  Amazon's prices are usually not quite as competitive as Target's or Toys-R-Us's in my experience.
Jul 29, 2014 7:20AM
I bought a big climbing bars yard toy thing for my son on Amazon; it cost me close to $200 when the next closest place with anything similar was more on the order of $250. Oh and you know what else? Amazon didn't charge me sales tax or shipping, either.

Electronics? Really? Compare anything on Newegg or Tiger Direct to Amazon and at least half the time Amazon is cheaper. Again, no shipping charge when I reach a certain purchase threshold.

I think this article was written by someone with a specific vendetta against Amazon for some reason.

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