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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 21 hours ago

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 Amazon.com 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. Savings.com, 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 Savings.com — 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 NerdWallet.com.


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 Savings.com 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 Savings.com. 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 Savings.com. 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 Savings.com 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.


Electronics

Another category where Amazon often had less-than-stellar prices was in electronics like televisions and laptops, the Savings.com 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.

NerdWallet.com’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 PriceGrabber.com or Savings.com’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 FreeShipping.org) and factor in whether a Prime membership might be worth it to you.


More from MarketWatch

78Comments
4 minutes ago
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Customer service is great with Amazon. However, the feature that i like the most about them: the reviews !!
5 minutes ago
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Out of the dozens of items I ordered over the years, two or three were basically junk. The return process could not have been easier. Printed out the return authorization and prepaid UPS label, put the merchandise in the old carton and took it to the UPS store. Since the label was a prepaid, I didn't even stand in line. Return status is updated via email. They are, hands down, the best company I have ever done business with.

The biggest plus ?  I never have to deal with a human being.

6 minutes ago
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Purchased July 28 2014


Comparison shopped for trash cans.

2 Toter 64 gallon with wheels and attached cover


Sears                                         Amazon                                  Home depot

$72.85 trash can (each)            $199.97 trash can (each)       $74.98 trash can (each)

 190.00 shipping to house            18.62 shipping to house                  In stock in store


In this case, Home depot was the best price. Ordered on line at 7:30 AM and picked up at store customer service desk at 9:00 AM. 


More and more comparison shopping is important. Amazon is no longer the only player. We have purchased from Faucet Direct, Mr. Supply as well as Factory Direct and many others. We saved 25 to 50% over Amazon pricing.



12 minutes ago
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I love Amazon.  I have an Amazon credit card and Amazon Prime.  That being said, there are obviously cases where something is cheaper elsewhere, or there's something I can't find on Amazon that I can find elsewhere.  If not, who would shop anywhere else?

Things like planting/potting soil and fertilizers are often cheaper elsewhere, but that's mostly because shipping costs on things like that (which aren't Prime) are outrageous.  I've had an issue once before and it was resolved quickly.  In the same period of time I've had more instances of needing to return something to a brick and mortar store.
27 minutes ago
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I shop at Amazon 2 or 3 times a year, so far They have not figured out "on time delivery". It always takes more than 10 days for delivery. I avoid Amazon during the holidays as they cannot guarantee delivery times and packages have been delayed for days. There is no saving money on costs when products don't arrive on time. If I order a Christmas gift from Amazon and it's going to be late, then I have to purchase something from a retail store so the kid has something to open on Christmas morning. Amazon is NOT reliable in these situations. 
1 hour ago
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I never assume they have the best price.  The same goes for those deal-a-day sights (Ideeli, Rue La La, Groupon, etc).  Just because it is marketed as a good deal, doesn't make it one.  I always do a quick search of that specific item and see what the price is elsewhere.  Amazon does usually beat it out, especially since I am a Prime member, but it's ALWAYS worth a second look around.
1 hour ago
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Just the other day they said Amazon was losing a ton of money, what's this BS they are shoveling they change their tune almost over night, these clowns don't know SH_T !!!!! 
1 hour ago
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The customer service is the best you can find other than a mom and pop shop. They stand behind the products, even when it is actually sold by one of their venders. No hassle returns and for a Prime membership you can get 2-day free shipping on most items. They also tell you that an item can be found at a lower price (usually give the link) but when you add shipping charges and return policies from the other vendors you might want to think if it is worth it. Also with Prime I cancelled Netflix, get free books every month for my Kindle, free audio, store my new movies in the cloud (didn't have to expand my DVD shelves) and I've linked my Amex points to my Amazon account and save the hassle of trying to get my rewards from the Amex site. One place that does offer as good if not better on-line mix is COSTCO, I always check both sites.
1 hour ago
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Hey I love Amazon, have been shopping there for years...of course I check for these best deal but if it is close I click in favor of Amazon,,,,, great place, I also am a Prime member and watch their instant video & movies. 
1 hour ago
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I do very well price-wise at Amazon.  Cosequin for animal joint health is half the price of what you'd pay at 800 Ped Meds, the vet, Petco or Petsmart.  And, ladies, if you use Sexy hair products you can buy them on Amazon for about 1/3 of what you'll pay at the salon or in other stores that carry them.  I always buy enough of whatever item I'm shopping for to get the free shipping since I'm going to use them up anyway.  Amazon ships promptly and you always get your items in just a few days.   I have never had a problem of any kind using Amazon.
1 hour ago
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I ordered a case for my iphone in March, and I am still waiting for the delivery, I don't trust in amazon anymore.
2 hours ago
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Simple really. Buy something at Amazon - 10 minutes. Buy same item at a brick and mortar store anywhere from 1 hour to most of the morning or afternoon depending on who has the item in stock. More quality time left over for family etc. 
2 hours ago
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Amazon is usually pretty good, but when I find something I want, I google the product name and see if I can find it cheaper somewhere else.  Just the other week I saved $40 on a desk I liked on Amazon, but found it on sale somewhere else.  I do this all the time - just do my homework to find the best deal!!
2 hours ago
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I must have gotten lucky because I bought my last DSLR from Amazon and after an extensive search both on-line and locally saved around $350 over next best price. Also their prices on lenses (SONY/Minolta) are very competitrive with what I find on-line. Used prices are hit and miss with everybody.
3 hours ago
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I buy almost everything on Amazon from walnuts to Blu-ray players.  Prices are great, easy return if required and very fast shipping.  Customer service is excellent.  I just hope their CEO doesn't drive them out of business.
3 hours ago
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I saved hundreds buying my plaza TV on Amazon!
4 hours ago
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Wouldn't it have just been easier for the author to write, "Do your homework, research prices elsewhere, watch for sales, and make your purchase once you're sure you're getting the best price, whether it be at Amazon, or elsewhere"??

Oh yeah, but that wouldn't have reached the required 1000 words for the editor, would it? LOL

4 hours ago
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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.

8 hours ago
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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.
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