What started as an online bookstore has blossomed into one of the biggest companies in the world. We’re talking, of course, about Amazon.
The e-commerce giant has its hands in just about everything — from household appliances to groceries to streaming services to healthcare. With a company so vast in its offerings and often so competitive in its pricing, it’s easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of Amazon and miss some of the essential “dos and don’ts” of shopping there.
What are those dos and don’ts, exactly? Let’s have a look.
Do Check Return Policies Before Buying
Even items that seem like they would obviously be returnable can end up having some strange return policies — or none at all.
“So be sure to check and see what they are before you purchase something, especially if it’s a more expensive item and you know you may need to return it,” said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. “For one thing, returning items can be a hassle, but you may also have to pay for return shipping, and finding a convenient way to return is just one more part of the headache.”
Do Not Buy Amazon Prime Without Weighing the Value
Getting Amazon Prime may seem like a no-brainer with its ample media library, “free” shipping and other perks. But it’s also a pretty pricey service.
“It used to be a hands-down great value,” Ramhold said, “but, with the price sitting at $139 for a year now, it’s not exactly something every household can justify. And yes, you can get it on a monthly basis if you want to do that; but, before you buy in at all, it’s worth weighing the perks of Prime against the price. If there’s a chance that you won’t use the membership to its full potential, you’re better off skipping Prime and shopping strategically on Amazon — or even shopping elsewhere altogether.”
Do Link Your Amazon Account to Fetch
Did you know you can link your Amazon account to the cash-back app Fetch to earn points for qualifying Amazon purchases?
“You can then redeem your points — including those earned from purchases at other retailers and restaurants — toward free Amazon gift cards,” said budgeting expert Andrea Woroch.
Don’t Store Your Payment Info on Amazon
It’s super convenient to have your payment info stored in your Amazon account. It’s actually a little too convenient, one could argue. Especially if you have a history of impulse buying.
“This makes it too easy to buy something you may not need without thought,” Woroch said. “The time it takes you to retrieve your credit card and enter your details, the more time you have to rethink the potential purchase and possibly dodge it.”
Do Return Items to Kohl’s, If Possible
Amazon has a partnership that enables shoppers to return unwanted purchases to Kohl’s, something that financial coach April Eick recommends.
“When given the option to return an item to Kohl’s, it is always my choice,” Eick said. “You can bring the product back out of the box and not packaged; and, when they give you your return receipt, there’s usually a small Kohl’s cash amount or percentage off coupon attached. Just make sure to save the actual return receipt portion in case you need it in the future.”
Don’t Blindly Shop Third-Party Sellers
Amazon has its own items for sale, but it also provides third-party sellers with a place to sell — and here, things can get hairy. The onus is on the consumer to do homework and make sure nothing looks awry.
“If you see something that seems too good to be true, before you purchase from a random third party, make sure to read the seller reviews to see what others are saying,” Ramhold said. “Not all of these reviews are going to be useful, obviously — sometimes people leave negative reviews just because — but some of them can be very useful and it’s a good idea to get a picture of the seller before you try to buy something and potentially end up with issues.”
Do Use CamelCamelCamel
CamelCamelCamel is a super handy tool for tracking price drops.
“For items you know you want but aren’t quite ready to buy, use things like CamelCamelCamel to track price changes,” Ramhold said. “That way you’ll receive a notification when a price drops and you can set the threshold to whatever you want so that you aren’t having to check the price of it every single day, multiple times.”
Don’t Make Amazon Your Go-To Shopping Destination
Amazon is so convenient and so ubiquitous that it’s easy to make it your one-stop shop for everything. But it’s important to remember that Amazon doesn’t always offer the best deals and you have many other options.
“When you need to purchase something, don’t blindly go to Amazon. Shop around a little bit first,” Ramhold said. “You may find a local deal or another online retailer that has a better price or better value for the item you’re shopping for. Just because Amazon is a giant doesn’t mean they’re going to be the best, so don’t let that lure you into using them by default. It pays to shop around.”
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