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I'm pretty frustrated with Prime Day

Commentary: Amazon Prime Day 2019 has become a confusing, disorienting mess. It's time for Amazon to use its AI powers to help us.


Amazon, we need to talk.


It descends with a flutter of tweets and posts, and Amazon blares the news from connected speakers everywhere: another Prime Day. Another shopping frenzy. Here we go again.

I've been involved with writing about Prime Day deals for several years now, and I've been a Prime member for years. I used to be really excited, sadly enough: games I've craved, suddenly on flash sale. Kindle books for a song. A chance to snatch up a new Kindle or an Instant Pot. Yeah, it's addicting.

And now, in July 2019, that excitement is gone. I tried to explore Amazon's deals this year and felt like I was enveloped in a misty labyrinth. Prime Day's page feels like hugging an octopus.

It hit me: Amazon's website sucks. OK, well, it's a confusing, disorienting mess. And... that sucks.

It's really bad. And I can't deal with it. And that's not the only thing that bothers me about Prime Day. Please, let me share. Also, I reached out to Amazon for comment. I haven't heard back yet.


Help me...

Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

Nothing is easy to find...

On a normal list of sales, like a Nintendo eShop sale or a flyer I get from Fairway, I can see what the deals are and why I should care. Many are even highlighted by importance. Amazon's site is like a department store vomited. The deals are scattershot. Board games, garbage bags, laptops, air fryers, Crocs. I have no way of prioritizing. 

Why can't I browse deals that interest me more? Or, why doesn't Amazon already know what I'm interested in? Or, can't it at least pull from my search history and flag things I apparently care about (as long as I'm OK with that and opt in)?

Which is why places like CNET (my employer) work so hard to help you find the best stuff among Amazon's labyrinth of cluttered deals. But, there's also a lot more Amazon could do to help you find the stuff you'll be most interested in. 

...and sometimes, you don't even land on the deals

I've purposely searched for deals to write about on CNET, and even then I'll find that some searches bring up products with one price, and others bring up Prime discounts. And then there are deals on top of deals, confusing price slashes with extra "save with Prime" blue stickers that could be revealed now, or in the checkout cart, or wherever. For some deals, I've needed to nearly purchase an item to see what the actual price savings were. But again, you could easily buy the thing that's "on sale" at a different price and never realize it.

Third-party sellers cloud the picture with confusion

Even when the deals are done, there's still a ton of invitations to buy the thing you're looking for, at a confusing range of prices that often aren't for exactly the thing you wanted. Good luck with that. (I'd stay on the path and only go with official vendors, if you can tell the difference.) It's a shame, because those third-party sellers are often small businesses, like maybe a cool local board game store somewhere, or a magic shop I've never heard of. But knowing which are legitimate and which are scams is really, really tough.


I've been down a familiar road before...

Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

Hello, I've seen this deal before? (Or have I?)

I have an Instant Pot I bought two years ago. I have my Kindle Paperwhite I got for $80 last year. I got a cheap smart plug. I have an upgraded microSD card for my Switch. I bought up copies of Catan, its expansions and a few other random board games I still haven't played. And now, I see, those deals are back. They circle again, and again. Now, and in November, for Black Friday. I've become ever more aware of the cyclical nature of these sales, and how few of them are unique. Can we get some novelty? Or, can I get a sense of how good a deal is compared to when I last saw it? Or, can Amazon finally just be aware of what I already own, and filter out accordingly?

Where did the Kindle e-book sales go?

My tiny joy on Amazon sale days involves browsing the long list of discounted Kindle books Amazon sometimes offers up. Prime Day's offerings seem a lot more sedate. Amazon is offering a three-month trial to Kindle Unlimited (hope I don't forget to unsubscribe), and there was a $5 Kindle book credit deal if you bought your Kindle books by... yesterday. I didn't do that because I was waiting to see if the books would be on sale today, which they're not.


I don't know.

Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

So many smart home things

Smart home devices aren't always loved in my house. I thought about the Echo Show 5, which seems like a great little alarm clock. My wife said no to smart speakers in the bedroom. I don't blame her. We have enough tech.

I love that the Kindle is a disconnected device. But every other Amazon device being offered on discount is about deeply connecting your home into a set of microphones and connected appliances. I'm okay not doing that, right now. Despite my love of the future, and tech, I'm fine not stocking up. Also, I assume, these same deals will be waiting for me in four months if I change my mind.

I like my town's small businesses

One of the hardest things about covering deals on Amazon is that I know I'm encouraging people away from shopping locally. I'm to blame for this in my own life. I love Kindle books, even though I also love shopping in local bookstores. Those two don't easily co-exist. But I try to go out to small business day sales when I can, and visit new stores, and I don't want these shops to go away. Amazon Prime Day? Well, it's not going to help. And there's a lot of protesting this year.

It's time for Amazon to use its advanced powers to not confuse us

Despite all my frustrations, yes, there are deals. Prime Day can be helpful, if you catch the right sale. And yet, for a company so focused on AI, on machine learning and building a frictionless automated future, Prime Day is full of friction. And it shouldn't be so difficult for me to browse deals that interest me. In fact, right now, it turns me off. For a company as powerful as Amazon, Prime Day ends up feeling more like a random fire hose than a purposeful help.

That said, I bought an iPad

I'm sad to say that Prime Day did suck me in for at least one purchase: a 128GB iPad for the family. Just wanted to let you know.

Also, here are some links for Prime Day.