Shopping at Amazon? Here Are 10 Common Mistakes to Avoid
Regardless of whether you are new to Amazon or a seasoned shopper, odds are there's something you could learn.
Adam OramDeals Writer
Adam Oram is a Deals Writer at CNET. He studied Media at Newcastle University and has been writing about technology since 2013. He previously worked as a Senior Writer at iMore, Deals Editor at Thrifter, and as an Apple Genius. His spare time is spent watching football (both kinds), playing Pokémon games, and eating vegan food.
Odds are you have shopped at Amazon or you still do. The online retail giant makes ordering everything easy and offers quick delivery options on a ton of stuff, making it the perfect place to shop for many of us. While it seems pretty straightforward, odds are that you're making some mistakes when shopping at Amazon without even realizing.
It's easy to cut out most of these mistakes once you know about them, and if you shop at Amazon with any regularity, it could help you save some real-world cash. Who wouldn't want that?
It's no secret that prices change regularly at Amazon -- consider how often Amazon runs sales -- but not everyone will know how to check that the price on offer right now is actually worth buying at.
Amazon has made this a little easier in recent months by making it clear on a product's listing when the price is the best it has been in the last 30 days, but rather than blindly purchasing at whatever the list price is, you can use various online tools to check what a good price actually is.
Here at CNET we have our own shopping extension to help you do just that. Other tools like CamelCamelCamel are also handy to have in your arsenal.
Missing the on-page coupon options
While you're on a product's page, you ought to be checking for additional coupons you can clip or special codes you can use at checkout to save more. These aren't always the clearest, and there are a couple of places that they show up, so be sure to read a product's listing in detail before adding the item to your cart.
Key places to look include right beneath the list price where a percentage or dollar value clip coupon may appear, or a tad lower down the page in the "Special offers and product promotions" section, where alphanumeric coupon codes sometimes show. These then need to be entered manually at checkout. Amazon has a dedicated coupon deals section where a bunch of these kinds of deals are listed.
Amazon Prime members also occasionally score exclusive pricing on select items. This Prime-specific price will usually be shown below the regular price and is applied automatically at checkout for Prime subscribers.
Not using Subscribe & Save
Similarly, Subscribe & Save is available to use on a range of everyday essentials and it instantly saves you 5% on things you buy frequently and up to 15% if you use the service right.
A lot of folks are hesitant to set up anything like a subscription these days for fear of forgetting to cancel or getting locked into a new regular payment, but Subscribe & Save is surprisingly easy to modify or cancel so it's a no-brainer to use it where possible.
Buying things at the wrong time of the year
Regardless of all of the ways to snag extra coupons and slight discounts on purchases, buying items at the wrong time can end up costing you much more. Amazon holds regular sales and any major purchases should be made during these where possible.
There are the obvious big sales like Prime Day and Black Friday where you'll get the year's best prices on most things, but smaller sales happen throughout the year around holidays like Memorial Day and Labor Day that can help you save a chunk of change periodically. The CNET Deals team is on top of all of the sales all year long so we can keep you posted on when the best times to shop are.
Not checking different colors or configurations
Another sneaky way to potentially nab a lower price is to check other colors or configurations of products. Color bias often makes certain models more popular -- and expensive -- even when the color has zero impact on the product's utility. If the color or exact configuration doesn't matter to you, you might be able to save a few bucks by going for a less popular variant.
Picking speed over cost
The convenience of ordering at Amazon and receiving your item within a couple of days is one of its biggest advantages, but it doesn't always pay to get your order straight away. In fact, if you choose to receive your order a little later, Amazon may reward you. This can be in the form of an instant discount on what you're buying or free digital goods like eBooks and apps. The offers vary, but it's worth considering if you're not in a rush for whatever you're buying. Simply choose Free No-Rush Shipping at checkout where available to check it out.
If there aren't any offers available with No-Rush Shipping, then you can still make the most of Amazon Day Delivery which groups together purchases made over several days into one convenient delivery slot. Again, if you can wait a little while for your purchases, this may be a convenient way to have things delivered when you're actually going to be in rather than leaving your parcels outside for potential porch pirates.
Completely trusting the star rating
Outside of not nabbing the best pricing, there are a few other ways to make mistakes when buying at Amazon and one of those is blindly trusting Amazon's reviews and ratings. Amazon is well aware of its fake reviews problem but, like many other retailers, is playing a game of cat and mouse in trying to curb misuse of this feature. Basically, take the star rating and any customer reviews with a pinch of salt, check out reviews for the product you're buying at sites you trust -- like CNET! -- and use your best judgement.
Opting to purchase from the wrong seller
That trust factor extends to third-party Amazon sellers, too. Underneath the buy buttons on a product's page, you'll see who is selling the product and who is shipping the product. Often, this will be Amazon on both counts but sometimes you'll see a third-party here. If it's the brand of the product you're buying, and it's a brand you trust, or the name of a retailer you trust (like Woot or Adorama) then it's not usually a concern.
However, if you don't recognize the name then it may be best avoiding that seller or at least checking out their reviews (with the above caveat about reviews also applying here). Amazon allows several sellers to offer the same product, so you can usually choose another, more familiar name from the offers page below the pricing. The link to other sellers will say something like "New & Used (4) from $31" and clicking it will show you your options.
Not shopping Amazon Warehouse
A lot of folks sneer at used or refurbished products, but they are some of the easiest ways to save. Amazon offers major discounts on electronics, home and kitchen gear, tools, clothing, jewelry and more -- and you don't even need an Amazon Prime membership to join in the fun.
Like other major retailers, Amazon takes in a lot of customer returns which it can no longer sell as new-in-box. It doesn't matter why the buyer sent the item back or whether it's even been opened, it has to be sold as used the second time around. Amazon Warehouse is the spot where Amazon lists these cut-price items and it can help you save a small fortune.
Not understanding the return policy
Amazon is usually pretty good when it comes to returning products, offering free returns and even paying you to return products in particular ways, but not every product and category has the same rules when it comes to sending things back. At Amazon, and any other online retailer, it's worth familiarizing yourself with the return policy for the item you are purchasing before parting with your hard-earned cash. Amazon links the return policy per item right below the buy buttons and also hosts a central hub for all of its return policies.