On Amazon’s Prime Day, my mom called me with some questions. She wanted to know some details about my awesome sewing machine. She knows that I absolutely love it. She got to try it out when she came to visit was hoping to get a similar one for a great deal during Amazon’s supposed big sale.
The sewing machine she was thinking about looked like it might have been on sale, as the Amazon price was quite a bit lower than the published retail price, but I was skeptical. I looked around a bit, and concluded that the sewing machine’s price was not a great, once-in-a-lifetime deal, so there was no need to act fast. The price always hovered around that amount. (In fact, to be sure, I peeked just now and sure enough, today’s price is the same as the price on Prime Day.)
On Prime Day, I took a look at a few things that have been in our Amazon shopping cart for a while, waiting for a super deal. There were no price changes on our watch list items. From what I could tell, Prime Day, despite all the publicity, ended up being a series of flash sales on a few key items like Kindles. The rest of Amazon’s products never budged in price. It was nothing to really get excited about, unless what you wanted was offered as a daily deal (and you acted fast enough to get it).
In fact, I learned from my mom, some of the prices went up on Prime Day. My dad had several items on his watch list that he had been watching the prices fluctuate on. On Prime Day, the price of each of them rose significantly. They have to make up for their killer deal “loss leaders” by raising the price on other items.
This strategy is not unique to Amazon. All stores do it! The front page of sales flyers often contain fabulous deals because they want to get you in the store. They know you will buy more than just the loss leaders once you’re in the store. The markup on the regular items subsidizes the sales.
It’s hard to not get sucked into “deals,” especially when there is a sense of urgency. How do you know what is a good deal? How do you prevent making rash in-the-moment decisions that you might regret?
My biggest advice is to just WAIT.
- To make sure you really want it
When we make a quick decision to buy something “that looks like a great deal,” we often end up with stuff we don’t need, haven’t budgeted for, and just end up collecting dust. Forcing yourself to wait is a great way to make sure you really want something. Consider whether you would pay full price for it, or if you are only getting it because you feel the adrenaline of a sale.
- To see how the price changes
When you decide that you want or need something, instead of buying it right away, start watching the prices. You’ll notice that prices fluctuate and it’s often cyclical. For some items, price changes are seasonal. Once you have watched the price for a while, you will be able to tell what is a good deal.
For items you buy regularly, like groceries, it’s nice to keep a price book so you know what the best prices are and when it’s time to stock up.
- To think of alternatives
Waiting also gives you the chance to think of alternatives to buying your item new. Could you buy it used at a thrift store or on Craigslist instead? If it’s not something you’ll be using often, is it something you could borrow, so that you won’t have to buy it or store it? Could you make the item or repurpose something else to serve the same purpose?
Understanding marketing techniques like offering loss leaders and fabricating a sense of urgency can help you be a smarter shopper. If you can be patient and wait, instead of acting fast on every lightning deal you see, you’ll be able to tell if you really want or need the item, see how the price changes (and know what really is a good deal), and think of alternatives.
And just for the record, I still love Amazon, even if Prime Day wasn’t what I had hoped.
How about you?
- Are you good at waiting or are you sucked in by flash sales and daily deals?
- Did you find any great deals on Prime Day?
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