It’s here, it’s here! Amazon Prime Day, the grand smorgasbord of online shopping deals, opens its virtual portals of savings on Monday. For a full 48 hours (starting at midnight on July 15 until 11:59 p.m. on July 16), Amazon is dangling tons of deeply discounted products before us. You’ll save on all of the air fryers, Instant Pot appliances, and smart home products you desire—provided you pay $119 for a year’s Prime membership, that is.
But before you click that “buy now with 1-Click” button, buyer beware: Among the deals lie tricks and traps that could cost you in the end. Here are the six biggest pitfalls to avoid on Amazon Prime Day.
1. Making FOMO-driven impulse buys
The temptation to buy what you don’t really need or want is high enough under these conditions, but Amazon cleverly ups the ante with its Lightning Deals. Throughout the two-day period, limited items will become deeply discounted until they sell out. This atmosphere of sales “fear of missing out” pressures you to make decisions without thinking them through. Do you really need that 105-ounce tub of Nutella?
“Why do sales work? Because consumer culture exploits the concept of scarcity,” says Cheryl Thompson, assistant professor at the School of Creative Industries at Ryerson University. “If you encourage people to think something is for a limited time or in a limited quantity, our brains process that as higher importance requiring a faster response than usual. So this notion is really a primal reaction to not being left out.”
Clever marketers have been honing sales techniques that exploit that ancient scarcity mindset for centuries.
“I don’t want to say that consumers are gullible dupes,” says Thompson, “but we do fall into predictable patterns of behavior, which is why marketing works.”
To combat this impulse—and ending up with purchases you might regret—arm yourself by creating a short list of what you truly need and want well ahead of checking the sales.
2. Purchasing outdated tech
Beware of buying outdated tech items. Prime Day is Amazon’s way of clearing its shelves of obsolete products. You don’t need to help Amazon with that. Check to make sure you’re buying the newest release of any high-tech gadgets if that’s what you want.
All that said, there’s no need to buy the latest and greatest if the bells and whistles don’t justify the higher price. For instance, experts from The Wirecutter to CNET agree that you’ll get a better value buying 2018 TVs rather than models from 2019. The reason: Improvements on the newer versions aren’t significant enough to justify the higher prices. So keep that in mind when you see discounted 2019 TVs.
And if you’re sad that you already missed out on the $180 Fire TVs that sold out ahead of Prime Day, don’t feel too bad. According to Consumer Reports, they’re relatively mediocre performers anyway. Senior editor for electronics James Wilcox recommends looking at different models for the main TV of your household, though the Fire is still fine for a secondary or small-screen TV. He expects more to go on sale on Prime Day. Keep in mind, they’re available at Best Buy as well.
3. Falling for fake discounts and fake reviews
Retailers are notorious for raising prices just before a big sale. So that Instant Pot may seem deeply discounted, but not when you see what it was selling for just three months ago. Check out CamelCamelCamel, which tracks the pricing of Amazon items over time.
Don’t take product reviews at face value, either. Fakespot.com claims a third of Amazon’s reviews are phony. If you’re skeptical about a product, paste the url into the company’s search tool to have the reviews analyzed for possible fakery.
4. Sticking just with Amazon
Prime Day isn’t all about Amazon anymore; some 250 other retailers, including Walmart, Target, and eBay, are expected to get a piece of the action this year.
“This is happening at a time when sales are traditionally slow, so a lot of retailers are using Amazon’s event to kick-start their own sales during a time of year when sales are not particularly strong,” says Wilcox. He recommends checking other retailers to see if they’re reacting to Amazon’s pricing.
“You might actually get a better deal by checking another retailer,” he explains.
That can be challenging when prices are constantly fluctuating. Consumer Reports recommends that if you see something on Amazon you want to buy, put it in your cart. From that point on you have 15 minutes to check prices for the same item on other sites. (You’ll want to bookmark those retail sites ahead of time.)
5. Missing the real deals
So if the deals can be found elsewhere, what’s good on Amazon?
“Typically what we’ve seen in past Prime Days is that a lot of the best deals are on Amazon’s own products, so the Echo smart speakers, the Fire TV streaming players, and Kindle and Fire TV tablets,” says Wilcox. As of this year, Amazon’s brands now include smart home and security devices as well.
6. Thinking Prime Day is all about the loot
You may think the purpose of Prime Day is so Amazon can rake in $4.19 billion in sales at one go. But it’s actually playing a deeper game.
“Understand that Amazon’s business model isn’t necessarily to get you to buy one thing on Prime Day,” says Wilcox. “It’s to pull you into becoming a Prime member.” Amazon is not just a one-night stand; Amazon wants a relationship with you.
Don’t freak out! With some planning and perspective, you can glide through the next two days with your wallet and your sanity intact.
“The thing to remember is that this is not your last opportunity to get a really good deal,” says Wilcox. There are still the back-to-school sales (some of which are starting early this summer), then the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. That’s when you’ll see not only the lowest prices, but also the widest assortment of TVs on sale, including major brands.
In other words, don’t worry—you aren’t missing out, even if Prime passes you by.
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