Saturday, November 12, 2005

With Black Friday around the corner, I thought it would be worth sharing a few tips I've learned about shopping on Amazon. I've been using Amazon since 1999, and I've spent...well, let's just say I'm an experienced user. Here are some tricks.
  1. Take advantage of pre-orders. I ordered Batman Begins two months in advance and paid $15.98; by the time the DVD was released, Amazon had raised the price to $21.68. If you order Fantastic Four today, you'll lock a 47% discount. If you wait until after its release, you'll almost certainly pay more.

  2. Amazon offers free shipping on almost any order over $25. They try to discourage you from using it by deliberately delaying shipment of these "Super Saver Shipping" orders; but if you can exercise patience, it pays off.

  3. If you use Amazon's search engine regularly, they link your account and give you a 1.57% discount on every order. Depending on how often you use Amazon, that could be a lot or a little; but even if you only place one order in a year, it's loose change that you can keep in your pocket.

  4. Amazon's prices change. If an item's price is raised after you place an order, Amazon will honor the original price; but sometimes those prices are lowered, and Amazon won't automatically apply those discounts to your order. They will make the changes manually, however, if you call and request them. Check those prices occasionally; I've saved $8.50 in the past month by catching these reduced prices. It only takes a moment, and the call is free: 800-201-7575. (There's no automated system to wade through, and Amazon's customer service representatives are actually quite helpful.)

  5. Finally: If Amazon makes a mistake, call and politely complain. You'd be amazed how generous they can be with $10 promotional rewards. Again: 800-201-7575.
Lest you think I'm astroturfing Amazon, let me point out: If you follow my advice above, Amazon may lose money. There's no way they can carve a margin off DVDs sold for 48.57% below retail; and although Amazon doesn't charge me for shipping, that certainly doesn't mean United Parcel works for free. Every $25 order I place costs a few dollars for Amazon to ship; and when the discounts are deep, those few dollars may exceed their profit. They probably lose a few cents on each order.

But hey, that's capitalism. They volunteer these promotions hoping to attract customers who are too lazy or impatient to invoke the discounts; and in their wake, smart customers can enjoy a free ride.

One last note: I support Alan Lankin's Upcoming Jazz Releases, which he hosts as a public service, by clicking his links to buy discs from CDUniverse. I get the same low prices; but instead of CDUniverse pocketing $1.10 from every disc, they only profit a dollar and Alan gets ten cents. It doesn't cost me a dime, but it's a simple way to thank him for a great site. Amazon has a similar referral program. Check it out.


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