Why you should ALWAYS price check before buying anything on Amazon
I'll be the first to admit it: the convenience of buying things on Amazon has led me to make some pretty poor financial decisions.
As an Amazon Prime member, the fact that I can get almost anything delivered to my front door in two days or less had made me especially vulnerable to the siren's call of the impulse buy. Whether it's a new hairdryer, vacuum or a birthday present for my mom, everything is just one click and two days away from being mine. And because it's so easy to buy stuff on Amazon, I often end up spending more on items I could get for MUCH less elsewhere -- if I ever bothered to do my homework before pressing the checkout button.
Don't get me wrong, Amazon has some terrific deals, but that doesn't mean that all of their prices are fair. In fact, there are entire (totally legal) multi-million dollar businesses devoted to buying things at stores like Target, Toys R Us and Walmart and reselling them on Amazon and eBay for a premium. Sometimes it's subtle -- just a few dollars more than what you'd pay at the store, but sometimes, especially around the holidays, the prices can rise to insane levels, and if you're too lazy to price check, you can get seriously ripped off.
The NPR podcast Planet Money did an entire episode on this practice last year, and when I heard it, I realized that if I, a Brad's Deals employee who is thoroughly trained in the art of finding the best possible price, was falling victim to these sorts of schemes, the general public didn't stand a chance. So here's my guide to how (and why) you should go about price checking your Amazon purchases.
Don't try and rationalize a price that seems excessive.
Let's say I want to buy a birthday present for my 10-year-old nephew, an Avengers enthusiast who's beaten me at Monopoly more times than I'd like to admit. While trolling Amazon, I come across the PERFECT present: Avengers Monopoly! It's listed at $39.99, plus a $4.49 shipping fee, which does seem high, but hey! It's a special edition so it's bound to be a little pricey, right?
WRONG. So, so wrong. According to the Planet Money podcast, people who make a living off this kind of legal price gouging actively search retail stores for unique-looking items like this to flip online for a major profit. They can't do this with regular Monopoly because most people have a general idea of how much that should be, but with so-called "specialty" items like, say, Avengers Monopoly, they bank on the fact that potential buyers will assume the item is rare, and thus worth the price. In reality, though...
A quick Google Shopping search can save you big time.
Instead of hitting "Add to Cart" without a second thought like I normally would, let's put some of my deal-sniffing skills to work, shall we? Copy and paste "Avengers Monopoly" into Google, then click on the "Shopping" tab located below the search bar. This is the first listing:
The same game is going for $9.97 at GameStop, and even with the $1.20 tax and $4.99 shipping fee (which can be bypassed if you spend more than $25 online or just shop in-store), this is a far cry from the $39.99 Amazon price tag.
Check the seller
This is a pretty obvious up-sell, but it's not Amazon's fault. Notice how it says "Ships and sold by AbsoluteBestValues" below the price? That means the seller isn't Amazon, it's a company called AbsoluteBestValues. Amazon actually does sell Avengers Monopoly directly, and lo and behold, they're pricing it at $18.99 (which is still excessive compared to the $9.99 price tag at other retailers). If you come across an item you want to buy on Amazon, always take a look at where, exactly, it's coming from. Your best bet is to buy directly from Amazon or officially sanctioned brand stores.
I can't say for sure whetherAbsoluteBestValues is in fact the kind of company outlined in the Planet Money podcast, but a quick glance at their inventory leads me to believe it probably is:
All of these products are being sold for significantly more than their retail cost. Want a KitchenAid Slicer/Shredder attachment for your mixer? You can either buy it from AbsoluteBestValues for $73.04, or from Bed, Bath & Beyond for $39.99. How about the Melissa & Doug School Time Classroom Playset? Why spend $32.48 on something you can get for $20 at Walmart and Target? The list goes on, and the message is clear: buying something on Amazon -- especially from a seller you don't recognize -- without double checking whether the price is right is a big mistake.
If you don't feel like doing your homework, Brad's Deals will do it for you.
I know, if you're a big online shopper, doing in-depth research on every tempting item you come across is a bit of a hassle. Luckily, Brad's Deals is a thing, and when you shop with us, you're getting the best prices on the internet -- always. For more information on Amazon prices, check out our editor Rebecca Lehmann's recent post about whether buying IKEA products on Amazon is worth it.
Have you ever found something being sold online for way more than it's worth? Drop us a note in the comments!