Online shopping

Amazon Prime Day is next week, July 15-16. It’s a good time to shop for deals, but be careful of the usual retailer sales tricks.

The summer has always been glutted with sales for retailers. With no large holidays to spur purchases, and good weather keeping people outside, retailers have accepted that sales will be slow until the winter months. Then the day after Thanksgiving comes around and retailers are now in the black (hence the term Black Friday). That historic trend won’t stop Amazon from trying to make some money in the summer.

A few years ago, Amazon introduced Prime Day, a day when Amazon Prime customers have access to sales. All day long, items will go on sale at different times for a few minutes to a few hours. This year is no different as Prime Day falls in the middle of July and will span two days instead of one.

On July 15-16, Amazon Prime customers will be able to purchase all kinds of stuff at large discounts. But don’t let the numbers fool you, a lot of the “deals” you’ll find aren’t that great.

Retailers have often used sales to get rid of inventory that isn’t selling. Stuff that doesn’t sell is usually not selling for a reason. Amazon is a website made up of thousands of retailers (you can be one too if you want), and they’re no different. Many of them will use Prime Day as a way to get rid of inventory that isn’t selling.

I’m not suggesting every sale on Prime Day is going to be junk. Some of the retailers will have ordered too much of something and need the space for a different product. And Amazon will partner with different retailers to subsidize really good products for really good prices as a loss leader to get people to sign up for Prime.

With Prime Day, Amazon accomplishes two goals: First, it gets more people to sign up for Amazon Prime. Second, it sells a lot of stuff during the summer. Amazon accomplishes both quite well.

On the first Prime Day a few years ago, Amazon said that sales were nearly equal to Black Friday sales. Amazon lists the items available on Prime Day ahead of time. Sometimes you’ll know days in advance, and sometimes you’ll only know hours to minutes in advance, so you’ll need to already be a Prime member before Prime Day starts. There is a free trial period so you can sign up a day or two in advance and then cancel after the event if you find the service isn’t worth the expense.

You’ll also want to be wary of those less-than-scrupulous retailers that mark the normal price up and then discount it to make it seem like it’s on sale. This is a common practice going back decades. People shop the sales. JCPenney almost went out of business because the CEO did away with sales and kept the prices low all the time. People stopped going there. The sale makes people buy it.

I worked at a grocery store in high school, and part of my job was to change out the prices of items that were going on sale the next day. Most of the time the price more than doubled and then the “sale” price was still a bit more than the regular price.

Fortunately, there are ways to track the price of an item on Amazon. There is a browser plugin called camelcamelcamel that tracks the price of items so you can see their price history and you can get alerts for when the item goes below a certain price point. There are also websites — reviewmeta and fakespot are two of them — that will let you put in a product and filter out reviews that appear to be fake.

I hope you had a great Fourth of July and I hope you have a smart Prime Day.

Jason Ogaard is a software engineer who formerly lived in Hutchinson. He welcomes your technology questions, and he’ll answer them in this place. Please send your questions to technobabble@hutchinsonleader.com.

Recommended for you