Amazon is the first stop for many online shoppers, but that doesn't mean it's always easy to shop there. The megaretailer comes with pitfalls that can try our patience. We've rounded up 14 of the most confusing things about shopping on Amazon. In some cases, we'll even tell you how to avoid them.
Amazon 2-Day Shipping Can Take Longer
It's not hard to find people complaining about how their Amazon Prime 2-day shipping took way longer. However, many shoppers don't realize that the 2-day guarantee doesn't kick in until after the package has shipped. Amazon doesn't guarantee it'll ship your items within two days of purchase — it guarantees your order will get to you within two days of leaving a warehouse. So don't be surprised by Amazon shipping delays.
Amazon Doesn't Guarantee Low Prices
Lots of people are shocked to hear that Amazon doesn't offer price matching. While the site states that it "consistently works toward maintaining competitive prices," this doesn't mean it'll always have the best price. Often, Amazon's real appeal is its convenience.
Not Everything Is Prime Eligible
Eagle-eyed Amazon shoppers recognize that not every item on the site is Prime eligible. Items sold by third parties could be subject to shipping charges. And some third-party items are still eligible for free shipping, even if it isn't via Prime. The best thing you can do when shopping is either filter your search results so only Prime-eligible items show up, or look for the Prime logo next to the price before you put an item in your cart.
While Amazon does sell a large portion of the items on its site, it's still a marketplace populated by third-party sellers. Even if Amazon fulfills an order, another party can be responsible for the sale and item itself. That means Amazon is just the conduit — and any of your purchases can come from a different seller.
Single Products Have Multiple Sellers
Once you find the perfect item on the site, you might think it's just a matter of choosing options like color or size. But some iterations of a product might be cheaper than others. What gives? The unequal prices are due to the fact that different product styles, sizes, or models can be sold by different vendors — all while occupying a single Amazon product page. And different sellers often set different prices.
Sometimes, a third parties lists their items as "fulfilled by Amazon." So what does that mean? Essentially, the seller ships its inventory to Amazon, and it's up to Amazon to ship it to the customer in a timely fashion. This process can help offset costs for everyone involved. Of course, if a third party is selling and shipping your order, it's subject to their practices (rather than Amazon's).
You Can't Trust Every Amazon Review
Fake Amazon reviews are nothing new. Plenty of pieces have pointed out the hilarious reviews that items like the banana slicer or sugar-free gummy bears have amassed. All joking aside, some reviews are simply unhelpful.
It's easy to come across reviews giving one star for reasons that have nothing to do with the product itself. Maybe someone didn't read a book, but had issues with the subject matter. Or perhaps someone wants to complain that the packaging was a mess when it arrived. (This is why Amazon often asks you to leave packaging feedback specifically.) Buyer beware: It pays to actually read the reviews, rather than basing judgement on a product's overall rating.
Seriously, Amazon Smile Doesn't Cost Extra
AmazonSmile lets you shop the site and donate to charity with your purchase. It doesn't cost anything extra, and you can choose which organization your contributions go to. Every item available for purchase at the regular site is available at smile.amazon.com for the same price. When you shop eligible products, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price. It's genuinely just an easy way to do something good.
Shopping for Household Items Can Be a Challenge
Amazon usually has awesome prices on household items, but the different size and delivery options can be daunting. For example, if you're looking for Colgate Total whitening toothpaste, you can buy a large amount with Prime — say, an order of six 7.8-oz. tubes — which may be more toothpaste than you want. Alternatively, you can buy two 6-oz. tubes as an add-on item... which means your toothpaste won't ship unless your order total is over $25.
Another option? Buy two 6-oz. tubes via Prime Pantry, but then you'll have to pay $5.99 for delivery, since the box is meant to be filled with household and grocery items. In the end, you may just pop over to your local store and grab a tube of toothpaste.
No-Rush Credits Aren't Always Worth It
Amazon's 2-day shipping is an excellent perk, but if you're ordering something you don't need immediately, Amazon may offer a $1 credit for no-rush shipping. On the one hand, receiving a credit simply for opting into a longer shipping time may seem like a no-brainer. But if you aren't going to use that credit, it might not be worth getting.
Unfortunately, the credit isn't universal — you'll receive a credit that can only be used on specific items. The credits can be spent on items from Prime Pantry, Kindle eBooks, Amazon Instant Videos, digital music, Amazon Appstore apps, digital video games, digital software, and more. Additionally, credits often expire after a certain amount of time. Still, if you have environmental concerns, opting for slower shipping times could help you do your part.
It's Hard to Gauge the Environmental Impact
Online shopping in general has led to a host of environmental concerns. In 2016, transportation became the top producer of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. (Previously, power plants held that "honor.") A lot of the increase seems to be related to "the last mile" of deliveries. Trucks are having to drive further to fulfill orders, going everywhere from malls and stores to residential neighborhoods. That means more time spent on the road, which equates to more harmful emissions.
So what can you do to help? Online shopping isn't inherently bad for the environment; it's about how it's utilized. Vox recommends consolidating your orders, so you have fewer shipments overall. It also suggests avoiding expedited shipping.
Amazon's Return Policy Varies
Not every item sold on Amazon has the same return policy, particularly if it's sold by a third party. Shoppers typically have 30 days to return anything that is new and unopened. However, the time frame is usually extended for the holidays, and only items that are shipped from Amazon are eligible. Third parties that sell and fulfill orders themselves most often offer policies similar to Amazon. But some do vary, so before you purchase from a third party, be sure to check the return policy.
Prime Day Is Both Good and Bad
Ever since Amazon introduced Prime Day, the annual summer celebration touted as having more deals than Black Friday, its been plagued by criticism. Shoppers liken the event to a garage sale, with Amazon trying to clean out its shelves and putting useless items up for grabs.
While Amazon Prime Day does offer plenty of boring items that might not appeal to shoppers, there are some great picks, too. Prime Day often yields serious discounts on Amazon devices, including the different variations of Echos, Kindles, and Fire TVs. It also produces savings on other high-end items, including fitness trackers, laptops, desktops, small kitchen appliances, toys, and more. Prime Day might not be as great as Black Friday, but it's worth keeping an eye on.
If You Have Prime, You Have Prime Now (Maybe)
If you have Amazon Prime, you might think you have Prime Now. And you do... sort of. The service itself is only available in about 30 areas, and you must be a Prime member in one of those cities to use Prime Now. Those lucky enough to have access can receive same-day deliveries of household items, groceries, electronics, gifts, and more. The service allows shoppers to order from local stores and restaurants, as well.
SEE ALSO: What Is Amazon Prime Now?
Amazon Uses Live Chat, but It's Difficult to Find
These days, nobody wants to be stuck on the phone trying to resolve an issue. Many companies offer live chat, which can be a more convenient alternative to sitting on the phone. Amazon is one of these companies, but live chat isn't always easy to find. Start by going to the Contact Us option under the Help topics.
Unfortunately, you can't jump straight into a conversation. You have to choose whether you want help with a relevant order, a device, digital content and services, or Prime (or something else). Once you choose your order, you must choose your issue. After that, you'll have to select issue details, and possibly additional details. A link for solving the issue will usually be provided, but below that you'll find three options for how to contact Amazon. You can choose from email, phone, or chat. Choosing chat will open a separate window and connect you with a representative you can talk to.
Rumors Swirl About Wish List Prices
We've heard anecdotes about shoppers adding an item to their wish list, only to have the price decrease (or increase) within the next couple of days. However, there's no proof to indicate this is true. That would mean Amazon was lowering its price for an individual, which is something Amazon doesn't do in general. For what it's worth, DealNews staff visit Amazon every day from different locations, and we've never experienced this kind of individual pricing.
Even if an item's price doesn't fluctuate just because it's on your wish list, adding an item to your list is a great way to track its price over time. The site regularly notes if a price has increased or decreased since the item was added to the wish list. If you use a tool like CamelCamelCamel, you can also set price targets and be alerted when an item hits your preferred cost.
Readers, what confuses you about Amazon? Let us know in the comments below!