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How to Avoid Fake Amazon Deals

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Having almost been tricked by a fake deal Joe now wants to make sure nobody else falls into the fake Amazon deal trap.

Not every deal you find on Amazon is worth buying.

Not every deal you find on Amazon is worth buying.

My Personal Experience With a Fake Deal

It was Cyber Monday 2018 and I had been watching the price of a particular 50-inch Sony TV for a while, hoping it would go down below $500 from its normal price of $700. When I say I wanted this TV, I mean I really wanted it. However, I’m also a frugal consumer, so if I could get a good deal as well, I was going to wait.

For hours I had been flicking from my work tabs to Amazon to check if the TV had gone on sale (getting essentially no work done in the process). Finally, I saw it; the beautiful 50-inch TV was finally on sale. I noted that the deal was for 30% off, that would take it to $490. I quickly clicked through the sales pages and at last the order was confirmed—I now owned the TV.

In my haste to buy the TV (and probably also because I didn’t want to be seen slacking off on Amazon for too long) I didn’t bother checking the price. Why would I check the price anyway? I know 30% off $700 takes the price to $490, right?

Imagine my surprise when I looked at the order confirmation the next day: $600. I was enraged. I couldn’t wrap my head around how this happened, I did the calculation three times using a calculator and every single time I came to the same answer: $490. In my exasperated state, I vented to a co-worker who, to his credit, listened to my angry ramblings before offering some level-headed advice: “You should check the price it went on sale from”.

Being enraged and also feeling quite stupid that maybe I was to blame, I quickly brought Amazon back up and checked the original price: $860. At this point I was starting to doubt myself and was ready to just accept that I had been wrong to think the original price was $700, but my co-worker tapped me on the shoulder and pointed me to a graph of the items price history.

“See right there?” My co-worker asked pointing to an obvious spike in the price, a spike to $860 just a day before Cyber Monday.

It dawned on me, the deal had been a ruse all along. There was no deal, only the idea of a deal. Now I felt justified in my anger, so I quickly got into a live-chat with Amazon support demanding as a refund, which to their credit I got quite quickly. So, I ended up with no TV, but I gained some valuable insight into a predatory sales tactic that having spoke to friends and family has caught many of them also.

It’s Not Just Amazon

This practice and others like it are all too common. In the UK, for example, the three main supermarket chains—Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s—have been accused of misleading pricing tactics to make deals look better than they really are. And the consumer watchdog “Which?” actually analysed over 70,000 food prices and found many examples of deals that actually ended up costing the consumer more. You can read more about these cases in this article, as well as this one.

And it’s not just the UK; over the ocean in the US, Walmart were involved in a class action lawsuit whereby they were presenting prices as discount prices that were actually the same as the original price, or they presented an “original” price that was inflated to make the deal seem better than it was. Sound familiar? You can read more here.

Even supermarkets try and catch you out with fake deals... check the math.

Even supermarkets try and catch you out with fake deals... check the math.

An Illustrated Example of a Fake Deal

If you look at price chart below, you will see exactly the trend to watch out for, the Prime Day deal for the exercise bike is $395.55, but if you look back a few months you can clearly see the price has been significantly lowered before, in fact the historical low point was $172.67... less than half the current Prime Day "deal" price.

They made you think you were getting a good deal by showing the non-deal price as $499.00, but as you can see from the price chart, it has never actually been that high at all.

Don't feel bad if you suddenly realised you probably have been tricked by this technique; we all have and not just on Amazon. It's a common technique used in all areas of sales, from websites to brick-and-mortar stores.

An excellent example of an inflated deal.

An excellent example of an inflated deal.

How Do You Avoid Fake Deals?

The inflated pricing tactic for making deals look more attractive than they are is common and plays on our desire to get the best possible deal, who doesn't want a bargain? It's only natural to see a 60%, 70%, or even 80% discount and jump on the "deal" because it "won't be around long" (time-based phrases like this are another high-pressure sales tactic to watch out for).

All you have to do is copy paste the Amazon item URL into a website called CamelCamelCamel and you will be presented with the items price history from the very first day it was listed to the present day. The price chart in the image below is from CamelCamelCamel and you will also be able to see a small table on any items page telling you the highest and lowest prices, an example of which is given in the image below. You will also be able to see the same information for 3rd party sellers as well, i.e., sellers who are not Amazon itself but selling via the Amazon platform.

With this information you can make an educated consumer decision as to whether or not the deal at hand is worth your money or not. The information asymmetry between you and Amazon regarding the true pricing of their products has been removed, allowing you to make the most of your hard-earned money.

All the pricing information you need in one table.

All the pricing information you need in one table.

The Quick Guide for Checking a Deal

  • Get the Amazon items URL from your browsers search bar.
  • Go to CamelCamelCamel and paste the URL into their search box.
  • This will bring up the historical price data for the item.
  • If the deal price is a historical low point or is close to one then it you are likely getting a good deal.
  • If the deal price is not a historical low or is not close to one then avoid this deal, it has been inflated.
Use the price chart to see if the current deal is a historical low price.

Use the price chart to see if the current deal is a historical low price.

Making the Process Even Easier With a Browser Extension

If you, like me, are a bit lazy and don't want to constantly be swapping between tabs to check you aren't getting a fake deal then I have an awesome browser extension for you: The Camelizer.

Offered by CamelCamelCamel for Chrome and Firefox the extension effectively adds the price history tracker to your normal Amazon browsing so you can see the full price history of the item you are currently looking at with a single click. Now there are truly no excuses for buying a fake deal.

Price history is only one click away with "The Camelizer".

Price history is only one click away with "The Camelizer".

Bonus Tip: Email Alerts

Not only does CamelCamelCamel allow you to make the most educated purchasing decisions you can on Amazon, it also allows you to set up email alerts for when a product really does hit your target price. This way you will never be caught out by fake deals or inflated discounts.

Using CamelCamelCamel I have set up price alerts for all the items on my Amazon wish list and just wait for them to hit my target price before buying them. And when I do see a deal that makes me want to quickly buy an item I always check if I am getting a real deal.

Setting up an email alert is very easy, and has a lot of price options.

Setting up an email alert is very easy, and has a lot of price options.

Conclusion

In conclusion; as a shopper on Amazon you should always be on the lookout for deals that are not as good as they seem at first glance especially during large events such as Prime Day, Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Resist the urge to jump on that supposedly huge discount and take the time to look a little deeper into the price history to determine if you're being given a real deal or an inflated deal. Happy shopping!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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