New Walmart feature rolling out: Store Pickup discount on select items

Starting April 19 (2017) Walmart will begin rolling out a new feature, if you select store pickup for a purchase, you may be able to get a small discount on the purchase price. In other words, they are paying you to do the delivery to yourself 🙂 This feature will slowly ramp up, they are planning to include 1 million items by the end of June. As usual, YMMV depending on product availability and location. This will be offered on the 48 contiguous US States.

I am guessing this is a feature that got inspired by the Jet team, which has all kids of nickle-dimer discounts on the Jet website (pay less if you forgo returns, pay less if you pay with debit card, pay less if you buy in quantity, etc). I don’t know if the other Jet features will make it to Walmart, but for now, if you are fond of store pickup, you may be able to save!

More details on the Walmart blog.

Alexa Voice-Ordering: Two different $5 bonus offers

If you are an Amazon Prime member, AND you have a device that is compatible with Alexa Voice Ordering (not just Echo/Dot hardware, but also fireTV, Fire tablets, and Amazon apps), there are two promotions running at Amazon that require Alexa Voice Ordering.

+ re-order a previously ordered item with Alexa Voice Ordering and get a $5 Amazon promotional credit within seven days
+ you must have previously purchased this product to trigger the $5 bonus
+ this is for any item you previously purchased, not the items under “Best Deals”
+ ends 4/30/17

+ Order a $25+ Amazon Gift Card with Alexa Voice Ordering and get a $5 Amazon promotional code
+ ends 4/16/17

I haven’t done this, so I can’t tell you how it works further. I have to setup Alexa. One possibility of double-dipping (again, I have no way of testing this), if you had previously purchased a $25+ Amazon gift card, would re-ordering the $25+ gift card get you both bonuses?

Project idea: have all the AI assistants talk among themselves. A new podcast, starring Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Bixby, and Google-Assistant 🙂

Plan Ahead: Passover Closing at B&H

If you are planning a near-term time-sensitive purchase at B&H Photo, please note that the company will be closed for Passover and shipment of orders and online ordering will be impacted. You can find a detailed schedule of what’s available when at their website, the gray stripe below the green menu stripe. Friday 4/7/17 [CORRECTED] at 12pm eastern is the cut-off point for orders that will ship before the store closes for the holidays, but don’t wait until the last minute if you have a time-sensitive purchase.

April 1st: Amazon will collect sales-tax in all states who require it

Starting April 1st in 2017, Amazon will collect sales tax on all states that collect sales tax. It is already doing so in the vast majority of the states, but with this latest group, it will complete the puzzle. It will obviously not collect sales tax in states where sales tax is not collected (Oregon, Alaska, etc). Details via CNBC.

But because things are never quite as simple, there is a distinction, for tax collection purposes, between products sold and shipped by Amazon (they collect taxes) and products sold by 3rd-party sellers through the Amazon website. The latter category is still up in the air as literally any and every person on earth (and beyond) can be an Amazon seller.

Store Closings: 40% of HH Gregg stores (also: Ritz’s Towson store)

The ever-changing retail landscape has more store closings. The regional chain HH Gregg is closing 40% of its stores (88 of them in 15 states) plus three distribution centers per The USA Today. Bankruptcy is one of the restructuring possibilities according to Bloomberg.

Meanwhile the reborn “Ritz Camera and Image” is closing one store, in Towson (Maryland), according to an email sent to customers. Their Bethesda (MD) store continues.

Amazon reduces Free Shipping minimum from $49 to $35 for non-Prime members

As the Amazon World Turns! At the moment when you surf around Amazon product pages without being logged on to a Prime Amazon account, you will notice that the free shipping minimum has changed again. Instead of $49+, you only need $35+ in products sold and shipped by Amazon, and/or sold by 3rd-party sellers but fulfilled by Amazon’s facilities. The $25+ book option also remains in place. I am not sure yet whether this is a temporarily experiment or permanent. It is possible that Amazon is price-matching the Walmart-Jet $35 minimum.

For example, here’s a random $40 item that shows free shipping for non-Prime members.

UPDATE: the Prime benefits comprehensive guide has been updated with this, along with a screenshot of the rare Prime shipping from 3rd-party sellers option [see a6300 post].

Fry’s launches Free Same Day Delivery on 500 products

Fry’s Electronics (fries not included) has now launched a Free Same-Day Delivery service that covers out 500 (high margin?) products. If you place an order before 3pm local time, you will receive your order the same day. Cameras are not included, but some printers, along with select computers and A/V gear are included. Details at their promotional page. You can check whether this service is available near you using their zipcode checker.

Walmart switches to Jet-like Free Shipping, will refund paying members of Shipping Pass

The first major impact of Walmart purchasing Jet and giving Jet more power over the Walmart website is happening now. Walmart is cancelling their Shipping Pass service (it was a $49 per year service that got you free shipping Prime-like), and will be refunding paying customers for the service. At the same time, they will lower the free shipping threshold from $50 to $35, and many items will be eligible for free 2-day shipping. Details at the Walmart help pages.

PS: Walmart has an open marketplace (like Amazon, NewEgg, Best Buy, Sears, etc), so the free shipping terms apply to items shipped by Walmart itself (not 3rd-party sellers). As usual with these type of offers, they cover the 48 contiguous states. Non-48 addresses and APO/FPO addresses with US zipcodes will get the free 3-5 day shipping. Until Star Trek Transporters (TM) become commercially available.

PSA: Last Day to sign up for Monthly $5/mo membership is 2/28/17 (the founders of Woot) currently has an optional $5 per month membership plan that gets you free shipping on your first order for that particular month. This program is not ending for existing members, but starting March 1 in 2017, they will no longer accept NEW members. If you like the idea, you have until 2/28/17 to sign-up. This is a month-to-month membership. Details in the Meh forums. This is a list of the current membership benefits.

UPS options to send shipments directly to Access Points

With the holidays coming along, along with increased travel and increased thefts of unguarded packages, UPS has more delivery options available. They just sent an email to customers (in their email list) outlining some of these options. You need a (free) UPS account to make changes. Options include:

  • directly ship the packages to your designated UPS Access Point without even attempting to deliver it at your home/office address
  • deliver the package to your designated UPS Access Point after the first delivery attempt is not successful

Continue reading “UPS options to send shipments directly to Access Points”

News: Amazon finally launched page to track your Slow Shipping Credits

Finally Amazon has launched a page where Prime members can keep track of their “slow shipping credits”. These are the “No Rush Credits” that you get if as a Prime member you select a slower shipping method for an order that is eligible for free 2-day shipping. The slower-shipping is not always slow, it’s just that they ship it in a non-priority way, but it can still get there reasonably fast.

The page is this but all you have to remember is to type norushcredits (no rush credits) since is easy to remember 🙂 It looks like this (“View Image” to see full size):


PSA: Beware of trending Scam on Amazon from “Before Purchasing Contact Us” 3rd-party sellers

Beware of a new trending scam at Amazon, on listings of new and/or highly desirable products, scam artists are listing the product as 3rd-party sellers with significantly lower prices, and asking people to contact them before buying from Amazon. This violates various Amazon marketplace rules, and it’s also a scam, because no one would sell a $2000 camera for $500 unless it’s a scam or fake or stolen or who knows what else.

Here’s an example from the Olympus E-M1 II listing. The sad thing is that if they keep on doing it, it may suggest that a small percentage of people who see these are actually gullible enough to bite, so, just like spam, it becomes a numbers game, the more listings they create, the more people will bite.

Here’s an “annotated” screenshot of a listing like that:


Amazon is removing them but more and more keep on cropping us, which may suggest they haven’t found a way yet to block them at the root of the problem. It is easy to sell items as a 3rd-party seller, and there are infinite email accounts available. The pros and cons of an open marketplace.

NewEgg offers 1 Year of FREE Premier for Military

NewEgg has another promotion for Military members, one year of their Prime-like shipping service “NewEgg Premier”. After the first year (12 consecutive months), the regular annual service fees apply unless cancelled. Verification of eligibility is required to get the benefit. They also offer 50% off on APO shipping fees in addition to standard Premier free shipping to the 48. Details at the promotional page.

NewEgg offers new delivery option: your local FedEx Kinko’s

Just in time for the holidays, NewEgg is offering a new delivery option for your order, regardless of the shipping delivery speed you select. You can pick up your order at a local participating FedEx Kinko’s facility. In the “Review” stage of the Checkout process, you can select a FedEx location to receive your order. Look for something like this in that page, below your “Shipping Info” column:


There is no additional fee for this delivery option. Your shipping fee is whatever your default delivery fee is, which a lot of times it is free or close to free.

Another benefit of this is that if you live or work or travel to multiple locations on a regular basis, you can send your orders at where you are, instead of having them all go to your home address (assuming the delivery estimates work and such).

(ENDED) Save The Date: November 18: 1-Year of PRIME for $79 [NEW MEMBERS ONLY]

This promotion expired…

Amazon is planning (press release) a 1-day promotion for Friday November 18 in 2016, to celebrate the launch of their new “The Grand Tour” streaming show. New members (not existing/current Prime members) will be able to sign up for 1-year of the service for $79 instead of the current price of $99. The price is only for the first year. After that, it will auto-renew at the then-current price (the current then-current price is $99 but it is subject to change)

M&A News: Groupon buys LivingSocial

This was a Groupon special but only available to Groupon the company 🙂 They have purchased competing social deals website LivingSocial for an unspecified low price. Another social deals site goes down, Amazon folded its own AmazonLocal, while NewEgg’s “NewEgg Flash” continues but it’s semi-integrated into the main NewEgg site now. Details and discussion of the acquisition via Techmeme.

Payment News: PayPal will soon allow Credit Cards as Default Payment Method

PayPal’s favorability ratings are probably in the cable company and politician levels, and with an avalanche of alternative payment methods, they are finally doing the unthinkable. Starting at some point next month, you will be able to set your default payment method to anything you want, you won’t be forced to use a debit card. That’s right a *GASP* credit card. It only took them 20 years to “discover” this feature 🙂 The feature will roll out at different times throughout the world. More details via CNet News.

Shopping Oddities: Amazon’s own devices drop to new low prices everywhere else but at Amazon

It is a day of shopping news today, we have an interesting oddity, some of Amazon’s own hardware devices have been discounted to new low prices across the internet, at various competing online retailers, but not on Amazon’s own website! This is a 1-day sale. It is a very interesting move, it’s like their hardware department is trying to convince competing retailers to invest in carrying/selling Amazon branded devices.

Example of these sales, the latest Paperwhite goes for $90 at Staples and already sold out at Sears. Their 10-inch Fire HD tablet (with microSD) goes for $150 at Sears, the Amazon Echo goes for $130 at B&H Photo, a handful of these on sale at Best Buy and so forth.

This is a 1-day sale, so it is possible that Amazon is planning to discount them on their own website after this sale ends. They’ve already been playing with rotating sales. But this is only a crackpot theory. I have no clue what’s going to happen.

PS: maybe they need to have a reality TV show of all the meetings where the Hardware people were pitching this and the people running the Online Store were screaming NOOOOOOO! 🙂

Shopping News: Walmart buys Jet for $3 billion

We have some meta shopping news! Walmart opened up their wallet and paid $3 billion in cash to buy trendy online shopping service The guy running Jet will take over Walmart’s US operations. Details and discussion of the purchase via Techmeme.

Jet has some interesting ideas in online shopping, for example, a built-in volume discount that adjusts dynamically based on how many units of an item you buy by pressing the “+” and “-” buttons. Volume Discounts are not a new thing, for example Adorama has had them for many years, but Jet made them visual and made the volume discounts bigger.

Jet also introduced something a bit disturbing for non-consumable purchases, you don’t know who the actual seller/fulfiller of a purchase is ahead of time. This may not be an issue if you are buying trash bags or music CDs, but it’s very important when it comes to authorized dealer status and things of that nature. Even for something as small as a memory card this is a big issue since there are quite a few fakes out there.

Best Buy Rewards Changes include free 2-day S&H on $35+

Amazon is creating a segmentation in its shoppers based on whether one is a Prime Member or not. Best Buy decided to take a different route, differentiate benefits depending on how much one spends and whether they are participating in their rewards program.

Starting August 28 in 2016, some of the rewards benefits will change for those in the regular MyBestBuy rewards program (no minimum spending) and the Elite (over $1500 per calendar year). They will earn fewer points per purchase, 0.5 per $1 and 1 per $1 respectively instead of 1 and 1.1 respectively. No changes for those in the Elite Plus ($3500+ in purchases per year) and Best Buy credit card holders.

But there are some good news for all rewards members, free 2-day shipping on a lot of qualifying items with orders of $35+ (for the regular rewards) or any amount for the Elites.

Triggered: Counting Converter Lenses as Real Lenses

In this new impromptu series called “Triggered” (a popular pop-culture term these days), we are posting things retailers do that are very annoying or sneaky or anti-consumer. In this inaugural installment, we are Triggered by online retailers counting converter lenses as actual real lenses in DSLR kits. It’s not a three lens kit when you have the 18-55 kit lens and two converter lenses. It’s ONE lens. Here’s one of the many examples among the eBay Deals.

Free ShopRunner membership with select AMEX credit cards

If you have an American Express credit card, you may be eligible for a free ongoing membership to the Shoprunner service. Shoprunner gets you free 2-day shipping on select retailers on select products. It was created as an alternative to Amazon Prime. You can activate this either from the Shoprunner website or the American Express website.

PS: I don’t know which AMEX credit cards qualify for this offer, or if this is for all cardmembers or some.

Meta News: UPS offering “Follow My Delivery” for UPS Next Day Air and Worldwide Express

If you need items to arrive in a time sensitive matter or you have placed an expensive order and you don’t want to let it linger around in slow shipping hell, UPS My Choice members (free to sign up for; not the Premium tier) will be able to track their packages as they travel to your door. This is a new feature called “Follow My Delivery”. An infographic explaining the process is available from UPS in PDF format.

This feature is available only for Premium shipping services with a time commitment, such as Next Day Air or Worldwide Express.

Unlike the Amazon PrimeNow deliveries that can be tracked in the PrimeNow mobile app, tracking for this is done on the web. UPS will send you an email with a link to a “Follow My Delivery” url. So you can use it on any device that is capable of accessing the internet [this is based on what their email says, I haven’t used this service yet].

Amazon experimenting with Option to turn off Shopping Cart Warranty/Service Upsells for 3 Months is apparently experimenting with a new feature to decrease customer irritation and increase checkout speed. Now when you add something in your shopping cart that may be eligible for optional Extended Warranties or other Service Plans, you are given an option to turn OFF these kind of upsells for three months. This is probably linked to an Amazon account, so you’d have to be logged on to your Amazon account to make this stick.

Here’s an annotated screenshot crop of what to look for ~ you may not notice it if you are moving quickly through the longer version of the checkout process:


Shopping News: Amazon stopping soft 7-day price-drop refunds on non-TVs

Amazon has an official 30-day low-price guarantee policy on HDTVs. For other items, the last few years, their customer service representatives would often make “one time exceptions” if an item you purchased dropped in price within 7 days after purchase (and you contacted them asking for a refund of the difference).

This soft benefit is apparently going away now according to Re/ which speculates that part of the decision to do so is motivated by a number of 3rd-party services that offer to automatically track price drops of items you purchased and notify you to take advantage of price guarantees. Some of these services require logins to your shopping accounts to do the price-tracking automatically, while others need access to your email. The Amazon representative contacted by Re/Code took a customer security angle to this.

I’m gonna venture a guess that it’s not just security. Security is a very valid concern, I would never let a 3rd-party (especially newly launched startups) have access to my email or shopping accounts. But no doubt about it, this is also a dollars and sense type of thing, if millions of people keep getting small refunds on millions of purchases, it’s goodbye quarterly profits for Amazon and back to losing money 🙂

More discussion via Techmeme.

YMMV: Amazon Chase VISA holders: 20% off select items with coupon ~ 20 Camera and Photo Items available

NOTE!!!: you have to be eligible for this promotion to be able to see it! If you are not eligible or not logged on to your eligible Amazon account, you will see an almost empty page, something like the annotated screenshot below:


On the other hand, IF YOU ARE ELIGIBLE, you will see the actual promotion…

If you have the Amazon Rewards Chase VISA credit card, there is a hot new promotion for you at Amazon. You have to pay with the Amazon Chase VISA credit card and enter coupon code ARC20SPRING at checkout. The offer is a limited time while supplies last type of promotion, it expires by 6/30/16. Limit one per customer, so use it wisely.

Click on the category thumbnails over there to find the category of your choice. I am highlighting the “hot zone” in the “professionally” annotated screenshot below:


There is a total of 20 items eligible in the Camera and Photo category. I will go through them and post separately for any that scream.

As usual with these type of offers, it only works on items sold and shipped by Amazon herself. Items sold by 3rd-party sellers are not eligible ~ even if they are fulfilled by Amazon. Amazon itself has to be the seller of record and the shipper.

UPDATE: the offer works if you have multiple ELIGIBLE cameras in your shopping cart. I put two different D-Rebels and it showed a 20% off discount on the total amount, eg both got discounted.

Shopping Funnies: Staples email promises …Amazon deals

Since this is posted during the Saturday Night Live block, how about some shopping funnies? In an email sent early on Friday to the Staples emailing list, Staples promises their shoppers “New Amazon deals”. Not “Amazing deals” but “Amazon deals”. This is at the very top of the email, in fairly small font, but somehow I managed to spot it 🙂


(ENDED) April Fool’s Shopping: Woot goes Bidet, Meh goes wall to wall Captcha

The April Fool’s Day party is over! The next one begins in 364 days 🙂

It is April Fool’s Day in the Eastern and Central time zones, and some retailers have already began having fun with it. The Woot website has put on a …bidet theme all over the place, taking toilet humor to another level… Meanwhile filled up their website with Captcha boxes, with pithy text revealed after you click on each one…

Amazon Changes Free Shipping Minimum for non-Prime members: $25+ for Books, $49+ for Other Items

Once upon a time, Amazon offered free shipping with an order of $25 or more. A few years later, they increased the minimum purchase amount to $35. Fast forward to now, and we have another change. The minimum is now increased to $49 or more. However, there is a caveat for books (physical books, not e-books), if you buy $25 or more of books, the books (and everything else in your order) qualifies for free shipping. (the usual restriction of sold and shipped by Amazon, or fulfilled by Amazon applies).

You can find more details at their Free Shipping Help page. Annotated screenshot crop of that below:


It is an interesting split here between book and non-book purchases. I don’t know whether it’s the media mail aspect of books, or perhaps their flat nature that makes packaging and shipping them more predictable. Or a romantic tip of the hat to their early days being a book seller. Or perhaps a more pragmatic reason, the Barnes and Noble website offers free shipping with $25+ orders 🙂

This perhaps may create a fork in the road for some shoppers when making sub-$50 purchases (eg new movies, new CDs, consumables, small accessories, etc). Buy the items elsewhere or sign up for a Prime Membership ($100/year) and get free 2-day Prime shipping and all the other benefits (I still have to create the long-promised post with the Prime benefits/cons).

NOTE: the $25 limit remains for the Add-On program ~ look at the purchasing minimum mentioned in any Add-On item, for example, here’s a Melisandre-Red mouse pad that is part of the Add-On program.

Opt-In Feature: PayPal offers Return Shipping Refund on up to 11 eligible purchases (until 12/31/16)

PayPal has a new feature for its users, but it is opt-in, you must manually accept this offer and agree to the terms in order to activate it. It won’t go live on your account by default. Perhaps that’s how they can afford it, because manual opt-in means only a tiny percentage of its users will take advantage of it.

The offer is this: you get refunded (up to $30 per incident) on Return Shipping, on up to 11 orders, on purchases made with Paypal on February 1st (2016) or later. The offer expires 12/31/16. As usual, there are terms and conditions and restrictions, so be sure to check those out. For more, here’s the Returns page and the FAQ page. To claim a refund for return shipping, you have to fill in an e-form and follow the process as outlined by PayPal. If it’s Paypal, it’s rarely simple or easy 🙂

NOTE: I do not know if every PayPal user is eligible, or only those who get pestered invited by PayPal emails outlining this offer. As far as I can recall, I haven’t returned anything with eBay/PayPal, so I don’t know if that factors in on how they target these promotions.

Activation is simple
Activation is simple, I just guinea-pigged (verb) myself for it. You click on the blue button, login with your PayPal account, and you are activated. The screen simply changes to this after you activate:


I don’t have any returns or returnable items, so I can’t test it any further at this point in time.

Circuit City is making a comeback with new owners

This flashback becomes a flash forward! Circuit City is coming back later in 2016. Two New York area based money people bought the company name and related assets from the Tigerdirect parent company late last year. The new company will have both a website and brick and mortar stores, with some focus on millenials. Details of this development at TWICE (via Engadget).

Amazon starts tagging International Versions of products

Amazon, like eBay and Rakuten and others, is an open marketplace, and such it has more risks since literally anyone can sell items on their website. Unlike closed marketplaces where the retailer is the only one offering an item. I’ve been saying for many years that Amazon and eBay have not done enough to help consumers make informed decisions. Partly perhaps because it’s very hard to measure sales that don’t happen versus sales that actually happen. So if something cannot be measured, it can often be prioritized much lower than tangible.

Regardless, to cut a long story short, Amazon has began tagging “International Versions” of products. Here is an example of the Nikon Coolpix L340 and another example of a bundled kit of the same item. An annotated screenshot shot of the tag is right below:


This is definitely a step in the right direction, however, one should not make additional assumptions. This does not mean that items without the tag are all USA warranty items. It only means that items with the tag are International Versions. On the main USA-version page of an item, you can still have a mix of new, imported, refurbished and used by Amazon itself, featured sellers, and everybody else on the internet with an Amazon seller account. Amazon itself is an authorized dealers for almost all the items they sell. And there is a number of well-known third-party sellers there that are authorized dealers (Adorama, Huppins/OneCall, etc). So you still have to pay attention to the actual seller, and if it’s not a familiar or well-known seller, it is very prudent to still research them to your satisfaction.

Another distinction that may not be obvious to those who rarely shop at Amazon is that “fulfilled by Amazon” is eligible for Prime shipping and you get Amazon Customer Support, however, for warranty purposes, it does not “transfer” authorized dealer status. “Fulfilled by Amazon” simply means that a seller sent a box of things to an Amazon Warehouse and when you buy those items, they get processed from the Amazon Warehouse, instead of the seller’s facilities. A manufacturer can still decline warranty service if that particular seller is not authorized.

More commentary on these matters by S.W. Anderson in the Comments section of a previous imported item post.

PSA: The OfficeDepot/OfficeMax Duracell Rewards are now in your accounts

If you participated in the Office Depot and Office Max Duracell AA/AAA Free-After-Rewards promotions that began on Black Friday, check your Office Depot Rewards account online. The Duracell Bonus Rewards Bucks have been loaded as of 1/13/16. I only purchased the ones on Black Friday, so I don’t know if the rest of the weeks are also there, or just the first week. The offer was good two per week from Black Friday until the last week of December. Click all the way through to “View My Reward Certificates” if you don’t see them in the summary page on the right-hand side.

Adorama Clearance Sale (over 4200 items)

It’s the start of a new year, and it is often the case, retailers start their clearance sales. Adorama’s current Clearance Sale features over 4200 items. You can filter them using the various sub-categories on the left hand side of that page, eg Cameras, Lenses, Lighting, Tripods, Albums, and such. Due to time and multi-threading constraints, I cannot at the moment go through the whole inventory, so this is a DIY adventure 🙂

PSA: Tigerdirect: No Returns, No Refunds, No Exchanges

Please note for purchases made 12/24/15 and later at Tigerdirect’s website, all sales are final. There will be no returns, no refunds, no exchanges. If a product is covered by a manufacturer warranty, any issues with the product must needs be addressed through the manufacturer’s warranty. This is posted on the Tigerdirect’s Return Policy page.

Trendspotting: Fuji Instax and GoPro

In a very long press release, Amazon revealed a number of tangible and semi-tangible factoids about their Black Friday 2015 Holiday shopping season. The camera and photo segment there reveals that the Fuji Instax (instant film camera), the GoPro Hero4 Silver, and its AB headstrap mount were their top selling items under the Camera and Photo category…

It is interesting to see how things change for the mythical average consumer. A few years ago, every techie wanted to have a dSLR to call his/her own, and the various tech blogs were heavily covering the latest hot cameras du jour. Now it seems the average mythical person wants an instant film camera and an action camera :)… The retro theme was also there in Audio, a turntable was ahead of a classic A/V receiver and a fancy-techie SONOS player :)…

Another interesting factoid, “Members worldwide uploaded more than a billion photos for free with Prime Photos this holiday.”. They certainly did not do that with Kindle Fire Phones, so the app must be popular with other devices 🙂 [remember, if you are a Prime member, you automatically get unlimited Cloud Photos!]

PayPal: your purchases are protected (except when they are not)

As we get closer to the holiday shopping season (Black Friday is just a month away), PayPal is trying to increase consumer’s confidence in paying with Paypal for more and more of their purchases. So their latest confidence-boosting email perhaps distills how some consumers feel about their PayPal protections.

Annotated screenshot crop from their latest email below. To paraphrase, your purchases are protected, except when they are not 🙂


Caution when buying Camera Gear from is trying to inject some new energy and ideas in the world of online shopping, and they have been getting more funding, encouraging further experimentation. However, when it comes to buying capital/investment type of gear (eg where the manufacturer’s warranty is important, such as camera gear), it’s a big risk. Why?

Jet, unlike other sellers with open-marketplaces (such as eBay, Rakuten, NewEgg, Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy), does not tell you who the seller is before you order. You don’t have to bother figuring it out or pick a particular seller from a long list or incur additional shipping fees for items sold by the 3rd-party sellers (as opposed to the “home team”). That’s nice and convenient for household items (you are probably not going to use the manufacturer’s warranty on the kitchen towels!).

However what is a plus for small purchases, becomes a big negative for things like camera gear. Because not all marketplace sellers are equal, and only some of them are authorized by the manufacturers, you have no idea whether you are getting an authorized-USA product or a grey-market product before you order. Considering all the shenanigans we know (and not love) about camera gear selling, and some sellers are less reputable and reliable than others, this is a big wild card and risk.

Post Mortem on Prime Day

Hype is a double edged sword, and just like others before (and probably many more in the future) Amazon found out the hard way. After an unprecedented amount of hype (especially by Amazon’s fairly low key standards), Prime Day arrived, and it did not live to that level of hype. With that hype level, probably anything short of $100 iPads under every chair (stand-in for very popular fast-selling item offered at a crazy discount), would have generated varying levels of disappointment.

The internet had its fun with #PrimeDayFail quips (see some of them assembled at Heavy and Gizmodo among many others).

More after the jump since this is a “meta” post. It is a long boring post, it can help you fall asleep and you don’t need a prescription for it 🙂

Continue reading “Post Mortem on Prime Day”

Prime Hack (YMMV): have Camera Gear Hand-Delivered to your by AmazonFresh with One Hour Delivery windows

This is a YMMV hack. Success depends on the following:

  • AmazonFresh (the grocery delivery service) must be available in your region
  • the Camera Gear you want must be available at your local Amazon facility
  • you have a Prime membership (or 30 day Free Trial) or Prime Fresh membership

AmazonFresh is Amazon’s fresh produce and grocery delivery service. It delivers frozen and refrigerated and room temperature foods. But that’s not all. It also delivers a number of items that are available at nearby Amazon warehouses. This includes all kinds of things (books, movies, office supplies, etc), including cameras, lenses and other related accessories.

Because it is geographically limited, only items that are available and in-stock at the Fresh facility can be delivered this way. To find out what’s available, use the search bar at You can login using your regular Amazon account. A quick search found things like a variety of Canon and Nikon and Sigma and Tamron lenses, the Sony a7S, etc. Again, this is YMMV because it depends on what is physically available right now at your local warehouse.

You can order AmazonFresh items two ways:

  1. you have an Amazon Prime membership ($100/year), delivery is $8 flat on orders of $50+
  2. you have an AmazonFresh membership ($300/year), delivery is free on orders $50+

It won’t let you place an order under $50, which is not a problem for most cameras and lenses.

Add the items of interest to your shopping cart. You don’t even have to have any groceries, but it may be hard to resist the temptation of a new camera or lens without some celebratory Ben and Jerry 🙂

You have two options for scheduled delivery:

  1. attended delivery – handed to your IN PERSON – you have One Hour Delivery windows YOU select
  2. unattended delivery with 3 hour windows (eg from 7am to 10am) – they will drop it off at your doorstop or per the instructions you leave them. They won’t bother you unless requested or required (eg alcohol)

YOU schedule the time and date based on availability. You get a schedule widget that shows the dates and times available. You pick what you like from the open spots. Below you see an annotated screenshot for the Attended Delivery (delivered to you in person). Notice the lovely One Hour Delivery windows. No longer need to take a day off or take a sick day or do any other logistical or sociopolitical maneuvering.


Being a poor blogger, I couldn’t afford to buy a Sony a7S or a Canon f2.8 zoom lens to test this. So instead I picked a mix of frozen foods, refrigerated foods, room temperature foods and non-foods (such as memory card and phone case and yellow sticky notes).

With unattended delivery, they all arrived, in three bags, which each major temperature-dependent product category getting its own bag. Frozen foods with dry ice in their own outer AmazonFresh bag. Refrigerated foods with dry ice in their own bag. Room temperature foods and non-food items in their own bag. The frozen/refrigerated items come in a recyclable and dissambleable lightweight poly-something box. All items inside the outer bags/boxes have another level of protection, they are inside see-through kitchen bags per temperature category. The packaging material, you can reuse, recycle or leave out for Fresh to pickup on your next delivery (if you do a future delivery and if you remember). There’s no fee or deposit for the packaging material.

Amazon Prime MAY expand to include Free 2-Day Shipping from some Third-Party Merchants

According to sources at Recode, Amazon may be planning to expand the Prime 2-day shipping benefits to include products shipped directly by select 3rd-party merchants, without the items having to be physically present at an Amazon Warehouse or facility. It is a delicate dance, since Amazon and the 3rd-party merchants will have to negotiate how the actual shipping cost is paid, and the merchants would have to trade-off losing direct sales on their website from regular customers who instead opt for the free 2-day Prime shipping.

Amazon has been adding more features to its Prime service, but the new additions were not shipping related (Cloud Photos, Music, Radio, Video, Kindle First, eBook Lending library, 30 minute early access to deals, etc). In fact, a few years ago, they pulled back on the free 2-day shipping benefits by putting select low-priced items (typically $5 or less) under the Add-On Program, requiring Prime members to place an order of $25 or more before the shopping cart would allow them to buy the darned things (and you can’t pay shipping out of your own pocket for Add-On items even if you beg and plead with the shopping cart).

But perhaps Amazon’s hand may be forced by changes in the marketplace too, specifically on the shipping front, not the ever-expanding list of non-shipping benefits. Shoprunner continues to recruit online retailers for a meta-free-shipping service (includes the official Pentax and Casio stores, NewEgg, Tiger, Staples but not any camera-centric retailers), and has various promotions for discounted or free service. For example, some American Express credit cards include a free Shoprunner service.

Even though NewEgg participates in Shoprunner, they also have their own NewEgg Premier service that goes for $50 per year and offers free 3-day or less shipping. And Walmart is making progress towards their own $50/year free shipping service.

eBay YMMV (A15-19): free auction-style listings (up to 500)

This is a reverse deal of sorts: if you have camera gear you want to sell to fund more gear purchases (or any other items for any other reasons), eBay is running a targeted offer by email and/or the eBay Messages. Between April 15-19 in 2015, you can post up to 500 free auction-style listings. You won’t pay the listing fee during this promotion, but obviously you still pay the other feeBay fees. You must click through to activate the promotion, it is not automatically activated. Check emails and messages to see if you qualify.

Nov 8 at 1-4pm Local Time at Best Buy stores: Special holiday shopping event

This is a YMMV promotion. On Saturday November 8 in 2014, between 1pm and 4pm local time, select Best Buy brick and mortar stores are going to be having a Special Holiday Shopping Events. They will have special promotions on select products along with demos and “experts” and such. They have a menu over there that you can use to find out which stores are participating in this. I have no way of knowing what is going to be offered, so it’s a curiosity-YMMV.

PayPal increases time for Buyers to file disputes from 45 to 180 days [effective 11/18/14]

Just in time for Black Friday shopping (new policy effective November 18 in 2014), PayPal is updating their Policy with some changes. The most notable from a buyer’s perspective, they are increasing the window to file disputes for undelivered or not-as-described items from 45 to 180 days. Check your email registered with PayPal for an email message describing these… Cut and paste of the relevant parts below…

“+ We’re increasing the time for buyers to file merchandise disputes (Item Not Received and Significantly Not as Described) from 45 days to 180 days.
+ We’re extending buyer protection to include item not received claims for custom made products.”

PayPal is splitting up from eBay at some point in 2015. I don’t know if the split factored in the decision to make this buyer-friendly change in policy.