Holiday Season: Free shipping at Amazon for non-Prime members for orders under $25

Shipping fees are the bane of an online shoppers’ existence! From now until the Christmas-delivery shipping deadline, if you are not a Prime member, you get free shipping at the Amazon website for orders under $25.

A couple of things to note. This will be the same free slow shipping that they previously offered for orders over $25. “Slow shipping” is not always slow ~ depending on each order’s situation.

The second thing to note is that this offer only applies to products sold and shipped by Amazon and products fulfilled by Amazon. Amazon physically and logistically controls the shipping for these two types, and they are the majority of listings over there. However, products that ship directly from 3rd-party sellers will still have a shipping fee as usual [Prime members pay this fee too except for a few rare occasions where they get Prime-like shipping – a lesser known Prime benefit]…

Speaking of Amazon, they are offering the new condition Acer Spin 5 SP515-51GN-83YY for $760 with free shipping. A maximum of TWO per customer at the sale price. This is not a lightning deal but an old fashioned sale. This haas a 15.6″ FHD Touchscreen, 8th Gen i7-8550U, GeForce GTX 1050, 8GB DDR4, 1TB HDD, Convertible design, Win 10, etc.

Woot now offers FREE 2-Day Prime shipping on select items [Prime members]

The Amazonification of Woot continues with another new experimental feature. As of a few weeks ago, Prime members would get free shipping at Woot, but now, the new experiment gets Prime members free 2-day Prime-like shipping on select Woot items. This is probably for items shipping from Amazon warehouses, so it makes sense they’d be able to do this for paying Prime members.

Here’s an example of a listing, the Klipsch speakers. Here’s an annotated screenshot of the relevant part of the pages for products eligible for this new Woot-Prime benefit:

Meh brings back $5/month free shipping membership

As mentioned in the main text of today’s deal at Meh.com, Meh is bringing back their free shipping membership plan, let’s call it version 2.0. You pay $5 per month, and you can cancel it at any time. For any month you are a paying member, you get free shipping at Meh and its other sister shopping sites (Morningsave, Casemates, Checkout.org and any others they may come up with in the future). If you are a regular shopper there, the membership makes sense since a number of their offers face a make-or-break as a deal based on the shipping fee. Details on the new membership at the bottom of this Meh forum post. The top part of the post gives background and history.

(ENDED) Starts Thursday 4pm ET: Crazy Woot WTF Pricing Experiment [not camera related]

This experiment ended…

[Read more…]

Prime Membership Annual Fees will increase to $119

Amazon keeps adding more and more to the Prime Benefits, but that’s not all. They strategically decided to go BIG with their TV streaming business, making expensive purchases and plans, such as an upcoming Lord of the Rings TV series. So the writing was on the wall that the Prime membership fee would go up.

And it is. Annual Prime membership fees will increase from $99 to $119. Discussion of the news organized nicely by Techmeme.

The $119/year membership fee goes in effect on May 11 for new members, and June 16 for renewals of existing subscriptions. You can cancel your existing subscription before it renews if you don’t want to pay this higher subscription fee.

If you want to get in at the $99 for the first year, as a new or previous Prime member, you can sign up for Prime Membership now for $99.

As far as I can tell, existing Prime members cannot manually renew their subscription ahead of time using the Prime account website. I don’t know if it’s possible to renew it ahead of time by talking/live-chatting to a customer service representative.

April 1st LOLz: Groupon “increasing prices”

Groupon is boldly going with their April Fool’s Day joke. Their email states “we INCREASED our prices just for you”. It hits too close to home for some shoppers, as many retailers [controlled by manufacturer-controlled pricing] increase prices while portraying them as discounts over MAP ๐Ÿ™‚

LOL Amazon Gold Box goes in QVC mode!

Amazon is now turning the Amazon Gold Box into a hybrid QVC channel! Between 11am to 7pm eastern every day, they have a live show talking and showcasing some of the items that are featured in the gold box lightning deals. Volume is off by default. You may or may not see it depending on screen size and device. As of they time of writing, they were QVCing (verb) a Cuisant grill set, then an Alexa smart alarm clock ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s a screenshot of the “live box” in the Gold box ๐Ÿ™‚

Speaking of the Gold Box, running until Wednesday at 3am eastern they have a sale on Anker products such as chargers, power banks and cables; and a $6 iPhone X case.

GetOlympus Outlet store listings improvements

The main listings index of the Olympus USA Outlet store has finally seen some improvements. You can now see from the index of available items which ones are out of stock and you can add-to-cart directly. A step in the right direction, but more work must needs be done!

NEW: $6/mo Prime membership for qualifying Medicaid recipients

Overshadowed by the LOL-worthy and Black Mirror-esque news of Alexa laughing at customers (it’s not you, it’s Alexa, or the ghost inside the Echo ๐Ÿ˜‰ was another new expansion of the Prime pool by Amazon. They are launching a Prime discounted membership option for qualifying Medicaid recipients for $6 per month. This is similar (or an expansion) of their existing $6/mo EBT membership. Just like “Amazon Student”, a customer can be on this discounted program for up to four years.

The list of Prime benefits is getting longer and longer, and Amazon is also making noise about getting into the health care business. Certainly this Medicaid development is a step in the right direction.

What next? Prime NOW will deliver a doctor to your front door when you want/need one?

PSA: new eBay user agreement taking effect 3/30/18

On the shopping news front, Amazon is buying doorbell company Ring for over a billion. Another day, another acquisition for the “bookseller” ๐Ÿ™‚

Meanwhile eBay is informing users via email that a new User Agreement will go in effect on March 30 (2018) and effectively immediately for new users. I have not read/compared the before/after agreements but the eBay email describes the changes as:

“The key updates to the eBay User Agreement reflects the companyโ€™s continuing transition towards a product-based shopping and selling experience.”

Retail News: Albertsons buying Rite Aid

With Ritz/Wolf mostly disappearing and local camera shops fading away as well, drugstore chains are often the places many people go to for prints. And we have a new development on the drugstores front. Walgreens had previously agreed to purchase some Rite Aid stores, but they are not buying the whole company. Announced today, the Albertsons group of companies will be buying Rite Aid, over 2500 remaining stores that are not purchased by Walgreens (buying over 1900 stores) according to the aforelinked Forbes article.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. If Rite Aid thrives under Albertsons, the local photo print markets will get more competition and better prices. If Albertsons starts shutting down stores, it will reduce competition giving CVS and Walgeens fewer reasons to offer good deals. Only time will tell – as always ๐Ÿ™‚

New Prime Benefit: Free Shipping at Woot (FINALLY!)

Some thought the day would never come, but as of February 18 in 2018, this is for real! Amazon Prime members can now receive free standard shipping for most of their Woot purchases. This was announced on the official Woot blog and there are also notices scattered throughout the Woot website.

The benefit is free standard shipping, not free 2-day shipping, but it’s definitely better than paying $5 per calendar day for purchases. T-shirt purchases however get “free express shipping” which makes sense, since they are lightweight and they can be compressed for shipping purposes to the size of a burrito if need be.

Here’s an annotated screenshot from the Woot blog summarizing it:

There are some exceptions though. “Gourmet” items, sold by the Gourmet sub-Woot (formerly Wine) are not eligible. You’ll get confirmation on the product page and the shopping cart on what qualifies.

If you are a regular Woot shopper who’s not a Prime member, it’s not a bad idea to give it a try, they offer 30-Day Free Prime Trials. If you make Woot purchases on 20 different days during a rolling 12-month period, that’s the price of a 1-year Prime subscription (20 x $5 = $100).

The list of Prime benefits is getting longer and longer. Take a comprehensive look at our Amazon Prime Benefits mega-post at the main blog.

Woot makes return policy more consumer friendly

Woot has updated their return policy, now allowing returns of products you just didn’t like. Returns are no longer restricted to damaged or defective items. There are some reasonable restrictions (specialty carrier for oversize/bulky, perishables, altered clothing, hazardous materials, etc) to the new policy which you can find at their FAQ page.

Surprise Shopping News: eBay will be replacing PayPal with Ayden in the next few years

This is a surprise! eBay will be eventually replacing PayPal as its payment method with a smaller European company called Ayden. This will be phased in over time. PayPal will continue to be available on eBay until July 2023 (over five years from now), while Ayden will have most of eBay’s payments by 2021. So it’s not something disruptive from a consumer perspective as it will be rolled out over time. PayPal’s negatives among consumers are probably high enough that quite a few people may cheer rather than cry for PayPal ๐Ÿ™‚

Ayden will launch in small scale later in 2018, and begin expanding in 2019 and later…

More details through CNBC and more discussion in the tech world nicely organized at Techmeme. Here’s eBay’s own explanation of the change in their press release

Circuit City returning again on February 15

Circuit City is planning yet another comeback (attempt). The new plan calls for a new experiential (not experimental) website launching the day after Valentine’s Day (February 15), to be followed with kiosks, stores within stores and even their very own stores if all goes to plan. Imaging will be one of their areas of interest. Details from TWICE at CES 2018.

Woot launches alternative Visual View of their sales

In addition to their daily deals, Woot has a variety of other sales that run for longer than 24 hours. The problem with all these is that they are hidden from most non-diehards of their website because they are impossible to find. Remember the moofi? ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, a new attempt at modernization has been launched, an alternative to the existing user interface, the Woot Discover, a visual listing of some of their latest offers, in a tablet-y kind of design. Over 500 items are listed there.

(ENDED) Reminder: Free Next Day Delivery Cut-Off is Thursday 4pm ET

This promotion expired…

The FREE Next Day shipping cut off point a B&H Photo and Adorama is around Thursday 4pm eastern. But don’t wait until 3:59pm ET to place an order. The earlier you submit the order, the better chances you have for an on-time (or faster) delivery ๐Ÿ™‚

Amazon’s schedule varies depending on camera/product but also the physical location of the product in question, and the physical location of the buyer (or the delivery address if sending to others as gifts).

NewEgg launches Thursday Live Stream with Deals

Online shopping got a bit stale in terms of innovation before the explosion of mobile, and now, the much tighter integration of digital and “real world” is bringing more crazy things, like Amazon’s Treasure Truck.

NewEgg doesn’t have Amazon-type of real world infrastructure, but they have YouTube technology! Every Thursday at 1pm ET, they are starting a NewEgg NOW Live Stream talking about various tech products and services, and while that stream is running, below it, a variety of tech deals are offered.

[Read more…]

Groupon offers 90-day mini-Prime service for $15 one-time fee

Do you often find things you like at Groupon, but end up not getting them because your order total is under $35 and adding the $3.99 shipping fee ruins the deal?

Just in time for the upcoming Holiday Shopping Season, Groupon is offering a 90-Day Free Shipping Subscription for a $15 one-time fee.

It’s like a Mini Prime. This gets you free shipping on every eligible order for the next 90 days. Typically Groupon offers free shipping on orders of $35+. So if you think you are going to place four or more orders in the next 90 days that would otherwise charge you $4 shipping, then you come ahead.

The 90 day clock starts with purchase date. For example, if you purchase it today, it would run until January 12, 2018 [both October and December have 31 days].

Here’s an annotated screenshot of their summary of terms and conditions:

RESTRICTIONS: just like Prime, this offer only applies to items sold and shipped by Groupon Goods. Items sold by Marketplace sellers (3rd-party sellers, not Groupon itself) are NOT eligible for the offer. Not eligible are items that require special delivery or white glove and such.

In other words, items that would otherwise get the standard $3.99 flat shipping will be get free shipping while you are subscribed to this mini-Prime.

This will likely increase impulse buys, so if you are trying to avoid those, this is probably an enabler!

eBay User Agreement Update: Sellers may be charged Final Value Fee for eBay sales completed outside eBay

eBay did not wait until Friday night to sneak in announce new updates to their Terms of Service. According to an email sent to its members, the key change to the user agreement is that Sellers who try to complete eBay listing sales outside of eBay (to avoid paying the various eBay fees) may be charged Final Value Fees regardless. Not sure how eBay is going to find out, but that’s what the updated Terms and Conditions say.

ANALYSIS: Perhaps the reason this was announced in the middle of the week is because eBay wants people to read this and stop doing it ๐Ÿ™‚

Kohls in CHI and LA will be accepting Amazon (!) returns

The ever-changing retail landscape makes for strange bedfellows. Kohls and Amazon will begin a new experiment starting October 2017, 80+ Kohls stores in the Chicago and Los Angeles areas will be …accepting Amazon returns according to Reuters. What and how will probably revealed in those markets when the experiment begins.

Shopping News: Google Express ending Membership program (refunds coming!)

“Google Express”, Google’s local shopping and delivery service, decided to end their Membership program. A membership will no longer be required to shop there. Current paying members will receive a pro-rated REFUND of their membership fees. This may be a nice amount if you had a prepaid annual membership ๐Ÿ™‚

The Help pages at the Google Express page describe the change as follows:

In a related move, Google has a new partnership with Walmart to enable Voice Shopping using the Google Assistant using the Google Home device. Furthermore, Walmart will be joining the growing list of merchants participating in Google Express.

More details via Techmeme.

New Free Shipping Offer at Groupon: Make $50+ purchase, unlock Free Shipping for the next 14 Days (without minimum purchase requirement)

There is a new development in the world of Free Shipping at Groupon Goods. In addition to their existing on-going offer to get free shipping with a $34.99+ order, they are introducing a new limited time free shipping promotion as follows:

IF you make a purchase of $49.99+ in a single transaction, for the next 14 calendar days, you will get FREE shipping on all your purchases, without the need for a minimum purchase amount. Items have to be sold and shipped by Groupon itself, not 3rd-party sellers.

Think of it a 14-day Prime-like membership, except you get the slowest Super-Saver No-Rush shipping, instead of 2-day shipping ๐Ÿ™‚

The fineprint of the offer, cut and paste from their website:

“For a limited time, when you spend $49.99 or more on eligible Goods deals in one purchase, you’ll get free standard shipping ($3.99) on that order and on all eligible orders for the next 14 days with no minimum purchase requirement. No limits on number of uses. Eligible orders are for deals sold by Groupon Goods, Inc. that are not large, oversized, or delivered by a special or white glove carrier. Orders from third party sellers that sell on the Groupon Marketplace do not qualify. U.S. only.”

It is nice to see retailers try new things. Shipping is definitely one thing that is holding back some people from making Groupon purchases, so this offer may …unlock temporary impulse buys ๐Ÿ™‚

Starting October 2nd, you can return items purchased from 3rd-party Amazon sellers without contacting them

Starting October 2nd in 2017, Amazon will activate a new policy that makes it easier for buyers to return products purchased and shipped directly from 3rd-party sellers. You will no longer have to contact the 3rd-party seller for a return. You will be able to do it using the Amazon website which will print a prepaid (by the seller) return-shipping label. So the return process will be similar to that of products shipped or fulfilled by Amazon itself.

There’s also a new option for (non-)returning low-cost or high-shipping items or defective items. The sellers have the option to opt-in for “returnless refunds”, where the cost or condition of the item may be such that it would cost the seller more money to process a return, so they’ll instead let the customer keep the item while still issuing them a refund.

From a Buyer perspective, this is great news as it will weed out some of the more iffy or careless sellers, and give you more flexibility in being able to easily return products that are unsatisfactory or defective or otherwise not-as-described.

But from a seller perspective, this is a “sky is falling” moment, where worries of all kinds are expressed by Amazon sellers in multiple threads in the Sellers forum. Fraudulent returns, “free rentals”, losing big on return fees and shipping, feeling pressed into using “fulfilled by Amazon” and so forth.

More details at CNBC.com.

Shopping News: QVC and HSN merge in a $2 billion deal

The two biggest TV home shopping networks of the over-the-air antenna era are now one! QVC and HSN are becoming one in a $2.1 billion M&A deal. But wait, if you call now, you’ll get a BONUS TV shopping channel for ABSOLUTELY FREE! Details through Engadget.

RED Professional video cameras can now be purchased at B&H

If you are a fan of the RED professional video cameras and B&H Photo, we have good news for you! The RED cameras and their accessories are now available for purchase at B&H Photo. A total of 21 options are available at B&H at the moment. They are currently in pre-order status. RED are specialty products, so you can’t stock them the same way you stock Canon Digital Rebels ๐Ÿ™‚

Meta (Article): The War Over the featured Amazon product seller spots

If you are an Amazon shopper, and you wonder how all those different 3rd-party sellers get ranked in the Amazon “Add to Cart” section of each product page, you may find this new article at Buzzfeed interesting, as it explains some of the factors and issues, with quotes from multiple Amazon sellers.

A data analyst in the article best defines it: “In a lot of ways the Buy box is a slowed down stock exchange”.

Retailer News: Amazon buying Whole Foods for $13.7B in Cash!

Would you like an organic DSLR with your organic apples? You may soon be able to buy them both side by side. Okay, probably not, but in a surprise announcement today, Amazon revealed that it is paying $13.7 billion in cold hard cash to buy Whole Foods. You can find coverage of this at major tech and business websites and opines by social media gurus, all nicely organized at Techmeme.com.

Amazon lowers Free Shipping Minimum to $25 again (Experiment or Permanent?)

If you like to shop at Amazon, but don’t want to sign up for a Prime membership [list of benefits], and don’t want to place $35+ orders, we have some good news for you. It looks like Amazon has lowered the free shipping threshold from $35 to $25. While price-checking some of the Bag The Bags, this came up, the minimum shown is $25 instead of $35. This showed up when not logged on to an Amazon account, and also if logged on to a non-Prime account.

If you want practice/test this, here’s a sub-$25 item, screenshot of which can be seen below:

I don’t know if this is a limited time or limited scope experiment (Amazon LOVES to experiment) or this is permanent. (permanent until they change it again that is).

In the previous iterations, books got free shipping with $25+ orders, presumably price-matching the long-standing Barnes & Noble offer. If this sticks, it means books and non-books get free shipping on $25+ orders.

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

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].

PSA: AVOID Too Good To Be True “Just Launched” Amazon Sellers

It is human nature to be tempted by a deal that looks too good to be true, even if all the signs scream RED ALERT. Listen to those signs. An on-going scam at Amazon, that Amazon has not yet been able to block automatically, is “Just Launched” sellers offering high-demand electronics at a fraction of their price. They want you to pay them directly (which violates Amazon’s terms of service for sellers). Needless to say, you will never get the item and your personal and financial information will be at risk. Check various forums, people still fall for this crap and describe their adventures trying to sort this out. So to summarize, AVOID like the PLAGUE!

Here’s an example of the Olympus E-M1 II whose price is $2000 (or higher since it’s hard to find) at real retailers:

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.

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 https://www.amazon.com/norushcredits but all you have to remember is to type norushcredits (no rush credits) since amazon.com is easy to remember ๐Ÿ™‚ It looks like this (“View Image” to see full size):

amazon_no_rush_credit_page

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:

olympus_em1_scam

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:

newgg_fedex_pickup2

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).

M&A News: Groupon buys LivingSocial

This was a Groupon special but only available to Groupon the company ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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/Code.net 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

More discussion via Techmeme.

UPDATE: Back Online [WAS: Amazon.com currently down]

UPDATE (3:49pm ET): as of this check, it looks like the Amazon website is back to normal…

[Read more…]

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:

new_amazon_free_shipping_february2016

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

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:

international_versions_At_amazon

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: 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ [remember, if you are a Prime member, you automatically get unlimited Cloud Photos!]

CAUTION: Amazon’s After Rebate Prices of Canon Cameras eligible for Canon MIRs are WRONG

Red flag alert! There’s a problem with the way Amazon calculates prices for Canon digital cameras that are eligible for the Canon Pixma combined purchase mail-in rebates. The after rebate prices are incorrectly shown on camera-only kits. These won’t fly since the Canon mail-in rebates specifically require a camera + printer purchase.

Here’s an example of a broken price box, using the Canon G5X as our guinea pig:

amazon_pixma_mir_broken

When you click on the rebate link, it will take you to the usual Canon Pixma combined-purchase rebates. See the PDF form.