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.
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 🙂
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 🙂 It looks like this (“View Image” to see full size):
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 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.
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).
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.
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! 🙂
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 🙂
More discussion via Techmeme.
UPDATE (3:49pm ET): as of this check, it looks like the Amazon website is back to normal…
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.
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, 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.
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.
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!]
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:
When you click on the rebate link, it will take you to the usual Canon Pixma combined-purchase rebates. See the PDF form.
This is the post that was promised last weekend. PrimeNow is rapidly expanding to more cities, with Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Sacramento added most recently. If you haven’t ordered anything from them yet, coupon GETITNOW gets you $20 off an order of $50+. Details at the Prime Now promo page. PrimeNow is only available to Prime members.
PrimeNow is different from most of the other Amazon variations-on-a-theme (AmazonFresh, Prime Pantry, Prime One Day, etc). You can only place PrimeNow orders using Amazon’s PrimeNow apps downloaded from Google Play, iTunes or Amazon’s own appstore. You cannot place PriceNow orders from their website through a browser. If you already have Amazon apps installed on your device, it will pick up the credentials from there, so you won’t have to enter your username/password again. Your payment methods are also linked, so you don’t have to re-enter them.
This is a looooong post, more after the break…
Jet.com 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.
As of October 1st (2015), Target is now price-matching a number of online and offline retailers, including Amazon, NewEgg, Best Buy, Sears, Walmart, Costco, and more. Details via The Consumerist.
On the shipping front, there are good news for Monoprice fans in the East and Mid-West regions. They have opened a distribution center in Kentucky carrying 1400+ of their most popular products.
Speculation: one frustrating thing with shopping at Monoprice is that there is consistent way to predict whether you will pay shipping or not. Most other retailers have predictability (purchases over a certain amount or membership or free shipping for almost everything). Maybe the launch of an Eastern/Midwest distribution center can make it easier to give customers a non-moving target. Again, this is pure speculation.
Remodeling time – the B&H Photo website is now remodeled with a more compact airy design. The new design pays off when you look at their Latest Featured Deals page, four items per row are easier to quickly skim and scan, and it has “infinite” scroll when you keep clicking the orange “Load More” button at the bottom of the rows of items. There are a lot of specials on that page, it will take me some time to digest and price-check them, but in the meantime you can check them out on your own if you prefer.
For your convenience, the B&H Latest Featured Deals page has been added to the Sidebar of this blog under the “DAILY DEALS LINKS”.
PS: the Sidebar of this blog is long overdue for an update, eg add more useful deal-related links and such. It will happen eventually (chaos and disorder reigns supreme!).
The Amazon Prime Membership has another new feature available in 14 major metro areas, free Same-Day delivery of select items eligible for this. This includes a number of digital cameras and other related camera and photo gear!
Prime members get free same-day delivery on orders over $35. For orders under $35, you pay $6 as a Prime member. Non-Prime members can also use this service, but delivery fees start at $10 ($9 flat plus $1 per item). Check the Help page for more details and the Same Day Delivery Rates page.
You can filter for eligible items on the left side of an Amazon non-product page.
You can also easily tell on an individual product page if an item is eligible…
Availability of products may vary by metro area. You can enter your zipcode on the left side of the colorful map at the Same Day page to see whether your area is covered.
This should not be confused with various other Prime programs, it is different from Prime Pantry, Prime Fresh, Prime Now, Prime Mind Reader, Prime Needle In a Haystack and Prime Plus Extra Deluxe Extreme (some of the names are made up!)
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.
Daily deals fans, your wish has come true! B&H Photo has launched a Daily Deal page. Each daily deal will expire at 11:59pm ET of that day, or earlier if the item sells out. Today’s item is a 2TB My Book VelociRaptor Duo Thunderbolt Desktop Hard Drive for $280 with 5% rewards and free shipping. Limit 10 per customer. The page also has a % claimed, so that gives you a better indicator of how much time you have to decide whether to get it or not… This has also been added to the right Sidebar of this blog under “DAILY DEALS LINKS”, so you can check on your own at any time, you don’t have to wait for me to wake up from hibernation 🙂
Three days ago we spotted the unusual Black Friday Deals preorders (! [preorders of existing products; not unreleased products]) at Amazon but it turns out, this is not an Amazon “innovation” but a Samsung innovation. Similar Black Friday HDTV Deal “pre-orders” can be found at Samsung’s own website and at B&H Photo.
So far this consists of Samsung HDTVs. I don’t know if it will expand to digital cameras this year or in future years. But it is a new trend to watch as retailers are perhaps trying to zero in on shoppers who want good deals but don’t want the hassle of brick and mortar lines or deal-chasing on the internets when they can instead spend Thanksgiving weekend getting grilled by the Mother In Law 🙂
Amazon revealed a new twist today, a new feature for Prime members. For some of the items in the traditional Gold Box Lightning Deals, Amazon Prime members will get access to them 30 minutes before the general population does. It’s easier to explain with an example, look at the annotated screenshot crop of the Ape camera case below (click on the picture or open in new tab/window to see it at full size)…
As you can see, the Ape case has the “Prime Early Access Deal” line. Only Lightning Deals that show this line are going to be available to Prime members for 30 minutes early. All the other items will go live at the same time for everybody. Here is an annotated screenshot example below of Upcoming Lightning Deals, some are Prime Early Access, some are not (click on the picture or open in new tab/window to see it at full size)…