What did we do before Amazon? I realize that the retail behemoth might be responsible for the death of the independent bookstore, but I'm still oh-so-grateful for/dependent upon the services it provides (even while I patiently wait for the second season of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to hit Prime Video).
Although, with so many sellers from all over the world offering products, you run the risk of getting items that are either no good, or flat-out not what was promised. A semi-recent Reddit thread explored this concern and discussed ideas for how to have a positive Amazon shopping experience to get the most bang for your buck. We culled through to pull out the very best tips. Read on!
1. Look for "sold & shipped by Amazon" rather than "fulfilled by Amazon."
If something is actually sold by Amazon, there's a much better chance that the item is actually what it's supposed to be. In addition to weeding out counterfeits, buying directly from Amazon can make returns easier. According to Amazon, "While most sellers offer a returns policy equivalent to Amazon, some seller returns policies may vary."
Doing returns on Amazon-sold items has been a free and easy delight, whereas the two times I needed to return something from a third-party seller, I ended up keeping the item because of the prohibitive return shipping charges (i.e., $7 shipping to return a $10 book). Refining your search by clicking Prime in the lefthand column is the easiest way to filter by seller.
2. Follow up if you get a late Prime delivery.
If you order something via Prime and it doesn't arrive on time, Reddit users point out that it's worth contacting Amazon. The company used to offer a free one-month extension to Prime membership on some late orders, but that's no longer the official policy. It's still worth reaching out, though, as reps have been known to give a $5 or $10 credit to accounts.
3. Read the most recent reviews.
A few commenters called out an unsavory practice: "The new trick people are doing ... is they make a really good product, they sell out of the first run of that product, then they remake it in China and sell the China knockoff as the actual 5-star product." If a product has a high rating overall, but all of the most recent reviews are negative, this sort of scam might be in effect. Beware!"
4. Use Fakespot to spot fake reviews.
Fakespot was recommended by a ton of Reddit users; it's a tech company that can analyze product reviews and gives potential buyers a grade based on the review's authenticity. Basically, Fakespot can't tell you with absolute certainty whether a review is real or fake, but it uses algorithms to come to the most educated conclusion possible. It is $1.99 per month for the Chrome app and free to use via the website.
5. You can also use ReviewMeta to analyze reviews.
ReviewMeta works similarly to Fakespot. If you're gonna spend a lot of money on something, why not check the reviews twice to see if the results are the same? Download the free Chrome extension or copy and paste reviews into the website.
6. Beware of reviews written for free or discounted products.
According to TechCrunch, "Amazon [banned] incentivized reviews tied to free or discounted products," as of October 2016. However, incentivized reviews from before that time remain on Amazon, so do a quick on-page search (Control/Command+F) for, "in exchange for," "complimentary," or "review." If an item's rating is primarily based on customers who received the item for free in exchange for a review, you'll get a ton of hits for those terms.
7. Be careful when buying beauty products.
Quite a few Reddit commenters strongly advised against buying any cosmetics via Amazon, and one even theorized, "I would wager that over 10% of all beauty products on Amazon are fakes." Do your research and thoroughly read through the reviews to better understand what you are about to spend your hard-earned money on! Don't assume that reviews stating that the item is a counterfeit are wrong.
This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Caveat Emptor: 7 Secrets to Try From Master Amazon Shoppers
Got any of your own tips to add? Put them in the comments below!