October 11

Amazon Prime Day: A Primer (To Help You Buy Smart and Get the Best Deals)

By trk

Last Updated: June 17, 2021

Amazon, Prime Day, shopping tips

Amazon Prime Day offers some amazing deals, but it can be confusing to sort through all those ads and pages to find the golden deal awaiting your discovery.

And not every deal is a great one, either.

Here, we cover Amazon Prime Day in all its retail glory--and show you how to find the best deals on the best gear on Amazon.

What Is Amazon Prime Day? 

The first Amazon Prime Day was in July 2015. It began as a way to boost sales during a normally sluggish month, and also to honor Amazon Prime members--as well as entice other people to become members.

This year, Prime Day--which is actually a 48 hour period--was delayed because of Covid-19 (probably due to a shortage of warehouse employees). Prime Day 2020 is happening on October 13-14. It begins at midnight Pacific Time (3am Eastern) on the 13th and goes for 48 hours. 

Prime Day is one of the biggest sales events of the year, typically offering more than one million deals. It can be a great way to get products at a huge discount.

But you have to be savvy. From not-so-great markdowns to outdated electronics to shady third party sellers, you have to do your homework before you click that Buy button if you want to be sure you're getting a great deal. (More on this in a minute.)

How to Sign Up for Amazon Prime

First things first: you have to be an Amazon Prime member to take part in Prime Day. The cost of signing up varies (it's cheaper for students and some other groups), but for most people it costs $12.99/month if you pay monthly and $119 if you pay annually (about $10/month).

More than 150 million people are Amazon Prime members. If you haven't signed up yet, one of the best features is that you get a 30-day free trial, during which you can take advantage of all the Prime perks. If you don't think it's for you, you can cancel without paying a cent. (And you really can--no strings attached and Amazon does not make it difficult to do so.)

Sign up for amazon prime here

Benefits of Amazon Prime

Is a Prime membership worth it? Well, Prime Day is just one rather small benefit of being an Amazon Prime member. The biggest membership perk is free shipping on all products labeled "Prime" (which is a lot of them). You also get deals on video, music, books, clothes, groceries, and a lot more. 

For a detailed list of Prime benefits, see our article Why Shop on Amazon? Deals, Deals and More Deals. Check it out--you'll probably be surprised by all the discounts available through Prime membership (and even a few that don't require membership).

Okay, I Signed Up. Now What?

Amazon Prime Day is a little complicated. Nobody knows for sure what items will be marked down, or how great the markdowns will be until Amazon actually puts them out there. This way, people keep a vigilant watch on Amazon  because they don't want to miss anything. (It's an extremely clever marketing tool on Amazon's part.) 

Having said that, there are always some early deals, as well: you can start expecting markdown notices as early as October 11. But the best deals are going to happen on October 13-14.

Additionally, Amazon puts out deals for weeks leading up to Prime Day. You can be sure to find sales on lots of kitchen gear, small appliances, and popular items like robot vacuums, gaming consoles, plasma TVs, and the like. During this pre-Prime period, Amazon also offers great deals on their own products, like the Kindle Paperwhite bundle, Amazon Echo, and Blink Mini (Amazon's new security camera). You can also find stellar markdowns on Amazon subscriptions for Kindle Unlimited (half price!) and Music Unlimited (3 months for $0.99!)--all to say, this is an excellent time to invest in Amazon technology if you've been thinking about doing so.

You should be checking Amazon every day leading up to Prime to find out what's on sale.

Here are some of the best ways to keep abreast of the deals as they happen:

Amazon Assistant: This is a browser extension for Google Chrome that helps you keep track of all the Deals. Download Amazon Assistant here.

Mobile App: To get the maximum benefits out of Prime Day, you should download the mobile app. Here, you can get previews of deals--the best way to get a deal before it's gone!--notifications, help tracking items and purchases, and more. There's even a chat function so you can speak directly to an Amazon employee. 

List: You can also use the List function to add any item of interest, then check the list periodically for price drops. You can create a list from any Amazon product page just by clicking "add to list" as shown here:

E-mails: You can also just rely on Amazon to send you email updates of deals. Trust us, there will be plenty of them. 

Waitlist: Amazon also has a Lightning Deal Waitlist you can sign up for, if there are still spots available. This is a great way to be sure you get a deal before it's gone. Read more about Lightning Deal Waitlist.

Today's Deals: You can use the Today's Deals menu at the top of any Amazon page to search for deals. Once in there, you can select categories to narrow your search even more. If you're just browsing and not exactly sure what you want, this is the best way to find sales on stuff you might like.

Other than that, keep an eye on the products you're interested in. As far as kitchen items, hundreds of items will be marked down. We don't know for sure yet what they'll be, but you can be sure popular items like Instant Pots, blenders, mixers, and sous vide circulators will go on sale. 

Just because an item is on sale, though, doesn't mean it's a good deal. The next section talks about how to be sure you're getting a good deal.

How Do I Know I'm Getting a Good Deal?

Amazon sells its own products, but the vast majority of sellers on Amazon are not Amazon itself. They are third party sellers who simply use Amazon to distribute their goods. Most third party sellers are legitimate and want to provide you with a positive experience. However, some third party sellers are dishonest, peddling fakes or otherwise low quality goods, including fake labels, fake certifications, expired food products, and more.

You should always pay attention to the seller of any item you're considering buying. The seller is listed right under the main product title, and is almost always a link to their Amazon page (which you should definitely check out), as shown here: 

You are always going to have the best results buying from the retailer who actually makes the product. For example, if you want to buy All-Clad cookware, it's best to buy from All-Clad and avoid "Joe's Kitchen Stuff" and other shady-sounding store names. So always pay attention to the store you are buying from.

If the deal is really good but you're not sure if it's legit, there are steps you can take to verify that they are honest: 

1. Read the reviews: You don't have to read them all (if there are a lot), but read several of the most positive and most negative reviews to get a feel for what people liked--and hated--about the product. For a discussion about Amazon reviews, see our article Can You Trust Amazon Reviews?

2. Look at the Ratings Distribution: In addition to looking at the rating, look at the rating distribution. Why? Because a product can have a 4.5 star rating with 90% 5 star ratingss, or just 60% 5 star ratings. With a spread this large, it's important to see how many people actually gave the product a 4- or 5-star rating. This is the ratings distribution:


You can see the ratings distribution by placing your cursor over the star rating at the top of the page (directly below the seller name), or at the beginning of the customer review section. 

Don't skip this step! It gives you way more information than you get just from the average rating.

3. Look at the seller's Amazon page: What do they sell? if it's all kitchen equipment (for example), that's a good sign they're an honest retailer. If it's kitchen equipment, tires, baby clothes, dehumidifiers, or any number of unrelated products, proceed with caution: this may be a front for a dishonest seller.

4. Use Fakespot.com: Copy the Amazon product URL and paste it into Fakespot.com. Fakespot monitors the legitimacy of reviews on Amazon (and a few other sites) and will tell you if the reviews seem real or deceptive. It isn't foolproof, but it can give you insight you wouldn't otherwise have (especially if the Fakespot grade is bad).

5. Read external product reviews: Either on other retail sites that sell the product, or on independent testing and review sites (like this one). Not all review sites are created equally, but if you peruse a few of them, you can get a good feel for the pros and cons of a product.

That may sound like a lot of work, but you can do it all in less than 10 minutes. The peace of mind it gives you to do the research is well worth the small investment of your time.

And keep in mind that even if you do all of this, if the third party seller is a no-name you've never heard of, you may still be at some risk of getting a fake or inferior product.

The moral? Buy from a reputable seller whenever possible, and always, always check the product as soon as it arrives so you don't miss the return window (should that be necessary). 

You can learn more about buying smart in our article How to Buy Online: Teach Yourself About Technical Products and Get What You Can Truly Love.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Here are a few more tips to help you have the best Amazon Prime Day ever:

  • Comparison shop: Also check out the sales of other large retailers who are competing with Amazon. Target, Best Buy, Walmart, and others will be sure to have their own deals, and some of them may be better than Amazon's.
  • Don't buy outdated electronics just because they're cheap. You may find great deals on old versions of TVs, gaming consoles, mobile phones, and more, but be sure they have all the features you want before you click that Buy button.
  • Don't forget about small items: You maybe tempted to just look at big ticket items, but you can find some fabulous deals to, say, stock up your pantry. Canned goods, dry goods, cleaners, soaps, and more also go on sale, and some of these deals are unbelievable. If you have the storage space, you can save a small fortune buying in bulk on Prime Day.

Thanks for reading--and have a great Amazon Prime Day.

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