Is Amazon *really* the cheapest place to buy?

19 January 2015

amazon-logoAmazon is the massive retailer we all love to hate. Yet despite  it's tax-avoiding-style behaviours, most people will generally concede that Amazon is the place to get the best prices. But is this really true? New research suggests that Amazon might be using it’s extremely well-oiled machine to manipulate your perceptions, and to fool you into thinking that you can get everything cheaper at Amazon.

The research, by Boomerang Commerce found that, while Amazon is very good at being the cheapest on high-profile items, when it's offering its biggest discounts on popular products, such as a TV, it will increase the prices of its less popular items to make a profit.

The report says that while “Amazon may not actually be the lowest-priced seller of a particular product in any given season… its consistently low prices on the highest viewed and best-selling items drive a perception among consumers that Amazon has the best prices overall.”

Boomerang uses the example of a $350 (£230) Samsung TV that was heavily discounted on Black Friday, while at the same time, the price of the HDMI cable needed for the TV went up, as the price of the much smaller product would not change the price perception of the larger purchase. Another example, was when a best-selling router was priced 20% below Walmart's price, an alternative model was priced at 29% more than it cost on Walmart.

What these examples show is that, Amazon are using shoppers perception of the brand as being cheapest to sell things that you could actually find cheaper elsewhere. While the headline item is cheaper, if you need ancillary products, or you end up plumping for a higher-spec alternative, you might be better off shopping around. The report also showed that Amazon changes millions of prices a day, sometimes changing the price of a single item multiple  times in one day to maximise the overall profit.

But, whatever your personal opinion of Amazon, you can’t blame it for trying to squeeze extra profits out of consumers wherever possible. It’s up to consumers to compare prices across retailers, particularly if you do decide against the bargain bucket version, and to check Amazon’s prices against its own pricing history, using sites like, to make sure it really is a good deal.


  • Euan
    Also makes browser extensions like InvisibleHand damn useful, as they go and check in the background for you to see if they can find stuff cheaper on other sites...
  • Alexis V.
    I remember the days when you didn't have to wait 4 days for a DVD from Amazon as well
  • Cliff L.
    fuck amazon....that is all.
  • Jim
    If you work in ecommerce, be that elsewhere or on / through Amazon itself, then you'll know that around 60% of its customer reviews are fake. You'll also know that happy customer rarely post reviews. If you are a customer then you aren't in the advantageous position to see what does and doesn't go on behind the scenes. I say "advantageous" but really I mean disgusted / disappointed / annoyed, unless of course you are one that actually posts the fake reviews and will know that way too. Customers are just getting persuaded to buy certain products and are none the wiser if they could have got better. It isn't necessarily always the case that fake reviews = shoddy products (although it is that as well) it might just be mediocre and you wouldn't know the difference. i.e. you're not going to buy several versions of the same thing to know by comparison. Plus you might not be an expert to be any the wiser (neither am I in fields I have no experience in, such as technical specs of cameras, for which I did not rely on customer reviews to purchase recently.)
  • Spencer
    I thought most people knew ali express was usually cheaper and better (even if it does take 4 months to be shipped from Xin Dong province)? Amazon is only really useful for books these days. £2.81 delivered :)
  • Martin
    Next day delivery with Prime even up to and including Christmas Eve was very good indeed thank you. And of course Amazon are not always the cheapest. But they are not like John Lewis saying they are. If you are too lazy to take the few seconds to check camelcamelcamel or pricerunner or any individual sites to check prices especially on items like big tv sets then that is your own problem. If Amazon made it so only people who had bought the product could review it that would be so much easier. You can't find out most of what you'd like to know about a blu-ray quality for example without being swamped by people saying how great or awful the film was, even before the movie has been released on bluray. Add that in and you'd have a much better idea of what people think. But then it's like Tripadvisor, you don't take everything on face value, you can judge it on many things.
  • Father J.
    I used the Prime trial before Christmas and it was fucking useless... out of five items I ordered just two arrived on the next day. I was informed that one item had been dispatched, and waited in for it to arrive, only to receive a second email the following day informing me that the order had been cancelled! No explanation, kiss me arse... nothing. And some people actually pay for this shitty level of service!
  • Mike H.
    Oh Amazon, you're prices are shit, but I still blagg the shite out of yo-ass, muthafucka.
  • Jim
    By the way the 60% of reviews being fake on Amazon is largely made up of verified purchase reviews. All "verified purchase" means is that the person who reviewed the product bought one, that's all. In reality, despite perception, there is nothing about verified reviews that makes them more genuine, and this is why it is standard to offer them among fake review sellers. For example just google "Buy Amazon Reviews" and you'll find various websites that offer verified purchase reviews.

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