The Case for Amazon

by Linsey Knerl on 26 September 2007 10 comments
Photo: Amazon.com

I have been an Amazon shopper for as long as I have lived 50 miles from the nearest Walmart, Sam’s Club, or Target. With 3 children wearing diapers at one time, I can’t afford the small packs of generic diapers marked up 175% from MSRP that are sold at my local grocer. And while it would be prudent to think ahead and just buy in bulk when I’m in the city, that isn’t always possible without a full day of planning and a small pull-behind trailer. So I bring you my reasons for sticking with Amazon as my online retailer of choice:

 

Free Shipping – Perhaps the most attractive feature for shoppers, Amazon will offer free shipping on most orders above $25. While it can sometimes be difficult to get to $25 (a case of diapers can often times be $24.95), there are all kinds of filler items for around a buck to get you to that magic $25 and save you $6-17 on standard shipping. (An easy way to find filler items is to peruse the children’s books or get a small Tupperware storage dish or other small kitchen utensil.)

 

Instant Rebates – Amazon doesn’t always have the best prices on everything. As a matter of fact, they often claim large discounts on items, only to offer them at or slightly above what you could get them for at any other major retailer. But taking advantage of the special offer codes for particular brand names can save you money. I remember the time that I cashed in on the Unilever promotion offering $20 off a purchase of $49 or more. Buying a case of my favorite laundry detergent cost me a little more than $30, and this was a great savings over what even my warehouse shopping club could give me.

 

Subscribe and Save – A newer feature of Amazon shopping, Subscribe and Save has worked great for me already. By agreeing to receive and pay for regular shipments of the items you use most (coffee, diapers, etc.) Amazon will knock an additional 15% off the price. You can sign up for automatic delivery every 1, 2, 3, or 6 months, and can cancel any time! You also can change your order if your needs change. (For example, after just one delivery of my diaper order, I changed it to the next size larger to accommodate my growing baby.) Amazon will also give you free shipping on all subscribe-and-save orders, regardless of whether they meet the $25 shipping threshold.

 

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Tax savings – Because I live in Nebraska, I pay no sales tax on items purchased and fulfilled by Amazon. This amounts to a tremendous savings for me on items that I would normally pay a 7% sales tax on at my closest metro stores. (Most states do require a use tax for purchases made out-of-state and not taxed by the online retailer. Sometimes this tax is lower than the tax paid to a local retailer, so there is potential for savings. Wisebread would like to remind everyone to be honest with their taxes, and if you have any questions, please consult a tax attorney. For more information on the use tax and internet purchases, there is a great article HERE .)

 

You can see how I am hooked on Amazon. On a $30 case of diapers that I can buy at my local warehouse store, I get the following savings at Amazon:

 

15% subscribe and save discount = savings of $4.50

Free shipping = savings of $5.00 – 7.00

Not having to drive to the store and waste my time, gas, and energy = priceless!

 

Additionally, Amazon is great about honoring their low-price guarantee. If Amazon.com's price for an already-released item decreases within 30 days after they ship the item to you, they’ll refund the difference in price if you contact them.

 

Amazon has taken a lot of flack in the past for not being the best deal, but it can be if you work it right. Be sure to price compare and plan ahead for best savings. And if you ever run into any problems while shopping with Amazon, don’t waste your time with the online help feature. Call the rarely publicized customer service numbers here:

Phone toll-free in the US and Canada: (800) 201-7575 or (866) 216-1072
Phone from outside the US and Canada: (206) 346-2992 or (206)-266-2992

Here’s to saving more without the hassle of retail shopping!

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Guest's picture
James

I'm not a lawyer or anything, but I think you are technically supposed to be paying that 7% sales tax.

"If you live in a state that collects sales tax but avoid paying it on an Internet purchase, you are still required to pay the tax to the state. When you pay it directly to the state, it is referred to as "use" tax rather than sales tax.

The only difference between sales and use tax is which person - seller or buyer - pays the state. Theoretically, use taxes are just a backup plan to make sure that the state collects revenue on every taxable item that is purchased within its borders. But because collecting use tax on smaller purchases is so much trouble, states have traditionally attempted to collect a use tax only on big-ticket items requiring a license, such as cars and boats."

http://www.garage.com/resources/reference/internet_taxsales.shtml

Linsey Knerl's picture

Thanks for the tax clarification... I am amending the article to include this information.  I also see a very well-written article which defines what the law is for my state (Nebraska.)  I still think the savings is well-worth it -- even if you are honest about paying your use taxes!

Myscha Theriault's picture

I have been struggling to come up with a plan to shop that doesn't totally kick my butt since we live about 60 miles from the nearest "normal" shopping experience, and about 3-4 hours away from anything exceptionally decent for bulk shopping. Within a half hour we have some basic shopping, but not prices you want to pay on a regular basis or anything. A few convenience items over the hill, but who can afford that as part of their regular budget? I want to stay retired and spend money on things that suit our goals, not go back to work.

Your tow behind cart comment REALLY rings true for this household. I had seen they were starting to do groceries at Amazon, but it looked like they were only test driving it in certain areas . . . sounds like you're getting some grocery items though, Linsey.

Tell me more . . .

Guest's picture
Lucille

I started using Amazon for certain grocery items, supplements and some health and beauty items. They happen to have a decent selection of no wheat or gluten free products, they are half the price of any of the grocery stores where I live. I found some other expensive staples we use there, same deal, about half the price of the local store. Everything is taxed where I live so getting the internet tax break is another discount plus the free shipping means I didn't waste 1-5 gallons of gas at over $3 a gallon.
I hope they add more items in the main area that qualifies for the free shipping.

Guest's picture
Valerie

I don't know if it's okay to post links in your comments, so if not, feel free to delete. I've come across 2 sites that would probably benefit anyone using Amazon regularly.
Amazon Filler Item Finder gives you a list of items available in categories that you specify, based on the exact amount (or a range) that you need to spend to get free shipping. http://filleritem.com/index.html

With Amazon Price Watch, you plug in the ISBN or ASIN from each item with your email address. You will receive an email if the price drops and can request a refund of the difference from Amazon within 30 days of the purchase.
http://www.frozenwarrior.com/~pricewatch/

Myscha Theriault's picture

Thanks, Valerie!

Linsey, my friend and I spent a bunch of time this morning comparing several of the Amazon grocery items (mostly the baking items and the spices) to the prices she can get from her bulk order co-op. Several of the Amazon prices were much lower, particularly the bulk box of dried cherries. Like you said, though, you have to definitely do you research. They are not the best deal on everything.

Linsey Knerl's picture

I was part of an organic/whole foods coop for a while a few years ago.  It was so spendy, and I hated having to order such large cases of everything.  Amazon sells some very manageable sizes of things, and they prices are much lower than the co-op on many items.  Some things that we use regularly are the diapers, coffee, vitamins, and even some things available through 3rd party sellers like my all time favorite tea-tree face wash (the BEST for acne!)

I couldn't live without Amazon where I live!  And I split cases of large items with my mom so things always stay fresh.  Getting together an Amazon co-op is an awesome idea, too.  (And for extra savings, I place all orders with my Chase/Amazon card and get 3% back on purchases!) 

Guest's picture
John

I used to love Amazon's service. I hope to one day come back once they decide to do the right thing and stop selling dogfighting and cockfighting materials.

Myscha Theriault's picture

We have a rebate card too. It's 5 percent back on gas, utilities, biz / office supplies, etc. and 1 percent on everything else. Of course, with any of these programs, the discipline needs to come first. But if you have that and can pay them off every month, the savings can be huge. You also get to hang on to your money in an interest bearing account every month until you pay the statement. That system isn't for everyone, but we make it work for us and carve out a minimum of an extra 50 bucks a month this way. Not the largest amount, but better than a kick in the butt.

And I love your suggestion of an Amazon co-op. I can already see those cases of dried berries coming in handy for holiday sweetbread baking. We love to drop them off for hostess gifts when we visit.

Myscha Theriault's picture

How about the slamming deals on the decorating sprinkles for baked goods? Holy cow!