Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Making your online dollar stretch further


I've been a very satisfied customer at Amazon.com for more than twenty years, dating back to the 1990's.  It remains my go-to source for many of my requirements, in areas where I know it offers value for my shopping dollar.  Nevertheless, I've noticed over the past few years that in some areas, its prices are now higher than its competitors, who are also improving their online sales and service to a level that competes with Amazon for customer satisfaction.  (I wrote about one such experience a couple of years ago.)  Also, for some products, the much-vaunted "two-day free shipping" offered to Amazon Prime customers is slipping to three days, or four, or sometimes even out to a week.  If that continues, I'm going to question whether Prime membership remains worthwhile.

In recent months, I've noticed that more and more suppliers are putting a lot of effort into upgrading their online stores - and, what's more, their prices have improved quite drastically.  Many are now competitive with major online and storefront retailers.  For example, yesterday I restocked our pantry with Bob's Red Mill grains and soup products.  We'd run low on some of their staples, and others were past their expiry date.  Bob's Web site prices were consistently less than Amazon's for the same product, and above a minimum order figure, shipping was free.  Buying direct from the supplier was a no-brainer in this case.

Another aspect is if you want to order brand-specific goods.  Often they aren't available in the quantity and/or selection you want in local stores.  I've just restocked our pasta sauces, which we'd used up completely.  We like to store sauce in cans, rather than in jars, because of breakage issues (don't ask!).  Hunts makes a tasty selection, but most of their flavors are usually out of stock locally.  By searching most of the supermarkets online, then buying on price, we were able to get five different varieties at very reasonable cost, to be delivered to a local supermarket (with no shipping fees) for collection later this week.  To buy them on Amazon, or have them delivered by other vendors, would have cost quite a bit more.  Even better, by purchasing bulk packs of 8 or 10 cans at a time, the cost per can was significantly lower than local prices.  That's taken care of our needs for the next year or more.  (Menu hint:  pasta sauces are good for more than just pasta.  Try them as ingredients in stews or soups, or to make a flavorful meatloaf.  It takes a little experimentation, but removes a lot of the guesswork from seasoning your food.)

I've noted several articles recently about how people are living paycheck-to-paycheck, not able to accumulate any savings.  I think some of that may be to do with basic financial (in)discipline, perhaps paying for things that aren't essential (e.g. eating out too often):  but another element may be buying unwisely.  A little effort, some Internet searches, and selective purchasing, can save a lot of money, and make that hard-earned paycheck stretch a little further.  Try it.  You might be surprised.  (It's even more valuable if a few friends combine their purchases, and buy in bulk from a big-box store such as Sams Club or Costco, either in-store or online.  The savings can be significant.)

Peter

10 comments:

Noname Smith said...

There are also a few automatic online price searchers (Invisible Hand, Keepa.com, etc.) oriented toward Amazon that do a fair job of presenting better prices when an Amazon product page is viewed, and the camelizer offers the last few years of Amazon pricing on a product for comparison. Interestingly, the comparison tools don't seem to deliver Walmart prices, so those have to be checked manually.

Prime, increasingly, isn't, thanks mostly to the deeply embedded incompetence of USPS; if Trump & Co. are successful in negotiating more realistic USPS pricing for Amazon deliveries I'd expect Prime to quietly disappear. I'm not renewing it this time; for the Prime videos I''m hooked on, I'll buy one month of it each year and watch everything then.

Tregonsee said...

And honestly that vendor most hated by liberals (walmart.com) can give Amazon a run for its money in a lot of areas. Don't quite understand why Liberals hate Walmart so much and yet cozy up to Amazon which is just as responsible for the death of little boutique stores. It's not like buying stuff online from Amazon has any cachet in the modern world, it was cool in the '90s but now the Hoi Polloi do it too. It's basically Walmart without the brick and mortar presence and the badly dressed people :-).

Beans said...

As Tregonsee said above, Walmart can give Amazon a run for it's money. Don't forget to try ordering online from Sams and have it ready for store pickup.

And... it pains me to say it, but, darned it... Target.com. No bathroom issues but a different selection of items than Walmart and sometimes significantly cheaper than Amazon.

I have noticed also that I am paying for 2 day shipping and getting... 4 or 5 day shipping, which usually means USPS delivery. Now, I like the Post Office, but they are not having their delivery drivers knock on the door when dropping off, which totally stinks, since I am one of those people who tries to schedule home days for when the deliveries are being made.

Rob said...

Saving money, Amazon, Walmart, the Post office and Christmas.. That's a lot to get out of one blog!

Saving money is something I never learned, my bride says it's because I wasn't "taught" to save. I thought it was a gene thing... you have it or you don't.
Since she explained that all I have to do is to put a little away, first thing and leave it alone...well I listened & I tried it. Son of a gun it works!!

Saving may still be a gene thing.. I don't know but I CAN do it.

Hunt's sauce IS the good stuff....

Amazon & Amazon Prime. When I finally discovered (by accident) how easy it was to send a grandkid a birthday present with Amazon I was sold! I tried Prime for the free month then cxed it before the free ran out. 2 months after that I sent them the money (less than $100 then) to start my year. I like just ordering what I need when I can't find it downtown and not worrying about the shipping costs.
This last few months most everything that was a Prime purchase made it in the 2 day window but things did slow down around Christmas..
Prime is less than $10 a month, they have a lot of entertainment for that less than $10... that makes the free shipping a bonus!

Amazon reminds me of the Acme Corporation of the Roadrunner-Coyote cartoon fame... If I want an anvil, superglue and a giant spring, Amazon can do it! I get it the day after tomorrow, with no shipping too!

With all that admitted Amazon scares me, way too big, way too everywhere, way too much money.

Many years ago I watched (on-line tracking) my part for my saw mill make it to Kansas City & sit for the 4 day weekend. Then it made it to Bemidji Minnesota (by where I was living then) and sit for the 4 day New Years weekend. United Parcel Service.
The post office works on Saturday... Their priority mail boxes are great if you don't mind the cost. I'm a fan even if things do slow down around the December holidays.

Walmart... if you're living paycheck to paycheck walmart can help, but these days you have do a little shopping because they are also greedy. Everyone already knows that...

I have NOT shopped the others on-line offerings, the next time I need something I'll do that.


On a different note... Happy New Year everyone!

RocketmanKarl said...

FYI, Costco is not a 2A-friendly business. They do not want you in their stores open carry or concealed, and they will revoke your membership if you don't like it. But unlike other anti-gun businesses, Costco doesn't put a sign on the door for "no guns allowed". If You point out that it isn't a posted policy, they say that it's in your membership agreement. I think they don't want their rural customers to know that Costco is anti-gun, since they'd move to Sam's Club. I still have a membership, but I only buy there what I can't get elsewhere.

BC said...

Every time a prime package is late, call them on it. You're paying for the service, demand what you paid for.

They will either offer a free month of prime (up to 12 free months per year, actual terms not a joke) or a $5 credit on the order. If they don't offer that, demand one of those 2 options as they are the 2 largest things the low level call center folks can give. If you get a fair bit of use out of the other features or prime then the free months are kinda nice.

Steve Sky said...

I'd offer one more related sales site to be ware of. If you are ordering off of eBay, make sure that the item is not available elsewhere, or make sure your bid is at garage sale prices. I've seen used items offered for bid on eBay, and the final price has turned out to be more than the cost of the new item from Amazon, particularly if you use the 'buy it now' button. It's made me wonder if people got caught up in the "used", therefore cheap, idea, and don't look anywhere else for the same thing.

Sam L. said...

And yet, Costco sells gun safes.

Will said...

A few years ago, Vegas cops killed a Costco member for being armed. Medically discharged West Point officer. Far too common scenario of multiple officers ordering the suspect to do conflicting things, and shot him in the back when he tried to follow an order that he heard. In a stressful situation like that, your hearing gets selective, and ignores things it thinks are not important. I suspect that the cops themselves don't hear each other screaming orders.

Why this conflicting orders bullshit situation is still a fact of life for the cops everywhere is puzzling. It gets people killed, but no one is addressing it, probably due to there not being any blowback on the cops themselves.

Costco employees called the cops, and after the fact, Costco claimed that that store's entire video surveillance system had been inoperative for a week. (Really? And no one at that store got disciplined for bad maintenance?) So, their anti-gun/anti-self defense mindset has directly gotten at least one person killed, and I have heard reference to this happening to others.

bart simpsonson said...

Amazon (Dr.Evil) learned from the Walmart experience IMHO. Walmart sucked us in with (first-off at least) Made in USA, and big selection, lowest prices, good customer service and such. Until we were hooked. Then they started the Chinamart stuff, and raising their prices to just a smidge under their competitors. Amazon has done the same, sucked us in and just when you get used to knowing that no one will beat their pricing and Prime free shipping.......it is not true anymore. You still need to comparison shop. Amazon still good though (especially if you stream their Prime-supplied video stuff) but their prices sometimes are not.