The Amazon Prime Day sale yesterday saw record sales for any event in the company's history - selling even more than it did on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The event also saw more people sign up for Prime membership than on any other single day, and sales were 60% higher. But was the day a result for shoppers?
Prime members worldwide snapped up bargains across the board, with Germans loving the Soda Stream, Italians snapping up dishwasher tablets, Americans plumping for a pressure cooker, and the French buying Game of Thrones.
In the UK, the bestseller overall was the Amazon Echo. Other massive sellers included a great deal on the Sony Playstation 4, an Oral-B Smart Series Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush with Bluetooth Connectivity, a Bosch Cordless Combi Drill, and Joe Wicks' The Lean in 15 Collection of books.
There were 309,000 toys sold, 45,000 sets of headphones, 12,000 seeds and plants, 52,000 kitchen items, 62,000 skincare products, 66,000 makeup items, 232,000 home improvement products, and 31,000 exercise and fitness items.
Was it any good?
There were definitely some impressive savings. The Echo proved so popular because it cost just £79,99 - reduced from £149.99. Meanwhile, those who snapped up headphones got up to 30% off Bose and Sennheiser, while those who went for the PS4 Slim 500 GB (which came with Overwatch, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, and an extra DualShock 4 controller) got the lot for £180.
However, on a special sales day held by a single retailer, there are five expensive traps you can fall into. Any shopper who fell foul of any of them will have left themselves decidedly worse off - no matter how much they 'saved'.
1. The price it is 'reduced from' may not be the lowest price offered recently
Prices change all the time on Amazon. Comparison site CamelCamelCamel.com tracks the prices over time, and shows just how dramatically prices can rise and fall.
Take the De'Longhi Nespresso EN550.B Lattisima Touch coffee machine. Yesterday it was reduced from £279.99 to £213.58 - which is an impressive reduction. However, a check on CamelCamelCamel shows that £279.99 is a fairly high price for this item, which has regularly sold for £200 or less in the past year. At the end of last year it was actually reduced to £160 with a third party seller on the marketplace, and £180 at Amazon itself.
2. The price on Amazon may not be a significant discount compared to elsewhere
In many cases, particularly with Amazon products, these were great deals however you look at them. However, there's a risk that because you are only looking at one website on Prime Day, you fail to do a price comparison, and other deals may not be as cheap as you think.
Take the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 15.6" laptop. Yesterday it was priced at £279 - a saving of £100. However, if you go to the Dell UK homepage today, you can pick up the same computer for £279 today. It goes to show that even if there's a massive discount, whenever you are buying in a sale, you need to check the price elsewhere.
3. You may be paying for a brand or feature you don't need
The problem with shopping in this kind of sale is that we tend to start with 'What's available?' rather than 'What do we want?' It means we may end up looking at a posher brand then normal, or a higher spec than we really need. This may well have a brilliant discount, but you don't just need to compare it to the full price - but the full price of the product you would have been perfectly happy with.
Take the Le Creuset deals. Yesterday you could buy a 24 cm cast iron casserole for £99.99 - a massive reduction from the usual cost of £175.99. But if you aren't terribly worried about the posh brand, you can get one from Denby (still a very high quality brand) for £64.99, or a 26 cm one from Lakeland - currently at £39.99.
4. Buying things you don't need
It seems obvious, but in the heat of the moment it doesn't always feel so clear. If you wouldn't have bought it outside of the sale, then it's not a bargain if you buy it in the sale - it's a waste of money.
5. Buying things on expensive credit
We are so used to borrowing money to buy things that it's easy to overlook the maths of this one, but if you carry a debt on a credit card or overdraft, then it won't take long for you to spend every penny you saved in interest on your debts.
But what do you think? Did you shop in the sale? Are you still pleased with your bargains?
Shopping: when spending more isn't always better
Shopping: when spending more isn't always better
The wine world is notoriously snobby, and the experts will tell you that there’s no way to buy a good bottle without spending at least £25. However, a study in 2011 at the Edinburgh International Science Fair demonstrated that people could only tell the difference between a cheap and expensive wine 53% of the time - which is roughly the result you'd get from flipping a coin.
Instead of focusing on price, it’s worth looking for wine awards. In December last year, for example, the International Wine Challenge awarded silver medals to Tesco Finest Fiano (selling for £5.49) and the Tesco Finest Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (priced at £5.99).
The price you’ll pay for your hotel room depends partly on type of room you choose, but also on a host of things that have nothing at all to do with the room itself. If you shop carefully, therefore, you can get more for less.
One of the most effective approaches is to use a ‘secret hotels’ service, which gives you details of the location and facilities, but doesn't tell you the name of the hotel you are booking until you have paid.
This enables hotels to slash their prices by as much as 50% without damaging their brand. If you book this way you can easily get a junior suite for less than the advertised double room rate at the same hotel.
Logically, the longer the interest-free period on your credit card, the more you’ll save. However, it doesn't always work out that way.
If you need to borrow for exactly the length of the interest-free period, then it’s a great option, but if you need to borrow for a longer or shorter time, it's a waste of money.
You have roughly a 40% chance of being tempted by the longer interest-free period into failing to pay off the debt in time - and being hit with high interest charges. In this instance, you may be better off with a long-term low rate.
Meanwhile, if you are one of the third of people who tend to pay off their card early, then you'd be better off paying a smaller balance transfer fee for a card with a shorter interest-free period.
If you need to buy new clothes, then choosing a product that has done minimal damage to the environment is clearly a kinder option than buying from a manufacturer that doesn't care about its impact on the world.
However, you will usually pay more for an environmentally-friendly brand, and there’s a far cheaper option that’s even kinder to the environment: buying second-hand clothes.
Your local charity shops will have items in perfect condition that would otherwise be going to landfill, so by buying them you meet three great criteria: you're saving the planet, saving money and helping a good cause.
You can pay anything up to 1,000 times more for water in a bottle than from the tap, so it stands to reason that it must be better.
However, instead of necessarily paying for superior water, we're paying for bottles, transportation and marketing, which might not be the kind of thing you value
On average we drink 33 litres of bottled water every year, and at an average cost of 48p per bottle, that's almost £16. You have to ask yourself if it's worth it.
Your expensive fashion headphones may look cool, but if you look around among the professionals, they won’t be wearing them.
The very best of the professional headphones cost the earth, so they're not a money-saving option. However, if you set a budget and check out the gadget magazines for their recommendations in your price range, not one of them recommends the fashion brands.
Instead of paying for branding, it's worth doing your research and paying for better sound.
We're loyal to brands for two reasons when it comes to medicines. The first is that they advertise, and they don’t mention the name of the active ingredient, so if we have a specific problem, all we know to ask for is the brand.
The second is a matter of trust, because we know the brand, and we can see it costs many times more than the generic versions of the same thing, so we trust that it is better.
In reality, the active ingredients are exactly the same, and if you don't know the generic drug that you can substitute for your expensive brand, you can simply ask your pharmacist - and look forward to spending a fraction of the amount your usual brand name medicines will set you back.
Pedigree pets are incredibly expensive. Even common breeds like springer spaniels will cost you several hundred pounds, while rarer breeds can set you back thousands.
It’s easy to assume you are paying for a well-bred pet, which will be free from medical problems. However, the breeding process means that pedigree pets tend to be prone to far more medical issues - which end up costing a fortune.
A mongrel dog or a moggy will often rack up far fewer vets bills, and there are usually an enormous number looking for new homes at the local rescue centre.
There’s an enormous advertising industry, pouring huge resources into convincing us that the more expensive beauty products are the best. In some cases this may be true, but it’s also worth keeping your eyes open for the cut-price beauty products recommended by the experts and winning awards.
A couple of examples stand out from recent coverage, including Boots Protect & Perfect for £23.95, which was so hotly tipped that it had a waiting list before its release in May last year. An even more affordable option is the £1.69 Bottle O’Butter moisturiser, which flew off the shelves thanks to an endorsement from the beauty press a while back.
Often in the mobile market, the more you pay, the more you get. So if you want a flash phone, all you can eat data, oodles of airtime and endless texts, you'll pay through the nose. The question you really need to ask yourself is whether you need all of this.
It’s worth checking your statements each month, and going back to look at them for the duration of your contract. Check your average use, then look at any extra you would have paid for the months when you went over this. In most cases, those who are paying for the very biggest mobile packages could save substantially by downshifting.