Amazon Prime Day Is a Bad Garage Sale You Should Skip

You might think you're getting a deal, but Prime Day has never been about savings.

Illustration for article titled Amazon Prime Day Is a Bad Garage Sale You Should Skip
Screenshot: Amazon/Gizmodo

Everyone likes a good deal—what’s not to like about getting more for less? But according to Finder’s Amazon Prime Day shopping report, 26% of American adults, or 67.7 million people, are planning to throw their money at the internet’s worst garage sale on June 21-22. This is far too many of you, and we need to talk about why this invented holiday isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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There are the typical reasons why Prime Day is evil, chief among them the fact that Amazon does shitty things to its most vulnerable workers. In 2018, thousands of Amazon workers in Spain, Germany, and Poland went on a three-day strike that coincided with Prime Day to protest their dismal working conditions. But I get it. Not everyone is privileged enough to take a principled stand against a service that’s offering savings and is so damn convenient—especially in times of economic hardship. Putting the moral high ground aside, you’re simply getting screwed.

For starters, many of the “deals” you’ll find on Prime Day aren’t actual discounts. A huge swath of items will only be discounted by a few dollars. Worse, in the days leading up to the event, many sellers artificially inflate prices so their crappy deals look more appealing on Prime Day. You can get around this by using price-tracking tools like CamelCamelCamel and Fakespot. However, the artificial urgency created by time-sensitive Lightning Deals can act as a smokescreen against you doing your due diligence.

Prime Day’s mid-summer timing places it squarely in dumping ground territory—you’re likely to find deals on on old, obsolete tech that you’ll have to replace sooner than you think. This is particularly true for TVs and game consoles. (Personally speaking, if any of you are tempted to buy a heavily discounted Apple Watch Series 3, please for the love of god, don’t.)

Speaking of tech, Prime Day discounts are sub-par. Competitors like Newegg and BestBuy (as well as Target and Walmart) have essentially been strong-armed by Prime Day to push up their own sales. These competitors are also likely to get you better prices on Apple and Google products, because Amazon has little incentive to help out its rivals. Similarly, mid-summer isn’t when you’re going to see the biggest discounts in many product categories. According to Wirecutter, you’ll likely find an extra 5-10% off if you just wait. Late August and early September are prime discount seasons, and you’ll also see steeper discounts right before the holidays.

Remember, the sole reason Prime Day exists is to trick you into signing up for a Prime subscription, and once you’re trapped, ply you with discounted Amazon products. Generally speaking, Prime Day’s best deals are on Kindles, Amazon Echoes, and Fire Sticks—you know, Amazon’s own gadgets. It’s a snake eating itself. You get hooked on Prime, Amazon offers you not-so-great deals, pockets your money, and convinces you to stick around because you’ve bought into its ecosystem. Then, to justify your Prime sub and ride the high of “getting a deal,” you buy into Prime Day yet again.

A prime (pun intended) example of this is Amazon’s spend-more-to-get-more promotions. This year, Amazon will give you a $10 credit for every $10 you spend in its small business category on Prime Day. The credits are, of course, for more Amazon purchases, but possibly not the kind you want. In the Terms & Conditions, you’ll find that credit is not valid for digital products like instant video downloads, Kindles, e-books, digital music, or Amazon Gift Cards, subscriptions, Prime memberships or Prime Now orders—among other limitations.

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Another issue is that with each passing year, shopping on Amazon in certain categories is a minefield. There’s been an influx of counterfeits, expired products, and some shady third-party sellers hocking garbage. You might still think of Amazon as a digital big box store, but these days it’s more akin to a dodgy flea market. And while Amazon reportedly seized and destroyed more than 2 million counterfeit products and blocked more than 10 million bad listings in 2020, it also aggressively lobbied against the Inform Consumers Act, which would’ve required it to authenticate the identity of third-party sellers—and succeeded.

Listen, as someone who was forced to wade through the worst Amazon Prime deals last year for your amusement, trust me when I say nine out of 10 deals are junk and sifting through them is a waste of time. Kudos to you if you’re a disciplined, eagle-eyed shopper who can wade through the shit to find the handful of OK deals during Prime Day. For the rest of you, I urge you to save your time, your money, and your sanity.

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Consumer tech reporter by day, danger noodle by night. No, I'm not the K-Pop star.

DISCUSSION

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Gizmodo: Prime day is evil, sells old crap and exploits workers. You should avoid it like the plague (or COVID)

Also Gizmodo, on Prime Day: Check out these smoking Prime day deals. Get your asses over to Amazon and buy a bunch of it.