September 13, 2012

September 13, 2012
10 Things Amazon Won’t Tell You


Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Thursday and I hope you are having a safe and great week so far. It is another busy week for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.

Because the bear and I are so busy I have to do a lot of my shopping online to save time. One of the websites I use is Amazon.com. But there are some things websites like Amazon do not tell you. So I thought I would blog about this and what every shopper should know about the online retail giant issue today and tomorrow.

Below are the 10 things shoppers should not expect to hear from retail giant Amazon.com.

1. “Take our customer reviews with a grain of salt.”

Out of the top reviews at online retailer Amazon.com (US:AMZN) analyzed in 2011 by technology entrepreneur Filip Kesler and Trevor Pinch, a professor at Cornell University’s department of science and technology studies, more than 80% were positive.

One big reason, the study found: 85% of the site’s most prolific reviewers have received free products from publishers, agents, authors and manufacturers. Members of the Amazon Vine program — a select group of the site’s “most trusted” reviewers — do receive free products from participating vendors, according to the site’s terms and conditions.

That’s not to say reviewers aren’t critical from time to time. One recent review of the best-selling erotic novel, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” charged author E.L. James’s choice with overusing certain words and phrases. (”I have discovered that Ana said ‘Jeez’ 81 times and ‘oh my’ 72 times,” he wrote.) Regarding “In the Breath of a Moment: A Collection of Short Tales,” by Andrew Kieniksman, another reviewer pointed out that “things were so bad, so cliché, and derivative, my skeleton burst violently from my skin, grabbed the book and began beating me with it.” But, generally, experts say readers looking for unbiased reviews should go elsewhere.

A spokesman for Amazon said these reviewers often write critical reviews.

2. “Kindle Fire? You might be happier with an iPad.”

The $199 Kindle Fire was launched last year. Some experts say consumers who buy Amazon’s tablet eventually move on to Apple’s (US:AAPL) iPad and other fuller-featured products. Yung Trang, president of TechBargains.com, calls the Kindle Fire the “starter home” of tablets. Indeed, only about 54% of Kindle Fire owners said they’re satisfied with their purchase, according to a recent survey by ChangeWave Research, compared with 74% of iPad owners. The Kindle’s cost, the survey found, was what buyers liked best about it.

Many fans point out that the Fire does have some advantages over the iPad beyond its lower price — including the ability to display Flash videos and a smaller size. But critics say that doesn’t make up for the product’s many shortcomings. For starters, its screen size means a lot of magazine websites and apps aren't designing products for the Kindle, said tech expert and blogger Jakob Nielsen. Other users complain on Amazon’s online forum about the Fire’s choppy Wi-Fi reception. An Amazon spokesman said the Fire averages four out of five stars on customer reviews and that software updates addressed the Wi-Fi connection issue.

3. “You’ll spend a bundle on e-books.”

Despite the Kindle’s low price and many conveniences, studies show e-readers have a way of emptying wallets. In one market research survey from ChangeWave, a third of Kindle owners said they planned to increase their Amazon spending over the next 90 days, compared with 19% of non-owners. And, as we reported, Amazon customers who don’t own a Kindle spend an average of $87 a month, those with a Kindle spend $136, and Kindle Fire owners spend over $150.

Kindle owners bought nearly half of all the books they purchased in April at Amazon’s Kindle Store, according to a survey conducted by Cordex-Group. “Weirdly, iPad people are also more loyal to the Kindle store than Apple’s iTunes store,” said Peter Hildick-Smith, president of Cordex-Group. Although the Kindle ($79) and Kindle Fire ($199) are relatively cheap, he said it doesn’t take long for Amazon to make their money back on e-book sales. There is a good reason why people tend to spend more in the Kindle Store, Hildick-Smith said: Amazon was one of the first companies to embrace the new technology and, as such, has a massive selection.

On the plus side, Amazon’s push to make e-books popular has encouraged more people to read as they generally cost less per book. A typical e-book user read 24 books in the past year versus just 15 read by buyers of paper books, according to recent research from Pew Internet and American Life Project, and one-fifth of American adults say they’ve read an e-book. The research also suggests people would rather buy an e-book than borrow one from a friend: 61% of e-book readers would choose buying over borrowing versus 48% of print readers. Plus, a third of people who read e-content say they now spend more time reading than they did before e-books.

4. “Free shipping helps you overspend.”

Free shipping can get expensive. Amazon offers the perk for those who spend more than $25 on certain goods. And its Amazon Prime members get free two-day shipping on most items for an annual fee of $79. But some research shows that free shipping often causes customers make a large number of impulse buys. Some 36% of respondents will spend more online this year if shipping comes free, according to a 2011 survey by the National Retail Federation’s online shopping news website, Shop.org. And 59% of consumers buying Father’s Day presents this year said free shipping will entice them to buy a product they might not have otherwise chosen, according to a survey from PriceGrabber.com, a deal aggregator site.

5. “Our list prices are sometimes misleading.”

When shopping online, experts warn not to be dazzled by sky-high list prices and eye-popping bargains. List prices on Amazon’s site — typically set by manufacturers and merchants — may not be actual prices that are commonly charged for the item, said consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky. Amazon’s vendors tend to use list prices that are rarely if ever charged and, as such, make the consumers believe they’re saving much more than they really are, he said. A case in point: a three-pack of 2 oz. bottles of Rogaine on Amazon costs $45, a savings of 14% on a list price of $53. The same product on Drugstore.com has a cheaper list or “suggested” price ($50) and sells for $45—a discount of 10%. The list prices and discounts are often arbitrary, Dworsky said. Of course, promotional pricing strategies are hardly unique to Amazon, experts say. But lately they’ve been falling out of favor with both consumers and retailers.

Tomorrow I will complete the top 10 things Amazon does not tell you. I hope you have a beary safe and great Thursday.

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.



big bear hug,



Daddy Dab