Amazon – Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware)

Jars with credit cards
December 30, 2022

When it comes to shopping on Amazon it should always be a case of Caveat Emptor (buyer beware) and I don’t say that lightly. Amazon can be a very useful place to shop, and it can have some great deals, but it can also be a money pit for people who aren’t smart shoppers.  So, let’s delve into some of the pros and cons.

Access to a range of products.

Domestic merchants do not provide a wide range of quality goods, we have limited stock with restricted colours and sizes, only sure sellers are on Canadian shelves.  Amazon helps to solve that issue by opening the door to a much wider ranges of manufactured goods than are available in local shops.

Amazon also provides customers with a wider range of size options than are available to Canadians in local stores.  This is particularly true of clothing items, I am 6’ 2” and considered too small for men’s’ Big and Tall shops, and I am taller than the average Canadian man (5’ 10”) so big box stores carry very few clothing items than will fit.

Price point.

Price point is very challenging issue when shopping on Amazon for several reasons.  Some items can be bought more cheaply if purchased directly from Amazon’s suppliers, and some items are of inferior quality making the price a bit steep even if it appears reasonable at the point of purchase.

Quality of goods.

Quality of goods is always an issue when buying online, you can’t get hands on to feel it, to pull it, or to stretch it, so, it’s a mystery until it arrives on your doorstep.  Now that isn’t to say that all goods fall into that category, as an occasional Amazon user I have had both good and bad experiences with the quality of items I have purchased.


Delivery at times is absolutely awesome with incredible turnaround times, this achieved by having massive, local, or semi-local warehouses.  But delivery is truly a mixed bag, you may experience the shifting sands of time with delivery first estimated to be 3-4 days then it gets moved out to a longer and longer term and occasionally cancelled after several weeks, causing you to miss that birthday altogether – frustrating.

The other issue with Amazon delivery is the multibillion-dollar industry created by providing a treasure trove to porch pirates.  No matter how good Amazon is at refunding you, it is a huge inconvenience, and frequently completely avoidable.  Some delivery services will leave a parcel by your door and take a picture as a “record” of delivery.  Assuming the package was left after the picture was taken, the folly of such a delivery method cannot be overstated.  I have known people in apartment and office buildings who have lost their deliveries because they were left outside the building, after hours – the deliverer may as well have handed the package to the first person they saw.

That is a mixed bag of pros and cons but let’s delve into the real meat of the matter.

Credit card spending (impulse control).

The vast majority of Amazon shoppers use credit cards for their purchases.  It is very easy to lose track of spending when you are doing it online, after all there is no sobriety test, and you would be a lot less likely to drink and shop if you had to drive to the local mall.  Of course, we don’t all start drinking when online shopping, but it can be a hazard for some folks.  

Enthusiasm is another human characteristic that can encourage us to spend more than we otherwise might, if you have to walk, or drive, from store to store you will get tired and run out of energy.  However, sitting in the comfort of your home is less draining and your enthusiasm is running higher “hey hun, could you grab me another beer, I’ve seen something here that little johnny is just gonna love”.

When you ae using a credit card to buy stuff that is somewhat ethereal, it is as if the transactional loop never closed, you feel more at ease to move onto the next purchase.  By contrast dragging bags around the mall reminds you that you are running out of money, even if it is an electronic transaction.  It is easier to exercise impulse control when you are physically shopping than when all you have to do is scroll and click.  My grandmother used to say, “it’s always easier to spend it than it is to earn it”.

Sharpen your metaphoric pencil when shopping on Amazon, limit your purchases, stay with your total budget, and don’t jump back in too fast.  A great use of Amazon is as if it were the good ‘ole Sears Christmas Catalogue – get in there and look for stuff, compare prices, find who is selling the stuff you want and try to buy locally, if you can.