Even as millions of Americans remain unemployed and more are living paycheck to paycheck, the number of Amazon Prime subscribers continues to increase during the pandemic, according to data from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.
Subscribing to Amazon Prime might seem like a smart savings move — with perks including free shipping and returns, discounts on subscription orders, and access to a streaming video library. But some products are actually pricier on Amazon.
Some experts say this has been especially true during the pandemic. Despite Amazon's effort to crack down on price gouging, prices of in-demand items increased significantly from December 2019 to December 2020, according to a report by U.S. PIRG, a consumer advocate.
Amazon has a "longstanding policy against price gouging," a spokesperson tells Grow, as well as "processes in place to proactively block suspicious offers and monitor our store 24/7 for violations."
The bottom line: It's always smart to compare prices. Here are 8 items that might be more expensive on Amazon.
"Better Wi-Fi systems would be something to shop around for" before purchasing on Amazon, says Grace Brombach, consumer watchdog associate at U.S. PIRG.
Wi-Fi mesh systems became more popular during the pandemic as employees started to embrace their new home offices. More than one-third, 34%, of the mesh Wi-Fi systems increased in price by at least 20%, according to the PIRG report. And it found that Amazon itself, not a third-party seller, directly sold 20% of those Wi-Fi mesh systems with substantial price increases.
Any type of gathering is risky right now, but if you're stocking up on party supplies for birthday parties later in the year, you might want to look beyond Amazon, says consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch.
"Amazon's party supply section is a much better deal than a specialty party store like Party City, but it's still more expensive than other buying options," she says.
Or you could ditch the big box retailers altogether, Woroch suggests: "The best deals on balloons, cards, gift bags, party favors, and tissue paper are at your local dollar store where everything is a buck or less if you snag packaged items with multiples."
Blenders, coffeemakers, and similar small kitchen appliances will almost always be offered at a lower prices at warehouse clubs instead of on Amazon, Woroch says. For instance, on Amazon, a Ninja Professional Blender is $90, but at Costco it is $70.
If you don't belong to Costco, Sam's Club, or BJ's, "don't fret," Woroch says, because Target and Walmart also tend to have similar or better prices than Amazon.
Groceries at Amazon Fresh are often higher priced than items at many large grocery stores, says Kristin McGrath, shopping expert at Offers.com. This is especially true for bottled water.
"Bottled water is heavy to ship," McGrath says. "So you'll pay much more per bottle on Amazon than you would at a grocery store. Prices fluctuate, but you can generally get a 24-pack of Ozarka bottled water for under $5 at a store. You can expect to pay more than $15 for the same count if you ship it via Amazon."
Another grocery item that is typically a bit pricier on Amazon is paper towels, McGrath says.
This was particularly true during the pandemic: About a third, 31%, of the paper towels increased in price by at least 20%, and 5% at least doubled in price, according to PIRG's analysis. Amazon directly sold 5% of the products with price increases of 20% or more.
"In some cases, pet supplies are slightly more expensive on Amazon, compared to pet-specific online retailers," McGrath says.
For example, a 38.5 pound bag of Iams large-breed dry dog food is $41.94 on Amazon, but on Chewy, it is $31.64. And a TUG Nylon Tape Retractable dog leash retails for $20 on Amazon, but is $2 less on Chewy.
Amazon has expanded its clothing offerings, but some items, like kids' swimwear, are still more affordable elsewhere, Woroch says.
"Bathing suits are much cheaper at discount retailers like Marshalls where you can find a selection of girls' swimsuits for $8 to $10," she says.
Amazon is easy to use and has the appeal of free, fast shipping. However, it doesn't always make sense to order from what they have on hand. Sites like CamelCamelCamel or the chrome extension Yroo, which compares Amazon prices to other big box retailers, can help you get the best deals.
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