Alternatives to Amazon Shopping

Category: Shopping

It’s obvious that Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla of e-commerce. Amazon captured 37% of online holiday season sales in 2016, and 53% of all growth in online sales for the full year. But it’s not the only digital department store. Let’s look at some of the others to see how they compare to Amazon...

Check Out These Online Shopping Sites

I'll admit at the outset that I shop frequently on Amazon. Prices tend to be good, I like the wide selection, and the free 2-day shipping with Amazon Prime. And because they've been around for about 20 years, their customer ratings and reviews are filled with helpful information that I often check before making a buying decision.

Amazon Prime is mostly known for their offer of free 2-day shipping, with a yearly $99 subscription. But it also includes free same-day delivery in eligible zip codes, one-hour delivery from popular restaurants in eligible ZIP codes, unlimited Prime Video streaming of movies and TV episodes, unlimited, ad-free access to more than a million songs with Prime Music, the Kindle Owners Lending Library, and a bunch of other benefits. You can try Amazon Prime free for 30 days.

But there are other online ecommerce sites that you should know about, which offer some unique shopping features. At the very least, it's a good idea to compare prices and shipping options on multiple sites.

Online Shopping Jet.com

Jet.com was founded in January, 2014, and its rise has been jet-propelled. The site went online in July, 2015, launching with 4.5 million products. The company was valued at $1.3 billion by May, 2016, and the company had launched a grocery home delivery service akin to Amazon Fresh. In August, 2016, Walmart acquired Jet.com for $3 billion in cash and $300 million in Walmart stock.

One of Jet.com’s core features is a “realtime pricing algorithm” that attempts to price a specific unit of a product based upon the cost of getting it to the customer; the “marginal cost” of a sale, in economics terms. Factors affecting the marginal cost include proximity to the customer and, in the case of multiple items, co-location in a distribution center. Using a less expensive payment method (debit vs. credit card, for instance) would lower the price.

Giving up the right to return an item would further reduce its price. In other words, Jet.com is for shoppers to whom price is the most important factor and who are willing to spend an unusual amount of time and trouble to get the lowest price.

Let's Do Some Math...

So how does that work in practice? I priced a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge phone with 32 GB of storage. It started at $519.50; Amazon’s price was $518.99. Foregoing return privileges lowered the Jet price to $510.15, and paying by debit card made the price $515.34. Combining no-return and debit card savings yields a price of $506.07, $12.92 or 2.9% less than Amazon.

I did notice that Jet can be skimpy on tech details and specs. I was trying to compare prices on a Bosch dishwasher on both Amazon and Jet, but nowhere could I find the model number in the Jet description. On the upside, Jet offers free shipping for orders over $35 (no need to pay $99 for Amazon Prime) and free returns.

Jet Anywhere is a program that lets users buy from other online stores and earn “JetCash” that can be spent at Jet.com. Ann Taylor, Nike, Hotels.com, and Bloomingdale’s are partners in this program.

If you want to try Jet.com, new customers can use coupon code SPRING10 to save 10% of the first three orders. There's a minimum of $50 in eligible merchandise per order required, and a maximum discount of $20 per order. This offer expires 8/1/2017.


Buy.com was an early ecommerce pioneer, founded in 1997. It was purchased by Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten in 2010 and is now officially known as Rakuten.com Shopping. Rakuten is a marketplace, like eBay, in which many sellers have independent shops that often sell the same things. I found 9 sellers offering “Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge 32 GB,” with prices ranging from about $620 to $680 for unlocked versions.

Here's one of my pet peeves… Rakuten is a classic example of a company changing their name from something that's short and intuitive to something weird and hard to remember. I've read that "rakuten" means optimism in Japanese, but still, that name has no connection to online shopping.


Of course there are dozens of other online shopping sites. You may want to poke around on Overstock.com, Walmart.com, Target.com, or Bestbuy.com. Alexa maintains a list of the most popular ecommerce sites, broken down into 35 categories.

Amazon is still the first place I look when shopping, and often the last. But it never hurts to check prices and terms on other shopping sites as well. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below…

 
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This article was posted by on 11 Apr 2017


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Most recent comments on "Alternatives to Amazon Shopping"

(See all 30 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Al S
11 Apr 2017

MmeMoxie I disagree, Before I received my Walmart Store Card and a Master Card I used my Debit Card there and still do at dozens of sites. Instead of selecting Debit Card I just Select Credit Card. The Seller sees the same Card Number whether it is a Debit or CC. You get the same protection with it as you would with any ordinary Credit Card. Doing so for more than 30 years. On Mail Order it works the same, check and put your Name Number Ep Date and Cid.


Posted by:

RandiO
11 Apr 2017

Thank you for another informative topic, Mr. Rankin!
That "800-pound gorilla" needs to go on a diet and loose the extra 200 pounds s/he has gained!
I gravitate to eBay when online shopping and have had good success when problems arise with undelivered items and/or items not being as advertised. Using PayPal for payments (rather than releasing my credit card information directly to sellers) feels like an extra layer of perceived security. Now that Amazon is being forced to charge tax on all purchased items (in 46 states) and the free eBay eBucks certificate program (1%) adds extra savings to buyers. Unlike Amazon Prime, eBay does not charge the annual $99/$119 for free shipping, which is another worthy bonus. Since most sellers have a presence in both Amazon and eBay; similar items are mostly available in both sites, yet end up being cheaper for the above listed reasons.
As always, Caveat Emptor and YMMV.


Posted by:

John D. (John Dean)
11 Apr 2017

I won't buy from Rakuten anymore. After a bad and lengthy experience trying to prove they only sent a cover and not the $99.tablet. It took weeks and many emails including photos of the shipping label and box before Rakuten finally agreed to send the item.

Amazon.com has always resolved problems usually in hours instead of days or weeks. Shopping where you receive Excellent Customer Service is worth paying a little more sometimes.


Posted by:

Kenneth Heikkila
11 Apr 2017

I always shop around, but I often find the best price plus shipping at Amazon and sometimes EBay. I also like the Amazon Smile option to give a small percentage to the charity of your choice. Also the Honey browser add on sometimes finds a cheaper price than what first pops up on Amazon, though unlike what I have read in many, many articles I have never found it hard to find the lowest price on Amazon, because whatever seller you first click on, the others are ALWAYS listed somewhere near the top of the page.


Posted by:

RandiO
11 Apr 2017

This is probably a selfish request, yet I must appeal to all online shoppers not to hesitate to provide feedback for those sellers with whom you have had problems with and/or their services rendered were not as advertised or expected. Thank you!


Posted by:

Karena
11 Apr 2017

I second John D.'s opinion - I used to shop at Rakuten, but not any more. When a vendor sent me an item that was NOT the one that was on their listing - and was then unresponsive when I contacted them directly - Rakuten refused to intervene. Why should I shop through them if they don't offer me any protection as a buyer? I'll pay the extra couple of bucks to shop somewhere where I'll be protected from unscrupulous sellers.


Posted by:

Kirill
11 Apr 2017

Pretty rarely use Amazon - it's too greedy and since - expensive. Better to use Google first - to find the lowest price overall. This way you can find some virtually unknown seller that gives you great price for something special. But that method requires to check if that is a legitimate player, not scammer.

Mostly I use Aliexpress for small items. It usually gives you lowest prices, but most of the time with very long delivery. Then - ebay. Again - since that is a marketpace - research seller history beforehand. I didn't lose any money, thanks to refund policy. At least yet. But it's a risk of any online transaction.

Also don't forget internet pricematch. Find an offer everywhere and bring the print to any brick-and-mortar store. The model should match exactly, otherwise it doesn't work. And also it should be regular price, but it depends on the associate you work with.

Delivery cost can be avoided by using "Store Pick Up" for any online store that has also brick-an-mortar one, like BestBuy, Walmart, Fry's Electronics, etc.

And, of course, rule of thumb - keep an eye on promotions and sales - there you can find prices that way lover that a couple percent, like in Bob's example with Jet.com.


Posted by:

Kirill
11 Apr 2017

Oops... Came after a while and found a screen with post and post it. Look like screen didn't refreshed itself when laptop came to sleep...

Forgot to add that sometimes you can find good offers at sites of offer aggregators, like LogicBuy.com. It was bought by PcMag and became less interesting, but anyway worth to check.

And, of course, newegg.com and tigerdirect.com. The best way to get good price is to be subscribed to their maillists, as for Fry's Electronics (with their promo codes that can slash 50% off).


Posted by:

bobdeloyd
11 Apr 2017

Never use a debit card online.


Posted by:

artm
11 Apr 2017

A) Citibank (and likely others) offer one-shot credit card numbers. I use them for online purchases, especially those made outside of the USA or subscriptions which I don't want to auto-renew. The vendor receives only the one-shot number; the fee is charged to your regular credit card number.

B) Honey is another browser extension (like WikiBuy) which checks for lowest prices. It also tests discount codes.


Posted by:

Sara Cleveland
11 Apr 2017

I like Amazon; however, I shop around & if the item is available at a lower price, the brick and mortar vendor usually will honor it I use my debit card maybe once or twice a year, just to keep it active in case I need it. I like the idea of getting disposable "credit card" but I'm too lazy to do it. Maybe next time.


Posted by:

robert
11 Apr 2017

I read reviews on Amazon but often find cheaper prices on Ebay. Am considering not renewing Prime membership. I have purchased a few things on Jet and Walmart but overall not too impressed with those sites.


Posted by:

Daniel Wiener
11 Apr 2017

I've become a heavy (but not exclusive) Amazon (Prime) customer, and a very satisfied one. The 2-day delivery is great, especially since it often includes Sundays, and sometimes even arrives in one day to beat their guarantee. The reviews are enormously helpful for filtering out bad products and locating good ones, as well as getting excellenty advice on subtle issues when using them (and, when applicable, assembling them).

Brick and mortar stores often have a price-matching policy. There have been occasions, for example, when I've purchased an item from Lowe's after showing them a printout from Amazon of the identical product and having Lowe's match the lower price.

Also, I use H&R Block's At-Home tax software to prepare my taxes. If you end up expecting a refund from the IRS, it gives you the option of converting some or all of that refund (in $100 increments) into an Amazon gift card, and then getting a 10% bonus added in. Normally I would arrange my tax withholding so as to not get a refund (i.e., not give the government the interest-free use of my money), while still not underpaying too much so as to avoid a penalty. But this year I deliberately arranged to over-withhold, generating a refund of $1,670. $1,600 went into the Amazon gift card, which produced a $160 bonus, for a total of $1,760. And yes, based on recent history, I expect to spend at least that much at Amazon this coming year. That's a better ROI than I can get from any savings account. So it's something for people to consider for next year.


Posted by:

denis
12 Apr 2017

I used to regularly buy CD's from Amazon and never had any problems however they stopped providing track samples to listen to and because I couldn't hear what the artists sounded like I stopped buying from them.
Alibaba is my favorite online shopping site. (except food, music or movies)


Posted by:

Byron M
12 Apr 2017

I have made several purchases through Amazon.ca and a few through Amazon.com, which costs more but sometimes has the items at a better price even with the exchange and duty charges.
Recently I have had problems with a couple of sellers on Amazon.ca. I returned an SD Card under warranty. The seller sent an email mid Feb. 2017 saying that the replacement was being shipped and I should receive it withing 5 to 15 days. After several emails through Amazon.ca and apologies from the seller, as of Apr 11, I have not rec'd the replacement SD Card yet. I had requested that a refund be issued. The seller emailed and told me to return the SD Card when I rec'd it and a refund would be issued. I can't return what I haven't rec'd yet.
Another seller I placed an order with through Amazon.ca supposedly shipped the item mid Feb. 2017 and a date of Apr 7 as the delivery date. I haven't rec'd that item yet.
Combined, these two orders cost me over $100 and were charged to my Credit Card.
So, I am thinking that any savings I garnered by purchasing on Amazon have been lost due to these two sellers not fulfilling their obligations.
Better to buy at a local retailer and pay more for the items than to lose hundreds of dollars with no recourse to get it back.


Posted by:

PSHAW
12 Apr 2017

I don't buy from Walmart as I know that all their employees are on welfare because it pays such crappy wages. Sometime, just for fun, go into your browser and enter "walmart lawsuits"-- they are a truly sleezy company. You can get free shipping from Amazon with an order of over $35 if you wait just a few days longer to get your purchase. Lately, I been getting purchases much faster than a few years ago & they often come in boxes marked "prime" And returning items is a snap with never a hitch. And as to Amazons recent decision to start charging sales taxes so that makes your purchase more expensive than other sources, you do know that you have to report those sales taxes you didn't pay on your income tax form, don't you?


Posted by:

RichF
12 Apr 2017

I've used Tmart.com a while ago. They had good prices but the stuff came from China. They now have warehouses in the states for a lot of their items. They have just about everything except food. I used to get a kick reading reviews and their comments to the reviews were written by people with just a basic understanding of English. Haven't been there in a while so don't know if that has changed.


Posted by:

Paul S
12 Apr 2017

By using Amazon's credit card, I get 5% back on purchases on their site, which beats the 2.9% you got from jet.com. And to echo another commenter, refuse to buy from Walmart because of the shabby way they treat their employees.


Posted by:

Paul
12 Apr 2017

If you collect frequent flyer miles consider shopping through your airline of choice's shopping portal. For every $1 spent you can get an additional 1 to 20+ miles. http://www.airfarewatchdog.com/blog/3801194/preserve-expiring-frequent-flyer-miles-with-online-shopping-and-get-bonus-miles-to-boot/


Posted by:

Granville Alley
12 Apr 2017

At one time I was a huge Amazon fan. I still use the site too much but there are several things that have changed about Amazon.

First the two day free shipping which at one time really was two day free shipping has devolved to where today it is often 3 or 4 or more days and yet is still called 2 day free. It used to be calculated from when you ordered an item now it is from when they ship it. Not at all the same thing.

Second, Amazon now uses individualized pricing algorithms to determine the pricing you see and those algorithms take into account the fact that you are a Prime Member and the price you see will often today be higher than the price that a non-prime member will see on the same item. This for me is a real deal killer with Amazon and is an abuse of their customers and the massive amount of data they have collected on everyone who does business with them.

There are many other Amazon Prime features that are nice to haves but as the price has risen for the Amazon Prime service, the fact Amazon now abuses this service through their pricing scheme makes it a doubly bad deal in many ways.

I have bought quite a few things through Jet.com and for selected items they offer very attractive prices and their free shipping of even bulky or heavy items is a very good policy. But like all shopping sites you really have to compare prices, coupons and offers. Like Bob,, I am completely puzzled by Buy.com and the changes there, where they went from a premier place to buy electronics, cd's, dvd's and games to an unreliable eBay wannabe with a terrible name.

I am a bit sad about Amazon, but it is not unexpected that as they grew and became dominant that they would go from a growth driven price slasher to a company that now is much more focused on their bottom line and not nearly so focused on customer service and great pricing. I personally find it very disturbing that they now use what they know about us and complex pricing models to gouge every last penny they can extract from us.


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