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Never Buy Something on Amazon Without Doing This First, Expert Says

Amazon's dynamic pricing model and third-party sellers offer potential pitfalls for shoppers.

Given just how all-encompassing Amazon has become, many of us shop online for just about everything—from run-of-the-mill household staples to clothes to gifts to the most niche of specialty items. With so much money flowing from our credit cards to the monster company—and with so few clicks required—it's all too easy to make regrettable purchases by shopping absent-mindedly. That's why it's important to make sure you never buy something on Amazon without knowing exactly what you're doing.

As it turns out, there's one major pitfall that can ensnare distracted Amazon shoppers who fall into the trap. Read on to find out what it is and how to avoid it, with feedback from smart shopping expert Trae Bodge.

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Analyze and compare prices for items on Amazon, because they range and fluctuate wildly.

amazon homepage with dress sale on it
Shutterstock/Casimiro PT

If you walk into a typical grocery store, you're likely to find that most prices line up—at least in the roughest sense—with the standard range of market prices for any particular item. But that is not always so on Amazon, where prices can be totally off scale, and shoppers who aren't paying attention can end up spending too much.

"Amazon uses dynamic pricing, which means that pricing can fluctuate based on supply and demand," Bodge says. "Other large retailers, like Target and Walmart, use this method of pricing as well. Because of this, it is important for savvy shoppers to make sure that they know if they are getting the best price where they are making their purchase."

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Shop around for a sense of fair market value.

Amazon prime boxes and delivered to a front door of residential building during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Consider that a recent spot search for "Diet Coke" revealed a range of options—at a similarly wide range of price points, thanks to the army of third-party sellers who operate through the site. At the high end was a $91 multipack of cans that worked out to a per-can price of over $2.50. Most people know that's not a normal retail price, but if you didn't already know—or simply weren't paying attention—you could overpay by a huge margin.

So first, use your common sense. Hit that "buy" button only after you've evaluated the price critically, even clicking around to a few other retailers for a sense of scale before committing.

Install Amazon's browser extension to help you save money while you shop.

2018.04.23 Kazan Russia - Amazon app on Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge phone screen.

You can also save a lot of money on Amazon without doing much legwork yourself, Bodge says. "There are a couple of handy tools that make this very easy at Amazon," she explains. "First, install Amazon Assistant, which is Amazon's free browser extension. As you browse on Amazon, it will pop up and provide some info on the current price."

For example, it might show that you are getting the best price over a 30-day period. "As you browse other retailers, it will offer up info on comparable items on Amazon," Bodge says.

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Other browser extensions can also help you compare and save.

multiple amazon boxes on a doorstep
Shutterstock/Jeramey Lende

"I would also recommend installing Cently, the browser extension from real-time coupon search engine, CouponFollow," Bodge explains. "As you browse on Amazon, Cently will let you know if you are getting the best price on Amazon or if a better price can be found elsewhere. An ideal way to win the dynamic pricing game!"

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Alesandra Dubin
Alesandra Dubin is a lifestyle editor and writer based in Los Angeles. Read more
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