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December 20, 2010

90% Off Groceries at Amazon? Ho, Ho, No!

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:13 am

[Note: the next Mouse Print* posting will be January 3.]

MrConsumer recently came across a website that helps people find deeply discounted items on Amazon. What a great idea.

When checking what items in Amazon’s grocery department were supposedly 90% off, Mouse Print* found some startling savings claims.

They claim savings of 93%, yet they are still charging over $1.50 for each regular size pack of gum. How is that possible?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Amazon claims the list price for those 12 packs of gum is a whopping $284.52 — that’s $23.71 for a single package! Was this gum previously chewed by Elvis, thus accounting for its premium price? The¬†full price for one pack of Trident Layers is $1.49 (at Kmart), so 12 packs should be about $17.88 full price, not almost $285. Clearly something is not right here. Is this an isolated incident? Unfortunately no. Item after item listed in the 90% off section had grossly exaggerated list prices that bear no relation to real world regular prices.

Twelve packages of gummy bears marked right on the package “2 for $1″ list for $6, not $95 as Amazon claims. A two pound can of Folgers coffee is not $146 anywhere, just over a pound of Pringles doesn’t list for the $159 the site claimed, and less than six pounds of Twizzlers doesn’t have a value of over $271.

How could Amazon put such exaggerated list prices on its site in order to claim savings of over 90%? We asked Amazon’s PR department to comment, but no response was received. Miraculously, however, two weeks after contacting them, the exaggerated regular prices of most of these and other groceries disappeared.

Of course, this doesn’t explain why Amazon’s 90% off page for groceries still shows more than 300 items most of which are not actually 90% off.

============

If you find examples of hard goods, such as electronics, cameras, or appliances with a stated list price on Amazon that is higher than the actual suggested list price, please send those examples to Mouse Print* ( edgar [at symbol] mouseprint.org ). Thanks.

• • •

16 Comments

  1. Unfortunately, until some sort of regulations are put in place to control this, and consumers stop falling for it, retailers will continue to play this gimmick

    Comment by Dave — December 20, 2010 @ 8:23 am
  2. When I began reading, I thought, “Oh, come on. Some poor data entry clerk somewhere made a typo.” But then you listed item after item of ridiculously inflated “original prices” and I thought “wow, those bums are trying to sucker us!”

    I am sorry that I’ve already done my holiday shopping on Amazon.com … because I wouldn’t buy from them now. Not after seeing deceptive practises like this. Too bad. :-(

    Comment by Editormum — December 20, 2010 @ 9:35 am
  3. Wow, that’s obnoxious. My guess is retailers see the 90% off page as a way to highlight their items, so they choose bogus list prices to get listed on the page.

    Comment by Shawn — December 20, 2010 @ 9:49 am
  4. In my college’s town a ‘discount outlet’ clothing retailer operated for a couple of years. They claimed to be wholesalers offering 50-75% the catalog prices on their clothing. On each label was the ‘original catalog price’ and their ‘reduced’ price and the discount was always at least 50%. IIRC, they were basing their ‘original’ prices from the J.Crew catalog. Knowing she likes such stores, I took my sister in there to check it out. What’s worth noting is that she was getting that catalog at the time. She pointed out the tags were WELL ABOVE any price you’d find in the J.Crew catalog, even if you’d included shipping & handling costs and we left immediately. The real catalog prices were actually closer to the supposed discounts the store offered so in reality the discount over catalog was less than 10%. Some people still fell for it, though, because they never questioned the initial price the ‘discount’ was based upon.

    Comment by Ron — December 20, 2010 @ 9:50 am
  5. Before you get too mad at Amazon remember many times the prices are not even set by them. Look for ‘Ships from and sold by’ bit just under the price. These are the ones who are gaming the system. Unfortunately Amazon seemingly makes it pretty easy to do so. It also appears that Amazon hides this fact in many cases so it looks like it comes from them. That Amazon doesnt really clamp down on the practice though…

    Comment by me — December 20, 2010 @ 10:06 am
  6. This is a great article and I hope it steers a lot of folks away from this and any other site using these bogus tactics. But, the consumer needs to take some responsibility in making this kind of behavior profitable. I grew up hearing, “If it looks to good to be true, it is!” So let’s stop letting our own greed drown our common sense in a swamp of gullibility!

    Comment by hoarse — December 20, 2010 @ 11:40 am
  7. Us frugal shoppers have known this for ages…we always compare what it would cost to buy on other sites (sometimes have to pay shipping over $25+ at other stores) and/or instore (usually with a special and a coupon). Sometimes there really are “pearls” on Amazon.

    Comment by Nancy-The Frugal Dietitian — December 20, 2010 @ 12:30 pm
  8. I use to go to this diner many years ago and the owner – cook (don’t call me chef) use to have a daily special priced for $10,000. He had two points on this. First if he sold one he’d take a month off and the second being you can ask anything you want for something. Amazon doesn’t ask but tells you what they are worth. To who? No one in their freaking mind would pay a fraction of the prices they claim the products are worth.

    You hit a home run with this one.

    Comment by Rick — December 20, 2010 @ 5:41 pm
  9. As said before, it all comes down to “buyer beware”. Back in the early days of internet auctions, before everyone and his brother discovered them and took all the fun out of it, there was an auction site that had a companion retail site. Both sites were clearly advertised on the partner site, so they were not a secret. The same items they were auctioning off on one side were for sale on the other (well before “buy it now”). You could go see what any item was selling for and bid accordingly, but there were always the dimwits who would actually bid more than they could buy it for outright. If those people had taken a little initiative and done their homework they would not have overpaid for their items. We call that overpayment a “stupid tax”, and we see a lot of that being paid out through a medium with the capability of doing your research for you instantaneously.

    Comment by PC — December 20, 2010 @ 6:38 pm
  10. I noticed that when I was trying to find some gluten free stuff for my mom. I couldn’t believe how much they said the original prices were. I didn’t buy anything on amazon that day and I quit searching by % off. I’ll continue to buy on amazon though simply because I won a rather large amount in amazon gift cards in a sweepstakes. Still doesn’t mean I’m going to pay outrageous prices.

    Comment by Anna — December 20, 2010 @ 7:29 pm
  11. Who shops for groceries on Amazon? I do a lot of price shopping, but looking for things like gummy bears on the internet (where 90% of the time you have to pay shipping)?
    To the complete opposite side of the spectrum, someone sent me a link to a set of stereo cables being sold on Amazon for $6800. No, I’m not missing a decimal point, stereo cables for sixty-eight hundred dollars. The reviews are hilarious, and well worth taking a few minutes to read:
    http://www.amazon.com/AudioQuest-K2-terminated-speaker-cable/dp/B000J36XR2/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

    Thanks for your blog, Edgar, I always enjoy reading it and the comments.

    Comment by Sko Hayes — December 22, 2010 @ 12:46 pm
  12. @ Sko Hayes: Thank you! That has made my day. I’m trying so hard not to laugh out loud. Especially this one:
    “For a product fabricated from 1,000 Onyx Dragon fetuses, the price is unbelievably reasonable!”

    Although the ones that start off sounding serious are pretty good, too (the cables reproduce?) as well as the guy who won a Grammy and hooked up w/ Megan Fox because of them. Insanely overpriced items + the overall level of smarta– that permeates message boards = 1 great time.

    Comment by Ron — December 23, 2010 @ 9:45 am
  13. @Sko Hayes: Thank you so much for that link! I cracked up so much, I just had to share it with my Facebook peeps. Apparently, the company has ANOTHER product like that one, but priced at the basement bottom price of $4000.00:

    http://www.amazon.com/AudioQuest-Volcano-terminated-speaker-cable/dp/B000J38NR0/ref=pd_sim_sbs_e_1

    The comments are just as wonderful.

    Comment by Melissa — December 24, 2010 @ 12:01 am
  14. @Sko Hayes They raised the price. It also says only one in stock, but goes on to say 2 new and 1 refurbished.

    Price: $8,450.00 & this item ships for FREE with Super Saver Shipping. Details
    In Stock.
    Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
    Only 1 left in stock–order soon.
    Want it delivered Tuesday, January 4? Order it in the next 8 hours and 45 minutes, and choose One-Day Shipping at checkout. Details
    2 new from $8,450.00 1 refurbished from $4,999.99

    Comment by JwJw Bean — January 3, 2011 @ 10:46 am
  15. As someone mentioned already, Amazon.com has many small companies selling products on them. And unfortunately, with the number of items sold on the website, it should be impossible for Amazon to sort them all out. That being said, Amazon has one of the worst website layout and search functions, and this added baggage makes it even harder to find real values online. It’s a wonder that people still use it nowadays.

    On a side note, this kinda reminds me of those sunday morning infomercials. “This pen, normally valued at $99.99, can be yours for only $9.99. That’s a savings of over 90%. However, if you call RIGHT NOW, we’ll add another 11 of those for a total of 12 pens for only $9.99. And for being a valued customer, we’ll add this remarkably white paper. A whole stack of them. 500, in fact, for free with this purchase. You just pay shipping and this stack of paper, normally $49.99, yours for free. There are only limited number of these items, and you must call right now. The total value of this package is *gasp* over $1200. But can be yours for only $9.99 plus shipping…..”

    OH and the best part. The mouseprint at the bottom states over $95 for shipping and handling plus 4-8 weeks of processing time. For what would cost less than 10 bucks at your local supply store. Sigh. They exist because people actually buy them.

    Comment by Pom — February 14, 2011 @ 11:40 pm
  16. What a sad comment on our collective intelligence when these ads actually sell something. If it didn’t work, they wouldn’t do it. Which tells you they know how stupid we are.

    Comment by W. L. Head — April 4, 2011 @ 9:08 am

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