1. Tools and Home Improvement Goods
Home improvement stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot are consumer favorites for good reason. Their vast inventory, knowledgeable staff and bargain prices are the main draw, James says. You’ll find the best deals on hand and power tools, as well as hardware including nails and screws, at these big-box retailers compared to Amazon, he adds.
We found a 1,000-count package of Hitachi brand three-inch framing nails at Lowe’s for $24, while Amazon offered the same package of nails for $31 plus a $9 shipping fee. At Home Depot, a Husky brand 12-inch double speed adjustable wrench cost $15. Amazon had the same wrench available through a third-party merchant for $30 plus a $4.50 shipping fee – more than double Home Depot’s price. Neither items found on Amazon were Prime-eligible.
How are big-box retailers able to hold up against Amazon when others have been hard hit? Amazon has a difficult time competing on price with Home Depot and Lowe’s, because those chains still have more leverage with their suppliers. “They’re able to get their costs down and pass the savings on to their customers,” James says.
2. Off-Brand Electronics
Buying electronics, such as laptops, digital cameras or televisions, on Amazon can be tricky – whether you buy directly from Amazon or from a third-party seller on Amazon Marketplace. Unlike at a bricks-and-mortar retailer, you can’t physically see or touch a desired item before buying it online. You also don’t have the luxury of being able to ask a customer service representative any questions in person about the product.
The purchasing decision becomes even trickier with off-brand electronics, which don’t have the reputation and reliability that come with name brands. As such, you run the risk of purchasing sight unseen a poor-quality product with a short lifespan. It may be worth the peace of mind to buy pricey electronics from a big-box retailer, where you can ask questions and get immediate assistance if there’s a problem with the purchase.
If you decide to buy from Amazon, beware unreliable third-party sellers offering subpar off-brand products or even name-brand knockoffs, says Saundra Latham. Start by reading customer reviews, but do so with a skeptical eye. “Even if there are a ton of five-star reviews, confirm they are substantive and don’t simply say the product is great without explanation,” Latham adds. That could signal it’s a fake review.
Next, check the third-party seller’s refund/return policies, which can differ from Amazon’s. Finally, go to the seller’s merchant page and send a message with any product-related questions you may have. The response – or lack of one – can help you determine whether buying the item is a smart move.
3. Fine Jewelry
When it comes to purchasing fine jewelry such as a diamond ring, it may be wise to skip perusing Amazon and shop at a bricks-and-mortar establishment instead, suggests Latham. If you’re planning to spend several hundred or even thousands of dollars on a piece of jewelry, you’ll want to be able to examine the intricate details including how it sparkles in the light, as well as the cut, color and clarity of the stone in-person, she notes. Otherwise, if you receive the item and decide you don’t like it, you’ll be forced to jump through several hoops to return the order to Amazon and get a refund.
According to Amazon’s return policy on jewelry:
(1) You must return items over $35 using a trackable shipping method. This can be done through USPS, FedEx or UPS for an additional fee that you’re responsible for paying;
(2) All product packaging including manuals, warranty cards and certificates of authenticity/grading/appraisal must be included with the item being returned;
(3) Items that have been resized, damaged or altered after delivery aren’t eligible for returns;
(4) Those returned without all the original documentation will be rejected.It’s worth taking the extra step to visit a fine jewelry store in-person. That way you can talk with a sales professional about any issues you may have with a desired item.