15 Things You Should Never Buy on Amazon


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Amazon homepage on mobile phone or tablet
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Ah, amazing Amazon: The world's largest e-retailer has made it possible to get everything shipped to our door with blistering speed, often for less than the other guys. But just because you can order almost anything from Amazon doesn't necessarily mean you should. From things that are cheaper offline to products it's best to see in person, steer clear of these 15 things on Amazon.

groceries bag with vegetables, bread, greens, fruits, bottle of milk and container of eggs
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Think Amazon isn't a great place to get groceries? You're not alone. A 2017 Reuters/Ipsos survey of more than 9,000 people found that only 2.6 percent of respondents thought online retailers like Amazon have the most affordable prices. Local groceries also won by a large margin on selection, quality, and even convenience. And while Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods signals a desire to compete long-term, for now, your wallet will thank you for continuing to shop for groceries offline.
open book with books in background
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If you buy a book directly from Amazon, you can be reasonably assured that it's actually new. But buying that same "new" book from a third-party seller who may be offering it at a suspiciously cheap price -- perhaps cheaper than Amazon itself -- means you may actually be getting a used book passed off as new. Though you still get a readable book that may look just fine, it raises some icky ethical questions, as the book's author and publisher likely won't see any money from that sale, The New York Times reports.
iPhone charger in hand
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It's common to search for an electronic gadget on Amazon only to find that the best-sellers are brands you've never heard of. Sometimes the products are legit, The New York Times has found -- they're made by manufacturers that have cut out the middleman and rely exclusively on Amazon to sell, then obsessively monitor feedback to refine their products. But others are low-quality knock-offs, as evidenced by Apple's 2016 lawsuit that 90 percent of the iPhone chargers billed as "authentic" on Amazon are actually fakes that can catch on fire or even shock users. Best advice? Stick with name brands shipped and sold by Amazon.
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There's nothing better than scoring a great deal on notoriously pricey name-brand cosmetics or skin-care items, but if the price seems too good to be true, be cautious. Amazon has a documented problem with counterfeiters, and beauty products are among the most notorious categories for fakes. Even more concerning, fake cosmetics can contain hazardous ingredients (hello, arsenic) and may lead to rashes or infections, according to the FBI.
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Sometimes you only need a single pot of lip balm or a pack of hair ties. But don't count on Amazon to give you an easy (or cheap) way to buy. You'll have to buy $25 worth of items to throw in an "add-on item" (those are small products Amazon's only willing to ship with larger items to keep costs down). The same problem rears its head when it comes to smaller quantities of household goods or food. You'll need to be a Prime member to have access to these items through Prime Pantry. Even then, you'll have to pay a monthly charge for free Prime Pantry shipping, or a flat shipping fee of $8 an order.
Man reading on his laptop looking concerned
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Unsure of a product? Check its reviews, but be wary: Fake reviews are big business on Amazon, and you need to read them with a practiced eye. Overwhelmingly positive reviews that rely on meaningless superlatives -- "great" or "awesome" -- are often unreliable, as are reviews that just regurgitate features without commenting on performance. Other red flags: Weird syntax or tons of reviews posted in a short time.
Ralph Lauren Polo sweatshirt
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Amazon is relentlessly chipping away at the clothing market, but its hiccups have been well-documented: Luxury brands have shied away, knock-offs persist, and searching for pieces in a never-ending stream of garments can be frustrating for the average shopper. The kicker: You'll probably still pay more than you would at the local department store, where sales are common. But if you aren't committed to name brands, Amazon is making a big push with private labels. It's also testing Prime Wardrobe, which will let Prime members order clothing without being charged upfront, paying only for what they keep and sending the rest back.
Gift cards
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Yup, you can buy all sorts of gift cards on Amazon that are good at plenty of places other than Amazon itself. But you probably won't be getting the best deal. It's possible to get gift cards for less than face value by buying on reputable resale sites like Gift Card Granny. And you can also earn rewards or bonuses when you buy offline. For instance, buy gift cards at grocery stores like Kroger that give you fuel points with gift-card purchases and fill up for less. And take advantage of holiday deals that give you bonus cash at restaurants or stores with a gift-card purchase.
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To be clear, you can get a great deal buying a mattress on Amazon. But buying a mattress is, at best, an imprecise science, and savvy online buyers will want as long a trial period as possible before they're locked into their purchase. Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, you'll only get a 30-day window to decide whether your mattress is a match if you buy on Amazon. Since 100-night mattress trials aren't hard to find these days, consider looking elsewhere, or checking to see whether buying directly from the mattress maker will get you a longer trial. For instance, you'll get a 30-day trial buying Brentwood Home mattresses on Amazon, but 120 days on Brentwood's own website.
Whirlpool Refrigerator
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Though Amazon recently scored a deal to sell Sears' Kenmore appliances, the fact remains that selection is subpar compared with what you'll find at Home Depot, Lowe's, Best Buy, and local appliance shops. What you do find will usually be hawked by a third party, often for more than you'll pay locally (especially during major sales at the big-box retailers). Buying at the store can also help ensure you're getting the features you want, the size you need, and a hassle-free delivery. Bonus: You can haggle in person.


If you're one of the unfortunate souls who doesn't live near an Ikea, you've probably noticed that Ikea's shipping costs are astronomical. You've also probably noticed that there are plenty of Ikea products on Amazon. But think twice: Ikea's products are invariably sold on Amazon by third-party retailers for much more -- sometimes twice as much -- than what you'll pay in store. Stay tuned: Ikea has said it wants to sell on Amazon, but so far plans are nebulous.
Kirkland Signature Almond Butter
Photo credit: Courtesy of costco.com


Costco's store brand, Kirkland Signature, draws raves for delivering surprising quality for less. One more surprise: Amazon actually outsells Costco itself when it comes to Kirkland. Tempting as it may be to get Kirkland items on Amazon, you're probably better off ponying up for a Costco membership and heading to the store. That's because prices are usually inflated on Amazon, and Costco offers a way better deal on items that you can justify buying in bulk.
1 Carat Diamond Bridal Ring
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Sure, Amazon has tons of jewelry for would-be buyers to browse, but will you be getting the same quality you'd find after inspecting a potential purchase in person? Experts tell Gizmodo that it's unlikely -- for instance, you have to see a stone in person to make sure it really sparkles like it does in the photo. Even more concerning, some of Amazon's best "deals" were simply dropping prices to fair market value. If you do take the plunge, one more thing to note: Make sure the item is returnable -- Amazon says "some jewelry" doesn't make the cut.

Bounty paper towels
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Paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, dish soap, detergent -- these are the things a typical household goes through at a rapid clip. And while it's tempting to turn to Amazon to fill those needs without running to the store again, Cheapism has found that the e-retailer still can't compete with Costco. Savings at the warehouse club on household staples averaged more than 25 percent. If trekking to Costco sounds like a pain, using Amazon's subscribe and save program can bring prices down as much as 15 percent, but subscribing doesn't lock in prices, which can be risky.
backpack with school supplies
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Here's another product category where Amazon has trouble competing with entrenched players like Target, Walmart, Staples, or your local grocery. A number of price comparisons, including this one from ValuePenguin, have shown Amazon lags far behind its big-box brethren. Moreover, prices are much more stable at the traditional retailers. And in the rare case that Amazon has a better deal than your local store, you may be able to ask the store to price match.

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