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What’s happened with Amazon, anyhow?

Historically I’ve counted on November being the second-biggest month of my Amazon Associates year. This year Amazon commissions fell off a cliff. Right at the start of this month.

It’s not part of a trend. Generally I’ve lucked out. Amazon nerfed its commission structure in March, but the blow didn’t hit as hard as I expected, both because an angel quietly stepped in to make up for the losses, and because even though the number of bought items dropped people chose a lot of items in the 7% or 8% categories. And some of those items were pretty big.

But this month? Holy cr*p. Just when sales should be picking up for the holidays, the majority of my Amazon days are either $0 or under $2. (For reference, I hope for $10 daily averages; before the nerf I was consistently doing a bit better than that.) It’s largely only a bottle of vitamins here or a USB cable there.

So are you all just waiting for Black Friday, or what? Have you quit buying on Amazon entirely? Are you using somebody else’s links (in which case good for you for supporting another freedomista)?

I’m relieved to have that quiet angel (and the other angels who made much of this year’s work possible). Thank heaven for you Patreons, too. And the good folks who’ve made donations out of the blue when I have NOT been looking for them. But my Amazon links are still this blog’s bread and butter — and they appear to have landed sticky side down and been eaten by the dog.


  1. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty November 18, 2017 10:52 am

    I’m not buying as much as I did before, several reasons. I’m pretty well stocked, so only get things I use a lot and then may run out of…like my coffee. This works out well with the subscribe and save feature.

    A more difficult thing to deal with is that Amazon is becoming more and more difficult to navigate. I don’t know why things are arranged as they are, but it’s a mess. A search string “MAY” show you what you want in a page or two, but it may take many page views and you may not manage to look at enough of them to actually find it, let alone be able to compare different offerings. And, many items on a page are not even remotely related to the item you might be looking for – making for more useless page views. There also may be three or four different prices for the same thing on those pages. I’ve run afoul of that a number of times. And then, there is the growing tendency for things to be “exclusive to Prime” or prime pantry, or one of the other premium categories. I’m not paying extra for any of them, ever… so there are things I just can’t order at all, no matter how much I want them. needs some serious competition, for all the usual reasons.

  2. Claire
    Claire November 18, 2017 11:52 am

    As far as I can tell, subscribe & save purchases don’t benefit the blog — though I agree they’re a good thing in general.

    Although I haven’t personally found Amazon harder to navigate, I do hear you when you complain (as you have in the past) about listings that are in “Engrish” and some of the other ways Amazon is developing.

    I was given a prime membership as a gift and I allowed it to renew this year. I’ve used it for Prime Pantry (much, much lower prices on many non-perishable grocery items than I can get locally) and once or twice on some of those “exclusive to Prime” deals. And they are often truly extraordinary deals — like 600 square feet of 6-mil plastic sheeting for $22 with free shipping — about 1/3 of the cost of the last 6-mill sheeting I bought. (And I’ve used a LOT of that stuff, both in retrofitting Ye Olde Wreck and in curtaining off unheated areas.) With that Prime price I was even able to buy an extra box to share with neighbors if they need it as a short-term fix for storm or earthquake damage.

    Definitely to each his own, though.

  3. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty November 18, 2017 12:04 pm

    Fear not, the coffee is the only item I have in “subscribe.” Saves me a couple of dollars, and I get the coffee regularly without having to remember to order it. 🙂

    I don’t order enough of anything to justify the price of “prime.” And I don’t need the fast shipping, since I’m happy with the standard and never pay for shipping anyway. I just group my purchases.

    None of the other features of “prime” interest me, since I don’t watch movies or download music.

    Yep, different folks need different options. 🙂

  4. Pat
    Pat November 18, 2017 1:42 pm

    I’ve also had navigation and inconsistent pricing problems with Amazon. I agree it should have some competition and I’ve been looking into Walmart which has been offering free pickup and/or free shipping for most items that I need. There are a couple of things I want from Amazon – handwarmers and those inflatable lights – but am holding back on ordering anything until I get my medical bills.

  5. jed
    jed November 18, 2017 2:34 pm

    It’s become increasingly difficult to differentiate between good deals and bad ones at Amazon. They’ve changed how they display prices, and gone to dynamic pricing as well. And, often, they display so many things that aren’t what I’m looking for, that I give up trying to filter out the chaff. There’s also the counterfeit goods problem, and Amazon has so many available vendors, that it seems an insurmountable problem to filter that out as well, at least for some items. I suspect a lot of people, when confronted with an offshore item, will just go to AliBaba or DealExtreme instead.

    My personal situation is that I’m just too broke to buy much. But, when things turn around, I’ll be more selective, as I’ve noticed prices going up on some things, when I’ve checked.

    See also:

    And, I’m with ML on being disgruntled with the “Prime Only” stuff. They have it, I’m willing to buy it, so why not sell it to me?

  6. John
    John November 18, 2017 10:24 pm

    I haven’t been induced to use prime yet. I respect dynamic pricing. Why sell for a dollar if customer will pay twenty? My “save for later” is full of candidate reference stuff that might link me to stuff I will really buy. Glad Walmart is getting in the game. My funds are small enough that price matters. I get the call on if I’m willing to pay the price or not. That is fun.

    Who prepared to be ready, needs something in 48 hours?

  7. FishOrMan
    FishOrMan November 19, 2017 1:19 am

    Shopping has definitely been slow for me past few months. Although, a couple of big ticket items have been found cheaper elsewhere, (storage shed from home depot priced over $100 less than amazon with free shipping to home). So maybe competition HAS finally arrived.

    Oh, sounds like i wish i would have got my plastic at amazon, so home depot probably just made their money right back. haha. a

  8. Arthur Murray
    Arthur Murray November 19, 2017 1:51 am

    I’ll second the motions made by ML and John (above); I “not renewed” my Prime when it came up this month because: I’ve had my fill of Amazon’s “dynamic pricing” – I understand prices vary, but when you can’t count on them being reasonable from day to day (or even hour to hour) it’s time to find a new source.

    As for “hard to navigate” I’ll term it “just a PITA.” Amazon has zillions of items in nearly every category so search returns can be overwhelming. If I have to go through 40 pages to find the thing I’m looking for because the search function can’t be adequately refined, it’s time to shop somewhere else. Plus, when one selects “sort by price” you get 20 pages of <$3 crap to wade through – there's no "jump to page 20" option – and I simply refuse to be abused like that.

    I don't think the brain trust at Walmart has the smarts to successfully tackle Amazon's dominance – Walmart's web site isn't even close to user friendly – but I'm looking forward to the battle.

  9. ellendra
    ellendra November 19, 2017 7:00 am

    Whatever’s going on with the search box on Amazon, it seems to be spreading. Search engines everywhere are suddenly giving pages of the wrong results. Has anyone else noticed that?

  10. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty November 19, 2017 7:17 am

    Yes indeed. The “wrong” results are usually the dump truck loads of irrelevant listings. I’ve used search engines of all kinds for a very long time. They are definitely getting worse. In fact, I’ve gone back to looking at my books instead, many times, because I can find what I need much faster that way in most cases. The search engines help me locate resources I don’t have on hand a lot of times, but it requires a lot more effort and patience than it use to.

    As well as competition for Amazon, I hope someone will develop a non-political, non PC search engine. Start Page and others I’ve tried are no less maddening than google now days.

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