Amazon Prime Day 2021 demands caution

Amazon knows you love a bargain, and that's what makes events like Prime Day 2021 so appealing. The online retailer has benefited handsomely over the past 12 months, as pandemic shoppers shifted to the internet in droves. Now, as it has for the past few years, Prime Day is coming to bring even more deals, though as always caution is the rule of the game.

It would be easy to assume that Prime Day has a decades-long history, so firmly is it embedded into the retail calendar. In fact, Amazon held the first in July 2015, in what it described as a celebration of its 20th anniversary.

Since then it has gone from a day of deals, to two official days of deals, and at least a week of "pre-Prime" promotions. There's no surprise there, really: after all, it's a huge day of business, both for Amazon and its marketplace sellers. Indeed Prime Day was specifically cited in the company's most recent financial results, as a key factor by which Q2 2021 revenues could hit $116 billion.

A deal is not always a deal

Again, getting something you want, for less than you expected to pay for it, is a great feeling. Bargain hunting, and the knowledge that you got a great deal, can sometimes be more rewarding than whatever it was you actually bought. The problem is, sometimes the Prime Day hype overtakes the reality of the promotions.

There are, certainly, some big potential scores. Amazon usually runs flash sales throughout Prime Day, limited both in time and items. You might get a smart TV for hundreds of dollars less, perhaps, or a cutting-edge unlocked smartphone for half its usual price. Get the timing right and there's definitely money to be saved.

At the same time, however, a lot of the "deals" aren't so much great promotions as they are a way to clear the old warehouse shelves. Some cunning sellers even put up their prices just ahead of Price Day, so that they can show that all-important "price drop" figure when people are hunting for an apparent bargain.

Factor in a countdown timer and the idea of extreme deal scarcity, and it's easy to see how people can end up hitting "Buy Now" on things they didn't really need and maybe aren't saving all that much on.

Choose where you spend wisely

It's also easy to get caught up in the idea that Amazon is the go-to place for retail. The reality, though, is that while the site may have been a key part of many people's lives during social distancing, there are good reasons for shopping elsewhere.

Indeed you don't have to be frustrated by corporate tax laws – and whether Jeff Bezos spending billions on rockets – to think that maybe sharing your credit card details with places other than Amazon is a solid idea. There's no doubt that the high street is hurting right now, with small businesses struggling to recover as the pandemic's long-term effects continue to be felt. Choosing to shop local may not provide the expansive choice that Amazon's virtual shelves do, but there's a solid economic and social argument for supporting independent retailers.

That said, a deal is a deal. The best approach to Prime Day 2021 is the same as it was last year, and all the year before that: decide what you really want beforehand, try to be strict with yourself about falling for "too good to be true" deals, and be a little skeptical of glowing reviews. Most of all, remember that Jeff Bezos didn't make all that spaceship money by running a charity, and the true winners of Prime Day are those who treat shopping like a competitive sport.