It's beginning to look a lot like Prime Day.
On the evening of Monday, July 10, Amazon will kick off its third annual sales event, basically a Cyber-Monday-in-July that promises extra savings over and above the company's usual discount prices.
But that evening start is reminiscent of Black Friday sales that start on Thanksgiving: This year's Prime Day runs for 30 hours, with the official day listed as July 11.
So who's allowed to get in on this Prime action? What's going to be different compared with last year? How can you be sure Amazon's Prime Day price is actually the best price?
I've got all the answers. Here's everything you need to know about Prime Day 2017.
1. Days of Prime Day past
Amazon's first stab at Prime Day (in 2015) was to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Although the event proved a big success in terms of sales, customers found a lot to dislike.
The biggest discounts were on Amazon's own products (Kindles, Fire tablets and so on), and those seemed to come and go at random.
Last year, things went better, with lots more inventory and category-driven search that made it easier to sift through the nearly 100,000 sale items.
2. Why you should care about Prime Day
In 2016, Amazon's big categories were TV and toys. The company promised twice as much TV inventory as "Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined," and toy deals that would run "nearly all day."
Will those be the spotlight categories this year as well? That remains to be seen, but there will undoubtedly be countless other deals.
And Amazon will offer Alexa-powered specials as well, so if you own an Amazon Echo($179.99 at Amazon.com), Dot or Tap, you might be able to score some exclusives. (You can already ask Alexa to spill some rumors.)
Amazon is also promising savings of "up to 40 percent" on Kindle Unlimited membership, though it's not quite clear what the "up to" part is about. Currently, the ebook/audiobook subscription service costs $9.99 per month.
3. ...And why you shouldn't care
If we haven't met before, I'm Rick "The Cheapskate" Broida, and I write about tech deals pretty much every day of the year. And let me tell you, every day is Prime Day. By which I mean there are great bargains to be had all the time.
Yes, as with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Amazon may shave a few extra dollars off a TV or Kindle. But also as with those days, supplies will be limited. And the TV might be an off-brand model that wasn't really what you had in mind.
In other words, resist the hype. If there's a particularly good deal to be had on a product you've been eyeballing, by all means grab it. But don't think this is your only opportunity to save big.
Furthermore, with Amazon planning to roll out new deals "as often as every 5 minutes" throughout the day,
this is a rabbit hole you might want to avoid. Prime Day will definitely not be Productivity Day if you're refreshing your browser every 5 minutes. (Though see below for a handy way to keep tabs on specific deals.)
4. Prime Day is for Prime subscribers
Amazon Prime is, of course, the subscription service that affords unlimited two-day shipping, movie and music streaming and various other perks. It costs $99 per year (a very good deal, in my humble opinion).
In order to take advantage of Prime Day deals, you must be a Prime subscriber.
That's the bad news; the good news is that if you've never tried the service before, you can get a free trial -- and that trial membership qualifies you for Prime Day savings.
By the way, if you're a college student, you can get a six-month free trial of Amazon Prime, after which you can snag a membership for just $49 -- 50 percent off the regular annual price.
5. Prime Day may start early -- kind of
Last year, in the week leading up to Prime Day, Amazon started offering Prime Day Countdown Deals. My guess: The company will do likewise this year -- though I remind you about item No. 3, above.
If there are Countdown Deals, they'll probably just be heavily hyped versions of Amazon's daily Lightning Deals.
But check back around July 3, one week before Prime Day kicks off; I'll update the post if there's anything further to report.
6. Use the Amazon App to get deal notifications
Part of the challenge of Prime Day is keeping tabs on the deals that interest you, especially those scheduled to begin later in the day. If you forget, you might miss out.
Fortunately, the Amazon App lets you track upcoming deals and receive notifications when they're about to begin.
It's available for Amazon Fire (natch), Android and iOS in their respective app stores. (The app also affords benefits like voice-powered search and shipment tracking.)
7. Don't assume Prime Day is the best day
As I noted above, where I come from, every day is Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Prime Day, etc. That means you should approach every deal with a little bit of skepticism -- or at least a little bit of research.
One great place to start: CamelCamelCamel, the site that tracks Amazon price histories. (It can also notify you when Amazon products go on sale; I recently explained how to use it to track those rare Amazon Echo deals.)
Before you pull the trigger on any Prime Day deal, copy the URL, paste it into CamelCamelCamel's search field and check the results.
You may discover that the product has indeed been priced lower in the past, and therefore may be again.
At the same time, consider using a browser plug-in like Honey, which can instantly inform you if any third-party sellers have the same product for a lower price (which doesn't happen often, but it's worth checking).
Finally, be sure to check other sites. Best Buy, Walmart and other major stores may well trot out their own answers to Prime Day, offering loss-leader pricing on popular items.
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