The Pandemic Pushed ‘Prime Day’ Into October

Article By : Rebecca Day

The pandemic pushed Prime Day, usually in July, into October. The retail world proclaimed it the de facto start to the holiday season...

What a noisy Week! As if the cacophony of a rancorous presidential election weren’t enough, Apple banged the drums for a quartet of new iPhones, and Amazon trumpeted the first call of the holiday season with its 48-hour deals event, Prime Day.

Prime Day is usually in July, but Amazon was too busy catching up with fulfillment during the pandemic lockdown that it had to push the two-day event to October. The retail world, slammed by Covid-19, proclaimed the 48-hour sales show the de facto start to the holiday season. After Prime Day came and went, Amazon took a breather for a day and then kicked up “Black Friday-worthy deals” in a “Holiday Dash event.”

We used to think it was bad when Christmas décor went up the day after Halloween. In 2020, I think we’re all banking on it. People are desperate for feel-goods. Given that Thanksgiving may be largely a bust this year, I’ll bet people want to see snowflakes, Santa Clauses and overstuffed stockings well before the first frost. Deck dem halls!

But Black Friday in October? Wow. Early-autumn online deals have replaced the post-Thanksgiving doorbusters people would trample each other for to get the last $200 laptop out of the three allotted per store.

It’s not a bad thing that those crazy 5 a.m. feeding frenzies are over. I say this from experience as one who had to get to Target at 2 a.m. before I had digested my turkey to report on shopamaniacs trying score a 32-inch TV for $198. I’m dating myself: Go to today, and you can drop a 32-incher in your shopping cart for $94.99.

Even Alexa is in on the deals thing. Year after year, Amazon suggests I try asking Alexa for deals. The first couple of years were ridiculous with my “digital assistant” recommending things that were clearly in overstock versus something I’d actually buy.

When I asked about deals last week, she was at least in the ballpark with Sengled LED smart light bulbs, though I wasn’t in the market for one. They were $10 off to $4.99, she advised, then added without the slightest bit of self-awareness, “Works with Alexa.” She told me I could say, “Next” for the next deal in the queue. I said, “Next,” shouting louder each time, until I was worried my downstairs neighbors would start banging the ceiling with a broomstick. I never did find out the next deal, but I made some of my own noise.

I never really warmed to Prime Day, other than for getting Amazon devices on the cheap. It’s too hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. I’m not a huge shopper, though I never want to pass on a deal. I’m still wondering if I should have gotten the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series 2 headphones last week at 43% off for $199, since I use mine daily and one of these days they’ll go kaput.

So my Prime Day splurge was upgrading my Kindle Fire tablet, which retails for $89. After a courtesy credit for a dust-up over a Prime Day pre-promo that wasn’t clear, a Whole Foods credit for $10 worth of groceries prior to Prime Day, and $18 trade-in credit for my old Kindle Fire, the Fire HD 8 ran me $26.63. I’d have been an idiot NOT to buy it.

Amazon then made it idiotproof to return the old Fire to its factory settings, reminded me to erase my SD card and linked me to a shipping label to return it. I was happy to do so, hoping my old tablet will end up with a happy refurb owner or broken down into responsibly recyclable parts. All my content was in the cloud, so it’s now sitting available on my new tablet. A tech handoff at its finest.

As I was readying my tablet for return with the free return-shipping label, I remembered I also wanted to return an LED lantern I ordered recently that up and died. I checked my order history, clicked the return button and was wowed to see that I had a week or so to return it, or replace it, for free.

I went through the steps to return and was awed when I saw I didn’t even need to box the lantern up. All I had to do was take it to an authorized shipper and they would do it. If that wasn’t the pieciest of cakes, I didn’t know what was — except I didn’t notice until too late that the return option defaulted to Kohl’s rather than to the UPS option. I was locked into Amazon’s return labyrinth: Rather than being able to trot the lantern across the street to the UPS store, I was committed to taking the nonworking piece of plastic to a Kohl’s in New Jersey.

There was no “oops” button. The lantern and I trudged to the UPS store, hoping the nice man would take a human approach to my return. “Nope, not if it says Kohl’s,” he told me, without looking up. Meanwhile, the nearest Kohl’s is in New Jersey, a $16 inbound toll away.

All of a sudden the great Amazon price I got on that nonworking lantern doesn’t seem like a good deal at all … just a bunch of noise.

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