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Amazonian Shenanigans

11/14/06 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Music

Over the years I've migrated from buying the majority of my CDs from stores to buying online. The move is mostly due to availability of obscurities; I've bought pretty much all of the easy to find stuff and these days I'm after back catalogue, deleted material and things not released in North America. Popping into big box stores like Future Shop for these just doesn't work, and the collection at used CD stores like Tramps -- though wonderful overall -- is terrible when trying to find specific items.

Anyway, after a stint using A&B Sound's online store until they shut it down, I moved to everyone's favourite online store, Amazon. The range of CDs in stock at Amazon is really quite impressive but there are a number of gotchas inherent to using it:

  1. Amazon misfiles things. The old eBay random spelling search can help here. In addition, the search engine is imperfect and won't return all of the appropriate hits so you may need to try alternate methods.
  2. The first hit isn't necessarily the best one. As there are frequently different pressings of a specific CD, they'll appear in different price ranges, and sometimes with different track listings if it's a re-release or being sold to a different market. Amazon will also list out of print items where they have no stock and often these are put in front of what actually is in stock.
  3. For single items, look at the Marketplace. The Marketplace is where Amazon acts as a front end for third party sellers, listing their items and handling the billing. Generally the vendors try to underprice Amazon for new items by about $5. Curiously enough this is approximately the shipping cost for the item. For multiple items, use Amazon itself as it gives free shipping for orders over $39 and Marketplace items are always charged on a per item basis. As the Marketplace has different sources of material than Amazon, you can find some good bargains: I just bought a copy of The Rolling Stones "More Hot Rocks" for $16 new (a 2006 Japanese pressing); the domestic release usually goes for $40 plus.
  4. If the price on an item is absurd, check other Amazon sites like amazon.co.uk or amazon.com. Recently I looked for a CD that was for sale on the Canadian site for about $120 with the US site being about the same; the UK site however had it for two quid...
  5. Pay attention to their shipping estimates. If it's not in stock or expected to be available within a two week period, you may as well put on the kettle as it'll be a while. Amazon doesn't split-ship for free, so even if just one item takes a bit longer to procure, your entire order could be sitting in their warehouse for a bit. Still, it's generally better than A&B Sound who'd frequently sit on my orders for six or more months...

The vendors in the Marketplace are pretty darn good; if something doesn't arrive, they will refund you. If it's the wrong item (for example they listed an album and shipped a CD single of the same name) they're responsive in taking it back (and refund!)

There's a lot of good music out there for sale; you just need to find it.


1 comment

Comment from: Nimble [Member]  

The other nice thing about the Marketplace is that Amazon usually runs out of an item eventually. More quickly when it’s odd books that I’m interested in. However, the Marketplace keeps that hope alive. There are a number of things that I had contemplated crossing off my wish list because there wasn’t a hope of getting any of them.

Dena decided to do my birthday shopping for some of those less-popular titles, so they’re trickling in in three shipments, but she got me neat stuff, including a alternative cosmology book that also fills in the seemingly empty period of cosmology history from 1930 to 1970.

(I love my wife :)

I do wish Amazon.ca had a faster way of getting through wish list pages without having to go to the hellishly uninteresting compact mode. I mean, I’ve got the HTML mojo to add in the &page= up top, but my relatives aren’t going to, and my wish list is seven pages at the moment :)

11/17/06 @ 23:51
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