Thursday, July 22, 2010

Amazon Speculating

If you leave items hanging around in your Amazon shopping basket, you'll occasionally find notifications that they've changed price (particularly if on sale). This in itself isn't too surprising, though I do find it odd that sometimes things change by just a few pence and wonder whether it's really that important. I assume some of the fluctuations are linked to exchange rates, though that probably isn't all.

Anyway, this can make it rather hard to know when - or even whether - to purchase. I've recently noticed several items in my basket gradually edging downwards, but periodically one will shoot up drastically. This means that, on the one hand, there's an incentive to wait hoping for further falls, but also an incentive to buy once you're happy that the price is low enough in case it rises.

A month or so ago I bought this for £4.09 only to find it's now fallen to £1.86. On the other hand, just today I received this, which I'd caught at it's lowest price (£1.76) days before it shot up to £12.99. It seems that prices, like those of shares, can go either up or down. I'm curious whether there's any pattern to it though - and would welcome insight from anyone with knowledge, or even a hypothesis.

I've heard that Amazon may be deliberately trying to gauge customers' price sensitivity. I wouldn't have thought it would be particularly worth their while, but it occurs to me that I have no way of knowing whether price discrimination is occurring (Do I get offered what's in my basket at a different price than others? It would be possible to check, by logging out, but I've never tried...)

In any case, there's something curiously satisfying about the feeling that you got a bargain, whether by skill or luck - but caveat emptor.

UPDATE (23/7): Scored a pretty decent success today. Just found four albums before dinner that looked interesting and decided to take a punt at £7.28 the lot. By the time I got back from dinner, three of them had gone back up to normal, full price (between £10.49 and £14.49) so the same four would have cost over £40. Bargain!

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