We Need Stuff

When we do need stuff, Amazon is not the best choice

It is no secret that we all made impulse purchases back in the days when we could walk up and down the isles in our favourite retail store. With the COVID restrictions, we are robbed of the traditional shopping experience. The lockdown forces us to visit online marketplaces. In 2020, online purchases increased in the double-digits. But you all knew that already. What you may not know, or chose to ignore is the topic of this document.

Smittybilt Air Compressor As the heading points out, we need stuff for our Jeep. The object of desire is an Air Compressor. Our research pointed us to the Smittybilt 2.54 CFM Air Compressor - 2780. This compressor will be used to pump up the tires again, after air down during off-road adventures. For the non-Jeep owners, deflating the tires increases the traction on dirt, gravel and rocks.
Now we can honestly say that this is not an impulse purchase. We do go off-road and better traction sounds promising, we did spin the tires on some challenging surfaces. Now that we established the need, the next step is to find the best price.

Our two preferred local vendors for Jeep accessories are JustJeeps.ca and 4WheelParts.ca. We like both places for their dedication to the Jeep community. We searched for Smittybilt 2.54 CFM Canada since we want Canadian pricing. All amounts are in Canadian Dollar:

Google Search Amazon.ca: $157.24 & FREE Shipping
TDotPerformance.ca: $171.28 & FREE Shipping
OverlandOutfitters.ca: $137.99 Sold Out
AutoPartsway.ca: $144.66 Sold Out
Myghalamd.com: $42.78 plus shipping. Gmail address? Yeah, right.
Two more like the one above.
JustJeeps.ca: $129.95 & pickup at store
4wheelparts.ca: $148.49 & pickup at store

And the winner is - Just Jeeps, one of our preferred vendors. This is almost 30% cheaper than Amazon. We can get it shipped for $15 or pick up in store for free.
We decided to get the Smittybilt 5.65 CFM Air Compressor - 2781 for about $100 more. A search for the bigger unit showed a smaller price difference between the vendors, but ultimately the same result in favour of the local vendors.

Heated Rubber Mat
Heated Rubber Mat from Cozy Products We came up with the same results when we bought the heated rubber mat. $94 at a local store vs $122 from Amazon. This is already documented in our story about Cooking and Heating.
And the winner is - the local store.

Tripod Head
Manfrotto Pro Video Head We need a new Tripod Head and searched for 'Manfrotto Pro Video Head'. The prices vary from $169.99 to almost $500. No surprise, we are NOT looking at the same product. Once we searched with the product number, we were able to find the lowest price from Vistek, a local vendor. Amazon shows the same product for $5 more.
Looking at the Google search results, the Ads to the right suggest that the Amazon CA has the lowest price. We didn't find many products where the product was clearly cheaper on Amazon compared to a local vendor. But in almost all cases, the ads showed different products. This in not necessarily a bad thing, sometimes you prefer to pay less.
These ads often use a very simple sales tactic. Lure the customer to the store/website with deflated prices and then flood them with Sales and Bargains and Only 1 Left catch phrases. Obviously the low-priced item is sold out, but you can get another one with just a simple click, "Got Ya". Always start your search again with the new product parameters . If this was really a bargain, you will come back to the same place again.

Lens Adapter
Step-Up Adapter Ring 72mm Lens to 77mm Filter Size This is exactly what happened when we bought a 72mm to 77mm adapter for our camera lens. We were looking for the B+W brands. They are likely better quality, but we were completely happy with a less expensive product. We have several filters from a previous camera with a 77mm diameter. Our Sony Alpha 77ii has 72mm. Now we can attach our macro filters to the Sony lens.
The prices were all over the place. A $13 adapter was 'Currently unavailable', the next available from Amazon was $29. We found the same adapter from Henry's, a local store for $15.81 with shipping and taxes included.
And the winner is - Henry's, a local store

Drone
DJI Mavic Mini Buying fun gadgets is exciting, a drone is one of them. We were watching some amazing videos in YouTube about off-road trails and hiking. Some of the magnificent sequences were taken with a drone. Most of the off-road videos have drone footage. We take off-road pictures and videos so we 'need' a drone Smile
The result from our research pointed to the DJI Mavic Air 2. We want the Fly More Combo. This includes more batteries and propellers. The best price was $1,299, from Amazon as well as local vendors. But here is the catch. The local vendor offers a 'Refresh' option that covers a replacement for Fly-Away and Crashed drones. Because it is a local vendor, we can actually go there and talk to them. They also repair and service the units. They know everything about the pilot license that is mandatory here in Canada and they possibly offer a free training session.
We don't have practical experience, after all we won't buy one. We worked out the cost to justify this expense.
iconWe do 10 off-road trips a year.
iconThe drone will last 4 years.
iconThe price is $1,468 with tax, but excluding memory cards.
Divide the $1,468 by 40 drone videos (4 year @ 10 trips each) is $36. So every documented trip will cost $36 or more. We are not very active in YouTube and who would be watching our videos? For the same money we can spend more than a month in a Provincial Park and explore Canada. Nevertheless, this is another good example where the local store excels.
And the winner is - the local store

Hi-Lift Jack
Hi-Lift Extreme Jack We bought the Hi-Lift Extreme jack two years ago. This model was on sale at Princess Auto and we paid about $150. We documented the jack on our Recovery Gear page. Today, the same device is more expensive. Princess Auto is known to have some excellent sales.
Earlier this year, we spoke to Dino from CheaperJeeperTV.com and he invited us to demo a recovery with the jack and traction mats. It was actually our first time using the jack as a recovery tool. After watching the video, we were curious what the price differences are between Amazon and local vendors. No surprise, Amazon was up to 15% more expensive.
Amazon.ca: $ 210 & FREE Shipping
PrincessAuto.com $199.99
4wheelParts.ca $191.21
JustJeeps.com $182.95
And the winner is - JustJeeps, the local store

Power Drill
And when we thought that we can save a dollar, we got this from Amazon. The drill we had for 37 years lost its power. Probably just the brushes, but we are in the middle of a project. We have full COVID lockdown and buying a drill is not considered essential. After some research and reading reviews, we decided to get the Makita. Grainger Canada had our model in stock. We checked for better pricing and found this amusing Amazon offer. We got the drill from Grainger the next day and the project is still on time.

Makita delivery 1 month?

Why Amazon?
Why doesn't Amazon have the best prices? No big surprise there. We looked into the sellers contract from Amazon and the conditions are not really that attractive. Amazon takes a 15% Referral fee from the Seller on top af the ~$1.50 base fee. This fee is on Product + Shipping + Gif-Wrapping. When the seller uses a coupon to lure the customers to the site, Amazon has formulas on how much they have to increase the price to be able to afford a 10% coupon. Once the offer starts, the vendor can not change it. Electronics and high-end hobbies are already a cut-throat market. A less than 20% markup is typical for low volume resellers. Unless you have the volumes to secure preferred pricing with the manufacturer, this is not a place to get rich. The only place to save money is by dropping service and support, and that is selling through Amazon.

There is only one party that makes money on this deal, Amazon. As a buyer, we get lured into the 'Free Shipping' and 'Free Returns'. But the Seller pays for that. Actually, we, the buyers pay for that.
There is an excellent documentary about the Amazon returns. Unless the seller pays for the shipping cost, Amazon can dispose of the product returns as they see fit. Many of these new products end up in the landfill. See the CBC Marketplace about Amazon Returns.
The huge number of returned products created a new industry, auctions where you can bid on 'Store Returns' and 'Unclaimed Freight' merchandise. The fact that these auctions, yes, multiple auctions, are held weekly with thousands of items is a manifestation of the waste that results from product returns.

When we go to a 'bricks and mortar' store such as JustJeeps and Henry's, we meet the people who make these companies great. They know the products from customer feedback and they are often part of the purchasing decision with excellent input.
If you want to see the people that make Amazon great, you have to go to the Distribution Centers around the globe. We have several of them here in Mississauga. Or visit Jeff Bezos with a Net worth of 188.6 billion USD (2020). Yes, you are paying for that as well.

Their marketing seems to work, people buy on Amazon fully convinced they get the best deal. We didn't find a single product yet where the best deal actually came from Amazon. What we found however were many controversies when it comes to the working conditions.
Amazon was in the headlines over the last few months here in Ontario.
Mid December 2020: More than 400 COVID-19 cases at Amazon warehouses in Ontario amid concern over industrial spread of virus
Mid March 2021: Ontario labour ministry investigating Amazon site ordered to shut down over COVID-19 outbreak.
Ongoing in Canada: Investigated for labour violations in the warehouse and launch of class action by delivery drivers.

Buy Local
The COVID restriction is absolutelydisastrous for many of the local businesses. When you make an effort to find them, you may get the best price, the service and the support.

When we searched for a product, we noticed that the same search in Microsoft Bing returns less Amazon, but more ebay links. But more important are the local links to local stores in Bing. Even without adding a localization like Ontario or Canada to the search, Bing returns more relevant results.

Buy Local with a bitter aftertaste
A few years back, we purchased a VIOFO dash cam from a local computer chain e-commerce site. It was a online-only product. Two days later we received an Amazon package with the dash cam. We could have gotten the same product for less money from Amazon. We won't buy from their e-commerce site anymore, but we may go back to the store once they are open again.

We found an item on Amazon
Anker PowerPort Cube It is June 25, 2021 and we found the Anker PowerPort Cube that meets our needs. Our requirments are simple. The unit has to be small with few 110 volt that take the bulky chargers without covering two or three outlets. Plus we need powerful USB charger, this has 3.6Amps. Most USB charger stop around 1.5 Amps and charging a phone takes forever. The three USB ports share the power, but most of the time there will be only one plugged in when we need a quick reload. Charging overnight is not an issue. We paid $30.50 and it is shipped to a drop box in walking distance.
So what is the excitement here? It is actually the first time we found an item on Amazon that is cheaper than anywhere else. We ordered the item on Ankers website. Some Canadian sources sold the same item for almost double, also through Amazon. Anker chose to use Amazon to distribute their products.

What is not made in China?
We needed flush-mount hinges for the Jeep Sleeping Platform. Nowhere to be found locally, lots of options on the Internet. We found them on Aliexpress, shipped directly from China to our place. We ordered 10 hinges for less than $30, shipping and taxes included.

Rivets A few months earlier, we broke two plastic rivets on the Jeep. The Jeep dealership was helpful, but insanely expensive. We found a possible fit at Canadian Tire. A box with five 'Assorted Rivets' was $8. We purchased 100 rivets directly from China for less than $15, shipping and taxes included. These fasteners are really amazing, we used them for some of our projects on the camping trailer. It turns out that these rivets work well with the HDPE sheet (puckboards) when we build protective cases for our equipment.

Volt Meter We made several purchases from AliExpress and DHgate. We had good experiences with both marketplaces. We keep our purchases around $20, this is the tax and duty excempt amount. We also found that products in this price range yield the biggest benefit. We usually don't selected a faster shipping option, 3 to 6 weeks worked well for us.
Was it worth it? Mostly yes with two 'absolutely yes'. We could not find a small 12 volt relay anywhere local, except from DHgate and Amazon. Comparing the two prices can make you cry and we got two for $13 with a 15 day shipping upgrade from DHgate. The other product was a 12 volt battery monitor for the dash-board. This is possibly the coolest thing on this side of the battery compartment Smile. It will be mounted in the trailer.
Be aware that you have to pay a broker fee and taxes when the product exceeds a certain amount. When you select DHL as the carrier, it will be faster, but you have to pay the fees and taxes when you receive the package. A product that costs $50 may not be a bargain anymore.


First published on December 19, 2020
Last revised on June 25, 2021
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