Sub-Optimus Prime


primePulses began racing earlier this month when Amazon announced today would be Prime Day.  “More deals than Black Friday!” the ads breathlessly announced, and shoppers began clearing their calendars so they could spend the day basking in the glorious sales that surely awaited them.  Wal-Mart jumped in with a sale of their own, boasting that you didn’t need to pay $99 a year to get their bargains.  The stage was set for a seismic consumer spree.

For many, though, the curtain never went up.  Popular items sold out or were only available for a limited time.  The majority of sales were incredibly niche items, or things that seemed to be on sale solely to get them out the door.  Users of Camelcamelcamel, a site that sends out alerts when an item reaches an all-time low price on Amazon, reported receiving no alerts at all today.  There were certainly more deals than Black Friday, but it was definitely a case of quantity over quality.

To be fair, anyone who uses Amazon regularly shouldn’t have been surprised by some items being limited or selling out.  Amazon has Deals of the Day and Lightning Deals on a regular basis that are time or quantity limited.  And really, you checked in on a highly hyped consumer event to find a large number of consumers buying things?  Shocked to find gambling going on in this establishment!  I’m sure some of these people are the some ones who get to the store at noon on Black Friday and wonder where all the deals are.  Popular things are popular.  Act accordingly.

But those who are disappointed with the actual items for sale have more of a leg to stand on.  I wasn’t expecting TVs for five dollars, but I was hoping for some good Blu-ray and ebook deals, and maybe some decent board games as well.  But for most of the day, the two big Blu-ray sales were the theatrical Lord of the Rings collection — which pretty much anyone who wants it has by now — and the unrated cut of Fifty Shades of Grey.  Ebooks didn’t get any love at all, although there were some decent deals on physical books, and board game savings were confined to traditional titles like Monopoly and Stratego.  More Blu-rays hit later in the day (including my sole purchase so far, Kingsman: The Secret Service for $9.99), but for the most part, it’s been an unending string of memory cards, phone cases, TVs where even 60% savings still puts the price at nearly a grand, and a bemusing quantity of women’s undergarments.  By sheer numbers there were undoubtedly people who found what they were looking for, but this hardly felt like the bonanza shoppers were hoping for.

Don’t we really have our own greed to blame though?  We started salivating over getting something for practically nothing.  Most of those flocking to Amazon today probably weren’t looking for anything in particular; they just wanted to buy something, anything, at a really cheap price, because everyone else was and heaven forbid they miss out.  That we ended up seeing practically nothing, or desirable somethings for far too short a time, was probably a much-needed wake-up call that when something sounds too good to be true, well, you know.

Amazon will take some ribbing over the next day or so, but by next week, people will be back to using to buy things after using Target or Best Buy as a showroom.  And as for Prime — the service this whole affair was designed to promote — well, for me, it’s a top-notch video streaming service that just happens to also offer free two-day shipping.  Per month, it has the same cost as my Netflix subscription, has original programming on par with that service, and the HBO catalog along makes it worth the price.  So what if I didn’t get that $5 TV?

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