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The Agony of Prime Day

Tracking a maddening day of adding and removing items from the cart in search of the greatest deal that doesn’t exist

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

Tuesday marked the third annual Amazon Prime Day, an event where the retail giant offers a deluge of deep discounts. I attempted to wade my way through the overwhelming catalog to find the perfect deal. All I found was madness.

7:07 a.m.

It’s a beautiful summer day. My alarm has finished its snooze cycle, and it’s time for some Twitter-from-bed browsing. I witness a promoted Amazon ad for a pressure cooker, and suddenly I remember: It’s Prime Day! PRIME DAY!

Before diving in, I mentally note my previous Prime Day purchases: A mediocre blue jacket with a weird zipper. A pair of sunglasses that I gave my sister. Some face lotion that feels like jelly. These items were all exactly fine. But my faith in Prime Day — Prime Day! — endures. This is it; this will be the year I scoop the deal I can brag about, the one that justifies my $99 Amazon Prime membership. I will buy the thing that I’ve always wanted, for the best deal, and on Prime Day no less. It will feel like a hack I engineered — I’ll tell the story with blithe confidence: “Oh, that TV? I wanted a new TV for months but I waited for Prime Day and boom: half-price.” Or maybe I will be the person who buys all their Christmas gifts on Prime Day, and when friends and family open their deeply discounted gifts, I will maniacally imagine how much money I saved. My hopes are soaring.

7:09 a.m.

Let the scouring begin. Hmm, looks like Amazon has a new landing page for Prime Day. I like it! The normal Amazon homepage is too clunky and cluttered for me to search through effectively, and this flat design is working for me. Click.

The landing page looks better, but clicking through to a section takes me to the normally unwieldy Amazon marketplace. Fine. I will just select my way down the left-side navigation fields so that I’m only seeing Prime Day deals from categories that interest me. This will be great; I will curate Amazon into the catalog I need it to be and I will find my precious deal.

7:22 a.m.

Personalizing the feed of deals resulted in 147 pages. That’s too many pages. I go through a few, right-clicking to open a handful of products in new tabs. I quickly have 11 new tabs — in addition to my usual 20-something tabs. It’s too many tabs. I close the main tab, leave the product-only tabs open. It’s still a lot of tabs. I take a break from the tabs.

12:30 p.m.

After a mental break, I am back and excited to shop, quickly. How about kitchen supplies? There’s a bread-maker that is more than $90 off — that’s almost an entire Prime membership off! If I were to buy this, it would be like getting a free Prime membership … if it were a thing I had been planning to buy anyway, which it wasn’t. I don’t eat much bread, it always goes bad before I finish the bag. There’s a gluten-free setting, though; my gluten-free friends would be so impressed. I could throw a gluten-free brunch and have them over.

Why is Prime Day on a work day? Why not a nice boring Sunday so I can laze through the discounts guilt-free?

Remove the bread-maker.

2:15 p.m.

Since narrowing the deals down to my interests didn’t work, I realize the best course of action is to power through the deepest discounts in expensive categories. First stop is electronics — the Echo Dot is tempting; it’s only $35. It goes in the cart. Except … that’s only $15 of savings. Also, I know I would only use this as a kitchen timer. That’s a $35 kitchen timer. I already have an expensive kitchen timer — it’s called my iPhone. I don’t need a $35 Echo Dot kitchen timer. It leaves the cart. I need a break.

3:32 p.m.

I return to electronics deals. A Roomba knockoff is only $250. My parents have a Roomba, and they love it, and I love it, and the dogs hate it, and it’s cute. Done, in the cart it goes.

Except … I have hardwood floors. Save for one area rug, there’s really nothing for a Roomba to do around here. Why did I even put that in my cart? Maybe one day I will own a home that has enough carpet to warrant a robot cleaner that I can control from my phone, and I’m sure it will be even more satisfying if then, far in the future, I can think to myself, “I got these carpets cleaned without any labor for a fraction of the price it should have cost.” I aspire to be the kind of person who owns a knockoff Roomba and, better yet, the kind who thinks nothing of tossing a $250 robot vacuum she can’t use for, likely, years into her shopping cart.

I remove the knockoff Roomba.

4:05 p.m.

Electronics are too much pressure, it turns out. The best course of action, perhaps, is to go for quantity — maybe this is the year I buy all my conditioner in one fell swoop. Then each time I’m about to run out, I’ll know there are a spare 50 bottles of conditioner waiting … waiting where? I don’t have a garage, where are these bottles going? No conditioner. Maybe I’ll get really into K-Beauty products. I should probably research that, and … oh, good god, there are about 7.88 million Google results for “best K-Beauty products on Amazon.”

Remove conditioner and five K-Beauty products I don’t know how to use from cart.

4:53 p.m.

The deals are rapidly disappearing. The text messages asking “find anything good on Prime Day?” are increasing. I haven’t bought a thing. I open Amazon, scan the front page, close tab. Each time, I try to narrow the decisions down by dialing down into incredibly specific product categories: Shop all deals > Sports & Outdoors > Availability: Active > 50% off or more. That’s still 11 pages of deals. And when I try to pay attention to this slimmer catalog, below my options are ads for yet more deals. If I scroll even farther down the page, I’m met with a prompt about upcoming deals. The glut of choices renders me immobile.

I do this three more times. My laptop is starting to gently burn the tops of my legs.

I close all Amazon-related tabs.

5:02 p.m.

Prime Day is hounding me on Twitter.

5:04 p.m.

Resignedly, I put two bags of dental sticks for my dog and some lightly discounted Tupperware into my cart.

Wearily, hopefully, I scan down the page one last time. I purchase. I close the tab. I close every tab. I close my computer. I’m just happy it’s over.