Tips for how to buy on Amazon: What to look for, step-by-step

SAN FRANCISCO — We’ve all done it on Amazon: See, click, buy. Then the item you needed on Thursday doesn’t arrive for two months. Or it’s broken and the seller doesn’t answer emails. Or the hot water bottle you bought smells like a chemical factory. The good news is the information you need to avoid these problems was probably right there on the Amazon page — you just need to know what to look for. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to what Amazon tells you, and what it means.

What is it called?

First, type in the name of the thing you want to buy. That’s not always easy because sometimes you don’t know what the thing you want is called. Take the lamps that emit full spectrum light to help people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder when the days grow short. They go by multiple names, including SAD lamp, winter light and circadian rhythm setter.

Amazon’s algorithms will do what they can to help, offering suggestions when you type in just a word or two. It’s always worth scanning the list as it often gives you words you hadn’t thought of, which can turn up items closer to what you actually want. Or try different phrases to see what else pops up.

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