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Spill It, Amazon: The Shopping Site's Best Tips and Tricks

A lot of Amazon's coolest and most useful features are hard to find.

There’s not a whole lot that Amazon doesn’t do. Heck, the company’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, recently showed off his futuristic plan for making local deliveries using drones. Drones! You could almost hear his competitors sighing as they threw up their hands in envious frustration.

But Amazon doesn’t always do the best job letting people know about its capabilities. Join me for a walk through the best tips and tricks to using Amazon, some of which are more well known and some that are hidden from view unless you know just the right way to find them. Happy hunting.


Donate .5 percent of nearly every purchase on Amazon to the charity of your choice. Approximately one million charities — including small organizations — participate in this program; find your cause by searching The shopping experience looks the same as usual on your screen, with a note in the top left that says “Supporting,” followed by the name of your charity, so you’re reminded of the donations Amazon makes for you as you buy.

Aveno Flow

Let It Flow

See something at a friend’s house that you’d love to get, but you’re afraid you’ll forget its name? Take out your phone (it must be an iPhone running iOS 7), open the Amazon app, select Search and choose Flow. Aim the phone at the item as if you’re about to take its picture, and watch as tiny blue sparkling dots appear on the screen, analyzing the product. As soon as it’s recognized, the item is added to your history. From here, you can choose specific versions of the item — let’s say, a three-pack of lotion — then add it to your shopping cart to buy it. Flow works with millions of items, but not everything. It’s best with packaged grocery and consumable goods, as well as books, DVDs and videogames.

Share Your Prime

Anyone who pays $79 a year for Amazon Prime membership gets free two-day shipping on more than 19 million items, streaming of 41,000 movies and TV episodes with Prime Instant Video, and access to 475,000 books to borrow from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. (Amazon is considering increasing this price by as much as $40, though it hasn’t specified a timeline.) Prime members can share their two-day shipping benefits with up to four family members living in the same household; instructions are found here.

Student Discounts

Anyone with a valid .edu email address can get six months of free two-day shipping on millions of items, as well as special offers and promotions, by signing up at After that, students can pay $39 annually — half the price of the regular Amazon Prime membership. This includes Prime Instant Videos and access to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

Warehouse Deals

Items that were previously opened and returned or refurbished are resold at discounted prices in Amazon’s Warehouse Deals, at Items range from small appliances to furniture to videogames.

Wanna Trade?

Tired of old books and gadgets taking up space in your junk drawer? gives people a place to swap their old items for monetary value in the form of Amazon Gift Cards. Though trade-in values can be small, the shipping is free by using prepaid UPS or U.S. Postal Service shipping labels.

Amazon Deals Alerts

Let’s Make a Deal

Like many other companies, Amazon jumped on the daily-deal bandwagon. Its Deal of the Day offers a different item each day, and Lightning Deals are offered for specified amounts of time, depending on the number of products in stock. All of these deals can be found at If you’d like to be notified of what’s being sold in Lightning Deals and/or the Deal of the Day, you can set your Amazon app to notify you by adjusting notifications in the settings section of the app.

Sunday Funday

Amazon has started Sunday deliveries via the U.S. Postal Service in the Los Angeles and New York metropolitan areas. This program will continue to roll out in Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Phoenix, among other cities. It’s also possible for items ordered on Sundays to be delivered on Mondays, and for items to be delivered on Sundays in cities other than New York and Los Angeles, though these aren’t normal occurrences at this time.

Instant Gratification

For $3.99 per item, Prime members can get same-day delivery using Amazon’s Local Express program — no drones involved (yet). People who don’t have Prime can calculate same-day shipping costs at This works in 11 major cities, including Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; New York City; Dallas and Chicago.

Gift Cards

Know someone who you think wants an Amazon gift card? Give it to them via Facebook by connecting your Facebook account to Amazon at Choose a regular card or video card, a dollar amount, and select the recipient’s name. The message and digital gift card notification appears on your and the recipient’s Facebook timelines at a date you choose.

Amazon Winie

Who Knew?

Amazon has special Web pages set up to sell certain categories of products, so they don’t get lost in the shuffle of everything else on the website. sells wine of all kinds, letting people search by grape varietal, ratings and tasting notes. You can also sort by regions in the U.S., like Oregon’s Willamette Valley, or international regions, like the Central Valley of Chile. sells more than 40,000 works of fine art, sortable by subject, style, price and artist. And narrows down categories of apparel on a Web page that’s significantly more attractive than Amazon’s homepage.

Desperate for Help

If you’re frustrated by an experience on Amazon, you may be even more frustrated that you can’t immediately find a customer service number on the website. Instead, people get directed to Skip the digital runaround by calling 1-888-280-3321.

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