Amazon's The Great Indian Summer Sale sale is currently going on and like Flipkart's Big Billion Day - and the various other sales that sites like Snapdeal, Amazon, and Flipkart all seem to thrive on - it features a large list of items at apparently amazing discounts. What ensues is a mad scramble to buy the one product that really caught your eye, and the predictable disappointment that follows when you realise that it was sold out in the time it took for the page to load.
The companies have been at this for a while, and in the case of Amazon's latest sale there weren't any reports of people facing bugs or widespread site issues for a change, unlike earlier sales. On the other hand, the way in which the site is measuring deals can be a little off-putting.
If you look at any of the products, you'll see three prices - the MRP in small text, then the typical sale price, in a slightly larger font (both of which are crossed out) and finally, the deal price in large, red text. This is the only number that's unobscured, and right below it, you'll see your "savings" along with a percentage figure, showing the discount.
So, let's take the example of a WD My Passport Ultra 1TB external hard drive. The MRP listed is Rs. 6,825; the sale price is Rs. 4,099; and the deal price is Rs. 3,799. Amazon claims that there's a saving of Rs. 3,026, or a 44 percent discount.
Except that before the Great Indian Summer Sale started, Amazon was already selling the HDD for Rs. 4,099. You'll get it on Snapdeal for Rs. 4,112, and for Rs. 4,751 on Paytm. Yes, the Rs. 4,099 price is already a pretty good deal, but relative to the market, it's just competitive.
And once you know this, then the value of the deal is a lot lower than you thought, isn't it? On this item, Amazon is giving you a saving of Rs. 400, or a deal of approximately 10 percent - it's still great value, honestly, but it's a far cry from what you were led to believe, right?
The actual deals on offer are also fairly questionable at times - for example, the Xbox One is an Amazon exclusive, and the company has kept its price around Rs. 30,000 for a while now - the price was lowered to Rs. 29,990 for a bundle that included FIFA 15 in March. Right now, that's exactly what you'll get as one of Amazon's "blockbuster deals", complete with the same bundled game, for the same price.
Other deals include end of life products such as the Asus Zenfone 5 (which didn't sell out completely despite a 50 percent off tag), and the biggest deal, 89 percent off on the Salora KC12, which you could buy for Rs. 99 - that's actually pretty genuine, because the phone was mostly unavailable anywhere else, except for a few sellers who had it for Rs. 799 - but perhaps Amazon shoppers aren't quite in the market for such a basic phone, and the deal did not sell out completely.
The fact is that the various e-commerce platforms work because they are offering pretty big deals on a day to day basis. The prices of products on these sites are kept as low as possible and that actually led to complaints of predatory pricing - though the Competition Commission of India cleared them of these charges recently. But this also means that if they're going to hold a sale and try and promote it - and Amazon hired Leo Burnett to do this - then the deals should be equally impressive. Instead, they're just damp squibs.
Companies are spending big bucks on bland slogans and expensive advertisements. The results aren't exactly pretty and if the same funds weren't spent on big name agencies, but used to guarantee better deals to the customers, we'd probably care a lot more. For now though, the deals just feel hollow.