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How Amazon's Dash buttons can thwart smart shopping

29 June 2016, 14:48

New York — Amazon is expanding its lineup of Dash buttons, its "Jetsons"-style devices that let you reorder a particular product with a single touch. The online retailer says the buttons offer "quick and easy" convenience — but they won't necessarily help you save money.

Amazon first introduced the buttons , which bear product logos and attach to household surfaces, around April Fool's Day in 2015. On Wednesday, it added 50 more brands to Dash, including Campbell's Soup, Nerf and V8 vegetable juice, bringing the total number of Dash buttons to 150.

Dash buttons are undeniably simple to use. You set them up with a smartphone via Wi-Fi, and can configure them to send order alerts to your phone in case you need to cancel. You'll need an Amazon Prime membership ($99 annually) and will get free two-day shipping in the U.S.

But Dash may not always be the greatest way to stretch your shopping dollar. Here's a look at some smart-shopping tactics that can fall by the wayside with Dash.



Dash buttons let you choose what size or type of product to order. For example, you can configure a Tide button for any of 14 different products, including a $13 box of detergent or a $27 container of 77 Tide Pods. But prices can fluctuate.

Mary Hanson-Busch, a medical technologist in New Prague, Minnesota, uses a Dash button for cat litter, and she noticed that the price of a 40 lb. box of Arm & Hammer cat litter changed from $10.49 to about $14 between orders. Still, she says the convenience of not having to lug home a box of cat litter is worth a few dollars. "It's so simple and easy to set up," she said. "I do like the convenience factor."

If you're not quite sure what you're paying, though, it's much harder to stick to a budget. The Dash button encourages piecemeal reordering, so it sometimes isn't clear when you'll be paying for what, either.



It's an old adage not to grocery shop when you're hungry, but Dash buttons can make it all too easy. If you hit the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish button one day when you're thinking about a snack, you could find yourself a few days later with a 6-pack of cracker boxes that you don't really want. Amazon gives you the option to cancel orders — but you have to log into your account, which sort of negates the time-saving "convenience" of the Dash button.

"Impulse shopping is something we warn against," says Benjamin K. Glaser, features editor for online deal site DealNews.com. "Having a shopping list and sticking to it makes it easier to resist impulses."



Stocking up in bulk isn't a great deal for items like perishable foodstuffs. But you can save quite a bit on products like toilet paper and laundry detergent by buying in bulk at warehouse clubs or elsewhere. A Dash button could make it easy to miss out on savings.



Dash buttons are ideal for people who are extremely loyal to one brand. Of course, manufacturers like them for similar reasons: They help brands stand out on Amazon's site and encourage people to reorder the same thing over and over again. (Amazon cites the ease of repeated orders as a plus.)

That's fine if you've discovered the best paper towels on Earth and will never willingly use anything else. But you probably won't be getting the best price, either.

"Deal hunters by nature are brand agnostic, and retailer agnostic, and this locks you into both a brand and a retailer," DealNews' Glaser said.

- AP


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