When I began purchasing vinyl from Amazon five years ago after getting my first turntable in years, I was getting LPs dispatched in lightweight boxes coming with damaged corners or seam splits, but they’ve since stepped up their game, and most vinyl purchases come double-boxed with air cushion pockets inside the outer box so items come in mint condition.
I’ve tested Discogs, but I just can’t navigate that website and give up. And even though I genuinely enjoy LP Reverb’s very thoughtful interface and user-friendliness, Amazon is the cheapest compared to other markets and can’t beat the free shipping.
But are there any cons to buying off Amazon? Less quality, or are the artists not getting the same share of sales? Is there any catch?
The problems people have with buying vinyl from Amazon are entirely situational, meaning you either had a worker at Amazon pack your record correctly or not, indicating you got a non-warped press or warped press, or the mail carrier either damaged your box or delivered it with care.
Benefits of Ordering Vinyl from Amazon
- Super fast delivery
- Items have been well packed
- Easy and FREE returns
- Competitive pricing – generally the lowest you’ll see (particularly for new releases)
- Ability to utilize reward points to lower the cost of your buys even further
Amazon has been pretty good about packaging. However, there are new policies to reduce packaging costs, so the Warehouse is now in a state of flux.
When ordering records from Amazon, check the box that says that “This product contains a gift.” The LP will then come in a box with bubble wrap, which is much better than the plastic bags they usually send. Worst case, it arrives damaged in the box; Amazon is easy to replace and sometimes even lets you keep the original record too.
I’ve only had a couple of issues. A 7-inch single was shipped in a 12″ album mailer, so it fell out during shipping, and I received an incorrect album once, but it came from Amazon in their shipper’s packing, mislabeled from Amazon’s shipper. But the return process was easy, and they worked to make me satisfied.
Now, I have heard of some people getting albums with inadequate packing. This has never occurred to me; not sure if it’s because I have Prime or if I’m just fortunate.
I wouldn’t advise ordering box sets from them if you can help it, and if you do, I suggest splurging on gift bag packaging since that shields the LP more. Single LPs are generally sent in record mailers, which are usually put in a bag or box.
I actually believe Amazon does a better job than the many other options. It says a lot about how a lot of things are handled! Sams Club is the worst – exploded cans, Target is quite bad, Lowes destroyed my new generator, and anything shipped by FedEx. It’s been over a year since an Amazon shipment was damaged, getting several packages a week on average. Amazon is also definitely the fastest by a considerable margin.
New policies suggest a reduction in added packaging. That makes sense since Amazon is taking a much more significant role in the delivery and has more influence to extend handling to the customer’s doorstep.
But likely, the packaging of something like a record, which is more delicate than an item packaged in Styrofoam with a retail box, will suffer until the policies have matured. So at this point, I would avoid buying records from the Warehouse.
If I’m shopping for a new record online and Amazon has the release I like, I’ll buy it from them every single time for one simple fact: they will always make it right if something goes wrong.
If something comes damaged from the press or the packaging at Amazon, it’s always a fast and FREE replacement.
I can’t tell that about Acoustic Sounds, Music Direct, Elusive Disc, etc. With other stores/sellers, there (understandably) are numerous conditions where they won’t return a record: damage from shipping, they argue it wasn’t in that condition when they sent it, they outright refuse because the vinyl has been opened, it’s a sealed record, and it’s not their responsibility if it’s scratched or warped, etc.
Even if you get a refund, typically, it involves some inconvenient/expensive/time-consuming return process and/or debate with the dealer over whether they should have to replace it.
With Amazon, it doesn’t matter why you’re returning it or what occurred. You’ll get a replacement or a reimbursement without any questions. Sure, it may take them a few swings, but you’re always going to end up with a copy you’re satisfied with or your money back.
Also, if you’re a Prime member, it’s hard to ignore that two-day shipping is included.
Should you buy from Amazon Warehouse? (I don’t)
Amazon Warehouse is typically selling faulty/damaged goods or customer returns. This is the big issue with it. You can decide if it’s worth the gamble for you.
All they are doing is determining if they can recoup losses from the return. Often they just put the returned items in the packaging it was included in and sent it to the Warehouse buyer.
Many times, they just put postage straight on the packaging. These aren’t new products, so they really don’t concern much about preserving the package.
I used to buy CDs from there, and occasionally they were as new with only a rupture in the plastic case. Then one time, a CD came in a plastic bag shattered into a hundred or more very sharp plastic bits. That was my last Amazon Warehouse order.
Cons of Buying Vinyl from Amazon
- There’s a chance of vinyl not being packaged in a proper vinyl box.
- You don’t know what color you are getting.
- They oversell. Sometimes I’ll pre-order a limited edition vinyl and never get it (they run out). Recently I missed out on an LP that is now worth 3x what it was when I placed my order for it.
- It’s probably kept in a warehouse, so it could come warped. But I have had this occur from dedicated record shops as well.
Another con for not ordering vinyl from Amazon is that it’s taking business away from your local record store. Or even from your favored Discogs seller (who could likely be somebody’s local record store).
Record stores used to have better distributorship that would get them new products on time and cheaper as they “buy in bulk,” but much of that has dissolved since the 90s.
Now, with everyone (like Walmart) dealing a little bit of vinyl, distributors don’t feel the need to help locals with on-time or cheaper distribution.
Some stores directly buy from Amazon now to supply shelves (because they know they can get it, even if they are not getting great prices), which really isn’t great, but they got a business to run and not many options.
My experiences with Amazon Europe
My experiences with other Amazon stores have been mixed but mainly positive. But, of course, as I purchase about 100-200 albums yearly, I’m bound to get unfortunate sometimes.
Amazon.de has been semi-successful.
I ordered the Dylan 35th anniversary concert vinyl box, which came in a box in original shrink wrap with the Amazon label stuck on it. Unfortunately, three corners of the box were crushed. I never even bothered to open it, I called customer support, and they were very sorry and told me to send it back for a full refund.
From Amazon.de, I also got one of the Black Sabbath Super Deluxe boxes, which had clearly been played. Unfortunately, the inserts were gone, they had no idea how it occurred but told me to send it back, and I got a replacement.
Three weeks ago, I ordered about 5-6 albums from Amazon.de again and saw in the tracking they were using a courier I had never ever heard of. A courier came with the package when I wasn’t home, and I got a tracking notification that the box had been “put inside the mailslot.” When I got home, there was nothing, no package, no slip. I went to 3 or 4 neighbors, but none had gotten a package. In the end, Amazon refunded me, but the package was still missing.
I’m now loathed to use Amazon.de again as they seem to use that totally incompetent courier more and more.
Amazon.fr has been great, but in the last year, they have been using fewer boxes and more paper bags with the album just put loosely in the bag and arriving really banged up.
After getting three of those in a row, I took the advice of a friend and had everything sent “gift.” And everything started arriving again in record mailers put inside an oversized boxes with some padding.
But last month, I got a Neil Young album (sent as a gift) in a paper bag again, and the gatefold was utterly thrashed. So I got on the phone again and asked if they would like to receive a “gift” this way. They offered me 50% in-store credit and told me I could keep the album; I declined and had to send it back before I got a new one (which I did, in mint condition). So the last four orders have all come in boxes again.
Amazon.nl has been a pleasure, with solid packing, speedy shipping, and step-by-step mail updates on where the package is at the moment.
Amazon.es and Amazon.it
I don’t often use it, but once in a blue moon, they have items in stock the other Amazons don’t have or have long sold out.
Both don’t offer free shipping, but it’s only five euros. All packages have arrived pretty banged up, likely due to the many borders they have to cross and passing it over from one courier to another, but only the outer boxes are torn and crushed; they always use padding and internal record mailers, so no objections so far.
Amazon.co.uk Used them for almost ten years without any problem, but due to Brexit, I had to stop using them and now haven’t purchased from them in two years.