Are some of the prices on Amazon a joke?

Every once in a while I’ll stumble upon a seller price for something on Amazon that gets me shaking my head.

Note the third price on this gig bag.

So is this a joke, money laundering, or is the price accidentally listed in Thai semi-pennies or something?

It is probably done by an automatic pricing algorithm that does not work very well.

This link is an article about two pricing algorithms that get into a loop and raise the price of a book to millions of dollars.

Here’s a blogger who reverse engineered some pricing algorithms that amazon sellers uses and shows how they can fail spectacularly when 2 or more algorithms interact. In that case, seller A was trying to set his/her price slightly higher than seller B while seller B tried to undercut seller A slightly. The factors were not equal. Hilarity ensured.


Thanks guys. That clears things up for me. I might have known an actual human being wasn’t being this stupid.

It’s probably supposed to be $30.00 with $1 off and the person fat-fingered it.

I once found one of my out-of-print books available on line for something like $3,000. Since I have a bunch of copies, I could have been rich - if a real person had actually been willing to pay such a price!

Actually my guess would be 29.99 with a missed ‘.’ Does Thailand use a comma instead of a period ala some European countries?

Yesterday, Amazon suggested to me a 2013 Get Fuzzy calendar. For a mere $4,556. Since it’s a single seller, no competing algorithms. (But you can get it by searching for other listings for only $16.) That’s a lot of dough for a calendar that’s only good for 3 more months.

But the real puzzle: Why was Amazon recommending this to me??? Not remotely related to anything I’ve bought.

The price of How To Avoid Huge Shipsis still rising. The comments section has gotten in on the fun.

From the 1 star section.


Explain this one-

$5.69 for 1 box of Kraft Mac & cheese? :dubious:

A lot of vendors who advertise “free” shipping on Amazon just combine the shipping fee into the sale price. So it’s probably a $1.70 box of mac and cheese with $3.99 shipping tacked on.

No, it uses the American system of a decimal point. The European comma in place of a decimal looks just as odd to a Thai as to your average American.

Thanks for the info! So probably just a fat finger then.

I wonder if that book really exists. Anyone know?

Along the lines of prices auto-adjusted between vendors, I have noticed, but not bothered to seriously document, that if I search for a particular item on the Internet, but don’t buy it right away, often the price at the same vendor the next day is higher. Maybe it’s confirmation bias or coincidence, but I’ve often suspected there was something going on as a result of my visit.

If it’s deliberate, it often backfires on the vendor, since if I didn’t want it badly enough to buy it right away, I’m probably not going to want it more at a higher price.

I know that these things always get categorized as algorithm issues, but I still wonder (deep down) if it is somehow (sometimes) part of a giant money laundering scheme. It’s possible!

Brendon Small

According to wikipedia,yes.

It’s a serious maritime operations guidance book. If wiki’s right, the joke comments came before the runaway pricing.

I sent an item back and after a few days it reappeared with a ridiculously higher price. I put that down to some deviousness or maybe the owner wanting to take it off the market.

There’s also the tactic of raising the price to avoid having to ship an item you don’t have, without marking it as out of stock. The idea is that, if someone does want to pay that much, you can just order it somewhere else yourself, send it to them, and still make a tidy profit.

Granted, this usually doesn’t involve as high of numbers as the other strategies, but it does result in some silly looking prices.

Some sellers have their algorithm set prices even if there aren’t any competitors.
The Repriceit site used to have an option to set all items without competition to a single pre-defined price.