10 Things You Can’t Buy on Amazon


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The online retailer sells (almost) everything

By Quentin Fottrell, Market Watch,

Amazon began as a humble online bookseller. Founded by Jeff Bezos nearly 20 years ago, the company has since evolved, stretching to include everything from groceries to fine art. And now it’s even poised to provide its own wireless service. But if Bezos’s goal is to turn Amazon into a store for everything, he still has a ways to go.

Here are 10 products not for sale on Amazon.com.
“Amazon.com may be the only place left in America where you can’t buy a gun,” says Abby Spangler, a gun control advocate and founder of ProtestEasyGuns.com. Shipping guns to consumers would be a logistical nightmare for the U.S. Postal Service, she says. However, the USPS does have special procedures for shipping guns between licensed dealers, collectors and manufacturers. And Amazon does sell air guns, BB guns and paintball guns, and 1,500-pound gun safes. (Also see: 5 things harder to buy than guns.)
Alcoholic beverages are (mostly) off the menu on Amazon. Verifying that a buyer is of legal age (21) makes selling alcohol difficult, experts say. More than 35 states allow some form of direct shipping, although laws vary. Last year, Amazon began permitting the sale, to preapproved sellers, of more than a thousand wines. Customers can shop by wine type or by region. “Our customers expressed interest in being able to purchase wine from great wineries around the country,” says an Amazon spokesman.
Real estate
Given that real estate is probably the biggest purchase a person will make in his or her lifetime, it might make sense to do more than take a virtual walk around the property, says Jeff Kagan, a technology consultant. “There are so many regulations on a local and state level that make buying real estate online almost impossible,” he says. Although online listings have become crucial to real estate sales, it’s unlikely the transactions will ever be possible with a single click. However, there are many online real estate sites where sellers of real estate can bypass agents — and their fees. (See also: 10 things real estate listing sites won’t say.)
Animals on Amazon? It’s not likely to happen soon, experts say. “Personally, I’m glad Amazon doesn’t sell pets,” says Yung Trang, president of deal aggregator TechBargains.com. Easy-to-rate goods like TVs and computers are far more suitable for online sales, he says. “Can you even imagine Amazon trying to ship a pet to you?” The American Humane Association, a nonprofit animal-welfare organization, opposes the sale of animals online, citing the safety risks of transportation among other issues.
Movie buffs and collectors may want to phone in a bid for the 1977 Lotus Espirit “submarine car” from the James Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me” when it goes up for auction, but dealers don’t advise using “one-click” to order a car that will get to the store and back without a hitch. “Sure, two-day free shipping with Amazon Prime would feel faster than the lengthy buying process at some dealerships,” says Mike Magrath, features editor at Edmunds.com. But buying a car online would rule out a test drive and could be costly to return.
While consumers can look up the cheapest fuel prices on sites like GasBuddy.com and GasPriceWatch.com, Amazon doesn’t allow people to buy fuel, given the obvious risks involved in transporting it. Perhaps surprisingly, not everyone thinks the fuel prohibition should be so strict. “You should be able to buy fuel on Amazon or at least a card that lets you buy fuel from a local station,” Kagan says. Wal-Mart sells a gas gift card. Online store SVMCards.net specializes in such gas cards from a variety of oil companies, and has nearly 40,000 retail gasoline stations in its loyalty and reward network.
Lottery tickets
Last year, in a move designed to help fill state coffers, Illinois became the first U.S. state to begin selling lottery tickets online to qualified state residents. But the world’s biggest online shopping website doesn’t allow states to use its website to sell lottery tickets. Amazon bans the sale not only of lottery tickets but also of coin-operated slot machines. Indeed, the 1961 Wire Act bans sports betting over communication wires. (See also: The best (and worst) states to buy a Powerball ticket.)
Cigar cutters, cigarette paper and even hookahs can be bought on Amazon, but nicotine is a no-no. That includes cigars, tobacco, cigarettes and electronic cigarettes. Tobacco laws vary from state to state. In most states, consumers must be 18 to legally purchase tobacco. In other areas — including Utah, New Jersey, Alaska and Washington, D.C. — it’s illegal to sell tobacco to those under the age of 19. Still, there are sites that sell tobacco online.
Prescription eyeglasses
Amazon sells sunglasses and frames for prescription eyeglasses, but it doesn’t allow its third-party vendors to sell frames with made-to-measure lenses. As an alternative, there are sites like EyeBuyDirect.com and WarbyParker.com that sell prescription eyeglasses. Customers must have a prescription to order online though. And as EyeBuyDirect’s instruction page shows, entering a prescription correctly might take practice.
Secondhand clothing
Resale sites like eBay, Dresm.com and others appear to have cornered the hand-me-down market. Amazon should encourage consumers to empty their closets, says Frank Poore, CEO of Commerce Hub, a company that provides cloud-based technology to retailers. Used clothing, particularly well-curated vintage clothing, is increasingly popular among young people and provides a high margin for resellers, he says. “This category would be perfect for Amazon’s Marketplace, where third-party sellers could offer selection, and poor sellers would be quickly eliminated through customer feedback,” Poore says.

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