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For the most part quit buying most non-name brand items as I was getting a lot of Chinese junk.

Ordered a couple of books to take on a ski trip six days ahead of time. One came day before I left and other was waiting on me when I got back.

While reading my book, I saw that the publisher's recommended price was $38 and I had paid $56. When I got back, I also discovered that I had bought a previous edition. Checked the other book that I had bought for $16.99 and noted it was now for sale for $42.95.
Bought a lot of hiking equipment last year. While shopping for a certain model rain jacket, noted that AMZN had them for sale from $55 to $249. You could buy any color currently being produced from the manufacturer for $99, so why would anyone pay $249. Bought from Moosejaw for $59, the one for $55 from AMZN was in a discontinued color and not available in my size.

Was Amazon the actual seller on these items? or were they third-party sellers but fulfilled by Amazon? or third party sellers fulfilling themselves? Were any of them Prime items?

While Amazon facilitates the purchase, payment and conveying the order to third party sellers, the experience with them is much more of a dice roll. I'm not that surprised by the variability of your experience. I try to avoid the third party sellers who don't use fulfillment by Amazon wherever possible for this reason.
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