Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2012 Issue

Amazon Again Angers Main Street with Price Comparison Offer in Their Competitors' Own Stores

Amazon5pricecheck

Amazon's Price Check app.

Even as Amazon has begun to pacify “Main Street” retailers with their support for the Main Street Fairness Act concerning sales taxes (see article in this month's AE Monthly), the giant online bookseller and general retailer thoroughly antagonized the bricks and mortar crowd with a recent pre-Christmas offer. Any goodwill recently achieved quickly evaporated. Meanwhile, eBay, which has taken the other side to “Main Street” on the sales tax issue, rushed to local retailers' defense in this latest uproar.

This controversy has arisen over one of Amazon's “apps,” those ubiquitous pieces of software one downloads to smart phones and tablet computers. Amazon – and they aren't the only one – has designed an app that allows you to do comparison price checks. That concept is not so bad. In fact, it's nice to be able to search for the best price. However, what upsets Main Street merchants is that they encourage it to be used in their stores. In other words, you take your smart phone into the store, scan the bar code or otherwise describe the item you see there (by typing, speaking, or taking a picture). It then sends the information to Amazon, which immediately responds with the Amazon price. If the Amazon price is lower, which most often is probably the case, especially if it is a state where Amazon does not collect sales taxes, you can order it directly from them.

To Main Street merchants, this is dirty pool. The consumer is, in effect, using the Main Street shop as Amazon's showroom. They can look over or try out the item, even use the store's salesmen to explain its benefits and features. Then, the consumer turns around, presses a few buttons, and buys the item from Amazon – right there! The Main Street merchant pays for the displays and expertise, but receives nothing in return, not even a thank you from Amazon.

Now, if this wasn't bad enough, they felt Amazon was really rubbing it in their face when Amazon announced a special offer for December 10. On that day, Amazon announced, “...the simple act of price checking while shopping in physical retail stores will get customers an additional 5% discount (up to $5) off Amazon’s price on up to three qualifying products in eligible categories...” Ouch. Check the price while shopping in someone' else's retail store and you get an extra discount. Get even more people to price check while there, and maybe even send some people to Main Street who have no intention of buying there because it enables them to get an added Amazon discount. As Amazon so tactfully noted, “Amazon anticipates December 10th will be one of the biggest days of the year for Price Check.” Local merchants may not have shared Amazon's enthusiasm.

As if this was not enough said, Sam Hall, Director of Amazon Mobile, added, “The ability to check prices on your mobile phone when you’re in a physical retail store is changing the way people shop. Price transparency means that you can save money on the products you want and that’s a great thing for customers.” As yet, we have not noticed Amazon promoting transparency in the other direction, posting others' deals, or service and timing advantages offered by local retailers, next to items for sale on their website, but perhaps that is coming.

Amazon also encouraged their price checkers to send them the prices they found in stores. Mr. Hall explained, “We scour online and in-store advertisements from other retailers, every day, year-round. Now, we are enabling customers to use the Price Check app to share in-store prices while they search for the best deals. This is a powerful opportunity for customers to get involved and ensures Amazon customers get the best possible prices.”

We should point out that booksellers were not the target of this promotion. The categories were electronics, toys, music, sporting goods, and DVDs (though some booksellers sell music and DVDs). Nonetheless, the principle here, and its potential use against booksellers, elicited a sharp response from the American Booksellers Association. ABA CEO Oren Teicher published an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, saying, among other things, “We could call your $5 bounty to app-users a cheesy marketing move and leave it at that. In fact, it is the latest in a series of steps to expand your market at the expense of cities and towns nationwide, stripping them of their unique character and the financial wherewithal to pay for essential needs like schools, fire and police departments, and libraries.” The ABA has been in a long war of words directed at Amazon over the issue of sales taxes, and while pleased with the firm's decision to begin collecting those taxes in California next year, it was “outraged” by this latest action.


Posted On: 2012-01-01 00:00
User Name: George5133

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Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

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