Local Bookstores Call For Boycott Of Amazon For Advertising Their Prices

from the can-we-call-you-hollywood-video? dept

Amazon has faced controversy in the past. They’ve been involved in ongoing state sales tax disputes, mostly brought on by people who can’t figure out what it means to actually have a corporate presence within a state. There have been patent disputes over one-click technology. Even issues of working conditions have raised their ugly heads. But now we will witness the most evil action ever by Amazon: price advertising.

Yes, according to a Huffington Post piece, we learn that Amazon is seeking to make lower priced versions of retail goods easier to find for customers. They’ve released their Price Check App for smartphones. You’ll never guess what it does…it does price comparisons for you! It works like many similar apps, utilizing the phone’s camera to scan the barcode of items in retail stores and then listing any identical products and their price through the Amazon online store. Fortunately, we consumers have a savior from this superevil, money-saving device that certainly isn’t the first of its kind.

Yes, retail bookstores, in what may be the single most backward thinking request of all time, are asking the general public (i.e. customers) to boycott Amazon due to the release of this phone app. For those too busy playing solitaire to really think this through, let me break this down for you. Amazon can offer goods at lower prices than many retail stores, they release an app that allows consumers to verify whether that’s the case on an individual product, the customer stands only to save money through this app, and retailers are asking customers to boycott the company saving them money over it. It’d be like boycotting a doctor for offering a cancer cure because, well, what about all the other doctors who have been making money offering chemo treatments?

Now for the fun part. Some quotes from the article.

“This Saturday, Amazon will offer Price Check customers an extra incentive: up to five dollars off products whose barcodes are scanned using their app. The effect of this is to encourage consumers to use their local brick-and-mortar stores as “showrooms,” while not spending money supporting them.”

Gasp! Encouraging folks to browse stores for items and then price shop them to get the best deal? And, more to the point, actually providing the consumer with the tools to do so? It’s like something Lex Luthor would do! Where the hell is Superman to stop this dastardly customer-friendly company?

“David Didriksen, president of Massachusetts-based Willow Books & Cafe, told Publishers Weekly that the offer is “another in a long series of predatory practices by Amazon. You would think that a company of that size would be willing to just live and let live for small retailers who can’t possibly affect them. But, no, they want it all.”

Uh oh. Apparently Superman got hit one too many times in the head. What does the size of a company have to do with anything? Either you can compete with them, or you can’t. And here’s a fun question: what competitive act has a company ever taken in the existence of business that couldn’t be called “predatory” by its competition? And, to put the ridiculous cherry on top of this nonsense sundae, Amazon’s $5 off offer doesn’t even apply to books!

Maine Senator Olympia Snow, seeing something grand and wishing to stand on it, called on Amazon to cancel the promotion because “paying consumers to visit small businesses and leave empty-handed is an attack on Main Street businesses that employ workers in our communities.”

First, Amazon isn’t paying them to leave a shop empty-handed, they’re promoting their new phone app and offering a discount on purchases made using it. Secondly, Amazon employs folks too, the overwhelming majority of them in the United States, so put the jobs nonsense aside as well. Maybe we should go back to bookstore owners to find a real idea on how to compete with this app.

“Meanwhile, Third Street Books in McMinnville, Oregon has chosen to mark Amazon’s Price Check offer with a counter offer of their own: on Saturday, customers will get 15 percent off their purchase, plus a $5 gift certificate. All they have to do is provide proof that they have cancelled their Amazon account.”

Uh huh. Let’s ignore the fact that Amazon provides much more than books, so your coupon doesn’t have all that much value over an Amazon account. Let’s ignore the fact that there are several other barcode scanning price check apps already on smartphone markets. Let’s ignore the fact that Amazon’s $5 promo doesn’t apply to books. Let’s ignore the fact that, even if we grant that droves of customers are going to spend hours mulling through retail bookstores scanning book after book after book, don’t folks do the opposite all the time? Who doesn’t browse or search products online and then go buy them retail, either for convenience, for atmosphere, or because they don’t want to wait for the product to ship?

Perhaps its time local bookstores concentrate on what they can offer to compete with Amazon: their atmosphere. Not unlike the home-viewing vs. movie theater quandary, mom and pop bookstores can add value to the shopping experience. They can have staff picks of books, offer advice on purchases, offer reading clubs and writing classes, sell rare/used books, partner with food vendors for things like coffee, have book-signings, etc. So stop trying to convince your customers to boycott another company for making their lives better and start competing by also making consumers’ lives better.

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Comments on “Local Bookstores Call For Boycott Of Amazon For Advertising Their Prices”

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Rob says:


Let’s ignore the fact that EVERY bookstore I’ve been to locally sells books at the cover price, which is always at least 15% more than Amazon’s price. This book seller isn’t even offering to match Amazon’s price.

This kind of nonsense would make me far more inclined to create a new Amazon account for every member of my family, then march us all in to “cancel our accounts” in front of his eyes, and walk away with some gift certificates. They might make good presents for someone who buys overpriced books at his store.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yup, that would be cool, except:

What Amazon is doing here is not competing on better service or better products, only on better price. They are “allowing” the brick and mortar stores to do the “service” for them, providing them a defacto physical location to work from, where products can be touched, examined, heck, even a few pages read… and then the sell it to them for a lower price because they aren’t paying for a brick and mortar location.

It’s a bullshit ploy, and makes Amazon look both cheap and desperate. If you get the service you want from the B&M store, why not pay a little more and encourage them? What Amazon is doing is breaking the connection between the consumer and the store, basically telling them it’s alright to leech off the store and then take your money elsewhere.

Amazon is off my list of places to buy from now.

John Doe says:

Re: Re: Re:

You have listed a triangle of areas that businesses compete on, service, price and product. Given the same products, the local bookstore and Amazon are competing in only 2 of those areas, service and price. Price is easy to evaluate. Service is not as easy. Service could be return policy, help finding item, suggestions, store lighting, comfort, etc. This is where the brick & mortar store can separate themselves from Amazon.

They can offer live, knowledgeable help instead of search results. They can have a comfortable place to sit and review a book. They can have coffee and food available. All sorts of possibilities are available. But if they don’t offer those possibilities, then they have chosen to not compete in the one main area that could set them apart.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yes, but in the end – especially in economic hard times – price is champion. What Amazon is doing is sponging off the local stores, allowing them to spend the money to create the atmosphere and to sell the product, and then when it comes time to actually “make the sale”, amazon steps in, undercuts them on the spot, and takes the money.

It’s a scummy way to do business.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Except amazon isn’t stepping in, the customer is pulling out their available tools to comparison shop. The situation is absolutely no different in kind from 20 years ago having a customer walk in with a print add from a competing business, finding the item they are interested in and evaluating it, then price checking the store’s price against the add. Was that scummy too?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Is that what you do? I see comments about price comparison and already being in the store.

I see comments about being helpful and making the sale.

I get the feeling that you would indeed do exactly what you are complaining about.

No wonder you have such a hateful outlook on this. I see it as an opportunity for the book store.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You honestly think that once a customer is in the store holding the thing that they want they’re going to wait for Amazon to ship it to them if the brick and mortar store is offering a price that’s remotely competitive? Any rational consumer is going to look at price differences of less than 5% and think ‘well why not just buy it now?’ I know that’s what I do, why not add a dollar or two and just get things right now?

The idea that Amazon is doing anything but a favor for brick and mortar stores by encouraging customers to go out and visit them, by getting them in the door, is ludicrous. The idea that price comparison shopping is ‘leeching’ even more so. You’re just making excuses for businesses to over-charge their formally captive consumer bases. Would you honestly feel the same way if a brick and mortar store printed their prices on sheets of paper and encouraged customers to visit other stores and comparison shop (which is exactly what many stores did and still do with print adds )? Either way you’re a hypocrite, I mean it’s a self contradictory philosophy on its face the idea that price competition is anathema.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

What? can’t you make an online store too?

Tesco in South Korea found a way to be just as big as the local competitors that have a larger footprint.
Tesco – Homeplus virtual store

That may be to much to ask right?

You see in the future all operations may be like Netflix with a storage room somewhere and all dealings done in virtual stores.

gorehound (profile) says:

I do support local book stores over Amazon.I have an awesome 1300 piece collection of books.Lots of old rare items.303 vintage pulp magazines.
If all you people do is click on Amazon to get books those really cool family owned businesses will fold leaving more lives destroyed and more unemployment.
I buy local first !
Support your Town before it is to late for any Retail Cool Stores.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And there a good reasons to support good local bookstores, even if their prices are higher. I had a local bookstore where I grew up that created an amazing atmosphere, with poetry/fiction readings, coffee/food, and was ultimately a great place not just to buy a book, but to read it as well.

And those are the things these local bookstores should be focused on. If their prices are higher, they can certainly justify that….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

As a reminder, the Internet and all things related will not replace the local book store or any other store.

What it does is open up more opportunities for me to buy what I want or didn’t know existed before. It helps me to know what a fair price is vs. a jacked up price.

I love book stores for he environment and the immediate gratification of getting what I want.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I do support them too. But maybe, just maybe, they could offer lower prices to compete with Amazon. Doesn’t have to be much lower. Suppose you go to the store and scan a book and it’s just 2-3% more expensive than Amazon. Why bother going to the site and buying to wait it (along with paying transport fees) when you can buy now?

Also, the store offers a nice cozy place for reading, I might as well as get a coffee from their coffee shop and enjoy the book right here right now.

Can you see where I’m going at?

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You see the problem isn’t one of local vs Amazon, though that makes for nifty grandstanding.

Someone mentioned a triangle so I’ll offer up one of my own. Ma and pa local book stores, by far the best way to shop for a book largely got pushed out of business not by Amazon but by big retail chains.

Around here that’s called Chapters/Indigo. Ignorant staff who spend more time socializing than serving customers, the occasional staff pick even if you are left wondering what their meds were when they selected the book and high prices. Nice loss leaders near the front door or the Starbucks (like we need another one of those) renting space in the corner then when you dive in finding the prices on their books actually higher than the ma and pa place you just visited who are at least familiar with what’s on their shelves. If anyone is “predatory” it’s been that bunch.

I DO support my one local book store who stock rare and used books and is simply a wonderful place to browse and see what I can find. And I’ve found a few treasures.

In the meantime, back to the chain/megastore it’s ironic that I can find more of what I want to read on Amazon and of local interest there than at the megastore. Including, amazingly enough a more up to date road/street/hiking map of the area. The latter being a pastime/practice that’s widely done here and brings tourists here. Chapters/Indigo meanwhile, will happily sell you a recent self guided walking tour map, completely up to date, of Toronto where their head office is located but is 3500 miles east of here.

Local ma and pa bookstores, the few that are left, I support. Chains and mega-book-stores I don’t. And, it seems to be the latter complaining.

All I can say is so sad, too bad. When you can match the knowledge and customer care of a small book store and the pricing and selection at Amazon maybe I’ll come back. Just don’t hold your breath.

Yogi says:


Competition sucks.
It’s kind of a status symbol – if you have to compete, that means that you are just a poor slob trying to make a living in the world.
Real capitalists don’t compete – they buy senators and representatives, then they write laws forbidding competition in their specific area of commerce.

Retail booksellers have to get organized and emulate the RIAA/MPAA tactics, because obviously the only way to compete is to outlaw the competition.

Anonymous Coward says:

I go to book stores to browse for something interesting, for something old and a cup of good java (Hopefully).
I shop at Amazon when I can’t be bothered to fight traffic, the crowds or inflated pricing.

Seriously, if there is something I want, I’ll just buy it. The easier you make it for me to buy it, price generally not an issue, I’ll buy it.

But if I have to drive for 1/2 an hour to find a spot to park, dig up multiple quarters for the meter and then deal with pissy clerks, why did I bother?

Amazon is just making it more worth my time to see that 15% of less off isn’t worth my waiting 2-10 days to get the book shipped to me vs. the instant gratification of buying it there and then.

John Doe says:

I use the Amazon and other shopping apps a lot

Sometimes it is for price checking but most times it is for checking reviews. I don’t see the local stores offering reviews of the products. Best Buy puts ratings on their shelf tags, but I still like checking other sources for reviews.

As a case in point, I was looking for some hiking boots and stopped by a local outdoors store to look at a model of boot that I had years ago. After checking reviews online, I found out that all the reviews in the last couple years were 1 star. Apparently the company changed hands and moved their mfg to another country (guess where?). Now the local shop owner didn’t tell me that the boots suck. She was perfectly willing to let me shell out good money on bad boots.

I don’t know what the future holds for local shops, but I don’t have the money to buy locally all the time.

LumpyDog (profile) says:

I’m really fond of John Stich’s comment in the article:

“When we see shoppers taking pictures with their phones or using the app, we won’t go so far as to be rude or ask them to leave, but sometimes we’ll be sarcastic about it, and ask them, ‘Hey, what’s that app? How cool!'”

Because being sarcastic to customers is an awesome way to win them over.

S (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Exploiting a store’s willingness to house your cheap ass — providing you hands-on browsing of the book, etc — so you can just rip them off by running off somewhere else AFTER MAKING USE OF THEIR FACILITIES is so unbelievably rude that they have no obligation to be polite to you:

Remember, people doing this sort of shit aren’t customers, they’re parasites.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Next up for the SOPA crowd in the US Congress. Ban comparison shopping at bookstores, between bookstores and Amazon. That’s infringing copyright you darned pirates you!

Not that comparison shopping, browsing and perhaps a cup of coffee in the corner haven’t existed since the first bookstore opened.

There’s an industry at risk, dammit!

(Oh, and my best buddy and funding lobbyist from the offended bookstore has had no influence on me whatsoever. None at all. I promise!)

LumpyDog (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

A mentor of mine once said to me, “Remember, you’ll never win a pissing match with a client.”

He was speaking of the service industry in which we both work, but the same applies to customers. Arguing that they’re beholden to buy something from you just because they set foot in your store is a fight you won’t win. It’s THEIR money. You have to give them a reason to spend it with you.

Vincent Clement (profile) says:

Re: Re:

How dare people price check? 15 years ago, my wife wanted to buy me a new aquarium with all the accessories and a stand as a birthday present. We went to a local family-owned store.

We jotted down some of the things she could get me including the price – she wanted to use her own earnings and wanted an idea of how much everything would cost.

A salesperson came over and asked us to not write down things. We told him what it was for, but he seemed to believe we working for the newly-opened PetsMart. We left and I haven’t bought a single thing at that store and have never recommended it to a single person.

So the local people can take their “buy local” mantra and shove it up their ass.

Anonymous Coward says:

One of these days, the small mom ‘n pop stores are going to have to realize that they can’t compete with big online retailers head to head. They have to find their niche and exploit it. It’s why (just as one example) local bakeries can thrive despite the existence of mega-corps like Wonder and Sarah Lee.

Asking for a boycott is just laziness on the part of the small business owner.

Ramon Casha (profile) says:

Why don't restaurants allow you to bring your own food and eat at their tables?

What Amazon is doing is telling people to go into the local store (which has to pay the overheads of running a shop), browse through it to find the book they want, then buy that book from Amazon so that Amazon essentially uses them as their shop fronts but then cheats them out of their profit.

Local bookstores should cover up all the barcodes.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Why don't restaurants allow you to bring your own food and eat at their tables?

They would have to cover up the ISBN as well. Oh and the title. Can’t have people doing a title search. The book description would also allow people to google the book.

The best way to win customers is to make shopping as inconvenient as possible.

LumpyDog (profile) says:

Re: Why don't restaurants allow you to bring your own food and eat at their tables?

No, what Amazon is telling them to do is be smart shoppers. That’s called competition. Smart retailers will play to their strengths; offering an inviting environment, the personal touch, etc. Stupid ones will pull stunts like covering up barcodes, which is the equivalent of saying, “F*** you, customers.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why don't restaurants allow you to bring your own food and eat at their tables?

Are you nuts? Do you see in black and white?
Amazon helps me find things and gives me a an idea if I’m getting ripped off or not. Just because there is a $2 difference in ordering the book (Which I will have to wait for.) or just buying it then and then. I’ll but the damn book.

Hiding bar codes just tells me that the bookstore is afraid of competition. Then I will leave and go to another bookstore (Since I’m out and about anyway.).

You really need to see that there is a benefit to having multiple tools at your disposal and what immediate gratification means.

And FYI – Seeing reviews of the item I scanned is very nice to have. Helps me buy something I’ll be sure to enjoy rather than a POS.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why don't restaurants allow you to bring your own food and eat at their tables?

“Local bookstores should cover up all the barcodes.”

No, what local bookstores should do is go up to someone who is “barcode browsing” and say: “Are you on an Amazon bargain hunt? If you buy a book from my store right now, I’ll do you a X% discount”.

That’s how you gain costumers: you treat them like people, not like walking dollar signs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why don't restaurants allow you to bring your own food and eat at their tables?

Bravo. You’ve just invented possibly the most stupid form of DRM for physical books. What a genius idea – piss off customers, make the experience of shopping online even more attractive and kill off local shops even quicker.

I sincerely hope any local shop owners who have the misfortune to hear idiotic ideas like yours have sense enough to discard for the rubbish they are.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Why don't restaurants allow you to bring your own food and eat at their tables?

To answer the question you ask on your title it’s mostly local food safety rules and laws that prevent it. Where they’re relaxed some restaurants indeed do allow it. They know they’re more than likely going to get orders for what they really make money on anyway..booze even if you bring your bagged lunch in. Or you’ll buy sides or just sniff the daily special cooking and grab that instead. Nothing reads “impulse” buy quite like food, you know.

As for the rest of it there are plenty of reasons to patronize the ma and pa places for reasons other than price. Where you can find them after the chains and megastores drove them to the brink long before Amazon walked in with their little phone app.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Why don't restaurants allow you to bring your own food and eat at their tables?

Okay then. Local bookstore has covered up their barcodes. Customer strolls in, looks at books on shelf, picks one up and brings it to the till. Cashier swipes it across the barcode reader…only to fail. Because the barcode is covered. Cashier keeps trying, asks manager, manager turns out to be the guy who suggested this nonsense, tells the customer “We covered the barcode to stop you from doing price checking…we just didn’t think more than one move ahead and completely forgot we NEED the barcode to complete the sale”. Customer gets annoyed, walks out empty-handed and more than likely swears not to shop at that store again, and more than likely will also tell people about this.

There, the ONLY sequence of events that could follow from your completely absurd suggestion.

teka (profile) says:

Re: Re: Why don't restaurants allow you to bring your own food and eat at their tables?

i do not mean to come out too strongly in favor of this complaint but your reply is silly.

It is not an entirely new or novel thing for booksellers (or any other store) to cover the standard pre-printed UPC on a book (or any product)with their own barcode sticker. This allows them to do their stocking or record-keeping in their own format instead of relying on the UPC.

Not to say that this will always be the Best reaction, but your “ONLY sequence of events” is just as mixed up as the “theft of store service” idea.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why don't restaurants allow you to bring your own food and eat at their tables?

So you’re telling me:
1. They drove all the way to that store.
2. Found parking – Never easy in my town. (And change for the meter.)
3. Went in to the store. (This is normally considered a win for a store.)
4. Found the exact book they are looking for. (Holding it in their hands.. Also normally considered a win for the store.)
5. Scanned it with an App (There are many apps that do this type of thing by the way – Red Laser.)
6. And then left?? Only if the price difference was massive.

So far I count 2, possibly 3, solid opportunities to make a sale.

What are you afraid of? Talking to the customer?

notovny (profile) says:

Also, the bar code exists to help the bookstore. I doubt it’s worth the time and expense for the local bookstore to cover up the ISBN and bar code of every book they have. They’d aso have to change their POS software to deal with whatever it is they use to track the books instead of the bar code.

I’d guess loss to be small. If you’re the type of person to enter a bookstore and use an Amazon app to get an instant price comparison on a book, you’re probably the type of person who would have checked Amazon first on most books you were planning to buy.

The app primarily makes it easier for you to do so on an impulse-buy book. But an impulse-buy book, at least for me, is a book I want right now, not one I want two business days or more from now.

Anonymous Coward says:

One of these days, the small mom ‘n pop stores are going to have to realize that they can’t compete with big online retailers head to head. They have to find their niche and exploit it.

They do have a niche, it’s called a physical store front.

If you want to put your hands on an item, or ask someone live about it (be it books or anything else) you should probably be willing to pay for it locally. If these extras do not mean anything to you, buy online. BUT, please fo not expect support from local businesses before or after. By saving money, you have decided to forego these extras.

I understand local businesses cannot compete on price. If I need the value adds they offer, I buy local. If not, I buy online.

c.meyer (profile) says:

Small Town Business

I don’t know how many of you live in a small town, or have lived in a small town, but brick and mortar stores are the lifeblood of a small town. They provide more benefits than just a place to shop, they provide community and a return of spending to the area. As an example, I’ll use a small town near my hometown, Malone, NY. Look it up. About 20 or so years ago, it was a booming town, filled with life and brick and mortar stores. Now, with the advent of Walmart and other such stores, the downtown area is dead. Almost no open stores besides the larger stores that sell goods like a general store…everything else has shut down because people have gone to Walmart. How does that help an area that is dependent upon small business to stay afloat? When you buy local, you are contributing to local economies in more ways than just purchasing a good. You are supporting local schools, libraries, and other retail businesses, and places like restaurants and such. I have no problem with people making money, but not all of us can afford to live in a city and have access to good paying jobs.

That being said, and now that its out of my system, I do have a problem with business banning this practice/app. We have a wonderful bookstore the next town over that is thriving because it has managed to change its practices to fit the current era. They hold a story-time for kids, where children come in and listen to a store employee read them a story from a large picture book. They support local authors and do book signings, readings, and have branched out into art supplies and other specialty goods…They have connected with their customers and reaped the benefits. Their customers might have found a better deal on amazon for their book, but they know they will get superior customer service from this local shop.

Brad (profile) says:

Re: Small Town Business

Those stores you mourn had crap selection, extremely inflated prices, and limited hours. Heck, many of them were probably closed on Sundays. If it wasn’t for the Internet and Walmart, people in Malone would be driving to Montr?al all the time to get a better selection, even if things are more expensive north of the border. (For all I know, they do. The closest I’ve been is Ithaca, and I can assure you that if it weren’t for the large chains there everyone would still burn metric buttloads of gas driving to Syracuse.)

This is the same sense of entitlement British merchants have ? they can’t be bothered to have trading hours, inventory, or any other reason at all for customers to visit, and then wonder why the grocery stores have turned into general-merchandise stores. “Throw money at my closed doors” is not a sustainable business plan; moaning about how nobody will burn their vacation time to shop at your store, instead of at a merchant that actually wants the business, accomplishes nothing but making sure everyone gets the message to not even bother with your third-rate establishment.

Anonymous Coward says:

For those few who think this is terrible of Amazon you do realise it goes both ways right? I used their barcode scanning app the other day to buy a book set for ?30 from a physical retailer vs. Amazon who are selling it for ?40. So not only was it ?10 cheaper but I have the added bonus of instant gratification.

Competition is good for the consumer and the only reason local retailers will lose out is by not being competitive.

Alessar (profile) says:

Make It an Opportunity

Instead of whining that people want to comparison shop, the local bookstores should turn this event into an opportunity. Amazon is offering $5 off for using their ap? How about on Saturday the local bookshops give customers a $5 off coupon good that day only? Promote their customer service; have refreshments for the holiday shoppers. Emphasize that if you buy local, you can carry it out the door today with no shopping hassle. Maybe do some free gift wrap or have a local charity wrapping presents for donations. Offer services.

I was recently in a local bookstore killing time, and someone came in looking for the first book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. The employee provided half-assed service, they didn’t actually have the book in stock despite what their store computer said. The customer said she wanted something to read so all they offered was to special order the book. There was no attempt to offer a suggestion of something else good to read … I used to manage a Waldenbooks 15 years ago, I know what I’m talking about.

Anonymous Coward says:

Amazon undercuts retailers by dodging taxes. In Texas these taxes are how we fund state government. Just like WalMart they don’t offer a better price in an honest fashion- they abuse their size to negotiate sweetheart tax deals so they can bludgeon small competitors. Except in Amazon’s case they didn’t even cut the sweetheart deals they just willfully exempted themselves from having to collect sales tax. Mike you’re wrong on this one.

Andy says:

I can understand why shops get annoyed...

People walk into shops so that they can then touch/read/examine the goods. The physical contact is an important part of the process.

Amazon doesn’t have this. Amazon shoppers rely on ‘knowing’ that the goods are the ones they want. Often this is easy – it’s the the new album from the group that you already like.

Where Amazon shoppers need to choose between items may rely on comments *or* they’ll go to their local shop to physically examine the goods.

Having got that far, the shop stands a chance that you might purchase there and then just because your are there. However, in the back of your mind you suspect that its cheaper on Amazon. If you have an app’ to price-check you’ll *know* that it’s cheaper on Amazon and that knowledge then plays a large part in the buying decision.

In many cases, shops end up simply servicing Amazon customers needs to touch things. It’s excellent for Amazon, as they don’t have to pay for all these shops but it’s not so good for the shops themselves.

Amazon aren’t providing the app’ as an altruistic gift!

Dustin says:

Have you noticed that Barnes and Noble has suddenly decided that they don’t want customers to get too comfortable looking at their books?
They used to have large chairs scattered around the store, benches near the magazine racks, or other places to sit and look at books. No more. They took them all out.
Because of this, I rarely visit any more. If I can’t grab a bunch of books, look thru them to see if they are what I’m after and be comfortable doing it, why bother? I might as well be shopping on-line, save the gas, save some money, and avoid the hassle. At least I can get reviews online.

S (user link) says:

Are you idiots really this blind?

Timothy, and all you commenters, you’re just plain wrong here – for a few different reasons.

First: this is almost precisely analogous to a super-market which sells sandwiches, encouraging you to go into a restaurant, seat yourself, and then eat their damned sandwich while the waiter refills your water and cleans up the mess.

In the Winter, stores pay heat; in the Summer, AC; either way, they’re paying money — and you are profiting from it — to lend you the privilege of visiting their location. You don’t have to sweep up the floor, you don’t have to pay the electricity bill, and so on.

They are paying all of this to offer you the primary differentiation factor a bookstore can offer: immediate purchase, and hands-on interaction with the product — both of which are things that Amazon has opted out of in order to avoid having points of presence in most states.

Now, there is nothing wrong with price comparison, and there is nothing wrong with refusing to buy from a bad store; if a store is RUDE to an actual customer, they don’t deserve ANY business from that customer — or their friends — because they blew it.

However, this isn’t simple price comparison; that resembles a call: “Hello, XXX Books? Do you have YYY? How much? Thanks; bye.” And that is the model one should use if one is purely interested in saving money.

Another reasonable scenario: walk in, find a good book, look at the cover price — and realise it’s WAY more than you want to pay — so you walk out again and start looking for a copy at a price you can handle, essentially reverting to the previous case.

However, what is happening here is more along these lines:

Amazon wants to have its cake and eat it too. They want to not have points of presence, for tax reasons and to save on overhead, but they still want their customers to buy from them as if they did — so they’re saying, “Hey — go over to that store over there and pretend it’s us — and we’ll give you this app to make it easier to ignore that the store in question is a business of its own which is rendering you a service by letting you in their doors!

This is slimy; this is wrong. It’s not illegal, and it’s not even monopolistic, but it’s flat out immoral.

The commenters of Techdirt, of all places, should appreciate the fact that one can do things which are strictly legal (UMG, anyone?) and still slimy as hell.

The irony here is just sickening: because this isn’t one of the issues most of you mouth-breathers are up in arms about, you’re willing to pretend it’s not a problem, even though it follows the PRECISE SAME PRINCIPLES as many other issues you are up in arms about.

S (user link) says:

Re: Are you idiots really this blind?

I forgot to mention something about all of this:

There is one very, very simple way that Amazon could make this a fair and reasonable situation:


In other words, if a customer goes into a store and “price checks” a dozen different items — the store has in effect rendered Amazon a service, if the customer buys those items from Amazon.

If Amazon offered even remuneration to stores where this happened frequently, then they would essentially be renting show-rooms and directing their customers there — a fair and equitable arrangement.

Obviously they can’t pay every store where this ever happens even once, but if a store hosts a dozen of Amazon’s customers who buy a hundred books between them, that store has helped boost Amazon’s sales and refusing to recognise that is simply disgusting.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Are you idiots really this blind?

Is your book store going under? Seems like you latched on this issue with some desperation.

If I take the time to drive, find parking, and get in to the store, there’s a 95% chance I will buy that book or something anyway.

The Amazon app just gives me feedback on price variance and reviews. It’s not like I can get the book dropped in to my hands that very second. If that was the case, I’d have to agree with you then.

I say offer to help the customer, engage them in some conversation and I’ll bet they will buy. Be rude or angry that the customer is trying to figure out if the price variance is worth the shipping time and or the reviews like it, will just drive that person away.

I see it as an opportunity to impress that person and make a new repeat customer.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Are you idiots really this blind?

I know of two small booksellers in these parts that have their stock on line and purchasable on their web site as well as the Amazon partner app there too so that if customers can’t find it there they can get it from Amazon. The per book cut isn’t great but it does pay for itself. In both cases what it does do is market research for them. They keep track of what’s being ordered, genre and all that, bring the book(s) in and people stop hitting the Amazon button even though the cost is higher in store. Might as well use what Amazon freely offers than just complain about it.

notovny says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Are you idiots really this blind?

Of course they don’t refund the fee. The admissions fee is compensation for the privilege of entering the store.

S wants Amazon to track and compensate stores for people who visit a store and decide to buy from Amazon. Much easier to just have your store charge everyone who sets foot in the door. That way, you not only get money from people who decide to buy elsewhere, you get money from people who decide not to buy at all, and you don’t have to wait for Amazon or Newegg or Best Buy to cut your store a check. Everybody wins!

Atkray (profile) says:

1: McMinnville, Oregon. The only reason to go there is because you are visiting someone in the nearby prison.

2: The small local business I have worked for list their number one problem as getting people into the business. They all feel that once someone is in the business our trained employees and management team will convert them into a customer. They would love Amazon or anyone else to send people to them because they have confidence in the ability to “close the sale”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:


It’s been said repeatedly in this thread but somehow, it seems to need saying again.

This app isn’t going to hurt anyone. Just make smarter customers.

Seriously, if I take the time to drive to the book store, I’m not going to just scan some bar codes. I can do that online at home. What a horrendous waste of MY time.

No, I go to a book store with the intention of buying something. If I scan a barcode, its to get reviews. The price difference would have to be huge to drive me off. And in that case, I’d ask why the price difference was so large. 30% or more for example.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Wow. Good point, I’d be sure to never go back to that store and ask my freinds and family to not visit them too.

Horrible customer service.

They are price shopping – comparison. BUT – That shopper is already in the store! OMG, 1/2 the battle is already a win for the store. Now they just have to find a way to make that person feel welcome and important. Bet they have a sale right there and then..

Wow… “Failure to comply” is a failure to make a sale.
Where do you work? I want to avoid that establishment at all costs…

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Strictly speaking you may be right. But that’s hair splitting on an enormous scale. Better just to post a sign saying “Do not take photographs” and be clear about it. THEN the store has a better case.
After all the store is inviting the public in in order to sell them something. The whole trespassing thing skates out on very think ice after that if you’re not being disruptive, causing damage or other clearly out of line behaviour.
My first response to such an employee would be to demand to speak to his/her supervisor. For all he knows it may be some architectural detail of the store that I’m wanting the photo of and not their book and I’d like to clear that up with someone in authority if the employee doesn’t mind. And the picture I just took was a check shot to test the lighting.
That should waste some more of the employee’s time far better put to use actually trying to sell a book. A point I’ll happily make to the manager. While explaining that said architectural detail would make a nice backdrop for an ad for them should the shot turn out.
Oh, I see, I have a cell with a camera in it and THAT’S what’s not allowed. It could have that Amazon app on it. So if I was photographing with a 35mm like camera body then it’d be fine? This could go on for quite some time.
At the end of said conversation, I’d thank the manager for his/her time and then point to the book in my free hand that I’d already selected to purchase and ask, politely, that it be returned to the shelf as I’m no longer interested in purchasing it from this store and that I’m going elsewhere. And, that, by the way, the elsewhere won’t be Amazon as I already checked and they don’t have it right now and I need it for my partner’s birthday gift and can’t wait for them to get it in.
Then I’d consumer more gasoline and inject more carbon into the air and go to another book store that I’ve checked with and know has it in stock and get it there.
Funny how that would work.
By the way, they can’t stop me from taking pictures from a public place, say outside the window on a sidewalk through the window.
Most places would think that I’m just crazy, by the way, and ask if I’ve taken my meds today rather than toss me out onto the streets. At least I’d get a giggle about that and may even buy the book there as they offered some amusement to me.
In any retail business on or off line remember the customer is god. Retail needs me far more than I need them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: another view

That is an Op-Ed piece and is not even handed.
Simply put, the guy that wrote that piece doesn’t like Amazon.

He doesn’t take in to account that the customer is ultimately responsible for accepting the sale or that the customer is IN the store. He is discounting the Immediate Gratification factor. Finally, while I may object to a #0% cost difference, a couple of dollars will not stop me from buying the book in the store. Sure I KNOW I could get it cheaper but I would have to wait for it.

Furthermore, what if the app has reviews that rave how wonderful the book is? You betcha I’m going to buy the book.

Just because the Op-Ed piece is from the NYTimes doesn’t make it the word of God. Or fair for that matter.

Quit putting all of the power in a silly app and treat the customer, who may be trying to be a smart shopper, as a customer and honestly WORK at selling them the book.

Forget the app, it’s just a tool and is not making the $$ decisions. I mean, the bottom line is that the customer took the time to come to the store in the first place. Isn’t that half the battle anyway?

Francisco says:

I don’t with this article. Strange because I almost always agree with this site philosophy.

First, as someone mentioned before, Amazon chose to be an online retailer. In that way it can save money by not paying rent, state and city taxes, employees, etc. That alone makes their cost lower.

Second. Its not exactly fair competition. Amazon has a huge advantage in purchasing power over a retail store. Of course their price will be cheaper.

Finally, Amazon is not exactly the best employer in the world. The author of this article should do well to read the following article.


aikiwolfie (profile) says:

Silly Things People Post On-Line That Could Come Back To Bite Them

“What does the size of a company have to do with anything? Either you can compete with them, or you can’t. And here’s a fun question: what competitive act has a company ever taken in the existence of business that couldn’t be called “predatory” by its competition?”.

Using that logic then either the rest of the IT world can compete with Wintel or it can’t. If Apple can afford to buy patents and injunctions to stop Samsung selling the Galaxy Tab, what’s the big deal?

While I would agree bricks and mortar book stores need to rethink their business models. I think we should be careful with that sort of logic. Because pretty soon we’ll end up with a single source for our goods with no competition and no recourse for complaint. And as we all know a monopoly is rarely a good thing in the long run.

Anonymous Coward says:

most posts are way off base in here..

What everyone fails to remember is that “emotion” has no place in business. Period. Businesses exist “to make a profit”. Even 501(c) so-called non-profit businesses; they actually DO make a “profit” but it has to be evened out to a certain percentage of matching the expenses (which include a reasonable salary to the workers).

So take your touchy-feely feelings and GTFO. Amazon exists to make a profit and as long as it does this within the bounds of existing law it is fine. Capitalism at its finest is at the heart of the free economy system in America, and God Bless It.

If *you* don’t like how Amazon does business then simply don’t shop there. But stop spouting all of your treee-hugger emotional crap about fairness and predatory practices–it just doesn’t fly. Eventually all businesses will go virtual, and so what? Even small towns will soon be swallowed up by large cities, and mom-and-pop stores will be a thing of the past. Boo hoo, cry over your spilled milk.

As a business owner I don’t owe anyone squat. I don’t have to perform my business with “fairness” in mind, nor do I care about how my business impacts other businesses or the economy. If it is cheaper for me to make a profit by moving labor overseas then I do it. My shareholders are the only ones I’m beholden to. So grow up everyone, this is the world we live in and it ain’t pretty. But no one ever promised you a rose garden, and in this country we only have the RIGHTS of Life, Liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness (notice how it’s not a guarantee?)

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