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.