If there was ever any question that Amazon is a mindless digital behemoth with no interest in human affairs then the promotion they are running this weekend to push their new price-check app removes that last shred of doubt.
The promotion — which, to be fair, is not listed anywhere obvious on their website today — runs like this. Go into any local Main Street store. Use the price check app to scan three items and check Amazon prices for these items. On your next purchase you get $5 off.
So local stores are now retail showrooms for Amazon?
So we pay our staff and stock our shelves so Amazon can send its customers to us for service?
So Amazon is co-opting the last bit of advantage Main Street has over it — a tactile shopping experience?
While this promotion does not target bookstores specifically, who is it likely to affect? Box discount stores have already wiped out Main Street in most retail sectors. There are few local hardware, furniture or electronics stores. Main Street clothing and gift stores are so specialized, Amazon is not likely to carry anything on their shelves. And those box stores? They tend to have similar prices to Amazon. In other words, price checking at Best Buy is not going to save you money. So where will people who want to get paid (minimally) to price check and save money have to go? You got it — the last struggling hold-out against The Discount Box. Local, independent bookstores.
Part of me would be absolutely delighted to try and flummox this promotion. Set up a display of things so specialized that even Amazon can't identify them. In every bookstore. Especially all the used bookstores out there. Then encourage shoppers to scan away. How many shoppers would it take to overwhelm a search engine trying to compare prices of "Local History and Color" by A. Local Author in every locality?
But mostly I'm just sad. How does this affect Amazon's bottom line? Truly, it won't. So what does it gain them? Really, nothing. We all know they have the best prices. They just have lousy service. So why did they do it? Because they believe they can.
It's disheartening that they feel so confident in their ability to manipulate consumer greed that they would run a promotion where they come off worse in every way but the price tag. That they consider their shoppers mindless automatons who care nothing for their communities. That they feel so removed from moral backlash that they can afford to run a promotion that makes them the Bad Guy and that gets them statistically NOTHING.
Amazon, you are disappointing.
Or maybe you are just a stupid computer gone amok.
(who incidentally was born here in Albuquerque — for shame!)
ABA Responds to Amazon App Promo
This week Amazon.com announced that customers who go into bricks-and-mortar stores on Saturday, December 10, use the company’s smartphone price check app on select products, and then purchase that product from Amazon will receive a discount of up to $5.
While books were not included in the promotion, indie bookstores, like other Main Street retailers, were outraged by the online giant’s latest move.
ABA CEO Oren Teicher has written an open letter (below) to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, highlighting the glaring discrepancy between the company’s recent statements in support of sales tax fairness and this latest exploitation of an inequitable strategic advantage.
Dear Jeff Bezos,
We’re not shocked, just disappointed.
Despite your company’s recent pledge to be a better corporate citizen and to obey the law and collect sales tax, you created a price-check app that allows shoppers to browse Main Street stores that do collect sales tax, scan a product, ask for expertise, and walk out empty-handed in order to buy on Amazon. We suppose we should be flattered that an online sales behemoth needs a Main Street retail showroom.
Forgive us if we’re not.
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.
But maybe we've misunderstood.
Even though you've spent millions on lobbyists, fired affiliates in seven states, and threatened to shut warehouses to avoid collecting sales tax, maybe you really mean it now when you say you support a level playing field.
It's up to you to show us.
In the meantime, indie retailers remain the heart of countless communities -- offering discovery, energy, support, and unique experiences. See you on Main Street.
Oren Teicher, CEO
American Booksellers Association
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