Monday, December 12, 2011

Price comparison apps

Last week I read Josie Leavitt's blog post "A New Low for Amazon" about Amazon's price comparison app and was immediately outraged. The gist of it:

The promotion: quite simply, to walk into any store, take a picture of the item with the price with your Amazon price checker app, and get $5 off on that item when you order it from Amazon. You’re allowed to do this three times on Saturday.
So, Jeff Bezos has decided or at least approved this scheme that all bricks and mortar stores should be visited, left empty-handed so folks can shop on Amazon while giving them price info from other stores. Wow. The thoughts I’m having about this promotion cannot be printed here. If I weren’t so riled up, I’d be despondent at such a horrible attack on stores. Perhaps folks will go to chain stores, and not arrive at small, independent stores, scan a QR code and leave.

Savvy shoppers are sure to compare prices, and no doubt I've chosen to buy something online or elsewhere because I know it's priced lower, but this does seem particularly predatory against brick and mortar stores. Then again, price comparison apps have existed for a while, and of course, Amazon claims this is good for consumers. According to the LA Times:

"The goal of the Price Check app is to make it as easy as possible for customers to access product information, pricing information and customer reviews, just as they would on the Web," the company said in a statement.

Mark Reback, a consumer advocate with Consumer Watchdog in Santa Monica, said the Amazon app could benefit shoppers. "It could definitely be good price competition for consumers," he said.
Big discounts are always a problem for independent bookstores--if it's not online, there's Walmart, Costco, and of course B&N to contend with, but asking consumers to go into a store, scan a product, and then leave to buy it elsewhere does seem pretty unsavory. But in this tough economy, it may all be about price. What do you all think? Do you comparison shop when it comes to books? Is price the end-all/be-all when you're making a decision on where to buy?

Here's a plea for shopping at your independent bookstore:
Here’s what I do: I pay sales tax, I donate thousands of dollars to local schools, charities, Little Leagues, church pie suppers, school trips, Geobee prizes, etc. I support my community and that means going to local stores and buying things there. Price is not the only factor for me. I know there are lots of folks on budgets, and to them I say: lots of children’s books are not discounted at Amazon. And does Amazon bring authors to your children’s schools?  No.
Independents have also fought back with an "Occupy Amazon" movement, giving away buttons that show Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as the devil.

The American Booksellers Association also issued an open letter to 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.

As a publisher, we do rely on ALL of these booksellers to stay open--our industry has definitely felt the loss of Borders closing this year. I will continue to buy books at my independents (just bought two books at Greenlight Bookstore on Saturday), but I do also buy books from B&N, Amazon, Target, etc.

Where do you all buy your books?


Naomi Canale said...

I totally know your frustration, Alvina. Even with my grocery shopping I WILL pay more to go to Whole Foods than Walmart. They support our local farmers and its a way better experience (I get lost in Walmart and its VERY impersonal).

I love taking my kids to the local book stores and myself during my alone time. It's a more pleasant experience and its fun! I'm definitely on a budget with three kids, but it's worth budgeting for these things--it makes life happier!

Elaine Magliaro said...


I have a good friend who owns a wonderful children's book shop in Massachusetts. She was telling me about this APP on Saturday when I was buying some Christmas books for my granddaughter. I get nearly all my children's books at my friend's store even though they may cost me more because my friend and the other two women who work in her shop KNOW and LOVE children's literature. They also give me great advice about books. In addition, the store has an excellent selection of books.

The independent book shop where I used to get my adult reading went out of business in the past year. I really miss it.

It is so sad when independent book stores go out of business. They provide a valuable service to customers that Amazon never will.

Meghan McCarthy said...

That is not right!!!

Libby Koponen said...

That's disgusting.

Thanks for posting it. I admit that I do sometimes buy books from Amazon. I will limit this to USED books from now on and get my new books at bookstores!

Really, this is not right. Let's hope many people react the way I have and stop buying new books from THEM.