Some of you many know, this Saturday, Amazon is encouraging people to participate in the genocide of brick and mortar retailers. Here is an article in the Wall Street Journal that you can read about it. Go to a “traditional” store with your smartphone where you have already downloaded Amazon’s “Price Check App”. Then find an item you would like, and scan the barcode. Amazon will take you to their website (while you are standing in a physical store, hopefully feeling a shimmer of shame) and offer you that product cheaper. If you then buy the product from them, they will credit you $5.
I have a problem with this on so many levels. Using my stores (or any other brick and mortar store for that matter) as a showroom is not cool. I am thinking that I should start charging Amazon a fee for using my space, my hard working staff and my creativity for producing an environment where people want to hang out and shop. I know that retailers spend lots of money and time carefully selecting the product they sell in an atmosphere that is welcoming. I also know that not everyone can carry everything, but isn’t a diverse shopping experience part of what makes communities interesting? Imagine McMinnville without even 25% of its smaller retail stores. Would it be the same? I hear all the time from customers who have recently moved to the area that one of the reasons they settled in McMinnville is because of Third Street and the wonderful environment that exists. What if all of a sudden 13 retailers on Third Street were gone? We do more than contribute to a nice place to live too. Currently, between my two businesses I employ eleven people. Not a ton, but a start. I also support the local economy by paying taxes and providing a lot of donations to local schools and non-profits. I have never seen an Amazon gift card that was donated at a local fundraiser.
This “Price Check App” smacks of consumer spy-ware. If you have this on your smartphone, you are agreeing to let Amazon see all of your browsing and purchasing habits. Not to mention the location of where you go (phone as GPS tracking device anyone?). This enables Amazon to tailor their website to only show you stuff you have expressed interest in. The beauty of a traditional store is that we have everything out for all to see. I don’t notice who is walking down the street and only put the bestseller mysteries out front since that is all they have ever purchased from me. I believe that shopping either of my stores is a personal choice and while you are in them, you are exposed to items you may never otherwise see online or anywhere else in town. Isn’t that what people like about browsing?
My father would have said that this kind of behavior is what business is all about. And I agree with him. I am actually a little impressed with Amazon’s strategy. Even if it doesn’t work fiscally, it sure is giving them a lot of free publicity. But on a more philosophical level, I just think it is mean. I think all brick and mortar retailers (not just the little guys) should band together and fight. Amazon already plays dirty by avoiding their tax duties in many states. They are bullies in the school yard, and sadly, there doesn’t seem to be anyone brave (or big) enough to tell them to buzz off.
Ironically for me, books are excluded as a part of this nutty scheme. Why, I don’t know. But it still really chaps my hide.
Here is another bookseller's perspective.