In response to Amazon's price check application, retailers have responded, creating an "Occupy Amazon" movement that unfortunately for them, doesn't help their cause. Stores have a reason to freak out. Amazon's app, which scans items to find online discounts, retains that in-store experience shoppers love so much, while still providing Internet discounts, giving buyers no reason to purchase a more expensive item at physical retail locations. Yet, as shoppers in a recession, it's hard to support a movement that champions spending more. And, this Occupy movement doesn't do a very good job convincing those who might be sympathetic that theirs is a worthy cause.
Stores affected by the app are pushing for an Amazon boycott. Marcus Books created a Chrome extension that pops up when web surfers shop on Amazon, explaining the benefits at buying at physical stores. Then, there's the requisite Occupy Amazon Facebook page and Oakland bookstore Diesel offers "Occupy Amazon" buttons to its customers with a side of guilt. "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," store manager John Stich told The Huffington Post. "'Hey, what's that app? How cool!' I think the only thing you can do is make people aware." But, for someone buying on a budget, that 5 percent discount Amazon offers with use of the app makes it a hard deal for even customers guilted by buttons and employees.
Others have pointed to the moral side of things. The president of Massachusetts store, Willow Books & Cafe, called the deal a "predatory practice." "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,” he told Publisher's Weekly. But, we've all seen You've Got Mail: Fox Books wasn't about to let Meg Ryan's Shop Around the Corner stick around, no matter how cute and small. The American Book Association went even farther, equating the move with stripping towns of the "financial wherewithal to pay for essential needs like schools, fire and police departments, and libraries." Guess that's a reference to the sales tax thing, but as we've noted, Amazon has since gotten behind that effort. (Albeit for selfish reasons ... )
While we love bookstores and character and diversity in the marketplace, it's hard to join a movement that asks customers to pay a premium. There is one store, however, that has taken an attractive tactic: Playing Amazon's game. Third Street Books in Oregon offered 15 percent off and a $5 gift card for buyers that proved they had canceled the evil Amazon app. Of course, this will undercut their profits and smartphone owners can just redownload the app. But for the moment, they get the sale.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.