Amazon Will Give You 5% Off for Price Checking Saturday: But Is It Fair?
Amazon is offering shoppers 5% off on purchases this Saturday — December 10 — if they use the retailer's Price Check app on the same product in a brick and mortar store. (See also: 16 Best Mobile Shopping Apps for Your Phone)
This effectively means that Amazon is trying to get customers who walk into a store intending to buy, say, a Barbie Cruise Ship, to leave the store and buy on Amazon instead. The program also encourages shoppers to inform Amazon of the prices that other retailers are charging for the items they look up. Shoppers can get a 5% discount on up to three items Saturday, with a maximum discount of $5 per item.
Some small business owners are outraged.
"The Amazon promotion encourages consumers to take the resources of their local businesses in order to save themselves money and allow Amazon to profit,” said Katherine O. McHenry, shopkeeper at Building Blocks Toy Store in Chicago.
As McHenry sees it, Amazon is encouraging customers to use local stores as a showroom only.
"I think consumers have a responsibility to 'buy it where they try it,'” McHenry said.
McHenry is not alone — retailer associations nationwide have decried Amazon's move.
Then there is the fact that Amazon asks — but doesn't require — customers to tell them what other stores are charging.
"With every in-store price you share, you help insure our prices remain competitive for our customers,” Amazon says.
Is it nice to ask your customers to spy on the competition? Then again, Amazon's prices are always right out there for everyone to see, so maybe they feel that turnabout is fair play.
What do you think of this promotion? It's surely a boon to shoppers to be able to get up to $15 off holiday shopping this weekend. And despite McHenry's understandable frustration, it's not as if comparison shopping is a new thing. Apps like Amazon's Price Check just make it a lot easier.
Do you feel any responsibility to the store where you physically checked out an item? What if the staff spends time demonstrating the item or helping you figure out what you need? Is it different if you visit the showroom of a national chain versus a local shop? Is there something inherently evil or crass about using a price check app?
Personally, I feel like it's tacky to go to a local store to see or play with a specific item, knowing that I intend to buy it elsewhere. I wouldn't waste the staff's time with questions if that was my intention. But my goodwill towards local business only goes so far — if I browse in a local shop and happen to see something I like, I'm not going to say I won't buy it online months later. And if I'm browsing at a national chain, all bets are off.
I have used price check apps in stores, but only large chain stores. I recently pulled out my Droid and used the ShopSavvy app at Kohl's to check the price of that Barbie Cruise Ship I mentioned. At the time, Kohl's sale price beat Amazon's — and I had a 20% off coupon besides, so using the app helped me buy in confidence.
But I don't know if I would use that same app in a local toy store. I would probably be embarrassed that the owner would see me.
If you aren't afraid to price compare at will, here are the smartphone apps that make it possible:
Amazon Price Check
ShopSavvy Bar Code Scanner
For Android and iPhone, free. Scan the barcode, and the app will attempt to tell you what the item sells for online and in nearby physical locations. I say "attempt," because I have not successfully had ShopSavvy find me an item in a nearby store. It found the item at the store I was in, but the price was wrong.