walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

coupons, price comparisons, etc.

My poor sick A. I have managed to convince her to lay down on the couch, on a pillow, under a blanket. Still wearing her mittens, of course, because she's figured out how to make the iPad work with the mittens on (no, I don't get it either. They're knit and I think a wool blend.). And she's off the couch. *shrug* Curious George's Very Monkey Christmas is running; we ran out of Angelina Ballerina episodes which are too short anyway.

In the meantime, I'm continuing to waste time online and after resisting the temptation for days, I'm going to blog about Price Check. I've known for a while that some people will price check using a mobile device (maybe even purchase online while in the physical store). It struck me as sort of wrong, altho the more I thought about it, the harder it was for me to understand _why_ I thought it was wrong. The net effect of researching arguments against doing it was the opposite of what was intended (by me and by the people creating the rhetoric). In short, in the course of reading arguments in favor of buying books from independent bookstores, I remembered a whole lot of incredibly negative experiences with independent bookstores. I quit going to physical bookstores entirely (which is sad, in a way, because it's an activity I've enjoyed for decades), because I wouldn't leave without buying something, but I really prefer reading on an e-reader, so if the children's book selection was poor I'd walk out with things I didn't really want, or would have preferred in another format.

To be clear: I'm not _boycotting_ independent bookstores. I just grew so troubled by the moral conundrums they present to me that it feels more moral _not even to walk in the door_. That way, if I see a book I want, but buy it in kindle form, I won't have negative feelings about having "cheated on" the p-store. That way, if I see a book I want, I don't avoid buying it at all, to avoid that sense of cheating. That way, if I see a book I want, I don't buy it in p-form, and then feel pissy about having to buy it in a form I don't want, because I discovered it at an independent bookstore.

Safer to do all my exploration in the environment where I am willing to purchase.

With that as background, I've been bemused by the criticism of Amazon offering a holiday discount to people who use Price Check in the real world and then buy online. Stores of all sorts (including independents) have a long history of running promotions that involve producing proof that a competitor carries the same thing at a lower/discounted price, and then getting it for that price (or double the discount) at the place you go to instead. Price Check feels like the same thing to me online. Me, I get really cranky when I see time and effort in my household put into using coupons; we don't need to save the money and we certainly could use any time devoted to couponing for something else. If someone starts making arguments based on cheaper, I walk the other way, because I sense a trap (<-- not the way I was raised, I might add. I shopped a lot of white sales as a teenager, chauffeuring my mother around).

Anyway. The criticism of Amazon's behavior comes in three forms. One form I am sympathetic to: Amazon avoiding paying sales tax. One of the siting criteria for Amazon at the very beginning was a state with a largish population of programmers/good supply of labor but a smallish population in terms of purchasing (so, not New York or California, say). This avoid-sales-tax-thing is _old_ for them. I'm amazed they're still getting away with it, but it's clearly on its last legs.

The second criticism is the same kind of criticism Wal-mart always got whenever they opened a new store in a place where the local retailers felt threatened. I'm going to leave that one alone, other that pointing to the above remarks about the bad experiences at independent bookstores (there were good experiences, don't get me wrong. But it was far from uniform. Uniform mediocrity is legendary for beating unpredictable swings between excellent and appalling, and Amazon has managed to beat mediocrity for me at least, very consistently. Is it as good as browsing bookstores followed by sushi with a friend? No. But it is infinitely better than arguing with certain clerks at Elliot Bay Books who managed to combine snobbishness with ignorance.).

The third criticism is asserting that this is a behavior that Amazon is instigating.

Which is foolish. They aren't. They are enabling it, but customers were doing it in great hordes for years before Price Check came out. Attacking the behavior is attacking customers. Not smart.

Sample coverage (does not display the most typical traits -- I'm listing things here that have additional perspectives):

http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_19521464

http://blog.chron.com/lorensteffy/2011/12/is-amazons-price-check-app-anti-competitive/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/janetnovack/2011/12/12/amazon-price-check-flap-is-no-strategic-blunder/

On an unrelated topic, the LA Times series about autism continues to be excellent.
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