I was having a lovely evening the other day until I read a Facebook post from a fellow bookseller about an Amazon promotion set to run on December 10th. 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.
The details of the promo (buried deep on Amazon’s home page) don’t mention bookstores, probably because Amazon doesn’t need to know about book prices, since they know we can’t compete with their books as loss-leader mentality. If I sound angry, it’s because I am. This feels like an underhanded business tactic. To encourage people to snoop at other stores and report back to Amazon so they “can keep their prices competitive” is pathetic.
Any independent bookstore has fought against Amazon since the day Amazon opened its website and started undercutting us on price. Some of us are tired of having to explain why our prices can’t be as low as Amazon’s. We’re tired of explaining why you can’t buy e-books from us if you have a Kindle. Honestly, I’m sick of Amazon. I’m tired of people saying, “But it’s so much cheaper than what you can offer.” Yes, it’s true, the new Steve Jobs book is 49% off at Amazon, and that’s 3 to 6% more than I can buy the book for from the publisher or a wholesaler. So, yes, I’m sick of Amazon acting as its own retail distribution center and getting a far better discount than I can. I’m tired of faithfully paying sales tax and having customers tell me how much they like saving money with Amazon.
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.
I am not the only retailer who is mad. There has been a Facebook event started by Kim Gavin at Powell’s Books to rally around all indies. Occupy Amazon, on Saturday, Dec 12th, encourages folks to shop at any independent store this weekend. Folks are supporting the movement and it’s heartening to know that I’m not alone in my outrage, and there are lots of people who will go to a small business this weekend.
So, while it may seem Amazon has hit a new low, it’s had a galvanizing effect on folks, which is probably the last thing Jeff Bezos wanted. And that makes me very happy.