What the hell, Amazon?

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I think we've spotted some dicks here.

It’s one thing to be a low-cost convenient alternative for that hard-to-find book and it’s another to actively employ an army of drones to undermine local stores. As Gawker rage-reports today, Amazon is offering users discounts if they go into a local store, scan a certain item’s price, then go home and buy the same thing on Amazon. For Amazon, it’s a way to track their competitors; for Gawker (and us), it reeks of Big Brother snitching that encourages you to “sell out the merchants who pump sales taxes into their localities,” all for a sad $5 discount. Sure, we’re probably more emotional about our bookeries here than much of America, but there’s something creepy about this, right?

Bookseller Jarek Steele notes that Amazon is breaking two rules of business: Never make your customer work harder than you and never make your customer feel stupid. You and your smartphone are cheap labor, Steele writes, which drops the price of the product and therefore devalues the work of the author, or whatever you’re buying.

“Amazon wants you to negotiate on their behalf because you’re cheap labor,” he writes. “Nobody wants to work for slave wages, least of all the authors you love.”

Out-maneuvering competitors by using sheer hulking price intimidation is what turned Walmart evil in the first place, right? And they didn’t even have smartphone users yet!

What do you think? Is it a worthwhile discount strategy or is there more at stake here?

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  1. When it comes solely to bookstores, I could give a crap. If an independent, community bookstore is just selling books you can buy on Amazon.com, they deserve to go under. People might enjoy perusing their local bookstore because it feels authentic, but it’s mostly bullshit, and pretentiousness is at the root of most broad defenses of community bookstores. Community bookstores that survive will be ones that give you something Amazon.com cannot. Whether it’s author appearances and other events, good food and coffee or a clear, well-organized destination for locally written literature, community bookstores need to stop bitching and start acting like businesses. I’ve yet to see a truly, honestly essential bookstore go under. Most were just selling books. Any idiot can sell books. Let big, massive corporations do it. You’ll get them cheaper, and you don’t have to worry about your store not having them. Also, authors aren’t going to get paid less. The publisher is still selling them to the store for the same price. You pay more at a local bookstore because you’re paying a local bookstore mark-up. Authors aren’t sweatshop workers.

  2. To quote someone on the Gawker comments, “Oh, and seriously, how many Gawker writers agonize
    over the morality of their paychecks while you’re killing local
    newspapers? I bet the money spends just fine.”

    But, yeah, you should probably never buy anything from Amazon ’cause you can buy the same thing locally and support your community.

    • I’d disagree with that too. Gawker didn’t really replace anything. Like, there wasn’t some localized print version of snarky commentary on news that everyone loved and then Gawker came along and stole their thunder. I don’t think there are people out there who used to read The New York Times who now only read Gawker. That’d be like a long distance runner who only used to eat albacore tuna and squash for dinner going, “Wait, that frickin’ McDonalds just opened over there! I’m just gonna slam McFlurries for supper now!”

      That’s not really happening. That said, newspapers are also stupidface business people for putting all their stuff online for free. Even the NYT is namby-pambying it up with their pseudo-paywall. Little known fact: If you’ve maxed out your 20 articles for the month, you can totally keep reading by clicking on the story and stopping the page load after the story appears and just before the paywall ad pops up. And I love The New York Times.

  3. On the one hand, they’re eliminating competition and in some occasions, evading important local taxes, but on the other hand, Amazon allows you to buy from small businesses (even Goodwills!) from any where in the country, and that’s pretty cool, too.

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