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Amazon.com Price Check App Is 'Devious,' 'Unfair' Business Leader Says [With Poll]

Chamber Of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut president speaks against Amazon.com cell phone application that allows customers to compare prices.

 

An iPhone and Android application by Amazon.com is “a devious way” for the company to steal customers from local stores, and is derived from an “attitude based on pure greed,” President Tony Sheridan said this week.

“It’s a new low, from my point of view,” he said. “It’s a slap in the face to all the small business owners, and frankly even all the large business owners in the area.”

Sheridan asked residents not to use the new application, and pushed the federal government to do something about it. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, largely agreed.

"Amazon's promotion - paying consumers to visit small businesses and leave empty-handed - is an attack on Main Street businesses that employ workers in our communities,” Snowe said in a statement on Dec. 8. “I urge Amazon to cancel its planned promotion, and look for ways to partner with Main Street, not promote anti-competitive behavior that could shutter the doors of America's small businesses." 

The Application

The controversy started over a recent promotion to highlight Amazon's iPhone and Andriod application called Price Check. Price Check allows users to scan an item in a store with their phone, and then compare the price of the product to Amazon’s site, according to the company website.

On Dec. 10, Amazon held a one-day sale in which it gave users a 5 percent discount if they used Price Check, according to a company press release. In the release, Amazon encouraged users to use the Price Check before buying anything in a brick-and-mortar store to ensure they get “the lowest prices year-round.”

“We are enabling customers to use the Price Check app to share in-store prices while they search for the best deals,” said Sam Hall, director of Amazon Mobile, in a press release. “This is a powerful opportunity for customers to get involved and ensures Amazon customers get the best possible prices.”

The one-day sale and the emphasis on going to local stores for the sole reason of comparing prices to Amazon annoyed Sheridan. Hurting local businesses means fewer local jobs, he said.

“These stores pay our local property taxes, which supports our schools and our police and fire,” Sheridan said. “But it is a mistake to just focus on the property taxes. It's also all the jobs that go along with it.”

Sheridan encouraged consumers to have the item delivered to the store if buying online, because that still helps the local merchants. Amazon, meanwhile, has pulled out of Connecticut because it didn’t want to pay “its share” of taxes, and enjoys a “completely unfair advantage” because it doesn’t have to pay sales taxes, Sheridan said.

“The people need to think carefully before going online,” he said. “We really need to have a serious discussion about this in all the state capitals.”

A voicemail left on Amazon’s media line was not returned.

Pem McNerney December 16, 2011 at 10:58 PM
Andrew, first off, thanks for bringing this Amazon app to our attention the other day in your column. And, good point about Sound Runner. I could get my shoes cheaper online or at a local outlet. But I go there and I get a shoe that fits correctly and takes the way I run in to account. I also can find out about local running groups, and I always enjoy talking with the owners or the people who work there. They know what they're selling. In that sense, it's a good deal.
Pem McNerney December 16, 2011 at 10:59 PM
Also, Sound Runner is a primary sponsor of the annual Turkey Trot, and other races, that bring people from all over the state (and sometimes, country) to Madison. That not only helps them, it helps other local merchants as well. Didn't see Amazon.com on the sponsorship lists of any local events this year.
Andrew Kaplan December 16, 2011 at 11:02 PM
Excellent point.
Krams December 16, 2011 at 11:43 PM
OK. Who among this crowd does not or has not bought from Amazon? ever?
Pem McNerney December 16, 2011 at 11:50 PM
I have. I even go to the mall sometimes. And the outlets too. But I always ask myself, can I get it in downtown Madison? If I can, I usually do. Not always, but I make an effort. And I flat out am not going to stroll in to R J Julia, say hello to the friendly staff, settle in to one of their comfortable chairs, peruse some books, then go home and buy them from Amazon. I'm not going to use the app anywhere. It's an insult to local businesses. That's the point here.

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