Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thanks, Amazon

If you missed it this week, Amazon, as a Christmas present to brick and mortar retailers, announced it would give up to $5 in credit on anyitem if a customer would go into a store, scan the item using the  Amazon Price Check app, then purchase the item through Amazon. The customer saves 5% of the cost of the item, up to $5, Amazon gets millions of people out there price checking for the company, and the local retailer suffers yet another attack yet another attack upon their business model.  Granted, Amazon’s promotion targets big box retailers, since both compete by selling a comparatively small selection of items at the lowest perceived possible price, more than us.  The product categories we sell make us essentially an afterthought to Amazon.  Looking at the current list of top 100 toys and games sold on Amazon, only four items we sell in the store show up (Bananagrams, Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan and Apples to Apples), though if you sell Melissa and Doug items, you are in a world of hurt as it looks like half the items listed come from the Melissa and Doug line.  Apparently, some of the large chain retailers are actually undercutting Amazon on items such as DVDs and books and this is Amazon’s way of fighting back.

Still the problem comes from a violation of an implicit agreement between customer and brick and mortar store:  the store still will offer a selection of items, available for immediate purchase and possession, and answer or attempt to answer questions the customer might have about the items under consideration. The customer, in return, will give reasonable consideration to the store’s offer and may or may not choose to purchase said item, but will not make a deal with another store while standing right in front of you. Essentially, that’s what Amazon is asking their customers to do: find an item in your store, get all the info they can from you, then deal with the salesperson they brought in with them. As Gary Ray, owner of Black Diamond Games, put it on his “Quest for Fun” blog, there isan implicit agreement between customer and salesperson:
Here's something I learned when I was younger. When you enter a business and engage a sales person, you have entered into a social contract where it is expected that both of you are acting in good faith. The sales person honestly and factually attempts to assist you, while you have intention to actually buy. It's alright if you're "shopping around," or not ready to buy, but the intent should be that the sales person has a chance at some time in the future.