Amazon is running a timely promotion this weekend, providing a discount for shoppers who use Amazon’s Price Check app in brick-and-mortar stores, and then order the eligible product through Amazon. Shoppers who do this can perform up to three price checks and score a $5 discount each time they then order that product through amazon (total of $15 savings).
As you can imagine, retailers are none too happy about Amazon’s holiday promotion. In an official statement, the Retail Industry Leaders Association’s spokeswoman Katherine Lugar stated:
Retailers compete on price 365 days a year, and at no time is that competition hotter than during the make-or-break holiday shopping season. However, by continuing to evade collecting state sales taxes, Amazon’s exploitation of a pre-Internet tax loophole is resulting in a 6-10 percent perceived price advantage over their competitors on Main Street.
Amazon’s aggressive promotion of its Price Check App shows the lengths they are willing to go to exploit this tax loophole, and is a stark reminder of why Congress needs to act to protect retailers on Main Street. A failure to act is an implicit endorsement of a subsidy of Amazon, a subsidy that distorts the free market and puts jobs on Main Street at risk.Katherine LugarRetail Industry Leaders Association
It’s pretty obvious that the Retail Industry Leaders Association is using Amazon’s move to promote their own political agenda. I think it’s safe to assume that Amazon would likely run this promotion even if it did charge its customers a sales tax, and nowhere in Amazon’s promotion does it detail the fact that most people who shop Amazon don’t pay sales tax. This promotion is no different than what all retailers do; you sell something for $60, I’ll sell it for $55. Though sales tax is certainly on people’s minds when they buy from Amazon vs. a brick and mortar store, it is not what is at the center of this promotion.
Along similar and more staunchly derogatory lines, in a post entitled “Amazon’s Latest Dick Move,” The Stranger states:
An online retailer convinces customers to do product research for them while simultaneously using small businesses as unpaid showrooms. Someone must have had a huge laugh in the South Lake Union conference room where that idea was brought up. Let me be clear: If you do this, you're a f!@*%&@ %$!hole.Paul ConstantThe Stranger
It’s clear that Amazon is taking significant heat from it’s holiday promotion, something anyone with a brain saw coming the minute the promotion was announced. The Stranger, though presented in a much more lewd fashion, have a bit of a point: Amazon’s Price Check Promotion is hurting small business. I don’t think anyone can dispute that. But just because these businesses can’t fully compete in today’s retail landscape with online-only retailers doesn’t mean that Amazon shouldn’t be allowed to do what it wants to gain business.
Is this a douchey move by Amazon to gain more customers? Definitely. Telling people to go into stores to test out what they want to buy, then giving them an incentive to turn around and buy it on Amazon is a bold slap in the face to brick-and-mortar retailers. But let’s face it; we’re all doing that already anyway.
What do you guys think? Whose side are you on in this debate? Do you think this is as big a deal as people are making it out to be?