It took less than a day for Amazon.com's new "Price Check" app to be attacked by critics as unsupportive of local bookstores and businesses (isn't that Amazon's whole game?). It took a little longer than a day for the Occupy movement to incorporate the app into its list of hateworthy corporate ploys.
The Price Check app, which I reported upon its launch was a form of crowd-sourced corporate espionage, is a simple program in which shoppers can scan bar codes of items at brick-and-mortar stores, then send the data to Amazon, which will use the info to undercut the local stores not just on that particular sale, but on sales of similar items of all kinds.
In return for this snooping, Amazon will reward its spies with up to $15 discounts on Amazon loot.
Of course, for local businesses that already can barely compete with the online megastore, having their own shoppers turned against them is salt for their wounds.
The Occupy Amazoners call the company's app "the latest in a series of steps to expand your market at the expense of cities and towns nationwide, stripping them of their unique character and the financial wherewithal to pay for essential needs like schools, fire and police departments, and libraries."
On the Occupy Amazon Facebook page a letter from American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher lays out the group's main gripes.
Dear Jeff Bezos,
We're not shocked, just disappointed.
Despite your company's recent pledge to be a better corporate citizen and to obey the law and collect sales tax, you created a price-check app that allows shoppers to browse Main Street stores that do collect sales tax, scan a product, ask for expertise, and walk out empty-handed in order to buy on Amazon. We suppose we should be flattered that an online sales behemoth needs a Main Street retail showroom.
Forgive us if we're not.
We could call your $5 bounty to app-users a cheesy marketing move and leave it at that. In fact, it is the latest in a series of steps to expand your market at the expense of cities and towns nationwide, stripping them of their unique character and the financial wherewithal to pay for essential needs like schools, fire and police departments, and libraries.
But maybe we've misunderstood.
Even though you've spent millions on lobbyists, fired affiliates in seven states, and threatened to shut warehouses to avoid collecting sales tax, maybe you really mean it now when you say you support a level playing field.
It's up to you to show us.
In the meantime, indie retailers remain the heart of countless communities -- offering discovery, energy, support, and unique experiences. See you on Main Street.
Oren Teicher, CEO
American Booksellers Association
Of course, it could easily be argued that allowing any company to lower prices on goods is something that inherently benefits the 99 percent. Whether those lower prices will in turn run other local business out of town, leaving Amazon to raise prices once again once they're gone remains to be seen, but is a definite possibility.
In any case, Amazon's Price Check idea has certainly become a popular topic, though not in the fashion that Amazon likely expected.