Last month one of the country's leading novelists, Richard Russo, penned an op-ed piece for the New York Times which focused on how Amazon was encouraging customers to visit brock-and-mortar bookstores and use its price-check app to earn a 5 percent credit on Amazon purchases.
Here's what Russo wrote, in part:
As I see it, the problem with Amazon stems from the fact that though it started out as a bookseller, it isn't anymore, not really. It sells everything now, and it sells it all aggressively. Maybe Amazon doesn't care about the larger bookselling universe because it's simply too big to care. In a way it's become, like the John Candy character (minus the eager, slobbering benevolence) in Mel Brooks's movie "Spaceballs" -- half man, half dog and thus its own best friend.
Like just about everybody I've talked to about it, I first attributed Amazon's price-comparison app to arrogance and malevolence, but there's also something bizarrely clumsy and wrong-footed about it. Critics may appear weak today, but they may not be tomorrow, and if the wind shifts, Amazon's ham-fisted strategy has the potential to morph into a genuine Occupy Amazon movement. And even if the company is lucky and that doesn't happen, what has it really gained? The fickle gratitude of people who will have about as much loyalty to Amazon tomorrow as they do today to Barnes & Noble, last year's bully? This is good business? Is it just me, or does it feel as if the Amazon brass decided to spend the holidays in the Caribbean and left in charge of the company a computer that's fallen head over heels in love with its own algorithms?
More recently, in a New York Times business story published last Sunday, again the subject of Amazon's price-check app plan was raised, with customers telling the New York Times that they were supporting local online sellers as a protest to the Seattle-based online retail giant's bullying tactics.
The story featured Harold Pollack, a Chicago professor, who used to spend $1,000 a year on Amazon, but is now putting that money into online sellers. As The Times wrote:.
The little sites are fighting back with some tactics of their own, like preventing price comparisons or offering freebies that an anonymous large site can't. And in a new twist, they are also exploiting the sympathies of shoppers like Dr. Pollack by encouraging customers to think of them as the digital version of a mom-and-pop shop facing off against Walmart: If you can't shop close to home, at least shop small.
TechFlash has also reported on retailer's anger over Amazon's price-check app, which basically permits customers to scan an item's bar code at a physical retailer and compare the price to the company's prices.
Some independent booksellers are enraged and have launched a counterattack, some making buttons that read "Occupy Amazon."
But an Amazon manager tells The Times the company is actually helping small online businesses stay afloat by allowing them to sell through Amazon's Marketplace program and take advantage of Amazon's large customer base, technology and marketing.
"For a lot of these small and medium businesses, this isn't something they would be able to scale up and provide themselves," Peter Faricy, general manager of Amazon Seller Services, told The Times. He added that third-party sellers' items were included in promotions like Price Check.