Should Amazon.com Apologize For App?

Amazon.com's "Price Check" app prompts petition campaign and call for a boycott of Amazon; Waterford Leader Agrees

Bargain-hunting shoppers had a handy tool in their pockets this past holiday season: Amazon.com's "Price Check" smartphone app.

In a click, the app allowed shoppers to scan the barcode on goods for sale locally and see how the Amazon.com price compared. For some, the app meant a bargain. But for others,  

Jasmine Johnson of Brooklyn, NY, granddaughter of the founders of the nation’s oldest African American-owned bookstore—San Francisco and Oakland’s Marcus Books—launched a campaign on Change.org to "stop the 'Price Check' assault on small businesses." Bargain hunting is one thing, but Johnson spotted that Amazon.com was offering discounts to consumers who scanned locally and then bought the product on the Amazon website instead. 

Call for apology

"Small, local retailers are having a tough enough time without being preyed upon by huge corporations," wrote Johnson in the petition. "I'm calling on Amazon to publicly repudiate and apologize for this race-to-the-bottom promotion."

Madison Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Eileen Banisch agrees that the Price Check app seems like unfair competition.

"We are jeopardizing the future of locally-owned businesses in this country," she said. "While I believe that competition is good for business, small town's brick-and-mortar establishments often can't compete against the enormous buying power of companies like Amazon. If this continues to escalate, Amazon could  put so many stores out of business that consumers won't have anyone with whom they can compare Amazon's prices."

"It's like a cancer on the community"

 Thomas "Tony" Sheridan, president and ceo of the , agreed. When he found out about it several weeks ago, he says he alerted his local merchants and "raised a bit of hell about it." The chamber has had a "buy local" campaign for several years.

"This [Amazon.com app] is basically unfair and potentially damaging to the people who have open doors, who have bricks and mortar in our communities," he said.  "It's like a cancer on the community. This is a state that relies heavily on property taxes. Those are taxes that pay for schools, and the fire departments and other services. If you disrupt that revenue stream, which Amazon seems intent on doing, it's very damaging."

He said it adds "insult to injury" that Amazon has cut ties with Connecticut websites rather than pay a new state tax, as reported recently in the New Haven Register.

Chamber president exploring possibility of a boycott of Amazon.com

"Rather than work with the state of Connecticut, they've moved out," he said.

Sheriden says he is looking forward to the next meeting a Connecticut chamber of commerce group, where he will talk with eight other chamber presidents about initiating a boycott of Amazon.com.

"I'm intent on bringing it up and asking them to ask members and the public to not shop Amazon, to boycott Amazon," he said. "I know it would be hard, but doing nothing is not the answer."

Petition has more than 11,500 signatures

The petition has already garnered more than 11,500 signatures. 

A central argument in the debate about local businesses versus national online retailers is that companies like Amazon.com fail to "contribute to local economies in nearly the same way that small businesses do," Johnson emphasized.

Until recently, Amazon.com had been resistant to collecting out-of-state sales taxes, allowing the site to sell items more cheaply than brick-and-mortar businesses.

Harold Hansen January 05, 2012 at 02:41 PM
BJ I hope that I didn't demonize the app. I just have questions which doesn't equal demonizing. Am I wrong to say that Amazon will sell items for a fee for any entity. Does that mean that they love everyone equally not excluding small business? t
Waterford Rez January 05, 2012 at 03:11 PM
These apps have been around for years. What a joke. What clearer example of the entitlement centered society we live in. Small businesses who think they are "entitled" to a consumers dollar. Be competitive, hire people who are not rude and are not texting while you are shopping and find other ways to EARN that dollar. Do these same small business owners practice what they preach? Do they order computers, printers, supplies, raw materials and product to re-sell from other small businesses? Or do they run to BestBuy to get the printer they need when it is on sale. I seriously doubt if most due, that would cut into their profit. I dare anyone to ask a small company like the Computer Lab on Broad St. the names small businesses's who pay an extra couple bucks to buy computers and printers from them. I bet it's a short list......
Waterford Rez January 05, 2012 at 03:13 PM
The app should really be named "Find out how stinking expensive Connecticut is to live in". You know, Connecticut, the state that is "Open for business"...... I buy a lot of little things from Amazon and most come from little mom and pop stores across the country, sometimes with hand written notes in the box thanking me. To bad Amazon barred CT businesses last year because of the wonderful law that was passed... Connecticut, the state that is "Open for business"......
Foofaraw January 05, 2012 at 04:03 PM
I'm in agreement with the majority I believe. The mobile technology to compare and look up products have been around for years and talked about for years before that. The politicians are slow and this battle should have been waged about 7-8 years ago. Now it looks foolish. All is fair in business, may the smartest business win (that could include creating laws I suppose) in the meantime you lose revenue and the smart will have found a new way to capitalize.
BJ January 05, 2012 at 06:11 PM
HH: The "demonizing" comment was only intended for those that have the INTENTION of doing just that. My apologies for any lack of clarity. Amazon is a business; they are in business to make money (sorry to those that think that is evil). So their "love" is somewhat selective (i.e. can they make money having a relationship with you, then yes they "love" you). Love may not be the best word to use, but it is a word people seem to understand (despite its rampant improper/overuse e.g. I love sunsets and I love my children -same word, different meaning). Amazon has proved itself as a successful business model, the fact that Amazon pays attention to small businesses as either a competitor or as a collaborator (the small business’s choice) speaks volumes to where the future of commerce is going.


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