More Amazonian sneakery
September 6, 2000 2:08 PM   Subscribe

More Amazonian sneakery - Depending on a number of factors, among them the type of browser you are using, Amazon will charge you a different price for the same DVD. According to Amazon it's all in an effort to better serve the customer.
posted by Nyarlathotep (16 comments total)
Most big stores do price things differently in different markets. Heck, I can even experience this with stores that are in different suburbs: some things at the Broadview Target (ick!) are cheaper than those at the Schaumburg one, for instance.

I personally think this is a non-issue.
posted by hijinx at 2:44 PM on September 6, 2000

I disagree. Your local stores are run by humans who change prices according to stock on hand, what the competitor across the street is doing, etc. Amazon is a network that takes it's pricing and stock informatoin from one source, or distrubuted source, and so pricing, shipping, any vairable associated with that product should be the same.

Amazon is just too big for it's own good. Is taking notes?
posted by Brilliantcrank at 2:56 PM on September 6, 2000

Not to mention Schaumburg's sweetheart deal for opening might not have been as sweet as Broadview's. Amazon should be looked at as one store, one outlet. Imagine if a mail order catalog started charging you more or less because you used a certain kind of stamp.
posted by skallas at 3:08 PM on September 6, 2000

On this wise, folks, you can still find varying prices within the same store: case-in-point... check out the price of something you find at the check-out counter vs the same product in the aisles -- especially at larger retailers like Fred Meyer.

posted by silusGROK at 3:14 PM on September 6, 2000

Is amazon really one store with one outlet anymore? This splintering by time and location supports the theory that it isn't. The mail order catalog analogy is almost a good one; I think that if you'd said that they mailed out different catalogs to different regions of the nation, it'd hold more water.

Analogy or not, it's my personal opinion that the amazon price changing is misleading only because they aren't admitting it. If they were to come out and say, "Yeah, we're testing prices here and there" somewhere prominent, it'd change things. I'm sure a lot of people wouldn't be hot on the idea, but it'd encourage competition, I think.

In addition, I think amazon is just too big for its britches.
posted by hijinx at 3:55 PM on September 6, 2000

To clarify: Amazon isn't charging different prices to different customers. Amazon is offering to sell and folks who agree to buy at those prices, well, they agree to buy at those prices. If they choose to offer discounts in a arbitrary, random, or unfair manner, then we are all free to do our shopping elsewhere.

I haven't bought something from Amazon in months, except for gift certificate redemptions. Reading this article, it seems like that habit has served me well.
posted by mikewas at 5:06 PM on September 6, 2000

It's moronic that they're attributing this to NN vs. IE. It isn't the kind of browser they're using. It's just that when the reporter switched browsers, she wasn't using the same cookie anymore. Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi.
posted by dhartung at 5:15 PM on September 6, 2000

You know that heavy amazon users will probably start getting a buck or two off each purchase, or thanks to their new epinions-ified reviewer listings, I bet they start giving heavy discounts to top reviewers. After all, a great reviewer is useless unless she is reviewing new products all the time.

The funny thing is, this might work in the offline world, but this is the internet. The interconnected, communications enabling internet. People can tell everyone about the special treatment they're getting or the current prices being offered to them. Heck maybe people will start buying things for others and splitting the savings?
posted by mathowie at 5:19 PM on September 6, 2000

Hey everybody. I've tried changing my User Agent on Win9x for IE and it keeps going back. Any suggestions on how I can get it to stick? The key is:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\
posted by greyscale at 6:04 PM on September 6, 2000

The Register gave step-by-step instructions on how to avoid this in order to always get the same price.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:14 PM on September 6, 2000

Amazon thinks they can just screw people because they won't know about it. This not only proves thier dishonesty, but their stupidity as well. Marketing genius: lets screw our returning customers. Nice try Amazon.
posted by Dr. Jazz at 8:43 PM on September 6, 2000

>>Imagine if a mail order catalog started charging you more or less because you used a certain kind of stamp.<<

Victoria's Secret does this, or at least they used to. Not because of a stamp, of course; they simply print up three different versions of their catalogs, all identical except for the item numbers and the prices next to them. They've been nailed by newsmagazine programs a number of times for this, and their claim is the same as Amazon's, that's it's a "test" (that never seemed to end) to see what prices the market would bear. Of course, if you called their order line and simply asked for the best price, they'd inevitably claim they're doing no such thing.
posted by aaron at 10:44 PM on September 6, 2000

I think the thing with this situation is not so much the practice but the fact that it isn't transparent. Pricing should be the same for all people UNLESS SPECIFICALLY STATED. No one would object to providing people with an initial discount as a new customer, I'm sure. Nor would anyone protest at the idea of the long term customer getting a discount. It's just the idea of some people being charged more and some less, without any idea that the price they are being offered is not the best price that the company is prepared to give.

Very dubious if you ask me. Very dubious indeed...
posted by barbelith at 6:00 AM on September 7, 2000

Read the piece.

Concur with Hartung.

Wrote politely pissy letter to writer.
posted by baylink at 7:38 AM on September 7, 2000

Smart Register, there. Much better reporting job.

I do still think this is a non-issue. As an Amazon regular I get discounts and special features that enhance my customer experience yadda yadda yadda. I also know that they're charging lower prices already in order to offset shipping costs, and that this shaving is hitting their bottom line. Gosh, everybody knows that.

Honest pricing laws are intended to control the situation where the retailer offers an item at a price, then acts on the knowledge that the customer desires the item, so tacks on charges or fees (used-car tactics). Here the price is offered, and the price is honored.

Those laws aren't intended to make all prices "fair" although that's another aspect (e.g. discrimination against a certain class). We all know that there are employee discounts, that salesmen will offer incentives, and there's always a bit of a how-low-can-you-go aspect to any of this.

Airline fares and other travel deals are notorious for being sensitive to not only time purchased, but also based on social groupings, e.g. businessman vs. tourist. There are all kinds of airline discounts you can get if you know the right code to tell the ticket agent, though the advent of the internet has diminished this somewhat (i.e. people can share the codes).

We already know that some deals happen based on when you log on.

I see the Register trick of throwing something into your shopping cart on a new cookie could be translated into running a user agent to wait for a discount that you won't be around for (e.g. something to boost sales between 4am and 5am).

The risk to Amazon isn't that their brand will be hurt; it's that people will figure out, as the Register has, how to use the technology against them and always get the discount.
posted by dhartung at 9:55 AM on September 7, 2000

I didn't think this was a big deal until today.

The Criterion Collection version of Terry Gilliam's Brazil, listed for about US$60, suddenly plummeted to US$20 this morning. I quickly snapped it up, along with two other movies (Henry V and Buena Vista Social Club) that had also dropped in price.

This afternoon, prices are back up. WTF?
posted by RakDaddy at 5:00 PM on September 7, 2000

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