Today, December 10th, Amazon is offering a very special deal you’re going to love and your local brick-and-mortar retailer is going to hate. Use its PriceCheck mobile app and get 5% off your purchase, up to $5 at a time, as many as 3 times. Why the discounts to use PriceCheck? The app is designed to get you to visit local shops, try out a product, submit valuable pricing data to Amazon, leave without buying anything, and make your purchase on Amazon instead.
Actually scanning an in-store item isn’t technically required to get the discount, though Amazon doesn’t make this clear at first. The webpage for the deal states “Get a 5% discount just by checking a price”, but you can check a price by typing in a product’s name from home without submitting a local price. If you read the terms it says “In-store price submission and location confirmation are optional.”
Amazon explains the local pricing data helps it offer competitive prices. That’s exactly right. Because it offers such a wide range of products and makes the real money from hooking users on its shopping experience, Amazon can afford to lower its prices to beat out brick-and-mortars. PriceCheck helps it identify which products it needs to put on sale, and the one-day discount will get shoppers used to looking on Amazon for these deals.
Now, I’m no luddite. Efficient technology’s march over old models is natural and inevitable. But using shoppers to gather reconnaissance on its offline enemies is pretty aggressive. It also promotes show-rooming where users get the benefit of checking out a product in person, but then neglect the shops that pay overhead to offer that service.
There’s little that brick-and-mortar stores can do to stop this. If they berate people for scanning their products with PriceCheck, they’ll just push them right into Amazon’s clutches. Shoppers will have to decide whether to take the discount, or support their local mom-and-pop or even their local Walmart which at least keeps jobs nearby. But in this economy, most people’s allegiance is to their wallet.