Buying books on Amazon is better

Farhad Manjoo

Amazon just did a boneheaded thing, and it deserves all the scorn you want to heap on it. Last week, the company offered people cash in exchange for going into retail stores and scanning items using the company’s Price Check smartphone app. If you scanned a product and then purchased it from Amazon rather than the shop you were standing in, Amazon would give you a 5 percent discount on the sale. (Disclosure: Slate is an Amazon affiliate; when you click on an Amazon link from Slate, the magazine gets a cut of the proceeds from whatever you buy.)

I’m generally a fan of price comparison—like everyone else, I hate spending more than I should—but I can understand physical retailers’ fear of the practice becoming widespread. When you walk into Best Buy and get a salesperson to spend 10 minutes showing you a television, then leave empty-handed so you can buy the TV for less on Amazon, you’ve just turned Best Buy into Jeff Bezos’ chump. The Price Check promotion (which lasted only one day) was, like Amazon’s aggressive efforts to dodge the collection of sales tax, a brazen attempt to crush local retailers, and I (as did many others) found it distasteful. Sure, I’m a fan of Amazon and devote a substantial portion of my income to its coffers—but does it have to be so wantonly callous about destroying its competitors?

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