New technology puts the power of price check in the hands of shoppers, but not everyone is happy about it.
Amazon’s new app Price Check has some business owners and even some politicians upset. Available for iOS and Android devices, this app allows users to use their mobile devices to scan products in stores and compare the physical store’s price to Amazon’s online price. For just comparing prices on December 10th, app users got five percent off their purchase, up to five dollars off, on up to three qualifying products (so long as the location feature of the app that uses GPS is enabled).
To be fair, the location feature of the app doesn’t always have to be enabled, and users can simply enter prices they see in ads or elsewhere. This makes me wonder if Amazon is prepared for trolls who submit false prices just to watch Amazon lower their prices. Amazon doesn’t say whether prices that users submit are monitored or not. On their webpage that explained the terms and conditions for the December 10th deal, Amazon gave themselves a twenty-four hour window to send users the five percent discount, which lends credence to the idea that price check submissions are reviewed.
Not only can users scan the barcode of a product, they can simply take a picture of it. Amazon implemented a picture recognition algorithm to match pictures submitted by users to pictures of products in Amazon’s database. Additionally, the app also has a voice recognition feature to recognize and search for the product name instead of requiring the user to type it in. If you like Amazon’s price better than your local price, you can continue your purchase through the app and share it through social networking, email, or text.
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) points out that this is like paying consumers to go to brick-and-mortar stores and leave empty-handed, and it negatively affects the businesses and workers in communities everywhere. Amazon claims that the app is only to be used to compare prices in major retail chain stores, but enforcing that would be quite the task. As sweet as those sentiments are, Amazon has high hopes for their fourth quarter this year and no doubt the Price Check app has something to do with it. They’re looking to get over ninety-five percent of United States consumers to buy from Amazon.com. With this growth in their customer base, Amazon predicts that they’ll have a thirteen percent revenue growth when comparing last year’s fourth quarter to this year’s. Amazon also said in their statement that the app displays the product price from third party sellers that sell through Amazon as well.
As underhanded as it may seem that Amazon is using their own customers as free labor to investigate store prices, Price Check does seem like a quick and easy way to see customer reviews and product details. However, it now looks like the Amazon Mobile app and the Price Check app are nearly the same. The only additional functionality the Price Check app offers is for the user to do some legwork for Amazon by reporting product prices. Some hypothesize that the Mobile app is soon to change, losing some of the functionality that the Price Check app can offer. That way, as long as people are using the Price Check app, they might as well keep sending Amazon their competitors’ prices.
Despite minimal outrage (since the announcement of the December 10th promotion on Friday, there hasn’t been much press), it’s unlikely anything will be done to stem the tide of Amazon’s reign. Some people think it’s unjust for users to be Amazon’s eyes and ears, but the bottom line is if users find value in the Price Check app, they’ll use it, ethical grey area aside.