Why it doesn’t make sense for Amazon to “bait and switch” e-books

Why it doesn’t make sense for Amazon to “bait and switch” e-books

There are people who are really anxious to find bad in the world.

Not, by the way, so they can do anything about it necessarily…it’s more like they want to show that they are smarter than other people because they “aren’t falling for it”.

I’ve seen that sort of attitude before. Have you ever noticed how much quicker people are to accept the accusation of a fraud about something unusual than they are to accept an unusual report?

That’s not necessarily because a fraud is more likely than something unusual happening.

True scientists would test both the accusation of the fraud and the claim of the unusual with the same dispassionate and rigorous challenge. That pretty much defines science for me. It isn’t about how you feel about something, it’s about making an observation, coming up with a prediction, and testing it.

If you dismiss something without testing it, that’s as unscientific as accepting something without testing it.

I may have digressed here a bit. 🙂

My point is that some people will toss an accusation of nefarious deception (and sometimes, criminal activity) out into the world, without always thinking it through or testing it.

If you are going to say something bad about someone or some organization, I would always recommend that you look for reasons why it might not be true.

Accuse someone of doing bad when it turns out they aren’t, and you make the world a darker, unhappier place for no good reason.

Say that someone has done something good when they haven’t, and you make the world a brighter, happier place…again, for no reason.

I know which way I’d rather go. 🙂

Actually, I’d rather be accurate, and that requires thinking about what you say.

I recently saw someone complaining that Amazon was using a “bait and switch” by having books on the

Top 100 Free Kindle Books

list that weren’t free.

They used the term “bait and switch”.

Before I address that, let me say that some people were surprised when other people were offended by the term. Do they not think that it is an accusation? I wrote about that “offense blindness” (a condition with which people can’t see that they are being offensive) in How to get help in an online forum.

“Bait and switch” is clearly an accusation of wrongdoing. The term means that you promise one thing to get entice peole to do something (you are “baiting” them), and then you switch it to something else which is less desirable.

Well, if Amazon is ever using “bait and switch” on customers for e-books, it is also doing “catch and release”. 😉

It’s very easy to remedy it if you buy an e-book from Amazon and it doesn’t turn out to be what you thought it was going to be (and that includes the price).

Within seven days of purchase, you can go to


click or tap


and return it for a refund.

So, it doesn’t make much sense for them to fool you with a different price…when you can just get a refund so easily.

Giving you the refund also costs Amazon. It costs them some small amount of money to process it, but it also costs them your goodwill, if you think they tried to fool you…and that’s very valuable for them. Remember, they don’t make much of a margin on e-books (they probably often lose money). If they lose you as a customer over a $2.99 e-book charge, you aren’t going to buy those “diapers and windshield wipers” from them, where I think the real money is.

It simply doesn’t make sense.

Oh, sure, there may be some people who don’t check their e-mail for over a week after ordering, and don’t realize that they were charged for it…but I think that’s going to be  a small number. Amazon can’t make a return policy that covers every contingency: I think that expecting you to look at the price before you click the Buy button and/or checking your e-mail within a week is more than reasonable. Last time I checked, neither Sony, Barnes & Noble, nor Kobo allowed e-book returns at any time for any reason.

The reason the accusation happened is that, yes, sometimes, there are books on the free list that aren’t free.

Amazon explains why that is…the list is updated hourly, and the prices can change any time. So, a book that was free at 12:01 will stay on the list until 1:00 (assuming they are updated on the hour), but the price might change as 12:30.

It’s not like Amazon says they have 100 free books and don’t…they have over 50,000 free books.

They even direct you to free books from other sources.

Now, let me be clear: I’m not saying that I’m scientifically proving that Amazon is not trying to use bait and switch.

What  I’m saying is that it wouldn’t make much sense for them to do so, since they give you such an easy remedy.

It would be like robbing somebody, and then asking them if they want you to give them their money back…and then doing it. 🙂

Oh, and then asking them if they want to shop in your store… 😉

It just doesn’t makes sense to me.

My recommendation?

If you are mad because you think someone has an evil motivation, try to come up with every possible way that you could be wrong about that…make a game out of it.

Believe me, life will be more fun that way. 🙂

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

12 Responses to “Why it doesn’t make sense for Amazon to “bait and switch” e-books”

  1. Jennifer J. Martin (Gran Jen) Says:

    I think people just don’t pay attention sometimes. If you click on a book in the free list, it takes you to the main page for that book. Then you can see what it costs, (if anything) before you click on the buy button. I don’t see what is so hard about that. Also, as you say, there is the handy-dandy return button!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Gran Jen!

      I think you’re right. Fortunately, though, if you aren’t paying attention at the time, Amazon lets you fix it. 🙂

  2. alan Says:

    the 1st part of your post refers ,I think to your interest in cryptozoology and such-is it Fortean Times you read? I’m a fan of skeptical inquirer. you referred me once to a blog of yours about such things but i couldn’t find it. could you tell me again? was it called Wha?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, alan!

      Yes, I read Fortean Times. 🙂 I’ve read the Skeptical Inquirer as well, although not very often. I have read books from Prometheus, and have them on my shelves.

      The blog is


      I cover those sorts of topics there, as well as quite a few other things (especially pop culture, like movie box office figures).

  3. alan Says:

    bufo,never mind-found it at the mess. circa. b’s weird world,right? I’ll comment there. wondering what you think if Sk. Inq. seems you are less skeptical than they. is that fair?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, alan!

      Absolutely fair…I would not consider myself a Skeptic or a true believer. I see value in reading things that take an advocatory position (for or against, in this case): they often effectively crystallize a viewpoint. The articles in SI don’t always come from the same level of Skepticism, which I think is a good thing.

      I haven’t read it often enough recently enough to express an informed opinion on it.

  4. Roger Knights Says:

    Maybe Amazon could append a suffix to the sending URL that’s passed along to the book page so that it knows that the order came from a free or discounted offer.

    It might be possible for a hacker to game this system–but then again there might be countermeasures Amazon could take.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Roger!

      Would your intent be that the person would get the free price, even though the publisher has raised the price since the bestseller list was last compiled? That would make things complicated for Amazon…

      • Roger Knights Says:

        OK. But Amazon could detect that the price had risen and issue a warning message to that effect. This would eliminate accusations that it was baiting and switching.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Roger!

        It’s a good idea…and I think Amazon already does that. 🙂 I know I’ve seen product pages with a message, “Why isn’t this free?” or something like that, and explaining the bestseller compilation periodicity. I just checked the top fifty on the top 100 free list and couldn’t find one that wasn’t free, so I can’t tell you for sure.

        I also have to say that people call me an optimist, but here’s a tip of my rose-colored glasses to someone who believes that the truth is a 100% shield against false internet accusations! 😉

      • Roger Knights Says:

        Well, I know I’ve run into several cases (about three) where a book that was not free but discounted—and that had the discounted price listed on its web page when I got there!—was billed at full price. I also noted three or more cases where the price had risen when I got to the book page, so I didn’t place an order–but I probably wouldn’t have been warned if I did.

        This hasn’t happened recently, probably because I’ve bought fewer books in the past year, and I haven’t been looking through the bargain book listings to find discounted books. So Amazon should use suffix-checking for discounted books too.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Roger!

        I’m generally in favor of having more information shown…

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