“It’s discounted…just trust us”

“It’s discounted…just trust us”

This is a fascinating

New York Times article by David Streitfeld

The main thrust of the article?

Amazon is eliminating list prices from many product pages.

As a former retail manager, that seemed odd to me at first, especially for a discounter to do.

A number of people re-flipped the article from my free ILMK magazine at Flipboard so it has caught the attention of other people as well.

First, what are we discussing?

The “list price”, similar to the MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) is what the publisher suggest that the price of a book should be in a store (or online).

Nobody is mandated to use that price…it’s possible a book never sells for the list price, although small bookstores may certainly do it.

It’s valuable as a comparative measure…if the list price of a book is $20 and one store sells it for $20 and another sells it for $16, most people will feel like they are saving $4 by shopping at the discounter (and they are, if they have already committed to buying the book, and if the cost of buying it is the same…for example, the cost of gas is the same if you are going to a physical store).

One of Amazon’s three tenets is price (the other two are selection and customer service).

I decided to take a look at the

Monthly Kindle Book Deals for $3.99 or less each (at AmazonSmile)

which I wrote about here:

Monthly Kindle Deals for $3.99 or less each: July 2016

I checked some of the tradpubbed (traditionally published books).

Interestingly, this is promoted as “up to 80% off”…but sure enough, I wasn’t seeing the list prices on the product places.

However, I could see it on the deals’ page, before I tapped on an individual title.

That means that if you get to the book, you can’t see how much Amazon could be saving you.

I think they may be experimenting with this, but how could it be a positive for them?

I suppose it could get people to stop thinking about price. That would give Amazon two advantages I could see.

If you aren’t thinking about price and list price, you aren’t thinking about the competitors.

That’s where I am with Amazon. I don’t tend to comparison shop any more: I just want to buy from Amazon. It’s so much easier…I trust them with my credit card information and shipping address. I can order right through our

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

just using my voice.

They don’t need to entice me based on a single discount.

I’m fine with that.

I’ll shop around if I’m not satisfied with Amazon’s price, but that would be the decision not to buy something from Amazon…I think price isn’t much influencing my decision to buy something.

The other thing is that, by not having a list price shown, it would make it easier for them to raise the price in the future. You would notice if a book went from $5 below list to $3, but you might not as easily notice a book going from $6.99 to $8.99.

Now, I’m not saying that’s the plan, but to me, this is a major shift away from Amazon promoting itself on the basis of being a discounter. It moves the more towards what I’ve said they want to be…the “infrastructure of the internet”.

What do you think? Does it bother you that Amazon might not show list prices? Do you think they’ll stay with and expand this strategy? Do you think of Amazon as a discounter now, and comparison shop before you buy something? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

6 Responses to ““It’s discounted…just trust us””

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I just reread the Streitfeld article — he always seems to put an Amazon-negative spin on all his Amazon article — I don’t put much credence in his stuff, but this article did have some interesting points.

    I’m probably not your usual consumer. For a lot of things I’m just not price sensitive, and even when I am, I’m not much into searching for (or waiting for) discounts to occur.

    I never look at the list price — all I care about is what I’ll pay. This is especially true with books — the list price and the percentage savings stats have always seemed to me to be a joke.

    There are a couple of places where showing list prices can be a problem. One mentioned in the NYT article has to do with regulators, and the notion of “false” discounts. If you never show a list price, then you’ll never have any “discount” issues with regulators.

    Another problem with pricing can come about, if you do a lot of business with the government. Many government contracts have “most favored nation” clauses that enable the government to buy a product at the lowest price you sell something at. If you don’t discount, then that generally won’t be a problem.

    I still do some comparison shopping, but it’s almost all within the Amazon store. Similar products may be sold at different price points or have feature differences that will inform my final purchasing decision.

    With the selection offered by Amazon, it is increasingly (for me) my one stop shop — and the items for which I turn to Amazon instead of local big box retailers increases by the day.

    Why just today I went out looking for two items (reading glasses and underwear) that I historically would get locally. I spent 3-4 hours looking, and didn’t find exactly what I was looking for (tastes have changed I guess), and suddenly I hit myself upside the head went home, and after an hour on the Amazon site got exactly what I was looking for (it’ll arrive Monday :grin).

    I think selection is increasingly going to be Amazon’s strength rather than deals. I also think that Amazon may be at a tipping point (especially with Prime members) where they capture a large fraction of the purchasing public because of the selection, and ease of shopping (the gas you don’t burn driving around mounts up :grin). That means that for that cohort, comparison shopping (save within the Amazon store), and the list price thereby is not going to be a factor.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I think of the three tenets (price, selection, and service), I think service will be the biggest one in the future. Getting items in two hours is service. Voice ordering is service. If Amazon doesn’t have something, my tendency now is not to buy it, rather than start looking for it somewhere else. I think they are probably safe dropping the list price from the product page…

  2. Robert Zimmerman Says:

    Do you think that Amazon dropping the info on list prices is related to their dropping support for ereaderiq?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Robert!

      I would think they are unrelated. Occasionally, Amazon swings the compliance hammer. I don’t see a connection between what eReaderIQ was doing and list prices, except that one of the several things you could do was specify an amount of discount for notification, which is dependent on list price.

  3. hsextant Says:

    I am pretty much in agreement with Edward Boyhan, I find shopping around for something more onerous than paying a bit more or less for it. The other thing I have found with Amazon is that they have stuff that other retailers either have a limited selection or quit selling altogether. Competition for shelf space does not seem to be an issue at Amazon. I generally am more feature oriented than price oriented, and generally can find the product I want at Amazon. If it is one of those shaky purchases, (do I really want this?) I may do a little price comparison on the Internet as sanity check and some things just do not get purchased at Amazon (really crappy prices on Craftsman tools for instance from secondary vendors).

    Because I do not have any interest in most of the benefits of Prime, I just pile up purchases until I get to $50 and save on shipping. A little patience will save you a lot of money.

    I like the security of Amazon with my credit card, and I like their customer service. My wife deals with a lot of mail order outfits from catalogs and she is always getting the wrong item, wrong color, damaged goods and so forth…not to mention 500 tons of junk mail. Deleting an email from Amazon is a hell of lot easier than going through a zillion catalogs and shredding the pre-filled out order sheets. Further, Amazon has never made an error or sent me something that I needed to return.

    I doubt that the lack of MSRP prices (which are pretty much a joke anyhow) will make a bit of difference on the majority of my purchases.

    As far as books go, I have pretty much got to the point that if it is not available on the Kindle, I am not going to read it anyhow, so no contest.

    There is something to be said for shopping at 11 PM in your underwear.

  4. Lady Galaxy Says:

    It irritates me when the list price for the paperback edition of a print book is less than the price for the Kindle version.

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