Is It Time To Occupy Amazon Yet?

    December 12, 2011

People are very, very unhappy with Amazon right now. First there was the conniving endorsement of that new online tax bill. Now Amazon has thrown the first spear in what looks to be a looming battle with brick and mortar retailers by launching a Price Check app that encourages shoppers to walk out of stores and, instead, buy items from Amazon.

Much to the chagrin of, well, everybody but Amazon, the app works like this: suppose you’re in a brick and mortar store and plan to purchase an item from the retailer. Instead of following through with that, Amazon would have you use the Price Check app to enter the barcode of the item and then purchase it from Amazon; in turn, Amazon will give you a discount of up to $5. You can use the app for 3 purchases, meaning a total savings of up to $15. The app can only be used starting at 9PM tonight through 11:59PM tomorrow night, December 10.

It’s a shifty maneuver to snatch away money that would otherwise likely be spent at the brick and mortar store and essentially uses the retailer as a showroom for Amazon’s inventory. The Retailer Industry Leaders Association has already come out against the app in force and now the chorus of organizations and people decrying Amazon’s tactics are getting louder. Yesterday, the American Booksellers Association joined the protest against Amazon’s attempt to literally entice consumers to walk out of brick and mortar stores without spending a dime.

In an open letter to founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, ABA CEO Oren Teicher calls out the Amazon chief on his forked-tongue statements about fairness with regard to online commerce and accuses Amazon of knowingly exploiting the tax loophole to its advantage. Teicher goes on to shame Amazon for chipping away at the foundations of local communities by “stripping them of their unique character and the financial wherewithal to pay for essential needs like schools, fire and police departments, and libraries.”

Despite books not being included in the selected items eligible for the discount that the Price Check app offers, that the booksellers should take up the charge against Amazon contains historical and poetic significance. After all, they’ve been the retailers struggling against the online company the longest (if you remember, Amazon started out proclaiming itself as “Earth’s Largest Bookstore” in the 1990s). They’ve probably lost the most revenue to Amazon over the years and therefore probably have the most authority to speak out against Amazon’s latest plot to take business away from brick and mortar retailers.

In addition to the booksellers’ opposition to Amazon’s tactics, an online petition was created yesterday on that denounces Amazon’s poaching of customers from brick-and-mortar stores. Within a day, the letter has already gathered over 20% of it’s signatures goal. Say what you want about the efficacy of online petitions because it’s not a matter of whether it works – it indicates that people are paying attention.

The momentum of the anti-Amazon sentiment appears to be growing today. People have begun to marshall behind the Occupy movement to profess their anger and demand for change to Amazon’s predatory business strategy. There is an Occupy Amazon page on Facebook imploring consumers to boycott Amazon tomorrow – the time period in which the Price Check app will be live – and choose to shop locally instead. A steady stream of supporters are gathering on Twitter with the hashtag #occupyamazon. Here’s a sample of what people are saying:

Thinking #Amazon overstepped w/this one. Can’t be a good sign when you’ve suddenly got an #Occupy hashtag… 1 hour ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

Love this topic from Kindleboards: Fellow Indies, It’s Time To Rise Up And Answer The Call. Occupy Amazon! 2 days ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

#occupyamazon Don’t use the Amazon Price Check App! 17 minutes ago via Twitter for iPhone · powered by @socialditto

I support Occupy Amazon protest. RT @PublishersWkly: Amazon Backlash Continues to Build #occupyamazon 1 hour ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

This made me cry with pride at my amazing fellow indies #occupyamazon #IndieLove #indiebooksellersrock 1 day ago via Twitter for iPad · powered by @socialditto

Let Amazon know with your credit card that you don’t support this nasty attack on local businesses #OccupyAmazon 1 day ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

What happens from here remains to be seen. Amazon doesn’t exactly have a physical space in which protesters can occupy, so how this unfolds tomorrow (and in the future) will be interesting. In a contrast to previous Occupy efforts, will consumers choose to benevolently occupy their local retailers tomorrow for the forces of communal good? Chime in with what you think about the latest development among people speaking out against Amazon in the comments below.

Note: Credit to Jon Stitch at Diesel Bookstore for the creation of the above Occupy Amazon buttons.