Amazon.com Bait-and-Switch Price Gouging by Amazon.com on Kindle eBooks Internet
FACTS:I have two different accounts with which I make purchases on Amazon.com. I was shopping for an ebook the other day, and under account #1, it was advertised at a price of $9.99. I decided to buy it with the other account, so I logged off and logged back in with account #2. Upon finding the same book, I noticed that the price was then listed as $14.99. I verified that the ASIN numbers were the same, that it was the same version, same seller, etc. Everything about the item was identical but for the fifty percent increase in price.
See the attached screenshots that show this. I hereby affirm that I have in no way modified any information in these screenshots. The only change I made was to redact my account names and replace them with the account reference numbers (#1 and #2) I’ve used here.
I emailed Amazon.com customer service, and after a string of several emails, it became clear that they were not going to own up to a lower price being offered to account #1. They simply stated:
I've checked by logging into your account both as [account #1] and [account #2] and I could not replicate the difference in the price of the Kindle book. The current Kindle price of the book Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs, from Communism to Al-Qaeda [Kindle Edition] sold by Penguin Publisher is $14.99
After receiving this, I checked again and found that sure enough, the price had been changed so that account #1 was also at $14.99. I have as yet no explanation for the change.
I did a spot check of seven more Kindle ebooks, and found that six out of seven were offered to account #1 at lower prices. That is a total of seven out of eight books which were offered to account #1 at a much reduced price compared to account #2.
I have bought many thousands of dollars of merchandise over the years through Amazon.com on account #1, but I do not have my Kindle registered to this account, and so I've never bought a Kindle ebook through account #1. My kindle is registered to account #2, and I have bought over a hundred kindle books on account #2.
On the Kindle product webpage, one finds the following as part of the product description:
Low Book PricesOf the 700,000 titles available in the Kindle Store, over 550,000 are $9.99 or less, including 73 current New York Times® Best Sellers.
THOUGHTS:In my opinion, it appears that Amazon.com is practicing a bait-and-switch pricing scheme wherein they lure the customer to buy a Kindle with promises of low book prices. Once a customer has paid for the Kindle, and several ebooks, Amazon appears to raise the prices of ebooks so that Kindle users (who are committed to the Kindle in having paid a lot of money for it) will pay more. They do not advertise or otherwise publicly acknowledge this, and in my case, they appear to have deliberately denied and then tried to obscure the difference in price I observed.
I have seen this practice refered to as price customization. In my opinion, and especially in this case, this is a euphemism for bait-and-switch price gouging. I do not know for certain whether this practice is illegal, although I imagine it's not. It is clear that Amazon does not want their pricing strategies made public. In my opnion, this means that they know they are doing something unethical, and that it would negatively affect whether consumers would choose to shop there if it were to become public knowledge.
I strongly believe that this bait-and-switch price gouging is indeed highly unethical, distasteful, and unfair to consumers. This is the very reason we have laws about false advertising as well as many other unethical business practices. I am several hundred dollars committed to my Kindle (kindle price plus many books, some are reference material I will always want to keep) and I enjoy reading on it. I am left with the dillema of what to do about the unethical nature of Amazon.com's support of my ability to purchase content for it.
I will no longer be recommending the Kindle to my friends as I was. Instead, I will be describing Amazon's pricing practices as above and recommending they don't shop there at all.
Please make your pricing policy public. Then each customer can make an informed decision about whether to do business with you, rather than being blindsided and betrayed later.Also, please consider simply charging the same price for every customer. Even if it meant prices went up on average, this would be vastly preferable to a system of unfair bait-and-switch price gouging.
Previously Loyal Customer