Tour’s Books Blog

April 3, 2013

Books on Order – and not from Amazon

Filed under: Editorial,General — toursbooks @ 5:48 pm
Tags: ,

It was inevitable – carved into Amazon’s ‘catch me if can’ pricing game.  I am slowly beginning to move orders from Amazon to BAM (Books-a-Million).  Along with my $20 membership fee – which means free shipping – I got $10 off on any order of $50 or more.  I did what any sane person would do and moved books from Amazon pre-order to BAM.  Then I got a $20 off coupon for $100 or more order and did it again!  This time, mostly pre-order hardcover books and trade paperback.  Today BAM had a 4 hour flash sale with ALL MMPB’s at 30% off.  Yup, two MORE paperbacks moved from Amazon to BAM!

What does this mean?  It means that I have become an aggressive comparison shopper for my books.  Before, the convenience of Amazon’s system, with the 4-for-3 program might not have been the BEST deal, but it was easy to keep everything in one place and make sure I at least got a GOOD deal.  Now, they drive me nuts with their pricing games.  I ordered 3 books on Amazon:

1 of: One Lucky Vampire: An Argeneau Novel, Lynsay Sands  PRICE: $4.98
1 of: Hunter’s Heart: An Alpha Pack Novel, J.D. Tyler PRICE: $4.69
1 of: The Vampire With the Dragon Tattoo, Kerrelyn Sparks PRICE: $4.88

Look at those 3 books on Amazon today and all are $7.99.  Next week they might be $7.19 or $6.88 or some damn thing.  That order stays with Amazon.  But other books, well, what can I say.  I’m getting better pricing on BAM’s site.  Todays books averaged below $5.60, which is less than the 4-for-3 pricing at Amazon.  Normally, it wouldn’t be enough, but with the looming addition of sales tax and the lower price at BAM, the playing field has not just leveled off, it’s tipped to BAM on mass market.

For hardcover and trade paperbacks, Amazon remains very competitive, usually a few cents cheaper or more, not enough to bother about.  But mass markets?  Now that is a different story.  I haven’t been with BAM long enough to know how well they treat customers, but it couldn’t be much worse than Amazon’s horrifying maze of overseas ‘help center’ personnel.  Plus, I can easily drive to the local store and get things fixed fast.  And not with a guy calling himself ‘Alice’.

There is NO question that Amazon had the BEST search feature, the best ‘recommended books’ links, and the best site layout. All huge pluses.  But getting customers annoyed?  Bad decision.  I go to Amazon, use all their resources – then shop the best price – which is sometimes Amazon, and sometimes not.  A year ago I could not have imagined myself doing this.  Now, it’s like Amazon challenged me, and I’ve taken up the challenge and started looking at pricing.  And why not?  “The Most Customer-centric” company in the world, isn’t anymore.  So if Amazon wants to play games with its customers, I’ll play – and screw customer loyalty, something they had for years.  Phffffit!  Gone.

For that $20 a year, I get the same free shipping Amazon offers and the same ‘ship to arrive by release date’ service.  And since Amazon moved to FedEx Smartpost, well, that’s another advantage they gave up.  BAM uses it, so what’s the difference?  Again, the advantage was theirs and Amazon gave it up.

I’m certain my little personal war has zero impact on a company like Amazon, but it reminds me of the Ebay hubris that has been their undoing.  A place that I hunted and bid and bought from for years and I barely visit the website.  Why?  The smaller players on which Ebay built its business got screwed.  Well, guess what, they screwed the buyers too because they drove away the very sellers I usually bought from.  Half.com, their used book site, is about the only place I bother with.  Again and again, companies, especially tech based ones, lose sight of what customers want.  And slowly, the business morphs into something the original people who made the company a success leave.  I’ve seen this with other online sites – Trip Advisor being one.

In 2004 I took a trip to Costa Rica with a friend and her 2 teen daughters (now college graduates and working).  I used Trip Advisor and its forums to help me find hotels and restaurants and places to see.  The content was driven by travelers, not chamber of commerce or travel companies.  Now – Trip Advisor is owned by the same folks who own Hotels.com and Expedia.  It’s chock full of advertising, has Traveler Articles that have been rewritten till all those little warning that are so damn helpful have gone.  Now restaurants, small businesses, and B&B’s BUY reviews to get their ratings up.  And TA’s vaunted algorithm that supposedly detects these fake reviews, fails.  It’s so rampant, you can’t come CLOSE to relying on them.  Now a competitor is starting up with VERIFIED reviews, like Amazon’s ‘Verified purchase’ logo, where there is PROOF the person stayed or ate or visited the attraction!  Chowhound and Yelp! give them some competition, but like Amazon, they remain the big dog on the block.  It’s like those Harriet Klauser reviews on Amazon, don’t believe it unless you can see a pattern of long use by the reviewer.  And ‘one and done’ should be ignored – and allow me to just say, I am a former Destination Expert so I feel I can speak to these issues.  And I’m ‘former’ because of the rampant commercialism.  And the site moderators are not only capacious and arbitrary, but dumb as a stump too – and I think I just insulted the stump.

All things change and nothing changes quite like internet based businesses.  They come, they dominate, they dwindle.  Amazon hasn’t meet a real contender, but then I’m sure Microsoft believed they never would either.  So did Yahoo.  Amazon will change, and keep changing, until, like Ebay, one day they look around and realize a big chunk of their core business and the customers it brought in are gone, baby, gone.  The moment you send customers looking for cheaper alternatives, you’ve lost.  Ask Barnes and Nobel.  Ask Borders.  Oh, wait, Borders Books is gone and B&N is closing stores all over the place.  But BAM, now they can laugh all the way to the bank with what USED to be Amazon’s money!

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