Amazon rolls out app that scares shop owners

December 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
There's a fight for your holiday dollars and it pits small businesses against Amazon. Amazon created a smartphone app that allows you to scan an item in any store. It will price it and offer shoppers discounts on the item if they buy it on Amazon. Some business owners are fighting back.

"A lot of people are into bargain hunting these days," said shopper Divya Jankiraman.

Sale signs are up and even new apps are out, including one from Amazon called "Price Check." Shoppers can go into any store, scan the bar code into the app and Amazon will check if it has the same item for less. Consumers can then buy it directly from Amazon.

"I believe it's going to have some certainly negative impact on an awful lot of store based retailers," said Santa Clara University professor Dale Achabal, Ph.D.

The consumer temptation to save even a few dollars worries small business owners. Those at Marcus Bookstore, which is the nation's oldest African-American owned book store, feel this app turns their store into a show room for Amazon.

"Say, 'Now go into those stores, scan a product and then we'll offer that same product to you at a discounted rate.' That's just kind of like coming in and grabbing them out almost," said Cherysse Calhoun, a co-owner of the bookstore.

Calhoun's cousin started an online petition demanding Amazon pull the app. More than 8,000 people have signed it. ABC7 called Amazon for a comment, but none of our calls were returned. The app could impact even the big box stores.

Consumers are spending, in fact, Black Friday numbers for this year were up 7 percent compared to last year, but still shoppers say their main priority is to find good deals.

"It's all about the money right now," said Gayle Smith from San Jose.

We found that wasn't the case for everyone. Julie Johnston from San Jose let ABC7 price check a sweatshirt she'd just bought from Macy's. At Amazon, she could have bought the same sweatshirt online for $18.20, but she paid $19.98. She insists the $1.78 savings, really doesn't matter.

"I would have just gone to Macy's instead of using the app? because now it's in my hands," said Johnston.

The instant gratification she says is priceless.


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