Friday, January 05, 2007

The Great Amazonian Pricing Game

David Streitfeld of the Los Angeles Times noticed something strange happening in his Amazon shopping cart. He'd decided to buy a book he needed online, but did not complete his transaction because he was distracted by something else, and then when he went back to pay the next day, found that it had mysteriously risen in price by 51 cents overnight.

He decided on a test, and added books to his baskets on both and He says:
On Dec. 15, I checked my shopping baskets. Nine of the U.S. books had increased in price; three had decreased. At the British branch, nine had increased and none had decreased. The increases were modest — often about 5%, sometimes less. But ... they were perplexing.
The Amazon spokesman Streitfeld spoke to wouldn't talk about the company's pricing strategies, while an e-commerce analyst he spoke to speculates that Amazon may be using a dynamic pricing policy which involves selling identical material for different amounts based on the customer's willingness to pay.

But this earlier article by in The Inquirer may hold the answer. Amazon prices are based on sales rank and once you place the items in your shopping cart, only hold good for an hour.

You may remember that a few years back Amazon ran into trouble with consumers over the pricing of DVD's.


lena said...

This may be of interest as well - Amazon's Secret Price Guarantee. If there's a price drop in 30 days, you are entitled to a refund from them - though like the article says it's not known by most people. Not sure if it's applicable to all customers (outside NA).

I tend to notice that prices always fluctuate (even daily) and prices sometimes change when I'm logged into my account versus not.

Ted Mahsun said...

I ran into this problem recently. I had put an audio DVD of Beatles' Love in my shopping cart, then forgot about it for a week. When I checked back the price went up a couple of dollars. What a bummer.

tunku halim said...

This must surely be a way of losing customers. Perhaps Amazon thinks that customers don't notice a price increase of a few cents, but now they know we're on it! I reckon they'll put a stop to this practise once customers stop putting books in carts unless they buy there and then.

bibliobibuli said...

funny, y'know, i never noticed it before. maybe because i'm such a smash- and-grab one-click buyer!

nessie said...

I just want to say that I have often filled my shopping cart & not bought. After a week it always goes down. For a good 30% of the items.

bibliobibuli said...

now that's interesting ... i guess we should just regard the price as dynamic