Monday, August 28, 2006

Amazon Antics

Had a very frustrating experience with today--and that's surprising, because I had come to think of Amazon as the most reputable of all internet retailers.

I noticed Saturday that Amazon had a pretty good price on the Sony Bravia 46" LCD television, so I had done some homework on that model; I thought it would be a good fit for our living room, which is still outfitted with a 10-year-old ProScan 36" tube television. Amazong had it for $2299 plus $49 shipping; before I sprung for that kind of money, I decided to check pricing elsewhere.

Yesterday and today, I checked BrandsMart, Circuit City, Best Buy, H.H. Gregg's, CompUSA, CostCo, and Sam's; no one had the television at that price. So I came home, logged into, clicked on the set, started to place my order...

And saw that when the set went into my cart, it came up at $2399. A hundred dollar increase. I went back to the page, and the same page that had ten seconds earlier said $2299 now said $2399... but down below it, all the related info still referred to the $2299 price (including a link that said I could buy the set plus a wall mount for $2399, and another that said that 57% of the people who inquired about that set ended up buying the Sony Bravia for $2299). At that point, I did a quick PDF save of the screen as proof that I was being flimflammed, and called Amazon. I was told that the price just so happened to have gone up at the precise moment I was placing my order, and there was nothing they could do.

However, at the very same time I was being given that explanation, I went to another computer in the house that was on a different ISP (thus a different IP address),went to, then checked on the price of the same television without logging in under my name. It came up at $2299. I went back to the other computer, refreshed the screen, and it was still $2399. There was the proof right in front of me: had increased the price on a product for a long-standing customer who had spent thousands with them, while quoting a lower price to a nameless shopper. Without logging in, I placed the item in my shopping cart, then took a screen capture with a time display from another site in the background to prove just when I was doing this. I clicked Check Out Now, and then I logged in. At that point, the set was now available to me at the $2299 price, so I made the purchase. I then tried it again, on that same computer; I logged in first, checked on the television, and it came up a hundred bucks higher.

Do you smell sleaze?

The person I had on the phone at the time quit trying to scam me once I told him what evidence I had and what screen captures I had made; within a moment, he just hung up.

I'm going to check into filing an FTC complaint tomorrow. I'm also going to try to talk to someone at about this practice. In the meantime, if you do business with these guys, you might want to check prices before you log in to your account; you'd be surprised what you might save!

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