Amazon: Beware!

Just before Christmas, Amazon took some well-deserved flak for introducing an app that encouraged shoppers to walk into a store, scan a product’s barcode, then order it online — from Amazon — at a discount.

At least one Westport business is fighting back.

Alert “06880” reader Lori Goertz snapped this photo at the Westport Music Center:

“I love the sign’s honesty and fortitude,” Lori wrote.

So do I.

For decades, the Westport Music Center has provided sheet music, instrument rentals and repairs, and much more.

With this kind of attitude, it will be around for many decades to come.

18 responses to “Amazon: Beware!

  1. Hard to believe this sign greeting customers at Mitchells or Stew Leonard’s, the “Customer is always right” gold standard.

  2. They were rude before Amazon came along.

  3. It’s either bigotry and intolerance, or just another sad example of the ostrich sticking its head in the sand. Instead, how about a sign that says: “We’ve been here for 29 years and we appreciate your visiting our store. But if you want to shop our store at midnight and order from us, just go to http://www…...”

    • From what a local merchant told me, adding a Web element isn’t as easy as it sounds. Rather, it’s a whole separate business that requires hiring a full-time person or two to run. Maybe merchants can’t afford the added expense.

      Another merchant told me that people come into her store, look at one of the items for sale, and then check their smartphones for a lower cost. Some leave the store without buying anything. Others will show her the lower price they found on the Web, and ask her to match it. Her response has been that she will match it as long as her landlord does the same for her rent.

      • Don’t know which merchant you’ve spoken to, Lambie, but what you report they say, doesn’t ring true to me in an age when high-school kids can design a website. I go to a small shop on Main Street for jewelry: Mikol & Son. But I love the fact that you can also get info, or order, from them online: Same is true of many small businesses in 06880 who view online sales as a way of better serving their customers, not as a threat to their existence.

        • Danz, it was the woman who owns the Great American Rubber Stamp Store. Her sister has a similar store on the West coast that has a Web presence. She said it wasn’t as simple as filling a few orders that come in on the Web. Perhaps other merchants with Web experience will want to chime in with their firsthand knowledge because I am just passing along info I heard.

          A few years ago, I visited the Plymouth Tea store on the Cape in the offseason. The owner pointed to piles and piles of papers, all with orders for tea that he had to fill. He said he had to close his bricks-and-mortar storefront a few days a week, just so he would have time to fill the Web orders. He has scraped his store altogether and only has a Web presence now.

  4. King Canute tried the same approach; it did not work. I am betting on Amazon.

    • No, actually, Canute did not try the same approach. Canute knew full well that he was not all powerful and got tired of the sycophants who surrounded him telling him that he was. So he took his throne down to the water’s edge and commanded the tide not to come in. He got wet to prove his point; he did not believe he could hold back the tide.

      That said, it does seem a tad discourteous to walk into a bricks and mortar store and order from someone else while there. Comparison shop if you want, but why be rude about it?

  5. Any small store can put up a site for online purchases. It’s easy, cheap and it’s not time consuming. Most are very profitable! The music store mentioned has always been somewhat rude, plus they sell overpriced, beginner instruments.

  6. Lisa Marie Alter

    I totally beg to differ !

    We have been going to Westport Music Center since our son had the option to do Orchestra in 4th grade at GFS (he’s now in 7th grade). We have always found them to be friendly and accommodating.

    Are they the CHEAPEST that we could find for instrument rentals/purchases… no… but frankly do I care (?), because I believe they make it up in convenience and service. AND, our son has been taking music lessons (violin) there for the past 8 months with an outstanding young man named Greg.

    I know that they are there, just down the street, when something goes “wrong” (which it invariably does – our son accidentally dropped his wood bow on our tile floor and it broke irreparably – Steve at WMC lent us a temporary bow until the replacement came in — again, the new bow may not the have been cheapest, but what would we have done in the meantime ?? So I would’ve “saved” 30 bucks had I shopped for a replacement on line, but what would he have used in the interim, while he missed practice and lessons ?)

    I can only imagine how difficult it must be to be a “Mom & Pop” business in today’s world of Big Box stores and internet deals.

    We all have gotten so accustomed to expecting everything-for-nothing, in this world of Walmart-pricing and instant-messaging-gratification.

    We will all be very remiss if we don’t support our local businesses…
    one day, when they’re no longer here, we’re gonna regret that there’s no longer a name-and-face-and-a-friendly handshake on the other side of the transaction.

  7. While I do support local businesses and rarely, if ever, conduct price comparisons, I find the sign somewhat offensive. Further, since when do you get a handshake/smile from any local merchant (with the exception of ACE Hardware)????? Most of them sneer at you and when you thank THEM (??), you hear “no problem.” It is no wonder that the efficient and diversified is kicking ass.

    • Lisa Marie Alter

      Geez, CAS… sorry you feel like you haven’t gotten the “white glove treatment”…

      I have found that one by-product of this unfortunate economic downturn has been that I’ve found most places seem grateful for one’s business.

      Going thru the roster of places that I frequent (with perhaps the exception of our local Stop & Shop) I have found most purveyors, whether the actual owner or just a random “check out clerk,” to be friendly and gracious…

      But I do try to go around my day with a big dumb-ass 🙂 on…

      • @LMA: Interesting retort for I find Stop & Shop employees overly friendly when I go late at night. Otherwise, I don’t find the downturn to affect any social graces of employees/owners. Actually, depending on my blood sugar levels, I tend to be overly friendly as well. In one of my recent studies of saying “hello” to either employees or passerby-s, four out of ten responded with a kind gesture. Many afixed to their technological toy.

  8. The merchant can install the black light in the store therefore making it difficult for “shoppers” scan an item with their smartphone.

    Or simply ban cell phones.

  9. Seems like three issues here: friendliness, service, and price. Amazon gives you price. Friendliness and service are usually far greater in a family owned store like Ace Hardware or Silver’s Gifts & Luggage. I’ve been in Silver’s and watched a customer ask Steve all sorts of questions about what kind of suitcase would be best, etc etc and then walk out without purchasing anything. So they got the friendly service, but then went to Amazon for the price.

    Seems a bit like cheating someone out of their knowledge. Anyway, Silver’s now has set up a computer in their luggage department so you can go on line RIGHT THERE to search for a lower price and they will match it.

    BINGO! Friendly, service, and price.

    Doesn’t work in all situations due to margins and rent, but it’s the reality of Big Brands dominating the retail market.

    Alvin Toffler’s FUTURE SHOCK has arrived. Better get used to it, it ain’t goin away 🙂

  10. To be fair, it takes quite a bit of work to put up an ecommerce website that does more than take paypal. A high school student could probably put up a CMS (content management system) fairly quickly, but getting an ecommerce site to actually work in terms of generating traffic, fulfillment, SEO, linking to POS order systems requires more work.

    I’m in the business of both building and maintaining sites (I run four of my own ecommerce retail verticals as well)

    Haven’t been to Westport Music Center yet, but I’m not sure they’ve got the best approach. Ultimately they will lose. Amazon will win. Banning cell phones in stores??

    Jeff and Tom’s suggestion are best. Embrace the change, invest money into a building a web presence and compete. It would probably cost them between $15k-40k to get it done. Depending on product photography, integration with other accounting/fulfillment systems they use, etc. It’s not a small task but it’s an investment in the future.


  11. Virginia Gilbertie

    To pump someone for information and then make a purchase elsewhere is unconscionable. I’ve been in computer sales, both face-to-face and for an e-commerce vendor. None of the companies were full-price resellers, but smaller independents offering reasonable discounts. My job was to serve my customers by answering all their questions, often giving them a full education on the product, expecting that they would buy from me. This is not free information I was providing, it was paid for when the sale was made, which in turn kept the doors open for this customer to return.

    Silver’s approach is a good one, provided the margins for products stay high enough. We tried that at one computer retailer after on-line and big box stores began eating our lunch. It worked OK until prices continued to decline industry-wide and there was no margin left to match prices and cover our overhead. The computer industry is more volatile than Silver’s, but the point is the same.

    Price-matching can be a double-edge sword: Amazon’s prices are low because there is no sales person standing in front of you answering all your questions in a brick and mortar store. Matching on-line prices will eventually erode the merchant’s income to the point where they can’t cover the cost of providing the sales person to you. It also lowers the perceived value of the face-to-face sales staff in the minds of the customers – just re-read some of the posts on this issue to see it happening.

    I agree that brick and mortar stores have to be available where and when their customers shop, and web sites with on-line ordering solve some of that. They also need to promote their value add back it up with great service – no exceptions. This is the only way to make sure customers understand the value of what they’re getting. You can attract more flies with honey than vinegar.