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Dec 13, 2011 5:55 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Booksellers Deplore Amazon 'Poaching' Ploy

Dec 13, 2011 6:31 PM

In some rare cases, Mr. McKeown said, a customer will even ask if the bookstore has wifi “so they can download in the store.”

“Sometimes it is a case of ignorance where people don’t connect the dots and don’t understand we are not a showroom for Amazon or Barnes and Noble,” he said. “We remind people that we are fully ecommerce-enabled and do sell books on our website,” he said—as does BookHampton on its website.

“But it’s an educational process to inform the consumer that there is a penalty they pay ... fewer jobs in the local economy and all the permutations that that bears with it, including real estate values.” Mr. McKeown called it “a hidden tax.”

He predicted “some pushback,” adding that booksellers tend to be polite—until they encounter “behavior that has people taking advantage of our expertise and our curatorial skills.”

“Amazon has unintentionally triggered a way for us to fight back,” he said, “in their arrogance and their selfishness.”

While Saturday’s promotion “pushed the boundary of acceptable business ethics,” he said, a recent American Express promotion provided a stark contrast. The credit card company was offering a $25 discount to cardholders who patronized local merchants, “creating enormous goodwill” and a “win-win” situation for all, Mr. McKeown said.

On the day of the Amazon promotion, he said, “we were prepared for the worst,” but did a brisk business and “did not witness any of this behavior.”

“The more and more Amazon engages in these kinds of tactics,” he said, the more and more consumers are going to resent it.”

“We don’t think of consumers as being lemmings,” Mr. McKeown said. “People will connect the dots and that will be good for us in the long haul.”

Maryann Calendrille, who with her partner, Kathryn Szoka, owns Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor, said much the same thing.

“There’s a growing awareness” among consumers, she said, about the importance of the decisions that they make with their purchases. “Our customer base generally understands that we’re only here at 280 Main Street if people shop here and support us and bring their purchasing power to the bookshop,” she said.

Ms. Szoka in particular already has been “educating people” in the difference between independent, locally owned bookstores versus chain stores for about five years, Ms. Calendrille said, “to help people understand what the impact is.”

She said a loyal customer was in the shop last weekend and while making a “significant purchase” did take a photograph of a book cover. He “profusely apologized,” however, explaining that he wanted to prove to a friend that the friend looked like Ernest Hemingway.

“He was excused,” Ms. Calendrille said, adding that “this is a very intimate setting and people would have to be pretty ballsy to do that” and then do their shopping on Amazon, although she did see some price-scanning/photo-taking activity over the summer.

“I don’t want to be belittling,” she said of Amazon’s strategies. “I think it’s an aggressive tactic that undermines the painstaking, hard work that mom-and-pop” storeowners make.

“We do in different ways attempt to make discounts, but ultimately there’s a high cost for cheap,” Ms. Calendrille said. “We want a pair of socks for $1. What does that mean; how did that pair of socks get to you for $1?” in terms of “exploitation and environmental degradation,” she asked.

In fact, she had even had a book to recommended on the subject: “Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture” by Ellen Ruppel Shell.

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"Cry "Havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war,
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth..."

Julius Caesar Act 3, scene 1
By Mr. Z (11561), North Sea on Dec 13, 11 6:39 PM

I deplore that type of shopping behavior. Just go buy it online right off the bat! It takes a real a hole to waste the time of a brick and mortar retailer and then go buy online. It takes an even bigger a hole to suggest that their customers go ahead and take part in such behavior.

The article is incorrect though. Amazon does collect sales tax in NY.
By C Law (349), Water Mill on Dec 13, 11 6:39 PM
The government should step in and bailout any bookstores that fail as a result of amazon's approach.

I believe that will save jobs, create new ones, and lower taxes just as other bailouts have.
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Dec 13, 11 6:52 PM
Oh I see when Steve Jobs does it its OK, LOL you people crack me up Long live competition long live AMAZON
By They call me (2756), southampton on Dec 14, 11 12:30 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By C Law (349), Water Mill on Dec 14, 11 6:04 PM
I agree with TCM. Screw I tunes and the Apple business model.They want to control everything you do. open source and free enterprise forever! It makes no difference if it is on Black Friday or Cyber Monday Competition is king. Its what made this country great. Certainly not the corrupt union way of doing things, or the east end mom and pop protectionist way of doing things. Just good old free market unregulated private sector competition. If Barnes & Noble has a better experience then Book Hampton ...more
By Undocumented Democrat (2007), southampton on Dec 14, 11 10:10 PM
Not to go all Constitutional on you, BUT, wasn't it our own Founding Fathers who DEPLORED an abundance of power, in the hands of just a few?

I seem to recall that version of history being fairly accurate.

I shudder to think of a world where the tactile fellowship that comes with the printed (that means ink) book is lost. But, that seems to be the way we are headed, isn't it. Maybe coffee, and a discount download in a museum dedicated to "this is how we used to read" as the motif.
By Mr. Z (11561), North Sea on Dec 14, 11 11:59 PM
I despise an abundance of power just as much as you do. That is why I deplore the unions. Also companies like Apple who want to hold the keys to everything you do, and google who wants to know and track every move you make, They are the dangerous ones at the moment. and like the utilities and oil companies must be watched in the courts. You cant stop the winds of change my friend. Something tells me there will always be a place for the intimate book store cafe experience in some form or another, ...more
By Undocumented Democrat (2007), southampton on Dec 15, 11 2:19 PM
You need to remember that without Oligarchy, unions would not have come to be. Unfortunately, in so many ways they (unions) have become what they were founded to battle against.
By Mr. Z (11561), North Sea on Dec 16, 11 2:07 PM
Z, you may be right but I'll defend unions to my dying breath. Think about it with out it we would have no middle class. Think about this, ... in a corporation every time the union workers got a raise or benefits the white collar workers got the same. Maybe some demands got out of hand but the union still protects the honest worker.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Dec 19, 11 8:08 PM
I know unions need to exist. Most retail workers could really use one, considering their California counterparts get $10/hr minimum wage, and here it's $7.25. Most people with "power" tend to embody Basitat's sentiment:

"When plunder becomes a way of life for a certain group of men, they in time create a legal system which condones it, and a moral code that glorifies it."
By Mr. Z (11561), North Sea on Dec 19, 11 8:52 PM
@ UD:

Apple's middle name is "proprietary". Makes that silly PC commercial even more foolish. I don't own an Apple, and I never will. Look into the Asus Transformer Prime, for a good PC product that makes the iPad look like a hunk of silicon.
By Mr. Z (11561), North Sea on Dec 19, 11 8:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
Phil, without unions, the "robber barons" would still be dancing on the bruised backs, and broken bodies of the people whose hands made them their fortune.

Without "middle class" workers, "corporates" cannot function.
By Mr. Z (11561), North Sea on Dec 19, 11 8:57 PM
Books and Books has no right to whine. They opened up a chain store in Westhampton and helped drive The Open Book, a true community book store, out of business.

I will gladly shop Amazon. They offer substantial discounts, lots of great reviews and selections, and free delivery.
By Steven (113), Westhampton on Dec 14, 11 8:41 PM
That's great, shop at amazon or wherever you want to online. I shop alot online as well for the reasons you mention.

What I don't do is go to, lets say gubbins, and try on a bunch of running shoes and then tell them I am not interested and go buy them online for $10 cheaper.

Or go to Main beach and talk to a sales guy about which surfboard is best for my kid to learn on and then go buy it on amazon for $40 cheaper.
By C Law (349), Water Mill on Dec 15, 11 6:25 AM
Then maybe grubbins needs to charge $5 to try on shoes and apply the deposit to the price of the shoes if you buy them.
By Undocumented Democrat (2007), southampton on Dec 15, 11 2:22 PM
Not for nothin', but Amazon basically a giant catalogue that services a huge number of small businesses. Any small business can sell through Amazon. So yea, it might be 'stealing' business from one brick and mortar store - but it's providing business to another who can offer a better deal and is using the internet to their advantage.

Not to mention the whole e-book thing. . .
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 14, 11 10:13 PM
Personally, I think a really good second hand book store, really stocked well, can still attract a lot of walk-ins, and do well out here. Still won' t buy a e-reader. Like the feel of a real book in my hands. Unfortunately, I think the book stores, magazines and even newspapers are going down, the same as the record stores did. New technology.
By BruceB (142), Sag Harbor on Dec 15, 11 4:57 PM
2 members liked this comment
There was a Federal Hearing not too long ago where the issue of state sales tax of online purchases was the issue. Apparently there is already a "Use" tax or fee on the books, but the states have no way to collect. There is also an issue with the Commerce Clause. There is much more and was an interesting Hearing. Amazon was represented there. You can find it on C-SPAN.
By The Good Life (7), Westhampton Beach on Dec 16, 11 3:21 PM
You've never filled out a quarterly or annual NYS Sales Tax filing, have you?
By Frank Wheeler (1818), Northampton on Dec 19, 11 7:43 PM
I am so happy to go to Bookhampton. The variety is wonderful to see and be able to buy off the shelf with out having to special order. Such is my experience in B&N. And the local stores support local authors.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Dec 19, 11 8:11 PM
Hot Tubs,SALE, Southampton Village, SouthamptonFest weekend