THE TRUE THEORY OF EVOLUTION?
I wouldn’t normally rank on any one person, character or company two posts in a row… but this is f*cked up.
For years, Amazon has allowed–or at least turned a blind eye– while a small, innocuous price matching website called Camelcamelcamel.com added a price comparison widget to Amazon’s product pages– as an “add-on” to the Firefox browser (and others).
This widget, called the “Camelizer”–was an ultra convenient tool that required very little work to use… Much like this. You could go to almost any product page at Amazon (they have millions), click a little box on the right and up would pop a 3 month, 6 month or 1 year price comparison for your item– and even a graph if you wanted.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT THIS WIDGET DISAPPEARED
Amazon’s prices can literally CHANGE every hour– if not more often. Amazon doesn’t really want you to know this but they have lil’ bots scouring the internet(s) comparing prices. If one of the “A-Bots” (my term, not theirs) finds that Amazon’s price is outrageously low on an item– then the Bot makes Amazon’s price increase almost immediately. (Prices can also lower if Amazon’s A- Bot feels the web giant’s price is too high.)
So a comparison tool is really, really important.
I can’t tell you the number of times that I bought something I was seriously NOT even remotely considering purchasing– just because I happened upon an item that was selling at Amazon’s lowest price in a year. (Fuck it. Who can resist a bargain?) So, the Camelizer swung both ways. Sure, cautious consumers could use it to forego a purchase if they felt the then Amazon asking price was artificially inflated… the widget also doubled as an insidious impulse buying tool.
And then, one day, the Camelizer just went *poof*. You can still go to their site to price compare. Camel has always had a really nifty free service where you can set up an alert that will instantly email you if Amazon’s product price reaches– or goes below– the maximum price you are willing to pay for an item.
Maybe Amazon didn’t like that the Camelizer widget was becoming so popular. Maybe they felt like a jealous lover– when Camelcamelcamel.com moved on and created price comparison widgets for Newegg.com, Buy.com, Bestbuy.com and even Overstock.com. Hmmm. Seems like several MAJOR INTERNET RETAILERS are in the price manipulation business, huh? And I would guess these other site’s prices must fluctuate as much as Amazon’s prices (or close to it). If not, why would the instant price comparison tools for these other sites also be so popular?
You can read all about the Camelizer’s sudden disappearance and forced retirement as an Amazon widget at the Camel blog. You’ll even see me post there– as I got so pissed I wrote Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos an email at his executive email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. (Keep this address, it may be useful someday.) For those not inclined to click through– here’s what I said in my email dated June 17, 2010:
Dear Mr. Bezos, I hope this email finds you well. As a long time Amazon customer who– along with my family– literally spends TENS of THOUSANDS with your company every year… I would really appreciate your re-enabling the Amazon Camelizer plug-in for Firefox. I cannot begin to tell you how many items I have purchased using this valuable info– items I most likely would have NEVER purchased without it.Please feel free to check my account to see what I spend with you. If you would like to follow-up and see thousands of dollars of other purchases I am also responsible for on a yearly basis… I would be happy to provide that info as well. Please reconsider and re-enable this valuable Amazon pricing tool. All the Best
To my complete surprise, Peg Anderson, one of (I’m sure) dozens of Amazon “Executive Customer Relations” employees– replied 2 and 1/2 hours later:
Dear _____, My name is Peg Anderson of Amazon.com’s Executive Customer Relations team. Jeff Bezos received your e-mail and asked me to respond on his behalf. Thanks for your comments about Camelcamelcamel. We’ll consider your feedback on this matter. Customer feedback like yours really helps us continue to improve our store and provide better service to our customers. Thanks for taking time to offer us your thoughts. Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com if I can be of further assistance. Thank you for contacting Amazon.com. Regards, Peg Anderson Executive Customer Relations Amazon.com
Pretty cool, huh? Except Amazon NEVER did anything– forcing the good folks at the Camel website to come up with the Beta version for a NEW widget that basically does the same thing as the late, lamented Camelizer– but in a separate window on your browser. I’ll be blunt, the new program is not as convenient as its’ predecessor, nor is it as pleasing to look at… Although I am sure that new pricing tool will improve– mainly because they pledged to improve it. MAIN THING: The NEW widget still does an excellent job comparing prices– warning you if you’re about to become Amazon’s Bitch– or the luckiest consumer of say, LARGE SMOKED SUMMER SAUSAGES, ever! (here or here) And before you get your knickers in a twist– I know that it is Amazon’s right to demand another website disable non-approved widgets that appear as part of Amazon’s web page. I just think it was a shitty thing for them to do… And if Bezos was really interested in ameliorating this situation, he could do so– instantly. So first you stop packing books properly Amazon. Now you don’t seem to care that I might feel “taken” by your constantly fluctuating prices.
What’s strike three, I wonder?