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Amazon Offers Discounts For Torching Retail Stores
SEATTLE (CAP) - Brick-and-mortar retailers and some legislators are up in arms over Price Burn, Amazon's new mobile "app" that will provide a discount for shoppers who go into a local retailer, use the app to compare the store's prices with Amazon.com's prices for the same merchandise, and then burn the store to the ground.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) called the promotion "anti-competitive" and "an attack on Main Street businesses that employ workers in our communities."
"Plus, I'm pretty sure it's a felony," she added.
"It's wrong to try something in the store and then buy it online," added Leslie Tweedle, who owns a bookshop with her husband in Chicago. "And burning down the store ... that's very hard for a small retailer to deal with."
Tweedle said her husband had to confiscate matches, gasoline and at least one blowtorch from cell phone-wielding customers during Amazon's promotion earlier this month. One patron did manage to burn several copies of Twilight: Breaking Dawn, but "let's face it, that's not a huge loss," said Tweedle.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos defended the app, noting that in the end it helps the consumer find the lowest prices, which is important in a tough economy. Also, he noted that it doesn't explicitly encourage shoppers to burn down retail stores, but rather just notes the types of kindling and accelerants that would be most effective given the kind of store the shopper is in.
For instance, if the shopper is in a bookstore, the readout reads "kerosene," but in a card and gift shop it recommends "mineral turpentine."
"It's really for entertainment purposes only," said Bezos. "Besides, many of those places have more than adequate insurance, probably."
Some legislators were in favor of the app as well. "Amazon is just doing what it needs to do to succeed, which is the beauty of the free market," noted Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who received a $4,000 contribution from Amazon in 2010. "Not a lot of $4,000 contributions coming from locally owned independent bookstores," he added. "I'm just saying."
Writing in the New York Times, author Richard Russo (Nobody's Fool, Empire Falls) condemned the app. "Clearly Amazon envisions a future in which there will be no other booksellers, publishers, clothing stores, electronics distributors or any other kind of retailer, and the ones that exist now will be smoldering piles of rubble," wrote Russo. "That would be bad."
"Meh, his books don't sell that well anyway," countered Bezos. "Bridge Of Sighs sold just a small fraction of the numbers of product we moved on the Nancy Pelosi workout video."
Bezos also took the opportunity to preview the newest Amazon app, Price Loot, which finds the nearest brick-and-mortar retailer with a plate-glass window and suggestions of objects to throw through the glass, such as garbage cans or newspaper boxes.
"For entertainment purposes only," he reminded, twirling his recently grown pencil-thin handlebar moustache.