Times staff writer David Streitfeld wrote Jan. 2 about his experiences as a customer of Amazon.com, describing price changes that occurred between when he put books in his "shopping cart" and when he went back later to complete his purchases. About 100 readers have e-mailed responses to his article, "Amazon mystery: pricing of books." Here is a sampling:
Those darn price "warning" windows have been making my head spin. I am a graduate student and, as you experienced, I have books in my cart that I buy as I need them or dream of purchasing one day.
"Bizarre" is too mundane a word to try to explain how a depth-psychology book can rise or fall $5 in one day. I would really like an explanation from Amazon.
Amy S. Currans
Playa del Rey
I've experienced the same thing on Amazon numerous times in the last couple of years. I often use the "save for later" option in the cart, primarily because I use the list as a reminder of what I want to buy in independent bookstores (which I prefer to do over buying from Amazon).
I can't tell you how many times I've gone back to my cart and received the alert that a price had gone up. I thought it was odd, but now I understand what it's all about. Unbelievable.
The price is higher still at indie bookstores, but I'd rather support them than Amazon.
Maybe people should stop using the online shopping cart to record their planned purchases, as opposed to buying and leaving, just as at a real store.
Shoppers would thereby deprive Amazon of the data it probably uses to make the price change calculations.
When I started your article, I thought, "This is just a shopper using his bully pulpit newspaper to gripe about his bad experience with Amazon."
Then I realized the same thing has happened to me. Thanks for the interesting story.
I think you should note that nearly everything at Amazon is sold on sale. The reason bricks-and-mortar bookstores' prices don't vary is that they are mainly selling the product at the suggested retail price.
Nowhere on Amazon.com (that I've found) does it say its prices are fixed. Therefore, I suggest purchasing books when you put them in your shopping cart.
As a former retail employee, I can say there is nothing more annoying than someone reaching the counter and declaring, "You know what? I've changed my mind on these; I'll come back another time."
Just be thankful that there is an outlet for your obscure books to be purchased at all, and still cheaper than the list price.