Alibris Secondhand Books Standard

Monday, December 21, 2009

buy where you shop

Tim O'Reilly consideres the shortsightedness of new online comparison shopping tools:

On the surface, these are great tools for consumers (and there are other applications besides price comparison.) But remember, cutthroat pursuit of the lowest price will hasten the demise of many retailers, while strengthening others (usually, the biggest and most efficient, who can make money on the slenderest margins.)

Sure, you might be able to save money buying online. But if you like to see the product in the store first, it's in your interest to keep the store in business:

Online shopping is terrific: you can get detailed product information, recommendations from other customers, make a choice, and have the product delivered right to your door. But if you aren't satisfied with the online shopping experience, you want to look at the physical product, for example browsing through a book in the store, you owe it to the retailer--and to yourself--to buy it there, rather than going home and saving a few dollars by ordering it online.

Think about it for a minute: the retailer pays rent, orders and stocks the product, pays salespeople. You take advantage of all those services, and then give your money to someone else who can give you a better price because they don't incur the cost of those services you just used. Not only is this unfair; it's short-sighted, because it will only be so long before that retailer closes his or her doors, and you can no longer make use of those services you enjoy.

What does the future hold? Will brick and mortar stores all eventually shut their doors? Will all consumer products someday be bought online?



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