Amazon's Price Check App: A Game-Changer For Retail?19:21

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To buy local, or not to buy local. Every holiday shopping season, that decision gets a little more fraught in the age of e-commerce. For instance, this year, online retailer has its "price check" smartphone app.

If you haven't heard about it, here's how it works. You go to your neighborhood store and shop the old-fashioned way. You leaf through a book, try on a sweater, tickle an Elmo or two, maybe get some assistance from a friendly salesperson. And when you've decided what you want, you whip out your phone and scan the barcode.

Amazon tells you whether they have it, and these days, there's a good chance they do. There's also a good chance it's cheaper at Amazon, especially since you get a 5 percent discount just for using the app.

A couple clicks later, you can buy from Amazon and have the item on its way to your door, sales-tax free. And you didn't even have to wait in line at the checkout. Your neighborhood shop did the hard work of selling you on the item, but the actual sale goes to Amazon.

Obviously, brick-and-mortar retailers haven't been wild about this. But some of them are doing their own innovation in response. Take Magic Beans, an independent toy store and baby supply shop in Coolidge Corner. Owners Eli and Sherri Gurock have been able to offer at least part of the Amazon price check experience with an app of their own. We'll pay them a visit at their store, then speak with Slate technology correspondent Farhad Manjoo about Amazon's price check app.


  • Eli and Sherri Gurock, owners, Magic Beans
  • Farhad Manjoo, technology correspondent, Slate


This program aired on December 19, 2011.