Amazon dominates online shopping, and is now looking offline for further expansion, with Amazon bookstores and even an AI-enhanced grocery store popping up in the real world. But while Amazon stores can hook you up with the latest best-seller or ingredients for avocado toast, you might not be able to comparison shop while there.
Squawker brought to our attention a new patent granted to Amazon carrying the rather sinister title of “Physical Store Online Shopping Control.” It’s certainly not a very friendly sounding patent, and reading the contents confirms it isn’t.
Retailers are well-aware that when shopping in their physical stores, many consumers pull out their phone and start comparing prices. If a product is cheaper elsewhere, chances are the store they are standing in loses a sale. Amazon doesn’t want shoppers doing that in its own stores, and the technology described in this patent ensures they cannot.
Smartphones are typically set up to use the best signal they can find in an area, which includes freely accessible Wi-Fi. Amazon knows this and will happily offer you free Wi-Fi access when walking around its physical stores. But when accessing their Wi-Fi, Amazon intends to monitor what you are doing. If its monitoring system detects you are attempting to compare prices, it will take action.
Action, according to the patent, can take many forms. Your comparison may be blocked, redirected to an Amazon-friendly page, or you could get offered a complimentary item to entice you back towards buying from Amazon. While you’re waiting for the results to load, you could also be approached by an Amazon sales representative who has been informed of your actions. I suspect they will be friendly and won’t mention that they know what you were doing.
Of course, being awarded a patent doesn’t mean the technology will ever come to fruition. If it does, you can bypass all this nonsense by simply opting not to use Amazon’s free Wi-Fi while in their stores. And if you feel even the slightest tinge of guilt standing in an Amazon store comparing prices, just remember Amazon offers that handy barcode scanner in its app for comparing prices when out shopping.