Had Enough “Black Friday” Yet?

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Buy More Stuff, Black Friday 2009Every year, it seems that “Black Friday” gets even more over-the-top.

I have written posts on this topic before. I thought it was crazy enough back when Mrs. Amazopia and I got up at 3am to go down to a local electronics store to see if we could pick up some bargains, and discovered that there wasn’t a (legal) parking space in the same zip code. Since then, we vowed never to repeat that experience, and we have kept that vow for more than a decade.

Back then, “Cyber Monday” was the next Big Thing. But it appears that Cyber Monday never got much traction, so the online vendors decided to co-opt Black Friday. But then, the pile-on effect started to take its toll, so a lot of the merchants went to “Black November” and started pushing on that in October. I expect that pretty soon, it will be “Black Fall.” I’m not sure what sort of escalation of that will follow.

Amazon has certainly tried (successfully, I should add) to cash in on Back Friday/November/Fall/Whatever. But I can see some cracks in the dam.

Amazon uses 3rd-party vendors for the vast majority of its sales. These vendors have the challenge of finding inventory, paying to ship it to Amazon, paying Amazon to store it, and paying several other costs of doing business on Amazon, while trying to price their merchandise so that they make enough money to survive. That means that Amazon, for the most part, can’t be the lowest-priced source for anything.

The main competitive angle used by Amazon is customer service. Their return policy is really great, but the cost of returns is not borne by Amazon — they put the entire burden and cost of customer service on their vendors (and they are starting to squeeze their suppliers in a manner similar to Walmart). Unfortunately, there are people who abuse that, but that’s a post for another time.

I see some other negative trends in Amazon, similar to some of the things that I saw in eBay several years ago. Back then, I was of the opinion that there was nothing wrong with eBay which would not be cured in a heartbeat by some credible competition. Turned out that Amazon provided some, and eBay really did clean up its act — some.

Now, it’s Amazon who has no credible competition, or at least hasn’t had any for a while. I do see some possible competition on the horizon, some of which is from larger vendors who have gotten really tired of of dealing with Amazon.

Case in point: Sonos. We have featured Sonos merchandise several times here at Amazopia, as cutting-edge entertainment technology. They are now branching out from Amazon (wisely, IMNSHO), and selling their merchandise directly. In doing so, they can save the hassle and cost of dealing with Amazon.

Here’s an example: Sonos CONNECT:AMP

55W per channel amplifier with built-in wireless streaming (plus the features of a standard stereo amplifier).

Note that this item is offered at the same price as on Amazon, so they are going to have to compete on customer service. Here are their competitive points:

  • Free Delivery (no “prime” account needed, so if you don’t have a Prime account with Amazon, this could be a better deal)
  • 60-day no-questions-asked holiday returns
  • Unlimited support (although you really won’t need much)

Sonos is a well-known and respected brand, so I think that going around Amazon might be a successful plan. If so, I think more vendors may follow their lead.

I wish Sonos the best of luck. After all, there’s nothing wrong with Amazon that a good dose of credible competition wouldn’t cure in a heartbeat.