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New Amazon 4-Star Stores Charge Full List Price to Non-Prime Members on Some Items

Amazon 4-Star StoreAmazon has begun opening small brick and mortar retail stores called “Amazon 4-Star.” The stores only feature products that are rated four stars or higher and that are new and trending or bestsellers. One just opened last week in Natick, Massachusetts, to join the ones already in Manhattan, Denver, Seattle, and Berkeley. So MrConsumer paid a visit to the new store.

The company installed electronic shelf tags that allow it to change prices on goods multiple times a day just the way they do online. Worse, they are using an unusual type of dual pricing on some of those tags – one price for Prime customers who pay $119 a year, and another price for the rest of us.

Here’s a book they had at the store.

Amazon in-store book

The electronic price tag shows a Prime price of $20.99 and a “price” of $34.95. The store says that non-Prime customers would pay $34.95.

Looking up that book at Amazon.com provides a surprise.


Amazon book on website

It shows that $20.99 was not a special Prime members only price, but a price that anyone could order it for. Worse, it says the list price of the book is $34.95 — exactly what the Amazon store was charging non-Prime customers. Since when does Amazon sell anything at full list price?

Here’s another example.

Amazon store instant pot

This Instant Pot is $79 for Prime customers only, and $99.95 for everyone else. But a quick look at the website reveals…


Amazon online Instant Pot

Everyone pays $79 online for the Instant Pot and it is not a Prime exclusive item or price. The $99.95 they are charging in their brick and mortar store is full list price.

A third example is here.

While many items in the store have this dual pricing system, most have a single price on them. That single in-store price appears to match the online price. The store will not price match Amazon.com’s web price for non-Prime customers.

We asked Amazon’s PR folks why they use a dual pricing system, and why in the world this famous discounter is charging full list price on some items to non-Prime customers. The spokesperson was not able to reply in time for publication, but we will post the response when it is received. And surprise, they did not provide us with a statement. But, we found an inconspicuous disclosure now on the Amazon website:


Amazon FAQ

The lesson here is not to assume you are paying the regular Amazon.com price at their retail stores. Do a quick check online to make sure you are not overpaying.

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10 thoughts on “New Amazon 4-Star Stores Charge Full List Price to Non-Prime Members on Some Items”

  1. One reason why Amazon might want to have list-priced offerings: it could then legitimately claim that it sells the item at list price, providing a justification for the price discounts it advertises against the otherwise-meaningless list price. Thus, even if it never sells an item at list price, the offering helps it moves product elsewhere due to the inflated claimed discounts.

    Edgar replies: Eric, great minds think alike. I said that their charging list price could become a defense again claims made against it for advertising false discounts from nonexistent list prices!

  2. A better comparison is what are other stores charging for things like the Instapot?

    Many bookstores give a discount to members on bestsellers. (Barnes & Noble for one)

    Would you prefer Amazon work like Sam’s/Costco, where non-members can’t even buy anything?

    Granted, I’m a Prime member, but still think “nothing to see here”

    The most interesting thing in the article is the e-paper pricing labels! I’ve never seen it used for that application.

    • Edgar replies: Robert, this are not epaper price tags. They are probably at least 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick.

  3. I do not mind prime members getting a discount here. Online pricing is supposed to be less then brick and mortar right??

  4. Edgar.. I meant e-ink.. like the kindle. When I search for similar tags, I found them.. they are about $12 each.. less in quantity. Pretty cool.

    BTW, since they are upfront that prime members pay less.. where is the mouse print??

    Edgar replies: The point is that non-Prime customers don’t know they are paying full list price — there is no disclosure of that fact unless you visit the website while in the store. This is a big difference from how people are used to shopping at Amazon. For most items, there is one price, but Prime members just get faster shipping online.

  5. If I happen to come across a store, I may stop in more or less out of curiosity, but I wouldn’t make a special trip. What money I save on the discount will only be negated by the money I spend on gas just to travel there. I think I’ll stick to doing my shopping online.

  6. I tend to agree with Robert and with richard Ginn. I can’t buy anything at Costco or Sam’s Club. I’m not a member. Even non-Prime members can at least buy something at the Amazon stores. I don’t know why they’d want to under the circumstances, but at least they’re not totally out of luck, as I am at Costco or Sam’s Club.

  7. Has anybody actually visited an Amazon store and indicated you were not a Prime member and try to purchase one of these items with two prices? Did the cashier try to sell you a prime membership, or give you the prime price?

    At that point, you can just walk away from the “deal”.

  8. I don’t suppose this is much different than having a club pricing scheme, but it is a little deceptive of Amazon to charge customers more in their store than online, but only if they’re not Amazon Prime members. Maybe the discounted rate should be the regular price and prime members get 5% off that or something.

    I’m curious, since they can change the pricing several times a day, how they avoid a customer being charged something different at the register than what showed on the shelf.

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