Nation’s Oldest Black-Owned Bookstore Takes on Amazon’s Price Check App

The grandaughter of the partners that opened the nation's oldest independent African-American owned bookstore says a recent promotion took competition a little too far.

By Jorge Rivas Dec 15, 2011

I’m not going to lie. I have the Amazon app that allows you to go to a store and scan barcodes to see how much that exact item is on the online superstore. I’ve used it to compare prices for everything from cereal, shoes to televisions. Yes. I’ve grabbed a big TV box at Costco and scanned the barcode. And it was cheaper on Amazon.

But on Saturday Amazon ran a promotion that gave shoppers a 5 percent discount if they scanned an item at a brick-and-mortar store and purchased it on the spot. Usage of the app tripled from the weekend before, according to Onavo, a company that monitors data usage on mobile devices.

"I was so angry when I read about’s Price Checker App promotion, the company actually paid shoppers to collect information on prices at local bricks-and-mortar shops and then shop at Amazon instead," wrote Jasmine Johnson, whose grandparents opened Marcus Books, the nation’s oldest independent African-American bookstore.

Johnson has started a petition asking Amazon to pledge not to use "these kinds of promotion techniques for the Price Checker app in the future" and apologize to small business owners.

Marcus Books opened in San Francisco’s Fillmore district in 1960 and Johnson says it’s been a struggle to keep it open today.

"All around the country I see independent bookstores and other retailers fighting for survival in this tough economy," Johnson wrote in the petition. "Amazon’s Price Checker app goes beyond simple competition in a free marketplace. It represents an ugly race to the bottom that might provide short-term benefit for bargain hunters, but will lead to long-term pain for communities in the form of lost jobs and tax revenues."

For more information on Johnson’s petition visit