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The Mystery of Amazon’s Fluctuating Prices

All David Streitfield wanted to do was buy a book. Looking around for a copy of THE IRON SKILLET COOKBOOK to “boost [his] dubious culinary skills,” the LA Times writer found a copy at Amazon.com, put it in his shopping cart, and forgot about it. The next day, he decided to buy it, only to get a pop-up message that the price had increased from $11.02 to $11.53. He checked with friends, who noted the price increase as well. How could this happen?

So Streitfield devised a test: he added a bunch of books, most of them newly published, most of them obscure, to his shopping baskets with both Amazon and its British affiliate, Amazon.co.uk. On December 15, he checked his shopping baskets, finding that “nine of the U.S. books had increased in price; three had decreased. At the British branch, nine had increased and none had decreased.” Could this be an instance of “dynamic pricing,” which involves selling identical material for different amounts based on the customer’s willingness to pay? Amazon didn’t want to comment on their strategies.
“Prices change,” spokesman Sean Sundwall said. “Prices go up, prices go down.”

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