THE BLOG
12/23/2014 09:00 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Scrooge and a Digital Christmas

2014-12-23-Christmasshopping.jpg

Has Scrooge taken over digital shopping?

Is the global discount World Wide Web in danger of returning to its save-human-kind roots?

Does Amazon have a business model, finally?

Maybe...

"What surprised me was how many of these deals were bad," said Jacqui Cheng, the editor-in-chief of the product review sites The Wirecutter and The Sweethome. Further, she said: "I kind of expected that we would be able to say that 85 percent or 90 percent were bad but it turns out that almost literally every single one is bad."

Added Brian Lam, the founder of The Wirecutter and The Sweethome, "The stuff that's really good is almost never on sale."

And let me add that their information is based on years of study that this year included 20 writers and editors committed to getting to the truth.

Bottom line is, most of the hype comes from basic retail tricks that haven't changed in millennia... publish a "suggested" price, slash it, create some hoopla and voila, create demand; even in an environment where people supposedly check the world before they make a purchase.

And then again there is Amazon -- heavily discounting, selling below margin, giving us all kinds of "free" extras and now going Hollywood.

Yet all is not cheap in the land of Amazon.

Seems that Wells Fargo studied Walmart and Amazon and found that in four key categories, Walmart was 10 percent cheaper online...Amazon of course denies this.

But one thing is for certain -- books are no longer discounted in a blanket fashion and Amazon, despite its admonitions, is taking profits akin to those of the "fat cat" publishers.

All of a sudden cheap seems not to be the goal, but rather customer experience; and we will pay for customer experiences, make no mistake.

Read Jeff Bezos' Lemonade Stand on David Streitfeld's Bits Blog and see the full argument...as he says, "nothing in life is truly free...even from Internet companies."

Bottom line: we have blindly followed the Pied Pipers out of Hamlin, creating huge wealth for them in return for ease of shopping and perceived discounts for us, however, I'd argue that the Kool-Aid of digibabble has been watered down, considerably.

The Warby Parkers and the Bonobos of the world have no fear of multichannel experiences; Hearst has no fear of pursuing new print magazine ideas; Monocle has no embarrassment in sending you a 3D publication; live concerts and events -- experiences in the vernacular are thriving at crazy (not discounted) prices and children's books are thriving.

Digital is everything, but not everything is digital. Maybe Santa is trying to tell us something.

Listen:

"The challenge of the retail business is the human condition." - Howard Schultz

And there you have it -- perhaps we should also paraphrase: the challenge of digital business is the human experience...

What do you think?

And P.S. -- Why are the Streitfeld article and blog I have referenced above in the Technology section and not Retail? Digital is everything....