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Why Does Amazon.com Hide Some Prices?

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Onkyo TX-SR608 7.2-Channel A/V Home Theater ReceiverWhy does Amazon.com hide some of the prices on their product pages? I saw it a lot when I was putting together my home theater a few years ago. It’s remarkably easy to buy electronics online because it’s everything is a commodity. As I sought out receivers, like this Onkyo TX-SR608 Receiver, I saw that nearly every one of them hid their prices.

For the longest time, I thought it was a sales gimmick. I had always heard the most difficult action to get an online customer to do is put an item in their cart (the second is to get them to get their credit card to for it, hence the “convenience” of storing your credit card information). I thought the “see price in cart” idea was a way to overcome that first step.

It turns out that it goes beyond that. It goes to the idea of Minimum Advertised Price. After a 2007 Supreme Court ruling in Leegin Creative Leather Products v. PSKS, manufacturers had more control in the retail pricing of their products. As a result, a retailer can’t advertise that they have something under the minimum advertised price in an attempt to undercut their competitors.

On the web, this results in these shifty games where you have to add an item to the cart to see its true price. Comparison shopping engines and aggregators scour the web, including Amazon.com product pages, to collect prices. When you visit one of those comparison shopping sites, you get a bunch of prices to compare. Those sites can’t, or choose not to, get the prices for products behind this “see price in cart” shield.

Now, whenever I see a product page with a price on it, I wonder if I’m overpaying… :)

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14 Responses to “Why Does Amazon.com Hide Some Prices?”

  1. Hannah says:

    There is always a link where the price would be explaining why they don’t show the price. It’s not exactly a mystery.

  2. BTW, I have that receiver and am very happy.

  3. freeby50 says:

    I think that ‘why don’t we show the price’ link is relatively recent. I don’t recall that being there in the past. Might be new within the past year or so.

  4. poscogrubb says:

    Newegg.com has a neat thing about putting the item in your cart and opening a pop-up window showing you the price along with a button to remove the item from your cart.

  5. eric says:

    Trivia of the day :)
    Someone told me this before but I didn’t remember it.

  6. That is interesting that it goes all the way back to a court ruling. It does make you feel like you are getting a deal though if you have to wait all the way until it gets into the cart to see the price.

  7. Dora says:

    Overstock.com uses this function alot. They will say something like: Retail value $87.50 and then you need to put it in your cart to see the price. I’ve seen it when the price is only a few cents less — such as now $87.04. Even when the price is hidden, the dealer still cannot sell below the minimum price agreement. Scuba gear often uses this concept — but beware – some small sellers will use the “minimum price” agreement to artificially set prices high. For example, a scuba store will have a 20% off on all equipment, subject to minimum price agreements. And then say they can’t disclose the price until you commit to purchase — only to find you aren’t getting the full 20%…

  8. I never noticed the link with the explanation either. Funny how it is right on front of your face but goes unseen.


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