Amazon Might Be Rethinking the “List Price”

If everything is discounted, then nothing is.

Photo credit: Alan Levine, CC BY 2.0.

If you’ve browsed Amazon—and, come on, we’ve all browsed Amazon—you’ve probably wondered about Amazon’s “list prices.” This is where Amazon lists what an item should cost and then shows you how big of a discount you’re getting.

Elsa personifies springtime AND savings!

But “should” is an interesting word. Who decides what an item “should” cost? Are you actually getting a good deal, or is the list price higher than it “should” be in order to make that discount look bigger?

Amazon has decided to remove some of that confusion—by removing some of its list prices.

Amazon Is Quietly Eliminating List Prices

For example, Amazon originally promoted the Rave Turbo Chute as being discounted by 36 percent. Then, all mention of a discount was dropped and the 60-foot water slide was simply listed at $1,573.58, with an explanation that it used to be $1,573.59 — one penny more. Then, it dropped the old/new price comparison. Then, it dropped the price to $1,532.01 and put the comparison back.

That sounds less like “removing list prices” than it does like “testing whether items sell better without list prices,” and that screencap I took of the Elsa doll proves that list prices are still very active on the site. However, the NYT reports that Amazon has been slowly erasing list prices over the past two months. (The NYT also reports that there is such a thing as a $1,500 water slide.)

Not all of Amazon’s third-party sellers are happy with the decision:

The shift away from list prices is taking some merchants on Amazon by surprise. A seller named Travis complained in an Amazon forum that the list price on his product — which he did not identify — had disappeared from the site. “I’m well aware that it is bogus but it is a common marketing tactic that works very well at boosting sales,” he wrote.

Ah, those common marketing tactics that everyone knows are bogus. But they work, right? Wouldn’t you be more likely to buy a Singing Elsa doll if you thought you were getting $8 off the list price? Or would you prefer to see just one price, and make your decision from there?

I’m sure Amazon will let us know what we decide.

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