Amazon is perfecting a different kind of business model than we’ve traditionally known. First, crush an industry by focusing on growth instead of profit. Then, swoop in to “fix” the industry that was destroyed. Now that the online retailer is moving into the brick and mortar world, it’s trying to prevent the in-store price comparisons that have served it so well against competitors.

Following the announcement of Amazon’s massive bid to buy the Whole Foods grocery chain, the Washington Post reports that the company has patented an algorithm that’s designed to discourage “mobile window shopping.” Customers’ habit of visiting stores like Borders and checking the Amazon prices while they browse is understood to have played a major factor in Amazon’s competitive victories over the last decade, so it’s beginning to take measures to ensure that it doesn’t suffer the same fate.

The algorithm isn’t going to prevent a dedicated customer from checking out other retailers on their phones… for now. All it does is make it more difficult for any shoppers who are on the store’s wifi. The “Physical Store Online Shopping Control” patent analyzes the mobile browsing of the customer and if it determines that they are visiting a competitor’s website it will redirect them in one of a few ways. From the report:

It may block access to the competitor’s site, preventing customers from viewing comparable products from rivals. It might redirect the customer to Amazon’s own site or to other, Amazon-approved sites. It might notify an Amazon salesperson to approach the customer. Or it might send the customer’s smartphone a text message, coupon or other information designed to lure the person back into Amazon’s orbit.

This isn’t a five-alarm fire warning of impending dystopia but it should give everyone pause at a crucial moment in Amazon’s history. Most analysts who covered the Whole Foods deal yesterday understood that it likely signals a huge expansion of the company’s ambitious delivery plans. The New York Times outlook was a little more granular in its outlook, saying that Bezos and co. are always looking for a place to experiment with what works. Amazon is gradually pulling everyone deeper into its eco-system and playing around with throttling customer’s mobile browsing is not the greatest omen.

  • NazdaPokmov

    I do not trust Amazon sellers……I buy few if no things from Amazon anymore……their shipping charges are outrageous and their sellers can dally around and send out stuff whenever they so wish….. Been ripped off too many times by them…. I shop on Ebay and generally get what I want with FREE shipping to boot. Screw Amazon….Jeff Bezos will starve to death if he depends on my shopping money.. And as far as getting your money refunded for stuff that was supposedly shipped that you never got….they will NOT honor their sellers pretend tracking info. Been ripped off by their sellers too many times now….Amazon only cares about stuff that they sent to you from their warehouses……that they fulfilled. And another thing you might consider about this “wonderful” rip off company……they have NO live customer service people either….it’s email only and hope you get a response. First they want you to contact the seller….then wait a week and then contact Amazon with your beef.

    Shoppers BEWARE of Amazon…..they have changed for the worst…..

  • TruthInLogic

    Time for some Tumpian anti-trust action against Amazon, Google and Apple