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Amazon has a patent to keep people from comparison shopping in stores (washingtonpost.com)
219 points by panarky on June 16, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 151 comments



It shouldn't matter that this is an obvious thing to do or easily circumvented (for the time being).

It is 1) an invasion of privacy and 2) anti-competitive behavior.

Version 1 may be easily circumvented, but future versions could easily be tighter and more difficult to circumvent. For example, a contract with the mobile providers could make this something that no longer depends on in store WiFi usage.

This is the sort of thing that should be stopped in its infancy.


In theory, I don't have a problem with a retailer offering free WiFi but limiting it either for QoS or to block certain sites or protocols. It's their bandwidth and they should be able to offer it to the public on whatever terms they want.

As with anything, if you aren't paying for it then you are not the customer.

Now, if they somehow convinced Verizon or ATT to interfere with the network access that I am paying for, that would be a problem and I'd stop doing business with both the carrier and the retailer.


> Now, if they somehow convinced Verizon or ATT to interfere with the network access that I am paying for, that would be a problem and I'd stop doing business with both the carrier and the retailer.

Considering the plethora of choices, you would definitely win. /s Goes back to old George Carlin joke about belonging to a club and you not being in it.


Not to be confused with Groucho Marx's joke about belonging to clubs. :-)

Carlin's bit, for reference. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKUaqFzZLxU


Omg. He sounds a little like trump and he also 'sounds' like trump. Great share


Carlin hated government and both parties with a passion, but he leaned a bit liberal by his own admission. That said, he would be disappointed to hear he's being compared to Donald Trump. See his bits on the "business man" and "politicians" for reference.


One time at a trade-show/conference I set up a few APs that appeared to offer free wi-fi. It was a walled garden with a custom DNS set up so that any attempt to browse the Internet resulted in a beautiful web page extolling our start-up, products and proving directions to our booth.

But I completely agree with you - if you're getting a free connection, look for the attached strings.


Did it work?


According to the logs there were about 1200 people who viewed our promotion - we had pretty good traffic to our booth but we had also generated some buzz before the conference started. Overall I'd have to guess it had a mixed effect - maybe half the people thought it was clever and half were irritated that they didn't really get free wi-fi.


That would show em!


It is 1) an invasion of privacy

I'm not so sure here. This patent only applies to Wi-Fi connections onto the Amazon owned network. So the client device must first broadcast their SSID (public), request access to a private network, then request data through the Amazon router (Inspected/Firewalled by default). It's Amazon's prerogative to block ports or IPs at their discretion as every router or VPN does.

2) anti-competitive behavior

It's definitely anti-competitive in spirit if they reduce information access to competitors - whether it's legally anti-competitive is probably a gray area and my guess is that the patent filers have already taken that into account.


Totally agreed with regard to 1). Coffee shops, schools, and airplanes all block certain websites. It may be unfortunate but it's clearly not illegal. It's their wifi and they can do with it what they please.

Now I can understand if it said anywhere that it would actual tamper with traffic then it could be illegal, but as it stands it just says it might block or redirect them. Sounds like a pretty standard firewall to me.


> Coffee shops, schools, and airplanes all block certain websites.

Do they do it to block bandwidth hogs like video streaming sites (and "think of the children!" content, in schools), or is that coffee shop blocking review sites, info about competitors, etc? I think that what they're blocking and why is more important than the fact that they're doing some blocking/redirecting in the first place.


If Comcast sells internet service to me, and then I in turn provide or give internet service to others, such as in my cafe or apartment building, would that be a backdoor to net neutrality?

As the owner of Mimi's Cafe, I don't see why I can't block you from looking at AT&T's plans, or impair your Netflix.


> " request access to a private network, then request data through the Amazon router (Inspected/Firewalled by default). It's Amazon's prerogative to block ports or IPs at their discretion as every router or VPN does."

So you're basically saying that if I'm using Starbucks' WiFi it's surely their prerogative to read my emails or whatnot ("inspect" my traffic)


Reading email content is a different problem altogether technically and legally - so it's not a valid comparison. That's not what inspect means [1] packet attributes, ports for POST/GET, headers and routing are typically the data inspected. If Starbucks wanted to block or log how many people are hitting a GMail IP, however then yes that is their prerogative.

That said if you're doing email over bare HTTP then you're broadcasting that data publicly over RF anyway.

[1]http://searchnetworking.techtarget.com/definition/stateful-i...


"Well, of course we're not reading your emails. We're just inspecting the headers and blocking all emails from `@competitor.com`"


Yes, it is.

This is why https is a thing.


Likely they block dns too. 99% of the world uses the default dns for a connection.


> It's definitely anti-competitive in spirit

Where do you draw the line with that? What if you were in a store, saw a product, and then asked the clerk 'can I use your phone I want to check the price at one of your competitors?'. Is that any different? Even if the phone line doesn't cost anything per call (it's a fixed cost let's say).

Competition, honest competition, doesn't require you to make it easy for customers to see if your pricing is fair or high or whatever. Mostly if stores don't enforce this (even with taking of pictures) it's because from a practical standpoint they can't enforce it or get employees to battle customers. Not because they don't have a right to do so.


There is no objective line here, it's really about how far a firm goes to actively prevent users from switching.

That seems to be the spirit of anti-trust law:

The categories of prohibited conduct are not closed, and are contested in theory. Historically they have been held to include exclusive dealing, price discrimination, refusing to supply an essential facility, product tying and predatory pricing.

So in this case it could be argued that they are "refusing to supply an essential facility." That essential facility being unrestricted access to the internet - but I think its too precedent laden to hold.


Free internet access is not an essential facility for shopping in a retail store.


If a customer, using their equipment and no store resources, is prevented from researching competitor's pricing - that seems like a fair line.


Is standing in a store's property considered using a store's resources?


Using that company's WiFi certainly is!


No. Considering it's open to the public.


Still, there's a difference between actively helping your customers check the competition and actively blocking them.

After all, perfect information is a condition of perfect competition (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfect_competition)


Or, as a friend has put it:

"The one thing a capitalist fears more than anything else is a truly free market."


Implementing this in stores would be a huge ethical issue.

Future versions could also be more malicious, such as modifying the price or even availability of the item on a competitor's website if possible.

This is why we need to keep supporting both technical solutions such as VPNs and https, as well as political solutions like net neutrality.


> Future versions could also be more malicious, such as modifying the price or even availability of the item on a competitor's website if possible.

What about the corollary to this - marking down a price in store for a specific shopper. This is something I've read about in regards to in-store tracking. A system could detect when you're likely to purchase something given some sort of incentive, and provide an on-demand coupon to your smart device.


> Implementing this in stores would be a huge ethical issue.

Not really. It's only effective on their own wifi network. Disconnect and you're good to go.

> Future versions could also be more malicious, such as modifying the price or even availability of the item on a competitor's website if possible.

That would have serious legal implications, so I don't see it.

> This is why we need to keep supporting both technical solutions such as VPNs and https, as well as political solutions like net neutrality.

Or, you know, turn off the free wifi they are giving you?


>> Implementing this in stores would be a huge ethical issue.

> Not really. It's only effective on their own wifi network. Disconnect and you're good to go.

I don't understand how this response relates. It's still a huge ethical issue even if those people who are aware of it can learn to avoid it.

> That would have serious legal implications, so I don't see it.

I'm not as optimistic. ISPs have gotten away with modifying websites in the past, not as maliciously as this. But it's a step down that path.

> Or, you know, turn off the free wifi they are giving you?

Obviously I myself am not going to use the wifi. But I don't think just telling everyone you know not to use in-store wifi is a good long-term solution.


> I don't understand how this response relates. It's still a huge ethical issue even if those people who are aware of it can learn to avoid it.

Those people should read TOS's. But seriously, don't connect to an open WIFI network expecting privacy.


Can they build the store in such a way as to limit cell signal? For some reason, every Target that I go into has horrible cell connections (inability to use my browser) but always free wifi.


As far as I know, that's illegal in the US to interfere with cell signals. A big box store like Target is a poor man's Faraday cage (he said, having 0 knowledge of physics) and offering free wifi is a small cost if it means people stay inside the store longer.

Saying this isn't anti-competitive because customers can always ignore the free wifi misses the point: given the service issues in stores and the attractiveness of (usually) higher speed wifi, people are going to be drawn to it and no one is going to read the Terms & Conditions that say "Hey, we're going to try to prevent you from shopping for the lowest price!"


I always have unusable cell reception inside of Fry's Electronics.


That's a combination of the building (lots of metal) and cellular service just being bad (relatively) at penetrating in-doors.


Neither HTTPS nor net neutrality would prevent this. VPNs are a whole can of worms for the average consumer.

Also, it'd be legal to intercept or block traffic. It wouldn't be legal to change a competitor's website.


Amazon has no ethics, so I don't know why you think it would be an issue..


> 2) anti-competitive behavior

That's not much of an argument in the context of patents, because the sole purpose of patents is to prevent competition. All usage of enforceable patents is inherently anti-competitive behavior.


> because the sole purpose of patents is to prevent competition.

No, the purpose of patents is to make trade secrets into public information so knowledge isn't lost; allowing inventors limited monopolies isn't the purpose, it's the cost, it's the carrot that achieved the goal of getting them to disclose their inventions to benefit all of mankind. You've confused the carrot for the destination.


My how far we've fallen. And to think that the original purpose of patents was to democratize technology by eventually making inventions free for public use.


I think he means the practice described in the patent is anti-competitive.


If used this could be seen as a precedent for letting internet carriers do this. Even if you're paying for the connection it's still their network.

While this is already occurs for content that is considered illegal, broadening the content it can be applied to is dangerous.

They may block or throttle their competitors, or send you promotions for their products (or do the same things of their associates). Many people won't know or be able to detect that this is happening.


this isn't totally on topic, but today's acquisition of Whole Foods seems like anti-competitive behavior as well. There is a lot of precedent for the prevention of vertical mergers.

Amazon doesn't seem to be too concerned with how anti-trust law might be interpreted. I think they'll just count on the impotent FTC not having the resources to bring a case against them.


> anti-competitive behavior.

The problem I see is that they are fine doing it to others with their app, but not ok when it's done to them.


it's okay, the important thing is that people who do not understand anything about the internet are making legal decisions with respect to its openness and competitiveness.


They could also increase the online price (for websites they own) to be the same as the in-store price.

I've seen something similar to this at Target. Target.com is often cheaper than Target stores. And Target store matches Target.com prices. However, if you use Target app (not Target mobile/desktop website) in a Target store, the price shown will be the in-store price instead of online price. The Target Android app requests permissions to access precise location, pair with Bluetooth devices, and view WiFi connection.


In fairness, the opposite happens sometimes too. If the store price is lower, it will show the lower store price. This happens regularly with store-specific clearance items.

In either case, starting an order with the app will show you the online price.


Walmart does something similar. I recently bought a generic desktop power cable from them, which when I checked online was listed at ~$5. In store, it rang up as $20. They price matched, but it's kind of ridiculous that they're preying on consumers like this.


There are overheads to running a bricks and mortar store. This, plus the price will be whatever people will pay for it.


Another viewpoint here.

I was at a Target recently and noticed that the website price of an item was about two dollars cheaper than in-store. The clerks I spoke to at first wouldn't do the price-match, which was a bit frustrating. Eventually they did it, though so maybe it was just that store/clerk.


> They could also increase the online price (for websites they own) to be the same as the in-store price.

That seems like the wrong way around. If you're in a store, and checking Amazon, Amazon would want you to think the product is cheaper on Amazon, so you don't buy it from the store you're in.


This is a technology to be deployed in Amazon's brick-and-mortar stores, which used to be an oxymoron in the past but is increasingly no longer the case.


This is for people who are in stores owned by Amazon.


See? The first word that comes to my mind after finding this out is extortion. I'm sure someone can tell me that somehow this is legal. But it's unethical.


Seems more likely that Amazon got this patent to prevent some other brick and mortar store from acquiring it and blocking Amazon.com.


Yeah, just like that oh-so-reasonable 1-click purchase they patented. Good thing they never abused that patent.


That was very clever. The insight was to make both buying and undoing the buy easy. For a few minutes after an Amazon one-click buy, you can undo it. That's what made one-click purchases non-scary. Most E-commerce systems still don't get this. Once you've clicked "buy", it's "Mwaaah, we have your money now, sucker!"


Granted this is a totally inadequate solution, but in all cases where I've made an online order from a reputable seller and wanted to cancel it before it shipped, I have been able to call the business over the phone, provide them with the invoice number, and successfully cancel the order. I've only had problems in cases where "I should have known better than to order on that site" to begin with.


I'm perfectly fine calling someone on the phone, but many other millennials strongly dislike phone conversations.


Every reputable seller also has email. In Amazon's case you don't even need that, you just need to click a button.


  In Amazon's case you don't even need that, you just need 
  to click a button.
Yes, that was the point of the thread. On Amazon's site, order cancellations are automated and can be done on the website, while for many other online stores you have to contact a human to do it manually.


"Due to unusually high call volume..."


Not to be harsh at all, but I think that you may have misread his point. Its not that Amazon is unwilling to use a patent for evil, its that the "evil" purpose in this case is the opposite of the usual case.

It is very much in Amazon's best interest for competitors never to deploy a technology like this. I'm sure that lots of people have placed Amazon orders from inside of Target stores after seeing cheaper prices at Amazon.com, for example.

This could be a offensive patent in the since that they could aggressively pursue anyone who implements it, while never implementing it themselves.


Who knew this expires in 88 days on September 12th. 20 years already.


While it's true that a business won't shy away from leaning on its intellectual property to beat out competitors when necessary, it is also true that having your own strong patent portfolio is one of the best defenses against patent lawsuits from competitors and (some types of) patent trolls. It's sort of a mutually-assured destruction thing, where they won't sue you over X because they know you could sue them over Y.

There is also the possibility that if you don't file the patent, someone else will, and it's better for you to be in control of that property than to leave it for someone who is potentially much worse to obtain.

This is pretty much the dilemma involved in any willful abdication or refusal to seize property/power. It's particularly relevant to competent engineers who opt out of office politics because they dislike the BS, which means the task is left to the incompetent. This results in suffering for everyone.

If something is under your control, even if you're not actively doing much with it, you're preventing an adversary from taking it instead.


Great joke. I chuckled


It's hard to say what any random patent means in terms of Amazon's larger business interests. When I worked there(and I'm sure it is still the case today), we were encouraged to bring any kind of novel idea we had to the patent team, and they would take care of the rest.


1. Use VPN 2. Regardless of free Wi-Fi, it's illegal in many countries to tamper with traffic. Net neutrality anyone? 3. Kudos to WaPo's editorial integrity. Despite being a Jeff Bezos entity, it isn't afraid to publish items Amazon doesn't want you to know about


Theyr'e not tampering with traffic in the article, just observing it and either blocking access or taking note and taking external actions.

I suppose you could consider "blocking" to be tampering. Either way, the other options described are still open.


FTA: "When that happens, Amazon may take one of several actions. 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."

How is blocking and redirecting traffic NOT tampering?


It's standard operating procedure for network filters - redirecting inappropriate content requests to a "this site is not allowed" page.

As long as you're not being deceptive (e.g., inserting your own content, changing other content, changing prices), blocking and redirecting is probably fine.


I think it's reasonable to think "tampering" means surreptitious modification of traffic. If they're up-front about what they're doing then it's just the cost of using their service.


LOL - With all due respect, ANYONE considers "blocking" as tampering.


I disagree. Blocking isn't tampering because you are informed of what happened. And that's moot, in this context, because blocking sites is absolutely legal in the US.


I would think tampering implies more subtle actions.


AFAIK net neutrality doesn't make it illegal to tamper with traffic (only to apply discriminatory QoS/throttling), and only applies at the telco/ISP level.

Internal routers rely heavily on traffic blocking and manipulation. Many corporate networks inject their own HTTPS certificates so that they can still analyze/detect/block HTTPS traffic, for example. Most public wifi access points in the US will hijack traffic until the user agrees to a Terms of Use or something ("captive portal").


That doesn't mean it's not illegal.

For banks that don't encrypt everything, changing an advertised rate from another would probably run afoul of all sorts of illegal.


No need for a VPN. Maybe using HTTPS wouldn't aloud them to see the data? Hope no MITM. But, you can always change DNS server (or use DNSCrypt).


There is a need for a VPN. Most public access points perform some traffic manipulation and I absolutely believe that some intentionally block and/or modify data to obscure some data from people who are in-store. In fact, I believe Best Buy was already caught doing this with their own site; in-store APs wouldn't reflect the price that was really shown on bestbuy.com. ...

Ah, it seems that Best Buy did this but only on internal workstations, so that when the employee would access bestbuy.com, the discounted price online wouldn't show up: https://consumerist.com/2007/03/02/best-buy-confirms-the-exi... . However, they could trivially do this via wifi.

While searching for this, I also found this: http://adage.com/article/digital/retailer-jo-ann-aims-retarg... , which registers the device MAC on the backend and uses it to track how many times a user has entered the store (that is, connected to the store's wifi). Even VPN wouldn't stop this from happening, you'd need to randomize your phone's MAC address.

Public wifi is convenient but we shouldn't be naive about it. Companies are using it for their own purposes.


Even randomizing MAC seems somehow useless [0]. And all `private` VPNs without logs are pretty much non-free (as in money).

So what's the easiest solution for a lambda user!?

[0] https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/03/10/mac_address_randomi...


HTTPS wouldn't prevent this, just harvest the CN and SNI names from the presented cert and use those to match. And as far as changing DNS servers, those can easily be MITMd, or they could just ignore DNS altogether and use a transparent proxy to block/redirect traffic.


Probably a bummer if you hosted your site on AWS and you can't hide your IP.


Reason #34 for taking a more adversarial relationship with the surveillance-happy plays: they started gaslighting us in their stores.

One reason among many that Bluetooth and Wifi are off on my phone when I leave somewhere. (Most of the time. I sometimes forget.) Aside from passive monitoring, we get things like this, where your personal devices become the equivalent of jailhouse snitches.

I don't see it as an invasion of privacy - it is their wifi. But it is an example of grabbing after every last nickel without considering ancillary concerns, like me thinking it is awful, icky, gross behavior and adjusting my exposure to that shit accordingly.


Poor decision making like this gives capitalism a bad name.


I wonder if there could be a "good patent troll" business model where you file patents on all kinds of user-hostile, anti-consumer bullshit like this and then sue any company that does it?


Great point. It would be nice if that's what they're doing.


Not very educated on patent matters, but isn't there any requirement for plaintiffs to demonstrate patent utilization, or at the very least abstract plans of utilization, no matter how impractical? Making a public claim that the patent would never be utilized but only used defensively, would make that difficult.


Pretty obvious, and pretty trivially circumvented by not sending traffic over the in-store Wi-Fi network. (Do such things really exit?? Never seen one here in Italy)


In-store Wi-Fi is very common here (UK), and sometimes the only way to get a data connection because mobile signals can't penetrate the building. Only way around it at that point is a to use a VPN over their Wi-Fi if you can.


Big If :/ it's quite common for vpn to be blocked. Sainsbury's definitely blocks OpenVPN.


Use stunnel on port 443 - makes it look just like HTTPS traffic.


Well, even though most stores don't acknowledge it, how much do you want to bet there are stores that install 3G/4G cell jammers to prevent you from using your mobile to look up anything while in-store? I know a few places I shop where my cell coverage "mysteriously" drops to nil inside the store and I have long suspected it's not just the concrete walls.


If you suspect cell jamming, and you're in the USA, contact the FCC and report the business. The mere fact that it interferes with 911 is enough to send a store manager to prison. If they can prove that an emergency vehicle every got close enough to the business to be potentially affected, the business could see hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

The FCC could just park a van in front of the store for 3 minutes and their tools would verify that a jammer was in use.

Here's the details on anti-jamming laws, and a list of people who have had their ass handed to them by the FCC for doing it: https://www.fcc.gov/general/jammer-enforcement


Good to know this. I don't think it's outright cell jamming but something where voice service is still passable but data service basically cannot function due to packet loss, etc.

Would be interesting to try to detect if such interference is present on the right frequencies, or if it is just a natural effect and truly not intentional.

Thanks for sharing the info.


> something where voice service is still passable but data service basically cannot function due to packet loss, etc.

That pretty much describes 99% of indoor mobile coverage out there. The only exception being buildings that have ponied up for a femtocell.


That'd be illegal, so I kinda doubt it. Not to mention that jammers are pretty easy to detect with the right equipment so it'd be fairly easy to prove if they were doing something like that.


> Well, even though most stores don't acknowledge it, how much do you want to bet there are stores that install 3G/4G cell jammers to prevent you from using your mobile to look up anything while in-store?

Actual jammers? Unlikely because it's highly illegal, quite detectable, and will cost more than anyone could hope to gain by it.

Deliberate, passive measures that practically impede indoor reception may happen, though.


>Deliberate, passive measures that practically impede indoor reception may happen, though.

It does seem that some buildings are suspiciously effective Faraday cages while others are not.


Yes, this is exactly the effect I am talking about. You go into the store, and effectively, using the cell network for data goes to zero, but the cell voice service still works.

Could it be something that makes the cell network jittery or adds latency that interferes with cellular data but not voice service?


The FCC comes down HARD on anybody doing that. https://www.fcc.gov/document/marriott-pay-600k-resolve-wifi-...


Exactly: in some countries LTE coverage is so good that I for instance find the Wi-Fi function in my iPhone unnecessary and annoying and keep it turned off most of the time (to avoid my iPhone asking me stupid questions like which Wi-Fi I want to connect to - the answer is usually "none")


You know you can turn off the "ask about connecting to open wifi network" thing right?

I still turn off WiFi when I'm not at home though. Never need it unless it's one of those things iOS is unreasonable about (downloading large apps, syncing photos)


I never see it in Canada, we only have it commonly in restaurants & malls. But not box or grocery stores.


Strange, as a Canadian Save-On-Foods (primarily BC) shopper, I regularly use their in-store WiFi.


It's starting to appear. WalMart has instore wifi that I can never get to actually work. Fortinos and other PC grocery stores have in-store wifi now. Actually seems more consistent than the mall.


Every Metro I've been to seems to have it.


It's not necessarily obvious if they're just tracking your behaviour on WiFi and making external actions based on that (approaching you in store, or sending certain promotions).

I think a lot of people don't appreciate that you really need to trust to a WiFi network you connect to.


Yep, a lot of places in the US have their own Wi-Fi, especially in malls.


Ironic considering their "Price Check" android app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.amazon.pri...


Not really. Now that they own the patent, they can refuse to license it to anyone who may create a product that blocks their app.


I don't understand the extent of patents such as this. Does this mean if I have a shop with a public WiFi connection that I cannot block or redirect users from competitor's websites to my own without infringing on an Amazon patent? In general, I'm wondering does this patent obstruct me from implementing something similar?


Someone else posted that this is why they think Amazon may have filed this patent - a sort of "Good Guy Patent Troll" move.


I was trying to price match Amazon when I was at Target. Target now has their own device that looks up Amazon's prices. Not shocked to see two different price tags on my device and Targets



Hypothetically, could they be even more sinister and modify competitor's prices to appear higher, so that you never even notice what they're doing?


Interesting that it the article is in WashingtonPost!


Could somebody please help me understand how this patent would be enforceable? I mean, wouldn't it be invalidated by any of the public wifi's that prevent you from accessing the internet until you visit their log in page? Or does the specifics and niche of this patent actually matter?


Specifics always matter in getting a patent granted.

They sometimes matter in a court enforcing a patent.

They rarely matter in getting a lawyer to send a cease & desist letter.


Next from Amazon: free home/cell internet that works for everything but competitors' websites


LOL. They already have a MotoG phone they sell at a discount. The only catch is they spam you with ads. It's too bad they can't have a little more integrity when it comes to stuff like this.


Seems likely to be a defensive patent.


Then they could issue a press release: "We here at Amazon are very concerned about... and so we have patented this in order to make sure that nobody does this awful horrible thing."


Pretty sure that would be a quick way for someone to invalidate your patent claim.


On what basis?


Yeah... this seems like a really fast way to lose customer trust.


I have a crazier theory about this. After logging on to a WiFi router, the router could report to Amazon that some customer is in shop X. When that customer goes online to shop (for example, Whole Foods), Amazon could show higher prices.


I think Amazon might only own the patent on this to prevent others from doing the same thing.

If there was any app in the world you would use to mobile window shop, it would be Amazon.


Weird. I remember being pissed off at a Home Depot price. So I bought it on Amazon, right at Home Depot. I bet half of you have done something like this.


for as long as I've had proper internet access on my phone. since 2009 at least.

it's great too, because it's forcing retailers like best buy to at least be mildly competitive in pricing. I will actually buy things at best buy now if I really want them immediately, but it often requires telling them to give me the online price since it's marked up in store (which I guess is another form of this price comparing behavior).


Yes, I only ever bother to go into Best Buy because I know they will price match Amazon (and their own price.)

I recently realized that even Wal Mart had lower prices for some things online, and now I have to go through the hassle of having them price match their own website when making certain purchases.


The problem here is that people that use in store WiFi are too cheap to pay for their own 4g bandwidth. So these folk are frugal not big spenders. They will need to work with telcos to deep packet inspect customers triangulated to the store locations. And then to stop people shopping online.

With destination shopping, e.g. to buy a new sofa or bicycle, customers have invariably been online already and chose the store that way.


> With destination shopping, e.g. to buy a new sofa or bicycle, customers have invariably been online already and chose the store that way.

Not necessarily. For $100-$1000 items I'll walk into a store without an intent to buy that day to price shop and if I'm tempted to buy I'll quickly check online and see if the store will price match. In the bay area I've actually had the store price match their own online store even though in store price had a '20% off sale'.

Seems pretty common for bay area stores to sell above their online prices and price match if you ask.


It works this way in the rest of the country. Not just the bay area.


> The problem here is that people that use in store WiFi are too cheap to pay for their own 4g bandwidth.

I usually use it when mobile reception is poor, not to save money. I've found poor reception inside larger stores to be a very common problem.


It would be a shame if large stores intentionally blocked cell reception so customers would use WiFi instead....


At some of the big box stores near me it doesn't even need to be intentional, they're just in a near blackout zone with my carrier. Their Wi Fi doesn't tend to perform a whole lot better though.


It would also be illegal and terrible for their image. Imagine, for example, the shitshow that would arise if they were caught intentionally blocking calls to emergency services, among other things.


Key line:

> But Amazon now has the technology to prevent that type of behavior when customers enter any of its physical stores and log onto the WiFi networks there.


The article says Amazon 'won' the patent or alternatively the patent was 'awarded' to Amazon. The USPTO only "grants" patents. It may seem like nit picking semantics but it presents an incorrect image of the USPTO to uninformed readers. And it also exposes the authors lack of knowledge on patents, discrediting the whole of the article.


Semi-offtopic: Does Amazon.com in America tend to come out ahead if you comparison shop against it in retail stores? Up here in Canada, Amazon.ca can often be a few dollars more expensive for simple items than I can easily get in retail shops. So although I would like to shop more online, I still have a preference for shopping in physical stores.


A much better implementation of this would be to inspect the data that users are requesting, then analyze the price difference between products they are looking at online vs in-store and then dynamically change the price in real time.

Amazon definitely has the technology to make this happen.


An encrypted connection like https should be able to prevent this, however.


Amazon's next patent - "Effective faraday cages for large retail spaces"

It's illegal to jam or otherwise interfere with other's radio transmissions but it's not illegal to block them from your premises.


So, basically they block access to competitor's sites via their captive wifi? The article looks, smells and sounds like click bait.


I'm very reticent to connect to any public wifi network anyway.

Not saying the cellular network is any better


What else did they patent, may be shopping itself?


just turn off wifi as the patent works by reading your traffic whilst in store


Don't even need to turn off WiFi. Just don't connect to store WiFi.


So weird seeing this on the Washington Post considering it belongs to Jeff Bezos




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