NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A friend's friend texted him over the weekend to say he picked up a 30-something inch LG LCD HDTV for $350 at Best Buy. That prompted my friend and me to journey to our nearest Best Buy location in West Los Angeles.
I found the perfect set -- a 39-inch Samsung LED HDTV for a mere $450.
I might have made an impulse buy right then and there, if I knew for certain there would be no labor-related work stoppage in the National Hockey League this year. The risk of a lockout made it easy to delay the purchase. In this ripple effect, Best Buy, at least for now, loses. But, there's more.
Of course, when it came time to show my wife the television, I loaded a page on the Amazon.com (AMZN) website.That's just what you do in 2012. You go to a store. You see a product. You enter the decision-making process, but, unlike the old days, you never have to return to the store. It's not that I was looking for a cheaper price. I often pay more to receive experience-related perks. And that's what Amazon provides that Best Buy doesn't -- a seamless, convenient and addictive experience. In fact, it didn't even occur to me initially to visit the Best Buy website. It's safe to assume that's the reality for many people. However, for comparison purposes, I did check things out there. Best Buy lists the same TV for $449.99. Amazon has it for $447.99. I could schedule in-store pickup at a Best Buy, but I don't have a car and I hate driving my wife's. Plus, the closest Best Buy takes me into West LA (yuck!), which is a trademark 15-to-20-minute Southern California drive. Best Buy charges $9.98 for standard shipping or a whopping $23.55 for "expedited" shipping, which I presume compares to Amazon's free two-day shipping via Prime. Add to standard shipping $39.37 in sales taxes -- which, at the moment, I do not have to pay at Amazon -- and $499.34 is out the proverbial door to Best Buy vs. $447.99 to Amazon. That's a $50 difference. It would seal the deal for many people. But, I can honestly tell you that if Best Buy offered a compelling reason for me to use them and pay more I absolutely would. By the same token, I would pay a premium to buy from Amazon. There's something we're missing in this whole debate about "showrooming," the future of brick-and-mortar retail, and Amazon's "razor-thin" margins, as the bears love to riff. And that is loyalty.
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