December 25, 2016


Woe to Those Disrupted by Amazon (Barry Ritholtz, 12/21/16, Bloomberg View)

What made me think about this was a simple purchase this past summer. I bought a couple of TVs from a local retailer, a 50-inch LG for my basement (less than $400), and a 60-inch Samsung (less than $800) for the weekend house.

Until recently, I had no idea that Amazon was part of this process from beginning to end.

First, I used a mobile app -- Amazon Price Check -- to compare prices. The TVs were less expensive at a local retailer by a few bucks, which the Amazon app let me know, so I bought them there. But the wall mount to hang the 50-inch (the 60-inch was going to sit on a table top) was so much cheaper at Amazon -- $40 versus more than $100 -- that I had to order it from Amazon. Which leads to the most interesting part of our story.

The 50-inch sat on the floor in front of the treadmill for three months. I was going to hang it myself, but you know how it goes with household chores. Once it was clear to me I was never going to get around to it, I went back to the local retailer to inquire about them hanging it for me. The quoted price was $399, about the same as the television itself; that made no sense.

I did a Google search that I expected that would take me to Angie's List or something similar. Instead, I was shocked to see something called Amazon Home Services pop up as an option. The prices were $69 for a set that was 50-inches or smaller. This wasn't just a little cheaper: it was less than 20 percent of the price quoted by the local retailer. I clicked, scheduled and that Friday a guy hung the television, giving me new inspiration to get on the treadmill.

He told me some interesting things: Depending upon the day, he does five to 10 installations. He does contract work for several different companies. Lastly, he has hung three sets in houses on the same block, working for three different companies -- and the charges were $400, $200 and $69. He gets paid the same amount, and does the exact same work.

Now consider the potential threat this poses to Amazon's competition. Work like this has to be a source of revenue and very likely profit for these other retailers. I have to think this kind of market inefficiency eventually will be competed away by Amazon. We've seen it happen before, remember.

This sent me back to Amazon's website to look at what else it offered -- and it's pretty much any local service you can imagine. 

Posted by at December 25, 2016 8:43 AM