Amazon's low prices, exclusive discounts and quick delivery have lured customers away from traditional brick and mortar stores for years, but their reach has been mostly limited to the online sphere. Until now, that is. Amazon has just been granted a patent to control what you see (and what you don't) on your phone when you're inside one of their physical stores.
The patent, ominously titled "Physical Store Online Shopping Control," is for technology that examines what a person is searching for when connected to a retail WiFi network -- that is, a WiFi network provided by and located within a store, such as an Amazon bricks-and-mortar location. The technology can actually determine whether you're searching for a competitor's item online and take subsequent action.
If the tech finds that you are, indeed, comparison shopping on your phone, it will take one or more "control actions," including fully blocking access to the content, redirecting your phone or sending a sales representative to talk to you. It can also check whether Amazon's product is more desirable -- say, lower priced -- at which point, it will allow you to see the information. We've reached out to Amazon for a comment and will update with any additional information we receive.
While this tech may seem disturbing (and it is) it's also a bit funny. After all, Amazon has been using underhanded tactics to undermine traditional retail shopping left and right, releasing apps to price compare and purchase items at Amazon while you're browsing in competitor's stores. It's amusing that they've gotten so good at it that, now, Amazon wants to prevent buyers from practicing the behavior at its own retail locations that it nurtured in the first place.