New Amazon 4-star deserves a 5-star rating

Jack Watson

One of three main sections, Devices & Electronics doesn’t offer as many Prime discounts as the other sections.

Amazon, worth more than one trillion dollars, is one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world. Beginning as an online bookstore in 1995, they have since expanded into various new industries such as television streaming, electronics and grocery stores. Most recently, Amazon has ventured into yet another new sector: retail stores.

The stores, named “Amazon 4-star,” have slowly popped up across America since their introduction in 2018. The only products in the stores are ones that have received an average rating of four stars or higher on their website, are labeled “new and trending” or are a top seller. There are currently nine stores in the U.S., with an additional nine expected to open in 2020. One happens to be located in Corte Madera. This past November, an Amazon 4-star opened at The Village Shopping mall next to the Gap store––and it’s quite unlike any other store in Marin.

Upon first entry, the store immediately appears as an extension of their online store, all the way down to the font used on the signs. Below each item is a small card with all of the desired information usually found online: the price, the average rating, how many reviews the product has received and a selected “Amazon Customer Review” from online––which naturally portrayed the product as unique and necessary. A price check station allows a customer to scan the barcode of an item and easily check the price if they forgot to check on the display rack. 

Another online feature displayed in the store is a feedback station adjacent to the exit. On their way out, customers can push one of four buttons, ranging from a green smiley face to a red frowny face. All of this furthers Amazon 4-star’s uniqueness and similarity to their online catalog, making the shopping experience interesting and efficient.

A typical display in the Amazon store contains all of the essential information found online when purchasing a product.

The trait that stands out the most in Amazon 4-star is its use of Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime is a $119 ($59 for students) per year subscription that grants a host of privileges and resources such as access to Amazon’s streaming site, increased speed of shipping and discounts on items. In their stores, the item discounts stand front and center. In front of each item lies two prices: one is the normal retail price, and the other is the discounted “Prime price” along with a helpful percentage, which can sometimes be more than 50 percent off. The Prime discount was the most surprising and enticing aspect of the store, and succeeds in creating a desire to sign up right away. However, while a large number of the items in the store offered a Prime discount, the more expensive ones tended not to, particularly in the electronics section. A small blue area was also devoted to advertising a Prime membership, listing slogans such as “One membership; Oodles of joy” and “joy. delivered.”

When I visited on a Sunday at 2 p.m., several employees were on hand to assist the customers, but most of their time was spent standing around looking bored. This was definitely frustrating for those waiting because the line was backed up to six people, yet the employees didn’t help move it along. This was particularly puzzling because there were four available cashier stations (no cash accepted) but only two were being manned despite the abundance of employees. One would think that a company as successful and modern as Amazon would be able to figure out how to make lines shorter and more efficient for everyone.

Despite a few downsides, Amazon’s new creation appears to be an ultimate success. The unique, self-explanatory store succeeds in enticing the shopper to explore the many benefits of Amazon Prime, while offering a variety of quality products that are easy to find and learn about. Corte Madera’s Amazon 4-star deserves to outdo its name and earn a five-star rating.