When I explained earlier this week that you don't need a real baby to get Amazon Mom discounts, I really never thought I'd end up at the receiving end of a lot of dim-witted faux-populist moralistic outrage since I think it's pretty clear that Amazon is a sophisticated firm that's perfectly capable of coming up with a better verification process if it really meant to limit the program to authentic parents. What it's doing is a little bit of price discrimination. People who take the trouble to sign up for Amazon Mom get a discount. The program is targeted at parents because parents are thought to be a more price-sensitive group.
Josh Barro brings sweet vindication in the form of a statement from Scott Stanzel, Amazon's director of consumer communications:
We’re happy to have all Moms and Dads in the program, although parents with imaginary children won’t be able to take full advantage of the great discounts on diapers and other baby products that the program is designed to provide.
In terms of Amazon's longer-term corporate goals, it's pretty likely that I will have a real baby one of these days and now that I'm already in the program it seems very likely that I'll turn to Amazon as my supplier of choice for diapers and so forth. Meanwhile, thanks to this controversy perhaps more people have learned about Subscribe & Save and Amazon Mom discounts—programs Amazon has presumably created because they want people to use them. I only wonder if Amazon wouldn't consider changing the name of the program to "Amazon Parent" or something. Dads need to buy stuff too.
December 18 Update: Stanzel emailed me to draw attention to additional remarks he sent to Josh Barro after the publication of Barro's original piece—"We are using the honor system, and we expect the vast majority of users to be honest." He did not, however, say that my Amazon Mom account is going to be canceled.