Let the e-haggling begin. On Tuesday, Amazon announced a new 'Make an Offer' program, which lets you negotiate the price of an item with third-party marketplace sellers (i.e. items not sold by Amazon).
'Make an Offer' is currently available for about 150,000 collector's items, such as sports jerseys, autographed posters, collectible coins, and fine art. In 2015, however, Amazon plans on expanding the program to "hundreds of thousands of items." It won't be universal, though; sellers don't have to participate in the program and must enable the feature before you'll see it.
The impact on you at home: Amazon says its goal with the new 'Make An Offer' program is to lower prices by allowing you to negotiate. It will be interesting to see, however, if sellers will simply raise their prices to allow for more bargaining room now that they can expect counter offers from their customers. The other possibility is that some sellers may not negotiate much at all over email. It's one thing to lowball an item in person in the hopes of meeting the seller in the middle. Online, however, it may make more sense for the seller to ignore these tactics and wait for a better offer.
How it works
When an item's price is open to negotiation, you'll see a radio button that says Make an Offer. Click that and you'll be prompted to enter your offer price and click the Send offer to the seller button.
The seller will then receive your offer via email and will have the option to accept, reject, or counter your proposal. Counter offers continue via email until a price is settled.
Once that's done, you'll be notified by Amazon when you can add the item to your cart at the agreed upon price.
Amazon says this system is not meant to be an auction. This is always a one-to-one transaction and you'll never pay more than the listed price, according to the company. Presumably, this means a seller can't play one buyer (fictional or otherwise) off the other, but we'll have to see whether sellers figure out a way to game the system.
It's not yet clear if technology items will be included when the 'Make an Offer' program expands in 2015. When we reached out to Amazon for comment the company declined to comment on its future plans.
In the meantime, you can try and get a lower price this holiday season on a signed Brett Favre jersey or an autographed photo for the 'Belieber' in your family.
This story was updated at 10:09 a.m. PT with Amazon's response to our request for comment.