Amazon Launches Buy-By-Text Scheme

Dennis Faas's picture

Amazon has launched a new service allowing customers to buy products via their cell phones. Those who've tested it say the service works smoothly...but is a complete waste of time.

The scheme works by allowing customers to text the name of a product, the ISBN (for books) or the Universal Product Code (the barcode number for other products) to 262966, which spells out Amazon on keypads.

They then receive a text message back with the first two products that match the search and text either 1 or 2 to make their selection, or M for more options. First time users will then need to text the email address and zip code for their account. Once the customer makes a selection, they get a call from an automated voice system to go through the checkout process.

One website tested the service and found the process worked as advertised, though you do have to go onto and authorize mobile payments first. They found it reasonably easy to find products sold by Amazon, particularly books and music, but searching for third-party products was less consistent. The service is only practical when you know the specific item you want; general searches such as 'green dress' simply give too many results. (Source:

Another site pointed out that the service involved sending or receiving 13 messages, which would be expensive for anyone not on an unlimited texting plan. They also noted that with items still taking a couple of days to ship, it's unlikely you'd lose any time by waiting till you got to a computer. (Source:

Amazon hasn't really offered any good arguments as to why people would want to use the service. A spokesman simply said, "We think this is a great experience. We think they'll use the product...wherever they happen to be."

It seems most likely the firm is banking on customers seeing a book or CD in a store and using the service to check if Amazon has it cheaper. But the ordering process seems so long-winded that it's questionable whether this will lead to an increase in impulse buys.

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