Amazon: The Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla?

Still another Upworthy article caught my attention, this one on Amazon.com:
“The Truth Behind Amazon’s Success? It’s Kinda Evil.”

This article confirmed what I suspected. Amazon uses people and small businesses–and some large ones too–badly. Tactics reminiscent of Wal-Mart are troblesome to say the least, and this troubles me morte since I’ve become an Amazon junkie. Shopping online appeals to my introverted, research-oriented nature. Plus, I’ve gotten some great deals. Now the inevitable guilt is sinking in because I know have to factor in the tactics they use in order to provide such deals.

Perhaps I can take some comfort that, with books at least, I use Amazon as a springboard to buy used books through bookfinder.com.

Responsible shopping’s a bitch for someone who wants to patronize the little guy and still get a great deal.

Cassandra

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3 Responses to “Amazon: The Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla?”

  1. tiffany267 Says:

    Hi there,

    Thanks for your post; however I’m quite confused as to what Amazon has done that you find “evil”.

    Your “article” from Upworthy, which is more of a miscellaneous bunch of statistics, points out some great business successes by Amazon and also illustrates which tactics helped lead to those successes.

    Its purported successes include outstanding revenue and growth as well as widespread popularity.

    Looking at the purported reasons for its successes:

    1. Supposedly dangerous warehouse conditions? I can’t think of any company that would provide paramedics and guarantee an ambulance in case of an emergency – sounds impressive to me. Certainly the article doesn’t explain what dangers there may be. Anyway most of the website has nothing to do with Amazon’s warehouses but instead has to do with individual vendors who use Amazon as a means to sell to the public. Usually they will be individuals or families and most likely have very safe conditions since they typically just sell from home.

    2. “Free Ride” on physical stores? People have always been able to shop around physical stores without buying anything, and as far as I know physical stores aren’t exactly disappearing as a result. Tell me you’ve never heard of someone going to a convenience store just to use the restroom? Would they somehow be part of an evil plot to disfranchise physical stores? Actually, encouraging consumers to head to physical stores to buy things on their fancy smartphone on Amazon might bring them to notice special deals or unusual products at the physical stores they might not otherwise have wanted to buy. Sounds like everyone wins to me.

    3. Consumers have any choice they want to. If you don’t like DC Comics’ private agreement with Amazon, write DC Comics a letter or join their management team. Otherwise, it’s really not your business with whom they do business. They don’t owe you a special way to buy their comics. Anyway comics are not really a very important commodity; one can easily live without Batman comics, as I have for my whole life.

    4. Fewer jobs provided than big box stores and independent stores? Well…duh. That’s part of the whole concept of being online – a smaller model. Not having to hire cashiers and baggers makes you evil?

    5. Lack of author events???? Seriously???????

    6. Market share sounds more like a sign of success than a reason for success – seems like a misplaced statistic.

    7. Not paying taxes? No one should be paying taxes – they are theft. The fact that Amazon is saving consumers money by helping them avoid taxes that go to foreign wars and the Dept of Homeland “Security” – that’s evil????????

    8. “Bullying” suppliers? Amazon, just like any business, can sell what it wants to. I fail to see how boycotting uncooperative publishers is evil. Doesn’t every business inherently decide to boycott certain manufacturers whenever they decide what to sell? Is a natural foods store evil because it doesn’t do business with produce growers who refuse to grow organic?

    9. Selling products at a loss is now evil? I guess you can tell that to little kids with lemonade stands.

    10. Amazon is evil because some other company wants to sell on their platform? Sounds like they must be providing a pretty awesome platform if huge companies will go away from their own websites to let consumers deal with them on Amazon.

    Certainly there are such things as unethical business practices (for example, AT&T donating to Richard Mourdock’s election campaign is unethical in lots of different ways). However your post doesn’t clearly connect any of those practices to Amazon. I’d obviously be open to discussion with some more evidence, but as it stands they sound like a great company with lots of hard-earned success.

    Incidentally, if you would prefer an alternative online shopping experience, try http://www.etsy.com. Also, you can check out the book sharing experience at http://www.paperbackswap.com.

    Thanks again and best wishes.

    • uncommonscolds Says:

      @Tiffany267–

      The article is not mine. I re-posted from _Upworthy_. I agree with some of your observations, and, frankly, I have no idea if the accusations about Amazon work conditions are valid. I probably should have checked the accusations, but that wasn’t a point that troubled me, so I let it pass.

      Perhaps I should have investigated immediately since many companies are squeezing their low-level employees to maximize profit. For example, you’ve probably been following Hostess squeezing union workers for pay cuts, which they granted, while giving huge pay increases to the CEO. Of course, the honchos then blames the bankruptcy of the company on the union people. The peons should have worked for Twinkies and been glad to get them, right?

      America’s quickly falling into a Third World job pattern. As books such as _The Spirit Level_ indicate, inequality of pay and power leads to general unhappiness. Yet all too often the general populace blindly accepts the statements of the powerful without trying to find out what’s really happening. In the US, instances of blaming the victim grow by the day. Is our situation the fault of greedy, greedy low-level workers who want to steal from the poor, poor CEOs and stock holders who simply can’t live without more profit?

      In some ways, Amazon may be worse than Wal-Mart because Amazon is top heavy in a way the Walton family business is not. That is, Wal-Mart requires many, many local stores which do pay some sales taxes–even though many desperate cities give them all sorts of tax breaks–and Wal-Mart’s physical presence means many, many low-level employees, an astonishing number of whom are on food stamps since their pay is so low. In contrast, Amazon requires far fewer employees. Period. Those checkers and cashiers can just go out and pick strawberries and apples, right? Who needs carpal tunnel syndrome when there are jobs that will wreck the entire body? Is the loss of jobs for cashiers and checkers really good for the United States? What happens to the lower middle class in this situation? Is the best price and the most profit always the best answer?

      That, however, is an associated topic, but not my focus. I’m concerned about the tactics of the Amazon business model. It resembles Wal-Mart’s empire building a bit. You are most likely aware of the early Wal-Mart tactic of building a store and undercutting the prices of locally owned stores for a year or whatever it took to force local vendors out of business. Once rid of competitors, Wal-Mart could then ease prices in that particular store back up. What I see something analogous happening with Amazon. Like a fly trap, Amazon attracts outside stores and then uses its power to then undercut them. Although one is brick and mortar and the other online, monopolistic size and corporate power hamstring rather than enhance free trade.

      As to taxes, Amazon customers avoid state taxes, not federal taxes. So this tax money would not be funding foreign wars and/or Homeland Security. Sales taxes go to states and local entities to pay for education, road repair, libraries, fire and police departments–that sort of thing. The loss of revenue from purchases through Amazon and other online sources are quite significant, crippling even.

      So, if you visit again, could you explain to me how all taxation is theft? How should local governments find money for services? Do you to enforce community service for volunteer fire departments and maybe even enforce the Second Amendment militia? That could be a good idea. But how can towns and cities develop effective water treatment systems and such without taxation? In my experience, some bureaucracy–and taxes–are necessary. What’s your plan?

      As far as I can see, mega-stores model feudalism much more than they model free trade capitalism. A few nobles take almost everything and the peasant masses struggle to stay alive. Wouldn’t smaller stores with less range and power be closer to the free trade model Adam Smith described in _Wealth of Nations_?

      In any event, thanks for posting and making me think. I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts.

      Cassandra

    • uncommonscolds Says:

      @Tiffany267– Paperbackswap.com, the site you recommended, lists a paltry under 5 million books as available for swap. Their default suggestion for purchase on the multiple pages I sampled was–surprise, surprise–Amazon. In comparison, bookfinder.com searches multitudes of vendors world-wide, including Amazon, and over 150 million books.

      On the other hand, the handmade, small business emphasis of etsy.com makes that site attractive to me. Thanks for that link.

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