The Devastating Effects of Your Amazon Purchase You Weren’t Aware Of
This text reflects if at all only the possible opinion of an anonymous author and should under no circumstances put any company, any people and employees or shareholders in a bad light. Only verifiable facts from sources with the highest journalistic and editorial standards are included and it is only an exercise in ‘creative writing’. It was originally posted in German here and the author took his time to translate it for Medium. You can find the original English version here.
Have you just ordered your fair-trade harem trousers conveniently from Amazon? Or a BPA-free drinking bottle for your baby produced according to all EU standards in Asia? Or the gluten-free version of your favourite dish, harvested from happy farmers in Uruguay?
You have just triggered a chain of effects with a good intention that you may not be aware of.
Most people now go directly to Amazon when they want to order a product. They no longer “google” or ask their specialist retailer, but immediately know “where they’re going these days”. This is a development that hurts not only retailers outside the Internet, but everyone else involved as well. Except Jeff Bezos and his company Amazon. To say it foresightedly with Wilhelm Busch:
But woe, woe, woe! When I look at the end!
Jeff Bezos’ original idea for the name of his digital bookstore was once “Relentless” and the domain relentless.com still belongs to him and redirects to Amazon. Relentless was put at that time only in terms for price and speed of delivery. Officially. What has evolved from this is frightening on the one hand and largely unknown to consumers on the other.
Also many merchants who sell on Amazon are not conscious of some connections and they take part in a play, which they would probably never enter with full consciousness.
At the very beginning, only local booksellers had to experience this pitiless relentlessness. Meanwhile it is as good as
Due to ever faster and cheaper ways of goods procurement and delivery, many lovingly managed shops were suddenly confronted with a giant that is hard to beat. Only the most powerful part of the whole game can do that:
the consumers. That’s you.
In order to shed some light on the entire structure and make the connections clearer, here are some explanations. And hopefully also some illuminations with the reader.
Who belongs to this chain between production of the goods and you, if you get your Amazon Prime package delivered the next day, the same day, after two hours, at the same hour?
That’s right. People pack packages, answer customer questions, take care of your returns. A free shipping, a free return, that sounds totally positive at first. But who bears the costs of this service?
That’s right. The
Employees at Amazon.
The working conditions at Amazon tempt people to draw parallels to ancient Egypt. The pharaoh and his …employees? The giant machine and its little cogs. Anyone who wants to find out more is welcome to do so. Here, here, here, here und here. And here. And here (the original article was written in German. You might translate the link’s content by Google Translate or DeepL Translator based on A.I.) And there:
The BBC also took up the topic as early as 2013:
At Christmas time in particular, large numbers of employees are placed in and around the warehouses. To throw them off the premises again afterwards. The trade union ver.di was horrified. Apparently that didn’t do much good, except for a few strikes by courageous employees, it apparently remained a matter of appeasing statements that these were individual cases.
So what’s the point of buying your fairly produced and humanely traded products from this system? We are shifting slavery from Asia to Europe and the USA — does that ring a bell?
Surely there are also well-paid jobs at Amazon and good treatment of them. It seems that this is happening above all strategically well-placed and not for all employees.
During the research for this article, the author was angry for a long time, but at some point he was frightened and sad. First of all, because he had to read Bild and Focus, but also through the articles summarising the working conditions.
The barcodes and scanners actually only track the progress of the packages. However, this technology was also used to measure the number and length of steps of the employees. In this monitoring scenario there is a basic mood of fear. And no atmosphere of trust, as was once the case in small bookstores.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung also reported several times on collapsing employees, harassment, weeping employees in company toilets, stuffy halls and escaping gases. A lively discussion arose in the Forum of Southern Germans about the extent to which Amazon’s pressure was already affecting other areas of life.
Those who are unable to cope with the workload, which often increases to 80 hours a week, risk their job. A woman who asked for consideration and a temporary reduction in pressure because of her father’s cancer was called “a problem” by her boss.
The New York Times reported on two women who themselves had cancer. They were dismissed as people with “difficulties” in “private life”. Their jobs were in danger because of “bad performance”.
The superior of another woman was sorry that she had to go on a business trip the day after her miscarriage. But “the work” would still have to be “done”.
The New York Times impressively describes many other aspects, for example, employees received e-mails with work instructions after midnight and on weekends and SMS messages shortly afterwards as to why they were not working.
The personal story of an employee who made an open appeal to Jeff Bezos in connection with the New York Times is also worth reading. She still works at Amazon. She had cancer and a baby and was confronted with frightening scenarios when she came back to work. This has developed into an exciting discussion in the news sector at Y Combinator.
This is the first part that makes Amazon’s “success story” feasible. And to say it with the shouting Hamburg market fish merchants:
But that’s not all! We’re going to add another one!
Because the dealers who play this game not only submit to this system in terms of pricing and delivery speed, but also their entire business processes are directly influenced by the giant. And who is going to take the plunge? The
Employees of the participating dealers.
Whoever sells on Amazon is constantly under pressure. The system mails command the shipping and support staff around. Amazon’s account managers put pressure on participating merchants and their programmers to finally reach certain key figures, otherwise they would have to be put into a different tariff or success would fail. The author speaks from experience and this system generates stress, illogical and inappropriate actions just to do justice to Amazon. Just like everything in life that is driven by maximum profit and not by meaning.
So-called “re-pricing tools” exist that automatically define the “optimal product price”. These were provided by external service providers for a long time, and Amazon has now developed its own system for this purpose. The goal at all times is: maximum turnover on Amazon. The merchants are playing a cuckoo’s eye because that’s the way it’s done today. So much power. In a centre. That can’t go well.
Woe betide when I look at the end.
Amazon not only controls its employees (source: FAZ.net) but also follows the traders to sleep. And everyone plays along. Almost all of them.
But fortunately there are also opposite poles. For example Jeff das Messer (Jeff the Knife). The knife dealer has long denounced Amazon’s activities and himself witnessed the company’s far-reaching effects.
Or traders who, as a matter of principle, do not sell on Amazon and thus enjoy an enormous gain in quality of life and unique selling proposition. Because they don’t submit to the giant machine and forego these thousands of euros in turnover so that they don’t have to be slaves to the system. This energy for this “missing turnover” flows into meaningful cooperation, stress-free work and a certain pride of independence and rebellion. That can release undreamt-of energies, which in another place make up for the few thousand euros in turnover and in the end in turn provide “good money” in other ways, instead of “bad money” from a channel of exploitation and profit maximisation for only one big one.
In the past, online shops optimised their rankings on Google and blew out their money in their uncontrolled advertising campaigns on Google AdWords (“Yes, we also do what it takes, we don’t really know”). Today they give 15% sales commission to the supposedly comfortable customer instrument “Amazon”.
Amazon copies successful products from participating retailers (sources: Fortune.com, Geek.com, Bloomberg.com). Amazon binds business partners to itself and then sucks them out. And participates in their enthusiasm, creativity and intelligence — by providing a highly optimized system. Every retailer’s nightmare is a reality and the system is being served exultantly. And used. Also from you?
Amazon has introduced a feature where merchants selling on Amazon can sell their inventory to Amazon and not to their customers. This feature was introduced overnight, apparently unannounced. The merchants could not choose whether they wanted to play there initially or not. Because the checkmark “Yes, I want” was set automatically by Amazon. Is honourable business conduct at eye level?
Thus, Amazon is gradually incorporating complete markets, meanwhile producing the most successful products itself, has its own fleet of trucks, drones and airplanes. It dominates food markets, media markets, electronics markets and an infinite number of other retail sectors. The system collects and uses data. Amazon’s enormous database allows it to predict relatively well what will go well when and where, and what you want to buy next, or get you to buy it. Is this the reality you want?
First, Amazon attacked the small bookstores with his online model. Now Amazon has opened small bookstores. Amazon now runs exactly the business itself that attacked it first and often ruined it. In San Diego, in Portland, in Seattle, other bookstores are already in the planning stage. Clothes shops soon? Walter Loeb, who analyses retail developments on Forbes.com, speculated about them as early as October 2016.
What can you do about it?
- Use Amazon as a research platform, price search engine or rating platform.
- Order directly from online merchants in their own online shop. Simply google the dealer name of the product and order in the online shop of the dealer. He doesn’t have to pay any sales commission (usually 15% plus basic fee) and can contact you directly — without the monitored and controlled communication between you and the dealers via the Amazon platform.
- Buy locally and make your real retailers happy — and yourself! Be advised lovingly and vividly. Many people are not aware of how much heart and soul goes into a fine shop with dedicated employees. They will repay you many times over: with hearty advice, gratitude and individual service for your wishes. You will be surprised what a “actually wanted to buy online, but…” can do for the person behind the sales counter.
Sure, there are 3 minutes more time that you have to invest to create an account in the respective shop or to place a guest order. But to break this chain and eliminate all negative effects on our common life and convert them into positives, these 3 minutes should be worth it, right?
And a well-considered shopping tour by bike, on foot, by train or by car without “oh that I click into the shopping cart” and a real touching and trying out of the products has real advantages. Also in the long run. Especially together with people who are dear to you.
Because ultimately profit from the preservation of
- independent specialist dealers
- local shops with loving advice
- good working conditions at the dealerships
- less profit-oriented, megalomaniac optimisation of the whole life
Dealers, suppliers, producers and logisticians,
counties, municipalities, communities and their infrastructure, such as kindergartens, roads, state hospitals, state nursing homes
— because Amazon pays its taxes in Luxembourg…
…and with it also:
Your children, your parents, your grandparents, your grandchildren, your neighbours, your friends and yourself.
If you are interested in the topic as a customer, you can watch Amazon’s machinations on the Amazon Watchblog. And maybe make the topic known in your environment. It’s a wonderful topic of conversation for a party: “What many don’t know…”.
If you’re interested in the topic as a retailer: get in touch with Jeff das Messer, speak up at (eCommerce) regulars’ tables about the topic, team up with others. It is so much fun to be independent. And the money that was earned outside of Amazon from your own strength and creativity simply feels good.
Just recently, Amazon banned charities from using their so-called affiliate system. Advertisers receive a commission for every customer they refer. In this affiliate program, horrendous sums are paid monthly to the partners. The goal is the same again: market domination. Webmasters should integrate Amazon advertising at any price and not ewa those of Otto.de or other possible affiliate programs. Charitable institutions are no longer allowed to participate in the Amazon Partner Network. AmazonSmile has now been introduced as an exchange for Amazon’s patronizing vein, where customers can make a donation with just a few clicks when placing an order. In the end, a more profitable business for Amazon, as reported by Der Spiegel, among others.
The list of topics could be continued for several pages. We are curious to see what feedback this article will generate and remain with two questions to the most powerful people in the economy (also called “consumers”) and to the driving forces behind the system, without whom nothing works at all (the dealers):
Are you a consciously critical part of society, using every purchase as a voice and support for the desired structures in the system we live in? What effect do you want your actions to have on the world?
And if you actively sell yourself as an Amazon Marketplace Merchant: Are you an independent entrepreneur? Or are you an FBA customer and, from an overall structural point of view, an Amazon employee who can be fired at any time?
Update from Tagesspiegel and Jeff das Messer (Bundeskartellamt (a.k.a. the Federal Cartel Office) takes action against Amazon):