With the recent purchase of Goodreads and their new review and shelf deletion policy, and the inconsistent censorship of self-published authors, it’s understandable why you’re indiscriminately telling everyone to boycott Amazon for a number of legitimate reasons.
1) As a fast-growing monopoly, they’re expanding the number of goods and services they offer while buying or crushing the competition by setting their prices so low no one can afford to undercut them which has added to the showrooming phenomenon. In the UK, Amazon’s bought The Book Depository, forced Waterstones bookshops to sell their Kindles and excluding competing brands from being sold, contributed to the demise of electrical retailer Comet, and are squeezing many others out of business.
2) Profit means nothing to Amazon right now. Prices are so low that little is made (so there’s almost no tax to be paid), but what there is, is then reinvested in technology, infrastructure and buying up their competition. It seems their investors are in it for the long-term. Once Amazon is the leading retailer across an increasing number of products and services, they’ll put up their prices and consumers will be forced to pay it because there’ll be the only game in town. That’s what it means to be a monopoly. On the other hand, this turn of events is not a forgone conclusion, just look at Microsoft.
3) As an employer Amazon has been reported to be downright despicable.
- In the UK, ‘…white van drivers working as couriers for retail giant Amazon who were shown to be working for less than the minimum wage [£6.31 per hour] because of long hours on a flat day rate.’
- Warehouse workers walk up to 15 miles per 8-hour shift with only a 30-minute break. Blisters from cheap, ill-fitting safety boots is common and chatting is banned. If you’re too slow, you’re fired. In fact, out for the blue lay-offs for any reason are commonplace because the majority of staff are hired via an agency rather than as permanent employees paid directly by Amazon.
- Security is tighter than at airports, passing through scanners and frisked upon entering or exiting the warehouse floor to prevent stealing. German documentary makers filmed security guards harassing and abusing their foreign workers.
- At the Allentown, Pennsylvania warehouse, workers were forced to work in 40°C (100°F) heat, but so many were collapsing at an alarming rate that Amazon had to pay for ambulances to be stationed outside for the duration of an exceptionally hot summer period.
I understand all of the above, but I don’t appreciate being told what I should or shouldn’t do with my money.
Morals, ethics and principles, etc. are great in theory, but are you willing to sacrifice everything to follow them?
Workers have little choice over where they work in this economy, but consumers are also strapped for cash for the very same reason. Principles don’t pay the bills. For many, paying more on ethical grounds may mean going without food or heat in winter.
And if you have a problem with Amazon, what about the items made in Bangledeshi sweatshops? Modern slavery sees those Nike trainers and Apple iPods you like to buy being made by children and suicidal factory workers in appalling work conditions. Or is it just Amazon that bothers you?
Yes, I do feel guilty every time I buy from this retailing behemoth and I’m aware of future repercussions of adding my £££s to Amazon’s coffers, however, my immediate circumstances cannot stretch to investing extra time and money into finding and purchasing ethical products from ethical independent retailers.
Amazon is successful because they provide:
- Great and reliable customer service. I’ve had little difficulty in obtaining a replacement Kindle after breaking mine or sourcing other replacement items after they were lost or damaged in transit.
- Next-day delivery. Yes, I have a Prime membership. I caved almost a year ago because planning ahead is so difficult right now that finding time to either visit a bricks-and-mortar store or wait for a courier is almost impossible.
- A wide range of products. It’s rare to find a lack of choice when searching for something in particular, compared to competitors.
- Decent prices. Speaks for itself, although I have on occasion spent a little more elsewhere if I can.
It’s been said time and time again: helpful, personal customer service or providing that unique something that can’t be replicated is where retailers can differentiate themselves from others.
In all honesty, I’ve spent more than double the money with John Lewis than I did on Amazon in the last couple of years. They actually share all of the characteristics listed above, so it is possible to compete.
Look, by all means inform people of negative business practices so they can make informed choices, but please don’t lecture me on my decisions on where I spend my money, or pretend to know what’s best for me, okay?
I have my reasons and you have yours, please respect that.