Amazon is convenient, cheap and brilliant at what it does. Let’s be honest, it’s been a great help to millions through lockdown.
However, Amazon is also greedy, cruel to its workers, anti-unions, deceitful with its partners, harmful to small and medium-sized businesses around the world and is one of the biggest purveyors of your personal data on the planet.
It really is time that people rise up and vote with our feet – not just because Amazon needs to be put in its place, but because we need to support small and medium-sized businesses, to help the hard-working individuals who have already had it hard in the last year or so..
Here’s why you should shun Amazon and where you can go instead for really good deals and quick service.
it’s entirely understandable why so many of us love to use Amazon. It’s soooo easy! It’s also often cheap, quick to arrive and free of p&p costs.
Who wouldn’t want that??
But, like so many of the things we buy and invest in, much of what goes on behind the scenes is ugly, nasty and not the sort of behaviour that you or I would want to support. Read on and decide if you want to continue shopping with Amazon or support other businesses instead.
amazon is mining your data every moment
“They happen to sell products, but they are a data company,” says James Thomson, one of the former executives interviewed in a BBC Panorama programme about the company’s operations.
“Each opportunity to interact with a customer is another opportunity to collect data.”
We know that Google and Facebook, among others, are mining our data every second and using it to make billions while ultimately harming us, but Amazon is up there with them on the data-mining stakes. Like Alphabet (the company that owns Google) it has already heavily invested in surveillance products such as Ring (the doorbell service that spies on visitors and neighbours alike) and its Echo products that spy on householders 24/7. But it also uses your personal data through your interactions with the site to sell more and more to you.
It has always leveraged our personal data. A few years ago the company obtained a patent to ship goods to its customers before they have even made a decision to buy it, because their predictive big data analytics were supposed to be that accurate!
In the early days, when Amazon was mainly a bookseller, the company was the first to use algorithms so that it could provide recommendations for customers: Remember the “Customers who bought this item, also bought this one…” which still works today.
Now it uses item-to-item filtering, harnessing many data points such as what you have bought before, what you have in your virtual shopping card or wish list, the products you have rated and reviewed, as well as what other similar users have bought. It also uses a heavily customized customer browsing experience, nudging you to certain products it’s pretty sure you will like.
Every time we buy something or click a link on their site, it’s recorded, tracked, collated, and analyzed.
Even if, after reading this article, you decide to continue to shop on Amazon, at least do it sparingly. Don’t give them all your personal details. They’re not going to do good things with it in the future! As Harvard professor and author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff has said, “We find ourselves being shot backward into a kind of feudal pattern where it was an elite, a priesthood, that had all the knowledge and all the rest of the people just kind of groped around in the dark.” We have to fight back against this encroaching new feudalism.
amazon destroys small and large businesses
Amazon accounted for around 20% of the £99bn we in the UK spent online last year.
Why is that? It’s because, brilliantly, they have managed to reduce practically every pain point that is involved in buying things, and they have wrapped up pretty much every area of buying that you could consider. It may have started off with books but quickly it went to CDs ad DVDs then clothes, gadgets, homeware, garden supplies, food, gift vouchers and even talking books. And that’s just for starters. On the whole they’re a one-stop-shop for your life.
That gives them enormous power: power over their suppliers (as you can see below), power to set prices, power to effectively tell you what to buy (by nudging you in a certain direction) and power to make you buy more than you ever intended to do.
In their wake, small and large businesses, both on and offline, have crumbled and fallen. Even Tesco stopped bothering to offer homeware and other products online as it couldn’t compete.
On the one hand you could say that Amazon does.a good job for humanity as it employs thousands of people in the UK in its (unpleasant) warehouses. But its plan is to get rid of the vast majority of these people and replace them with AI. They’ll do it too.
Add to that the years in which they managed to avoid paying any tax in this country (they’re handing some over now) and you have a business that is sucking the life out of entrepreneurship in the UK, helping to destroy the high street and, ultimately, reducing employment prospects.
amazon treats its workers badly
Amazon is America’s second largest private employer (after Walmart), with 950,000 employees. On the one hand that’s a great figure if you’re looking at companies that help employment in the country, but sadly the majority of employees work in its massive warehouses which have been slated in several reports for dangerous and gruelling working conditions.
This report from Gizmodo, for example, points to Amazon’s own figures for the injuries received by workers.
This article in the Guardian shows how workers had to petition bosses to be allowed one 30-minute break rather than two 15-minute breaks in a shift, partly because it took 15 minutes to walk to the break-room! It cites one worker who transferred to the New York City warehouse to help train the new workers saying that they transferred to a different warehouse because their safety concerns and suggestions were repeatedly ignored by upper level managers. “It has terrible safety for powered industrial truck (PIT) operators and pedestrian traffic, which is why I left,” he said. “I reported several violations to safety there – only to get brushed off and pushed aside.”
smashing the unions
In one of the Amazon warehouses in Alabama, USA, workers had been trying to get a union together (you would think it would be their right to have a union…but this is America) and Amazon pulled out all the stops to make it as difficult as possible for them to canvas other workers.
Workers who wanted a union were not allowed to talk to other workers about it or hand out leaflets in the warehouse itself so they would hang around at the traffic lights opposite the plant where other workers would wait to cross the road.
When the Amazon bosses heard about this they actually called the local authorities and got the traffic lights changed so that pro-union workers wouldn’t be able to speak to other workers while they were waiting to cross!
Amazon also posted anti-unionisation flyers around the factory, and workers also received a flood of communications from Amazon warning of potentially worrying consequences from unionisation.
Not surprisingly, the attempt to unionise didn’t work out.
amazon bullies its partners and suppliers
Amazon forces small businesses that operate through them to hand over all the data they have on their customers (you and me).
They pressurised the smart-thermostat maker Ecobee to hand over data from its voice-enabled devices, because, as you may know, these gizmos record your movements and home situation even when you’re not actively using them.
They asked for what is called “proactive state” data. With this data, Amazon would gain information about customers using an Ecobee at all times. This information would include private details such as the temperature of their home or whether their doors were locked.
Amazon has a well-documented history of cloning successful products (i.e stealing the idea) to sell under its own brand, so Ecobee were understandably worried that sharing this data would be like handing over all the information Amazon would need to develop its own competing version, as well as compromising customers’ data.
When Ecobee refused to hand this information over, Amazon threatened to keep them out of high-profile selling events like Prime Day. They also threatened to take away Alexa certification for future devices.
Given that Amazon controls a huge chunk of the global e-commerce market (nearly 40% in America. alone), that kind of move can bankrupt smaller companies like Ecobee.
At the time of writing Ecobee said that ‘negotiations were ongoing’ with Amazon. Good luck to them!
A similar occurrence happened to HBO Max, Amazon only brought it to its Fire TVs after the company agreed to host its streaming service on Amazon’s Prime Video Channel for a year and take up a lucrative contract with Amazon Web Services.
Its cloud-computing division steals designs from other companies for its AmazonBasics line.
It is also reported to put pressure on partners to use its logistics division ‘Fulfillment by Amazon’, telling them that it will be more difficult to sell products on the site if they don’t.
We really need to stop using this bullying, greedy, shady organisation and start supporting small and medium-sized operations online that are trying to do a good job and improve the British economy.
Alternatives to Amazon: books
Oxfam online – Great for secondhand and new books. UK Standard Delivery charge of £3.95, although delivery is currently £1, you also get 10% of your first order if you sign up.
Waterstones – The place for new books in the UK. Free delivery over £25 – 3-5 working days.
World of Books – A great range of books from all over the place. Free Standard Delivery, between 2-5 working days.
Bookshop.org – The green place to buy books. Carbon offsets every order, 2 working days.
Wordery – Wordery offers FREE worldwide delivery on ALL orders.
Blackwells – Free UK Standard Delivery, 2-4 working days.
The Works – Free UK Standard Delivery on orders over £30, Standard Delivery is £2.99 and delivered in 3-5 working days.
Foyles – THE London bookshop with a huge range. Free UK Standard Delivery on orders over £25, or £2.99, 3-5 days.
Better World Books – Free UK Standard Delivery, 3-7 working days. Free International Delivery ,10-21 working days.
John Lewis – Free delivery when you spend £50 and over, £3.50 for orders under £50. Free next day Click and Collect (on some items) if ordered by 6pm.
Dell – Products marked as free 2-3 day delivery ship on the same day if ordered before 2pm and payment has cleared, the order will be delivered within 2-3 business days (excluding bank holidays and weekends).
This was beautiful Admin. Thank you for your reflections.
very informative articles or reviews at this time.
Very well presented. Every quote was awesome and thanks for sharing the content. Keep sharing and keep motivating others.
Very enlightening. Being house bound most of the time I’ve relied on Amazon. Definitely food for thought though.
Yes it is horribly convenient, I agree 🙂 But we all have to stand up for small businesses now I think.
Further to my previous post, I bought my Ocean Saver cleaning refills from Amazon during the shutdown, but will be getting them from Steph on the market now that the restrictions are being lifted.
I prefer to shop online now, or with local businesses.
It’s ironic that Money Magpie is telling users to avoid Amazon but offers Amazon vouchers for cashing out your points… As already mentioned I only shop with Amazon when I get vouchers and order all my shopping online now. I mainly use Iceland for groceries, Boots when I get Advantage Card offers and Mum and Dad usually order things or buy in store that I can’t get online. The only shops I go to in-store nowadays are Tesco & Sainsbury’s, Boots (for click and collect orders), the local Co-Ops (to post parcels) and the local convenience store (for click &… Read more »
I only use Amazon when I get gift vouchers for them e.g. completing surveys etc.
But I never give them my credit / debit card details!
excellent article;i always put in an extra 30 mins when looking to buy a product online to try to find a plausible alternative supplier to amazon (if we are not careful amazon will become a monopoly supplier of everything). For what it is worth as a general rule the alternative i find is better value than amazon