Every year, hundreds of millions of people use Amazon.com, and undoubtedly the company offers great benefits to an average customer.
Convenience – thanks to products such as Prime, many customers can get their products shipped quickly and without additional costs.
Massive selection – yes, Amazon offers millions of products allowing us to have more choice than almost anywhere else.
Competitive prices – they have great prices on many products, many are cheaper than elsewhere.
It all seems great, they seem to care for the customers, but this all comes at a cost. Unfortunately, once you start studying their practices you will learn about the dark side of Amazon.com.
Here are a few examples of their unethical practices that might make you reconsider using their platform. And before we start, let me say that this is just the tip of the iceberg, you could write books about the unethical practices of Amazon.
1. Amazon’s Use of dirty tactics to crash competitors
In 2009 and 2010 Amazon was playing dirty tricks on a competitor Diapers.com. They would cut the prices of diapers and sell them below the cost to crush their competitor Diapers.com. They apparently lost 200 million dollars to destroy Diapers.com.
“Emails published by the House Judiciary Committee this week confirm an accusation that critics have long leveled against Amazon: that the company’s aggressive price-cutting for diapers in 2009 and 2010 was designed to undercut an emerging rival.” (source)
So what happened was that in 2009 and 2010 Amazon really wanted to be the leader of the diapers market. This is totally understandable as diapers are products that moms order regularly and a lot of Amazon’s strategy with services such as Amazon Prime has to do with regular purchases. At that time, Amazon had a major competitor called Quidsi that owned Diapers.com. Amazon decided to lower their prices to the point where they were losing money (sources claim that they lost around 200 million dollars). And once Quidsi “were on their knees” and couldn’t compete anymore, Amazon bought them out. Bezos was recently questioned about this incident however he said that he doesn’t remember any specifics.
To me, this shows the culture at Amazon promoted by Bezos, “get to the top no matter at what cost”. And this approach is visible in so many other cases and situations.
2. Pushing workers to the limits
Amazon is known for their poor treatment of workers and pushing them to the limits. This has been an ongoing issue for many years. Let me quickly give you a few examples.
Amazon initially denied that the workers urinate into the bottles due to a lack of time to use the bathroom. However many workers shared that they have to pee in the bottles to meet quotas, some even defecated in bags. This has been confirmed by many workers and in confidential documents obtained by The Intercept. And the management is fully aware of this.
Imagine so much pressure that you don’t have the time to use the bathroom and have to pee in the bottles.
Amazon also does a really good job to break unions and make sure people aren’t organizing protests against their ruthless practices.
“Dozens of leaked documents from Amazon’s Global Security Operations Center reveal the company’s reliance on Pinkerton operatives to spy on warehouse workers and the extensive monitoring of labor unions, environmental activists, and other social movements.” (source)
Below is an example of the treatment that one former worker experienced when he got ill
“Amazon operated a draconian disciplinary points system, whereby points were given to workers for things like missed productivity targets, “idle time” and clocking in a few minutes after the start of a shift. We were warned that talking to co-workers could also result in the acquisition of a point. Should you receive six points you would lose your job. Illness was punished as a misdemeanour by the company. I took a day off sick and was given a point for it – despite notifying Amazon several hours before the start of my shift that I was ill and offering to provide a note from the doctor. When I returned to work I asked an Amazon manager how they could justify such a policy, which effectively punished people for being ill. “It’s what Amazon have always done,” he replied blandly.” (source)
3. Paying little or no tax
They are extremely good at navigating the system with the use of their army of lawyers and accountants to make sure that they pay very little income tax.
“After two straight years of paying $0 in U.S. federal income tax, Amazon was on the hook for a $162 million bill in 2019”
“Of course, $162 million is still just a fraction of the $13.9 billion in pre-tax income Amazon reported for 2019 — roughly 1.2%, in fact. The federal corporate tax rate is 21%, but as in the past, Amazon likely employed various tax credits and deductions to reduce its federal tax bill. Amazon also reported $280.5 billion in total revenue in 2019 “ (source)
4. Amazon’s environmental impact
One of the more shocking revelations that came out recently is the fact how Amazon destroys millions of unsold items in the UK every year. Some products that are often new and unused are dumped into landfills. ITV News did an investigation recently in one of their 24, UK-based fulfillment centres.
“Products that were never sold, or returned by a customer. Almost all could have been redistributed to charities or those in need. Instead, they are thrown into vast bins, carried away by lorries, and dumped at either recycling centres or, worse, a landfill site.”
“An ex-employee, who asked for anonymity, told us: “From a Friday to a Friday our target was to generally destroy 130,000 items a week.”
“”Overall, 50 percent of all items are unopened and still in their shrink wrap. The other half are returns and in good condition. Staff have just become numb to what they are being asked to do.”
It is hard to imagine the level of waste here, millions of goods that could be distributed to charities and people in need are being thrown into landfills.
You might be wondering, why do they do it? According to ITV News, the reason is that many vendors that work with Amazon keep their products at their warehouses for shipping. Some goods remain unsold and these companies are charged by Amazon to store them. It becomes cheaper to dispose the goods, especially stock from overseas than to continue storing the stock.
Here are just 4 examples of some of the unethical practices of Amazon.com.
And keep in mind that this is really just the tip of the iceberg. They have a lot more unethical practices and I wanted to keep this article short. The final message I want to share is that each time we shop at Amazon we contribute to all that and a lot more. If we allow these companies to grow through our participation and our use of their products we might see a society that won’t be very friendly in the near future. Taking away our jobs through automation, spying, and surveillance, crushing smaller businesses, environmental degradation, and a lot more…
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