It seems like Amazon is always in the news. On the one hand, customers love their fast service, low prices, ease of shopping experience, and superior return policy. But all of that comes at a price. Retail stores suffer. Indie stores are under threat. Commercial real estate is in the toilet. Jobs are being lost to Amazon’s robotic automation, streamlining, and lack of need for physical store staffs. We are letting the monster get bigger and stronger. Amazon poses a threat to every industry and can be seen as having a monopoly on many levels.
So, who is angry at Amazon?
- Unions. Attempts to unionize Amazon have failed. The anti-labor fair practices of Amazon are discussed in all corners.
- Small Business Rising. This coalition of thousands of businesses (which includes The American Booksellers Association), according to the Wall Street Journal, “wants federal legislation that would prevent the owner of a dominant online marketplace from selling its own products in competition with other sellers, a policy that could effectively separate Amazon’s retail product business from its online marketplace.”
- Most Industries. Whatever Amazon enters, an industry gets altered. Prices drop. Profit margins thin. Some companies go under or merge as a result. Amazon is predatory, purposely undermining the competition with below-profitable prices, treating it as a loss-leader tactic.
- Realtors. Amazon has displaced hundreds of millions of square feet that would otherwise be leased by, or newly built for, physical stores.
- Restaurants. The fewer physical stores, the fewer reasons people go to an area to hang out, and thus eat at.
- Local Governments. Less tax revenue from real estate and commercial activity -- due to Amazon – creates deficits for thousands of local governments across America. Even parking revenue, tolls, etc suffer as a result.
Of course, not all is bad. There are two sides to everything. Amazon offers many individuals, and even stores, to sell their products on Amazon, turning it into a one-stop shopping experience for consumers while allowing millions of entrepreneurs a retail beachhead.
Authors love-hate Amazon. On the one hand, they want indie bookstores to survive and thrive. On the other hand, they enjoy using POD and e-book sales that amazon easily makes available.
Whether we want to embrace or assault Amazon, we have to admire how one company figured out how to use the Internet better than anyone for over three decades. And we have to fear that one person -- Jeff Bezos -- keeps accumulating massive wealth while paying little in taxes and using has financial power and political influence to remake America's landscape.
A new book is out that is sure to cause a ruckus. It was recently featured in The New York Times Book Review. I will leave you with this quote from the review:
“In Alec MacGillis’s urgent book, “Fulfillment: winning and Losing in One-Click America,” true fulfillment is elusive in Amazon’s America. Through interviews, careful investigative reporting and vignettes from across the country, MacGillis deftly unravels the strong grip Amazon has on the United States, from the ground level in the inhumane working conditions of the warehouse, in rural towns upended by industrialization and subject to the glint of Amazon’s economic promise to the gilded halls of Washington, D.C,. where Amazon's lobbyists flock.
than the smooth story of innovation that makes Amazon’s rise to power
inevitable, MacGillis reminds us that the company’s totalizing influence is one
of parasitic opportunism, filling the spaces left by decline of American
manufacturing and taking advantage of industrial consolidation. Through careful
detail and deeply humanizing portraits of communities impacted by Amazon,
MacGillis gives us a picture of contemporary America as mere survival under
precarity- the simple need for shelter, food, and a safe workplace.”
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About Brian Feinblum
Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This
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