Now that they've captured 50%+ of US ecommerce, they've also raised many prices, to the point where they're far from the cheapest price in many cases. A random example... the cat litter I just purchased is $17.89 at Amazon, $13.49 at Walmart. Last week I bought a chair mat for $21.95 on Ebay - identical item on Amazon was $33.95 (both including free shipping but Amazon came with an additional 8.25% sales tax).
They can do that because so many people don't price compare anymore before going to Amazon.
Not to mention the issues of buying an expensive brand item and getting a fake instead, as well as the large numbers of fake reviews. Indeed, it is pretty hard to get started in Amazon FBA these days when your competitors all have hundreds of glowing reviews for similar products and you have none.
They've also moved many items to the add-on category (no more free shipping unless you have $25+ in the cart, even with Prime).
My Prime membership expires in a couple months time, and this time I'm not renewing it, after being a member for several years.
Speaking as a longtime customer, I agree: this is what Amazon's behavior feels like to me nowadays. Search no longer works well for me. Reviews and product ratings are no longer trustworthy. The authenticity of products in key categories (e.g., electronics) can no longer be taken for granted. Yet Amazon seems to be... largely unaware of these issues. They seem to be prioritizing a wide range of important strategic imperatives over... customer happiness.
I can't help but think of the famous quote from the Book of Proverbs, 16:18:
"Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
1) The day Amazon feel threatened they can become the cheapest in the market quickly again.
2) Given purchasing power scale and people like fast delivery there will only be a handful of companies that can complete with Amazon ever, so it seems unlikely there will be a 'started in the garage' business compete with them now the market is maturing.
3) With the extra profit Amazon are making vs a competitors they can develop and buy technologies or business to keep a moat around them for a long time.
I'm not saying they are irreplaceable. I do feel there is an inertia there that will be difficult to overcome combined with Amazons ability to change course given Bezos complete rule makes a fall vastly less likely than continued dominance over the short to medium term.
Forget about price. I can't even trust that I'll be getting a legitimate product anymore. When possible, I prefer to buy from a more trusted retailer now. For many products I'm willing to pay a premium to know I'm not buying something potentially fake and dangerous.
The only advantage Amazon has for me now is shipping and they've been fucking that up too. Their AMZL shipping service is garbage in my neighborhood. I've gotten lots of several packages reported as handed to resident, then when I contact customer service they reply that the delivery people decided not to deliver it and just marked it delivered anyway.
These issues haven't stopped me from using Amazon yet, but they add up over time and it'll be extremely difficult to build that trust back once it reaches a point where I stop using Amazon entirely.
I enjoy them so much I decide to order 3 packages for the future. They come in the mail - all of them are the smaller size (but have the markings of the larger size). The colors weren't the same - it was clearly from another manufacturer. I go okay, that sucks, I guess I should just return them - Amazon decided that now was the time to make me ship them back rather than taking my word for it. The $20 wasn't really worth the time for me to do so - but that $20 is going to end up being a pretty important one for Amazon as I don't have any trust that what they're selling is what will arrive anymore. They could at least be internally consistent.
I pulled my amazon spending report and I used to average a little over $11k/year spent there, this year I've spent less than $1000. No matter what amazon changes, I can't trust them anymore. Walmart doesn't mess around, they just aim for the lowest price all the time, and they have cheap (usually free) shipping with no need to pay for a prime membership.
As soon as amazon has saturated the market with prime subscribers, their growth in shopping will start to slow and eventually stop as everyone sees the light.
This is something Amazon is going to have to learn if it's serious about brick-and-mortar.
Selling garbage fakes online is one thing. Selling them in a store is another. There are dozens of regulatory agencies from federal down to the city level just for that sort of thing.
It was supposed to be a “Prime” order but it was a terrible experience. What is my Prime membership paying for?
a higher price
I would suggest Amazon can't ever be the cheapest, when I factor in the risk factor that I may or may not get what I paid for. The convenience factor goes out the window if I have to return my package.
Just today I received an opened package. I am curious what surprises await me.
That's probably true, but the truth is that situation was an unstable equilibrium in the first place. There's absolutely no reason in a functioning market to expect (or want!) one provider to be the uniform best option at all things. Eventually everyone else starts competing.
To wit: the situation over the past decade wasn't so much defined by Amazon being better (or "not evil", given the framing I'm saying here), it was that everyone else sucked. Now they don't suck so much, and Amazon is having to compete in ways (like profit!) they used to be able to ignore.
That's a good thing, not a bad thing.
I'd say it's somewhat the reverse: Amazon was vastly better for things they sourced and sold themselves. I couldn't get everything there, but things they did have, I could trust.
They tried to expand into absolutely everything, and that's what feels like broke even my trust in the stuff they sell directly (since they also have comingling of third party inventory on that stuff, now).
I'm saying that no, that's silly. They're less dominant because they're seeing significant competition, and the stuff you perceive as "worse" is the inevitable result of them having to squeeze on margins or expand into higher-hanging-fruit regions of the market.
And we're all richer for it. Don't buy from Amazon, that's fine. But don't expect to live in a world where you get someone else who can dominate a market like they did, either.
That's literally the definition of a lack of competition. Everyone loved Amazon because they were cheaper and faster and better. Even inside the tech microcosm, no one makes a purchasing decision based on "love".
> Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair
It takes a lot longer for a company to build up a good reputation than to lose it. But if a company evaluates its managers on metrics and if good reputation can't easily be measured, it's very easy for them to lose it.
I've spend _way_ too much money on climbing gear in the past three years, very little of which was on Amazon. I simply can't risk getting counterfeit safety-critical goods.
And while I'm not worried about counterfeit mops, I have noticed that the Amazon first habit is now broken in general.
The supply chain problems are very worrisome for Amazon.
That’s a good call. I usually buy direct from someone like Black Diamond when it comes to things like that.
Also, like with most industries , it helps to have a friend with a pro deal, if you’re trying to save money on important stuff.
I’ve found that AliExpress is good for cheap electronics that I don’t mind waiting for, but not much beyond that. I haven’t used the site in months (though, I haven’t used Amazon during the same time either)
Interesting example. Did you see the recent story about Black Diamond sending a cease-and-desist to Walmart demanding that they stop advertising their products: https://www.retaildive.com/news/black-diamond-demands-walmar...
I found what I needed on newegg and ebay instead.
Can they? They aren't the ones selling those products, individual companies set their own prices - and they have to pay a cut to Amazon. Even if that cut goes to 0 (making Amazon lose lots of money), that only puts them at barely better than the rest of the market. Walmart sets its own prices.
>2) Given purchasing power scale and people like fast delivery there will only be a handful of companies that can complete with Amazon ever, so it seems unlikely there will be a 'started in the garage' business compete with them now the market is maturing.
I think this has been proven wrong time and again. There's always a way into the market.
>3) With the extra profit Amazon are making vs a competitors they can develop and buy technologies or business to keep a moat around them for a long time.
Just the same way every other company has maintained an iron grip on every market it's in...?
History repeats itself, companies rise and fall, and they gain and lose market share even when they have an endless supply of money.
The most important part of running a business like Amazon is consumer trust - and Amazon is playing a losing game right now.
I wouldn't be surprised if they can do the same on other retail goods as long as they pay for it.
Has it? I have the impression that monopolies are often toppled only when the market CHANGES, and that's usually not the action of a competitor. Saying "wait long enough and you can compete on different turf" doesn't feel like competition, nor a win for consumers in the meantime.
2) This is true, but where Amazon excels in market efficiency for the general case, they lack in supporting niches; especially high priced niches.
For instance, I just purchased a $2600 (+$30 2-day shipping) lens from B&H photo, despite the fact that I have a Prime account, and the price on Amazon was the same.
This is because, while I still trust Amazon for smaller purchases, I no longer trust them for expensive niche products like camera gear or computers, since their supply chain is out of control (Chinese knock-offs, etc.).
3) Sure they’ve made a few billion dollars in profit, but their opex is enormous. Compare this to Apple, who’s cash and equivalence is enough to run without sales for a decade. Given a downturn in the economy and a pullback in consumer spending (not to mention a drop in AWS revenue), Amazon could get into financial trouble pretty quickly.
> Given purchasing power scale and people like fast delivery there will only be a handful of companies that can complete with Amazon ever, so it seems unlikely there will be a 'started in the garage' business compete with them now the market is maturing.
I'd rather just walk into Target (same day pickup), Walmart (same day pickup), Best Buy (who price matches), B&H, Buy Buy Baby, Home Depot (same day pickup), Bed Bath & Beyond, or Kohls. I can't buy clothing online because I'm not willing for it to take a week to try something on, ship it back if it doesn't fit, get a different size in the mail, etc. The few bucks more at a physical store is worth it to have the size that fits today. I'm not willing to buy human consumables worried that they're counterfeit from an unscrupulous third party seller I will have no recourse against. I have to go to the Apple store for anything Apple related because I can't trust Amazon's reviews or their supply chain that what I'm receiving isn't a Chinese knock off that is out of spec. I buy SD cards and USB flash drives from Walmart because I don't trust I'll receive an authentic version from Amazon (having received many in the past that did not match advertised capacity).
I won't even buy baby formula from Amazon; I buy direct from the manufacturer, and it takes 3-4 days to get to us (cheaper than worrying its counterfeit). The horror of having to wait an extra day or two and plan ahead!
ashelmire's sibling comment hits the nail on the head: I do not trust Amazon anymore (without even touching on their labor practices). The UX is still great for me to track down products I might like or need and then go shop for them in person.
Always hated the name of that store. It sounds like a euphemism for Planned Parenthood.
> The UX is still great for me to track down products I might like or need and then go shop for them in person.
What a hilarious inversion of the way things used to be.
Back in 1994, Bezos wanted to call his new company "Cadabra," as in the magic incantation "abracadabra," but he quickly had a fresh brainstorm when his lawyer misheard the name as "Cadaver."
- Are they taking me for a ride on price? I don't optimize this enough and do overpay because I'm lazy, but there have been multiple times lately that they gave me a price that was just stupidly high.
- Is this the kind of product that will cause their screwed-up warehousing system to stiff me with counterfeit goods/seconds? No way in hell am I going to put up with that kind of shitty bait-and-switch, and this cuts out a huge swath of categories I'll consider from them.
- Did I find all the places on the page where they hide alternate (cheaper) sellers in their own store?
And this is also after I mostly stopped using their incredibly loosely-matching search and just use DDG, which works much better.
At a certain point, I find the friction of keeping them honest is not worth it. Last renewal time, Prime was still worth it. When it is up for renewal I'm cancelling to see if I miss it.
It's still frustrating the lengths I have to go to to get a fair deal on Amazon. there's so much anticompetitive behavior (showing their own products first on searches, defaulting to products sold by amazon, hiding competitor listings [search for chromecast]) and they show little interest at changing behavior to make the customer experience better (even on glaring issues like fake reviews / counterfeit products) because there is no competition. I have contributed, been suckered in to the 'Prime' bandwagon, rarely shopping around on price, and often buying 'Amazon's Choice' products, which are almost certainly a sham.
Refreshing to see people on here bucking that trend. I'm trying to commit to the same, hopefully Amazon one day feels pressure to change.
I ended up buying the item in a brick-and-mortar store -- same price, instant pick-up, and easier to return in case it didn't meet my needs (plus no fear of blacklisting or whatever, which I'm not sure is a thing Amazon does, but I don't really want to find out, either).
I don't think that's necessarily true. Majority of products sold on Amazon are sold by 3rd parties. Amazon's commission fee structure, and seller-eats-return-shipping-by-default is to blame for prices going up on many items...
Competition among sellers is fierce on Amazon - and historically was a race to the bottom, chasing sometimes $0.10 profits after paying for shipping materials, shipping fees, labor in warehouses to fulfill orders - or paying FBA fees which are often higher but gets a sales boost by Amazon for the privilege...
Amazon keeps raising commission rates, FBA fees, sticking sellers with return shipping label fees, commission minimums, etc. It all adds up to an unprofitable proposition - or you must raise prices to compensate. So, that's what has been done... making Amazon more expensive in general for almost everything.
Sure, Amazon could cut their fees tomorrow - but it will take time to work itself out into lower prices for consumers... especially since people are unlikely to trust Amazon's fee-holiday longevity. Amazon tends to change things at will with minimal notice.
Do yourself, and small businesses alike, a favor - find something you want to buy on Amazon - then search the seller name on your favorite search engine. You might be pleasantly surprised with the free discount you receive by purchasing directly from the vendor's website than through Amazon + all the fees.
Cutting fees and slashing ad prices would be a start - but it would take a while before people trust it.
We got into FBA heavily because it dramatically boosted sales... even on products we co-listed FBM on (nuts, you pay more to fulfill it via Amazon's network, but they boost your sales, so it washed out).
Recently, they've been increasing FBA fees to where it's finally at the point we're re-examining it's profitability and possibly moving back to FBM for 100% of our items. But... not everyone has the luxury of having their own warehouse and fulfillment infrastructure - a lot of Amazon sellers are vested 100% into FBA and are at Amazon's mercy with fees.
There are a lot of people in your boat and there are some companies that provide sophisticated software solutions to determining the best mix of FBA vs. FBM for your business.
Only if they're being vigilant. Usually the threats to a company's business model come from places they don't expect, so by the time they feel squeezed it's already too late. Consider the examples of RIM and Microsoft.
> 2.) Given purchasing power scale and people like fast delivery there will only be a handful of companies that can complete with Amazon ever, so it seems unlikely there will be a 'started in the garage' business compete with them now the market is maturing.
Again, consider RIM and Microsoft. Apple + Google gobbled up much of their core markets. RIM just withered and Microsoft had to completely redo its business strategy. They're not the Borg anymore as a result.
Amazon's big gains come from taking advantage of low-hanging fruit in technology. It's something most other retailers just didn't have the internal expertise to do. But the Wally Worlds and Targets of the world can catch up eventually. The first mover advantage only lasts for so long.
At this point, the main thing that makes me go to Amazon is one-click ordering. But if things like Apple or Android Pay take off, that would kill much of the advantage Amazon has over other small retailers. I already don't really care for my Prime membership anymore.
And there is always the possibility that our government wises up and starts enforcing anti-trust la. . .no never mind. That's just ridiculous.
There are plenty of product categories that are poorly served by modern Amazon. A small competitor specializing in one of these could eventually supplant them.
 Books, ironically, being one of them. Amazon has gotten lazy with book shipping - often using simple envelopes - and they now arrive damaged more often than not.
No. Amazon had built up trust. Trust that they were the cheapest place to look, and trust that they were ultra-reliable. Trust that their reviews were trustworthy.
The longer that's untrue for, the more the brand is becoming irreparably damaged. It seems mind-blowingly stupid. Three years ago, I would purchase absolutely anything I could from Amazon. Clothes, for example.
There's a brand of jeans I like, I know the size and style I like, and I used to always just go to Amazon. These days I spend my money on Zalando because I don't want fakes, and I know that Zalando will make sure I get genuine items each time.
I bought a suitcase a little while ago. Wrong item was sent. Because of whatever agreement Amazon has with the third-party who sold it to me, I couldn't easily generate an immediate refund like I used to be able to do.
Amazon have probably lost around $3-4,000 of easy revenue from me this year, so far. The whole thing feels like a massive own-goal.
You're starting to see competitors react effectively. WalMart is investing alot on the pickup strategy. Target has upped their game with small box shipments from stores. We stopped almost all purchasing that we did at amazon for household goods -- in many cases Target is providing next day delivery via USPS from a local store.
From my POV, I have a growing list of items that I cannot buy from Amazon. Electronics are fake, perishables are usually near the sell by date, household stuff like soaps and kitchen consumables are 30% more expensive, etc. The magic of amazon was that it was simple. No longer.
One two occasions, I ordered Nvidia cards that are overclocked. Both of them were swapped out with stock speed cards. People would not notice this unless they looked at the nvidia control panel and clicked system settings and looked at the clock speed.
Catchy quotes are nice, but need to be checked against the real world.
See also: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17961703.
Also I think the reason Equifax hasn't been hurt is largely because they do not depend directly on consumers for their business model. I think it is more than just my small circle of friends that would like nothing more than to see them die.
There never has been. You can't compete in high volume retail ecommerce from a low budget garage scenario. Since the mid 1990s it has required tens of millions of dollars in venture capital just to get into the first inning of the game if you want to compete at that style of mass retail ecommerce.
It'd be like pretending you can compete with BMW, Ford, GM, Toyota, Tesla, etc. starting from a garage. There's a reason so few new car companies get started. Mass retail has horrendous margins and very high operational costs. If you get to choose, start a hotdog vendor business instead of going into low margin retail.
Amazon itself required a million dollars to get started back in 1994. There are no garage businesses in that sort of ecommerce.
The problem with that statement is that you assume customers will flock back. It might be true in the short term however when you lose customers specifically because of pricing and the monopoly behavior, clients aren't going to quickly forget this behavior. You really think people will come running back and allowing Amazon to do that knowing they did so in the past?
Everyone who boycotted Chick-Fil-A ended up eating there again (if they even remember why they stopped), nobody cares about Wells Fargo's transgressions anymore and even Equifax is slipping out of the popular consciousness. Keep the stock price afloat for 8-12 months and you can recover from anything.
Price is king.
Except that consumer electronics companies like Frys now get low warranty, extra shitty, extra cheap models to suck the Black Friday morons in since they know those consumers won't buy anything else.
I have, in fact, been warned at several stores (not just Frys) on the weekend afterward: "That's our Black Friday model. This model over here is nominally more expensive ($20-50 max), has the normal manufacturers warranty, and is a really good deal as it's 50-75% off our normal price anyway."
Also ebay and Walmart are hardly unknown, and as people get more fed up with the fakes on Amazon, they know where to look.
Incidentally, I kinda prefer to shop at Alibaba where I know it will be fake then on Amazon or Walmart where I can fall into the trip of thinking it is real (because it might be...).
My mom wanted some new lighting Apple headphones (earpods). Good luck finding actual Apple products on there.
I bought them from B&H instead. No tax + free faster shipping.
I decided I wanted a GTX 1080 recently, and I gave Amazon's search a swing in case I was missing something that pcpartpicker didn't grab.
Search "GTX 1080" from their home page. First two results are aftermarket coolers, then we start seeing cards.
Okay, let's filter to just a price range likely to be cards... $300-500. The first result is technically in range at $499, but flagged "You can't buy this because you don't have Prime." The second is $661. Yes, technically there's a "used or something from $499.99." in the corner, but it smells like they've ignored the filtering entirely unless you want to play hunt the pixel.
If I do a step further "sort by price", it still sorts by the cheapest third-party used price and then shows the new price in big figures, leaving the results seemingly unsorted. You then see a disclaimer "Showing selected results. See all results for gtx 1080." WTH is "selected results?" My consumer sense is tingling-- are they trying to steer me into higher-margin items? Okay, I'll select "see all". The first result is a Vega 56, the second a 1060.
And this is why I bought from Newegg. That and they had a no-gimmicks model for $430.
What went wrong?
* Product categorization is a mess. I have to wonder if this is third party vendors keyword stuffing their listings for a "GTX 1050 not 1060 1070 1070TI 1080" or just some overly aggressive matching. In other searches, I've seen a related problem-- the same item repeated with marginally different listings.
* New/refurb/open box/etc. really need to be seperate SKUs. Books and DVDs, the used choice is a reasonable substitute, but on a ~$400 product where warranty is a purchasing factor, you can't really bundle them together.
* Filter and sort needs to work how you'd expect it. On the big price number. Maybe that means they have to do things like spinning out new/used/refurb as suggested, and maybe the "$A, also available from $B" phrasing needs rework.
If I wanted to hunt, compare (deceptive) pricing, read fine print, make sure shipping is reasonable, worry about needing a refund, I would have just searched on Google and gone through all the rando e-commerce sites that popped up.
I used to go to Amazon because I knew that, while they might not have the thing I wanted, if I found it, it was the right thing, the price was reasonable, and I'd be able to get it in a reasonable amount of time. These days I barely see a difference between shopping on Amazon and Ebay. The only possible exception might be books.
Any camera or electronics gear I order now comes from B&H or dare I say it - Best Buy. Better shipping options, better return options and just easier to find items overall. This is coming from a prime subscriber of years now.
Alexa is not your friend, Alexa is a tool to make Amazon money. Amazon's move into media is not an effort to improve the media system, it's a recognition that there's a lot of money to be made by controlling the media that people consume. Same thing with the fire phone, it wasn't an attempt to make a better phone, it's an attempt to gain access to all of that juicy information that Google gets from Android.
Bezos is out to make an empire, everything else comes second.
I share this sentiment.
For comparison, I believe the amount of and methods with which Google collects data to be wrong, but I also believe that they don't believe they are doing something (outright) wrong.
Amazon, however, must know that they have a counterfeit goods problem, but it seems that they couldn't care less about it. Same applies to gaming the review system.
It seems like a hard problem - eBay suffered from this too for their goods,Yelp with reviews. I doubt it's just a "I don't care" kind of thing.
Most brick and mortar chains in the UK have a buying policy that requires you to prove your goods are fit for purpose before they'll put it on the shelves and risk hurting their brand. I imagine most of Europe operates similarly.
They will generally require suppliers to send examples of the range before being allowed in store, and they will test or examine a representative selection first. They'll probably do basic safety and legality tests too. As a new supplier you can expect your products to be subject to random checks over the coming months. After a period of good track record you will become a trusted supplier and subject to fewer, or perhaps no, checks.
Amazon should do the same. That they are big or that they are online is no excuse not to.
Amazon would look far far better to their customers if they started cutting some of the crap as "not good enough to go in Amazon" and dropping suppliers for shoddy manufacture or too high a return rate.
There is a big difference between cheap, good value and all the world's unfit for purpose and counterfeit crap, for me anyway. They can pretend marketplace is separate, and outsource returns and customer service to marketplace sellers all they like. If I buy something dangerous or shit on marketplace I resent Amazon as much as the RNGFake4u brand I accidentally bought.
I put same in quotes, because it can be counterfeit or just similar. You’ll never know if you just buy the cheapest via buy now.
The only exception if it’s your own brand. Which is what many sellers are doing now. That’s why you are seeing a billion of poorly branded, cheap Chinese products.
No idea what do to about the reviews, but the first step to the counterfeit goods problem is simple: once you've received X complaints about a counterfeit product, stop selling the product.
Continuing to sell a product for which there are numerous and credible indications that they are counterfeit is borderline fraud.
If you don't have an idea of how to solve the review problem, I'm not convinced you've thought through the "received X complaints about a counterfeit product" problem and your proposed solution. In your system, I could easily assault my competitors with counterfeit claims and get their products removed. This already happens with reviews and other sort of reports/returns.
With "complaint", I meant a formal complaint to Amazon, over a proper channel, either by contacting Amazon Support, or during the returning process (I'm returning this product because it is counterfeit").
They need to patrol the sources for fake reviews (facebook groups, etc) and perform sting operations to catch the sellers who solicit them. It shouldn't be too hard, a simple Facebook search finds hundreds of groups and thousands of solicitations. Once you identify a seller that does this, you ban them from Amazon, as well as everyone who's given their products a fake review (for the reviewers, it should probably be a three strikes thing before they're banned, since a lot of them seem to just like free stuff).
> but the first step to the counterfeit goods problem is simple: once you've received X complaints about a counterfeit product, stop selling the product.
> Continuing to sell a product for which there are numerous and credible indications that they are counterfeit is borderline fraud.
I'd say the second step is to roll back many of Amazon's practices that make counterfeiting harder to detect, for instance how they can commingle inventory between sellers (if those sellers weren't careful when they made their listing). That makes it impossible for the sellers to have meaningful reputation scores, since bad-actors can sell their counterfeits through honest-actor storefronts (and vice versa).
The third step is to implement better supply chain management and vetting of suppliers. Not everyone should be able to set up a marketplace store and sell any product. There needs to be effective vetting of sellers and it should be hard enough to setup a marketplace account they can't just create a new one when their last one is banned. There should also be especially stringent vetting around listings for frequently fake and counterfeit products, like SD cards.
The fourth step is to implement active counterfeit and fake product detection (through test purchases). If a particular item is too often fake or counterfeited, Amazon should ban it from the marketplace and only sell inventory directly sourced from the original manufacturer.
None of these things should be too hard for a company with Amazon's resources to effectively implement. The fact that it hasn't says that these problems aren't a priority for it.
Recently, though, Huggies changed the 'movers & poopers' line or whatever they call it. Since consumers didn't know about the change beforehand (new leg-hole shape, for instance) there were many reports that those were counterfeit, and Huggies had representatives deployed to answer Amazon reviews that showed the legit redesigned diapers and falsely called them counterfeit.
Moreover, what would happen to Amazon if they stopped selling Huggies and Pampers? Collapse! or maybe just a 20% loss of revenue! Do you know how many people go Prime purely so they can get their diapers autoshipped? and the formula, and the breastmilk bags, and the wipes? My family signed up for Prime solely because of baby crap, and once that baby crap is not needed, Prime ends. But for most people, Prime continues from baby to toddler to whenever they remember to stop auto-renewing. This is a huge market.
Amazon cannot afford not to fix their supply chain legitimacy issues. But they can't just stop selling the product. Agree that it's fraudulent to keep selling counterfeits, agree that they need to fix it or all those Prime parents are going to switch to Target for their brand-name diapers. It's not simple, though.
If they can't run a legitimate business properly, then that's their problem.
Take a look around -- plenty of other profitable retailers don't have this problem.
> But they can't just stop selling the product.
Not only can they, they must.
You can't continue with illegitimate business just because you'd be unprofitable otherwise.
That is, reviews and reports are likely easier to manipulate/game than physical products. Not just in "ballet stuffing" but through many other means. (That is, it is probably easy to get credible people to also vouch for products while you are shipping counterfeit ones.)
To that end, I'd imagine it is easy to get rid of someone that sells 100% fake items. But how hard is it to drop someone that sells 10% fake items? In bulk, that is still damaging. And is still probably lucrative for the seller.
Basically, I'd expect (again, perhaps naively) that painting it as a boolean trip actually makes it easier for the cheaters.
No, just anecdata, including personal experience. But the anecdata seems widespread enough.
> To that end, I'd imagine it is easy to get rid of someone that sells 100% fake items. But how hard is it to drop someone that sells 10% fake items?
I have absolutely zero experience with retail, but I'd probably set the bar at 0%. Any deviation from that 0% must be explained satisfactorily: "how did this happen", "what measures have been taken so that this doesn't happen again", etc.
The big issue is co-mingling inventory. This is where they mix same product from different sellers in same batch. I only order products from Amazon.com LLC. But I have still received items that seems fake.
Some says that co-mingling inventory saves Amazon a lot of money but to me it seems like Amazon is actively shielding bad players by making it hard to trackdown who is selling fake products.
Seperating inventory not just by article but also supplier and / or inventory owner is no small feat. But if Amazon's IT environment is not able of doing it, this is opening all kinds of issues. None of them really good in the long run.
So Amazon has already built the system to keep inventory separate by sellers.
If you turn off comingling you have to (? not sure if anymore) apply Amazon ASIN stickers instead of the manufacturer barcode, which is really annoying.
Is the reviewer saying things of substance, how many other reviews have they left and over how many years, how many things have they actually bought on the store and at what dollar amounts, are their other reviews a mix of positive/negative, are the types of products distinct, etc. Score each of these and remove/shadow-ban reviews that don't meet an authenticity metric.
If there are real consequences for getting caught buying fake reviews (e.g. banning from selling or fines), it could really restore some order to the chaos. (Then you get the inverse problem of competitors buying fake reviews trying to get the competition banned or fined. This is second-order to actually removing the fake reviews in the first place though.)
But for someone like me, I don't want to gamble whenever I buy anything. I have had Prime from the very start and now I think I am not going to renew. I am sick of getting substandard products and lately with their private label shipping the delivery date/time has been completely arbitrary. I've done almost all of my shopping online my entire adult life, but now I am increasingly going to local stores as I have never received a fake, and now they compete on price.
With so many engineers working at Google, someone there should be thinking they are doing something wrong. Right?
Or are you more thinking of a collective conscious of some kind?
Not that non-management is irrelevant. It's just less relevant. Because what is OK or not OK is ultimately decided at the very top.
For example, in the not-so-recent-past, Uber was rocked with scandals on a weekly basis. The first step to fix this was to find a new CEO.
Once you've accepted that selling counterfeit goods and other broadly anti-competitive practices are A-OK and part of your core business model, you've crossed a line where it's no longer really a matter of simply doing "less" of it.
Amazon seems to have decided that the higher margins of counterfeits and prioritizing ads over search quality are worth the loss of user trust. I wholeheartedly hope this will be a costly miscalculation on their part, as I would prefer a marketplace with fewer ads and reliably genuine items.
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.
The free markets need regulation, or they stop being free.
Anyway, the point is just that one doesn't expect companies to be your friend. You expect them to pursue their own interest, and thankfully their interest and your interest overlap quite often - and mutual, voluntary exchange of goods, service, and currency occurs.
Are there things I wish Amazon, for example, did differently? Of course. And the wonderful thing about the free market is that if enough of their customers become unhappy about some issue or other, another company can come along and serve those customers. Of course that might not happen, and that's fine. Nobody is claiming that a free market guarantees that everybody gets exactly what they want.
There are very different forms of self-interest, the one implied here is of the very shallow, short term kind.
Note that this is not to say that I (or anybody else) engages in strict, robot-like, mathematical optimization of all transactions to ensure that our best interest is served down to the .00000000000001th place. We, as human beings, employ satisficing for a lot of our decision making. But the fact that I buy from Amazon when I could save 50 cents by buying from Walmart instead, or that I tolerate Amazon showing me a few ads when I'm shopping, is neither here nor there.
This is a fallacy. People often engage in transactions that aren't in their interest- believing in the moment that they are. Or said another way, there's a difference between long-term interest and short term interest, and people often don't see their long-term interest clearly. Or said still a different way, there's a big difference between happiness and pleasure, and people sometimes engage in pleasure in detriment to their happiness (roughly from the Dalai Lama).
I'm not talking about the 10^(-14). I'm talking about real decisions where there is an information asymmetry. And meth.
We used to live in a world where a retailer or manufacturer would stand behind their product and not let anyone sully their name. Since today's consumers seem to lack the ability to discriminate between 'cheap' and 'value' we are in the world we're in.
One particular retailer I'm fond of in this regard is Home Depot. If I have any problems with any of their merchandise, they take it back, no problem. They stand behind what they sell and I appreciate that.
Courts apply laws. Laws defining and providing remedies for comemrcial frauds are regulations of the market.
No, courts are arbiters, sometimes of the law, sometimes of civil disputes, such as contracts.
> Laws defining and providing remedies for comemrcial frauds are regulations
That is true, laws that apply to contracts are regulations, however, they are not necessary for remedy.
If I have a contract to receive "A spoon product id xyz as created by Sir Porky Pig of 123. Main, CA USA" and anything other than that is delivered, it's a breach of contract at least and fraud at worst. I could sue for damages. What regulation is needed for this transaction? If someone were to deliberately intend to deceive me, that is fraud, and there are already laws for that.
The things they define what is an enforceable contract and what remedies are available for violations are, again, laws. Civil law is as much law as criminal law.
> That is true, laws that apply to contracts are regulations, however, they are not necessary for remedy.
Yes, they are.
It is law which defines what is a contract, and law which defines what remedies exist for breach.
> If I have a contract to receive "A spoon product id xyz as created by Sir Porky Pig of 123. Main, CA USA" and anything other than that is delivered, it's a breach of contract at least and fraud at worst. I could sue for damages. What regulation is needed for this transaction?
(1) A law defining when an enforceable contract is formed and how the enforceable terms are determined.
(2) A law defining the parameters on which damages are legally compensable from breach, including setting standards for traceability of causation of the harm to the breach, degree to which the I hired party is or is not obligated to act reasonably to mitigate damages, etc.
> If someone were to deliberately intend to deceive me, that is fraud, and there are already laws for that.
And such laws are regulations of commerce.
Why are so many people willing to throw away the baby (capitalism) with the dirty bathwater (monopolies and others crony deviations.)
That isn't capitalism, you just described a market. Markets existed for thousands of years before capitalism was created.
Or in software terms, I think our current form of capitalism is in need of refactoring, not rejecting as fundamentally broken.
Because it's important to differentiate markets from capitalism! Otherwise feudalism would have been capitalism, too.
Monopolies run against the spirit of capitalism. Regulated markets on the other hand are fine as long as competition is ensured.
That existed before capitalism - in feudalism, for example. It's true in the context of Marxist analysis of capitalism as that's how Marx decided to frame capitalism, but it isn't capitalism's distinguishing feature.
> Monopolies run against the spirit of capitalism.
Effectively, yes, which is why we should prevent them by either public ownership of natural monopoly resources (public road ownership, for an example to wind up the libertarians) or regulation.
So, that would go against thr leadership principles of vocally self-critical and earn trust. Not that it harmed stock performance, but it changed something, somehow. Not sure what, so.
He's ruthless as hell but he dosen't force anyone to work for him, he doesn't force anyone to use his service.
Maybe, just maybe, he's that man who sold the Moon.
Amazon investors just got a hard-on reading this.
The problem is the American free market model encourages market capture through "less noble" (for want a better description) means; it encourages monopolies and discourages regulation nor oversight thus allowing businesses to ignore all other consumer, social and even ecological concerns. In an ideal world market forces would filter out that bad from the good but we've seen time and time again that you simply cannot trust businesses to do "the right thing" - and why should we, they're a business not a social club! But the fact remains it gets increasingly hard to compete in any market when your competitor has comparatively infinite resources and zero scruples. That results in a net less for consumers and society in the more general sense too.
At least here in the Europe we have the EU who are willing to challenge companies who are proven to overstep. I'm not saying the EU get it right all of the time but better that than giving businesses free reign to do whatever the hell they like.
Anyhow, I've waffled on about a fair few points so to get back on topic: You do businesses who are customer-focused. The problem is they usually get overshadowed by the businesses that have learned to play the game better / more aggressively.
In one case I ordered a name-brand transmission rebuild kit but received a knock-off with a similar name. Unfortunately I didn't notice the difference before I dropped off the kit with the friend who was rebuilding the trans for me. He kept complaining about parts not in the kit, and I kept being mystified because I (thought I) bought the top of the line kit, there was no more-comprehensive one to buy? It wasn't until the next time I could get out to his house that I realized we'd been scammed; by then he'd already used part of the kit so I just bought another kit to get the missing parts.
The second occurrence was I ordered a normally $30 set of 4 spark plugs for $20, and what I received was 1 spark plug - obviously the scam is break up the $30 pack and sell for 4x$20. I got a refund on this one and got to keep the plug, but it delayed an important engine repair and also left me with a dilemma as to how important it was that they match - I ended up using the one expensive plug and three mid-range plugs (because I would have just chosen 4 cheaper plugs in the first place if I'd known).
Rockauto or Advance is the way to go in the US.
The auto parts world is a tricky beast. If it's not sold by a major retailer, there's often the manufacturer or specialty sites for various classes of autos, especially classic cars and 4x4s. Ebay is another great place for used parts as well.
My question is, how dynamic are Amazon’s prices? Do all users see the same prices or is it more like google search where results are “personalized”? It seems like they could dynamically change prices based on user data pretty easily.
I believe most of the rationale was not wanting upset customers annoyed with getting different prices than others first and foremost, but also technically pricing system is already extremely complex and dynamic per user would add an order of magnitude to scaling challenges and viewed as not worth it.. Business pricing itself required many changes to internal system.
Source: worked in Amazon Business / B2B
I know of some people who do this. Basically, list tons of items on Amazon from local speciality stores, Costco, etc. They markup prices, of course. Then once a day, on their way back home, they pickup stuff that was bought, pack it at night, and then ship it in the morning. You are basically paying for someone else to shop.
I was introduced to this side-hustle by my friend and did this for a few months, but it was too much of hassle for very little return. Very hard to scale.
Camelcamelcamel (price history checker) scrapes or pulls data from an external API, its going to be the same for all users
For example, the range for my preferred elderberry syrup is from $20 to $45.
I waited the price to drop back down and then restocked.
>Although some preliminary research indicates that elderberry may relieve flu symptoms, the evidence is not strong enough to support its use for this purpose.
You may want to find a new doctor.
There seem to be some conclusive studies on elderberry helping for influenza.
Ex: "In conclusion, the proprietary elderberry extract used here is effective in controlling influenza symptoms and is complementary to current anti‐viral agents. The safety and ease of administration warrant further investigation of its clinical efficacy in children, elderly and other high‐risk patients of the proprietary elderberry extracts."
Don't ever tell a patient to disregard personal experience. Someone who has suffered a chronic condition, and learned enough about it and her body to find an effective non-pharmacological treatment for it, knows more than a room full of physicians about how that condition is best treated in her body. Besides, don't we know by now that most studies (especially non-replicated ones on unpopular subjects) are worthless?
Source: personal experience.
I'm sorry but this is terrible advice, and is precisely how people like Steve Jobs die for no reason.
> Finding some half-assed study that might apply is no excuse.
You're clearly not worth arguing with if you can't even be bothered to read the things you're commenting on. The only thing half-assed here are your arguments.
But sure, tell a patient to find a new doctor, when you know absolutely nothing about the situation. If I seem somewhat inflexible on this issue, it's because I (and friends of mine) have been pressured to avoid nonpharmaceutical treatments that experience has shown to be effective. On this topic I am not indifferent.
The trouble with facts is they keep changing.
It takes a lot time for the latest clinical results to become mainstream. My doctor is OCD about staying current. Think Dr Rhonda Patrick meets Dr Terry Wahls meets Tim Ferriss meets Dr Atul Gawanda.
I'm still alive because of research, experimental treatments (seattlecca.org, fredhutch.org). I try a lot of things that others shouldn't. With mixed results.
The upside is future patients benefit from my experiences.
Thanks for the link. I'll consult my doctor.
Camelcamelcamel charts the price history of any item on Amazon https://camelcamelcamel.com/
I've put down a long list of reasons for why I've cancelled prime after almost ten years of consistent use.
If you-the-reader need good reasons to quit prime, I hope these help.
But I'll still mostly agree with your list and add another. A lot of clothing items now only have a reasonable return policy when bought as part of a Prime Wardrobe. What if I just want a pair of shoes and am worried about them not fitting? Some offer free returns for this and others don't. Ugh.
This is the most egregious thing. For items sold by a bunch of different 3rd parties it somehow picks one to buy from as the default. And sometimes that one isn't Prime eligible when another seller is. Sometimes it's not even the cheapest new option. Sometimes the default one is fucking backordered for two weeks but there are other sellers where it isn't AND they have Prime shipping.
I have never had a more infuriating online shopping experience than the last 3 times I tried to use Amazon. I don't want to search through 60 different sellers to find the best one. I don't want to gamble on if they will even send the right item. I don't want to be lied to about "Prime Shipping" which is 100% meaningless now.
But one of important benefit I use Prime for is Amazon Photos. Unlimited backup of your photos. When I look at other solutions such as Backblaze, they will all cost at least $50 a year.
Then another benefit I like is Prime Music. Which again is going to cost money if I get music subscription from Spotify or somewhere else. So when I add cost of these two benefits on their own, Prime becomes pretty good deal.
What's your opinion on these benefits?
If you set up a separate account, you probably don't have to worry about hitting the 15G limit unless you have many, many photos or are taking them at very, very high resolution.
We pay for family subscriptions to Google Play Music and Spotify. My wife and kids listen to music on our Google Home device and they do a lot of Youtube. I didn't want to do Spotify, too, but the older two asked for Spotify for Christmas because of the playlists only available there. $14.99/month x 2.
I was a devoted Google Reader user and I don't trust Google very much to keep things around. But it's easy to share the links with family and let them download the photos to their own storage.
I was also using Amazon storage to backup when they stopped doing the free backup storage, cutting it to 5GB (I think) for free. So I don't trust them, either.
I hear video is pretty popular these days.
What really killed it for me though is that the Amazon Drive client software is terrible. Slow and extremely buggy: it appears to do file operations on the UI thread, so the whole UI freezes for minutes at a time.
They have created solid economies of scale that others can't match. Together with the massive amount of customer data they are in a position where they can optimize their prices and respond and react in almost real time to get optimal customer retention.
The long term goal is dynamic pricing for the perfect price discrimination (personal pricing). Detect when the customer is tired or stressed and show higher prices. Detect price conscious customers and show them lower prices. Maybe Alexa can trained detect the mood from the tone of voice and exploit that.
> Detect when the customer is tired or stressed and show higher prices. Detect price conscious customers and show them lower prices.
Has nothing to do with supply and demand.
Price gouging is raising prices to greater than what is fair for the value.
The amount of price raised is almost certainly to be greater than what is deemed fair in these cases from the law of supply and demand. Despite one person demanding it more, one person may be demanding it less, who is "more price conscious." Demand doesn't change in that scenario.'
It's one thing to cater to someone coming in, looking in a rush, verses spying on them in their own home and offering them products. If this is the world we're going to, I can only hope I'm not in it.
That's not true. Price gouging is a term thrown around a lot, but generally it refers to drastically increasing prices when supply takes a sudden hit (due to natural disaster, often).
> verses spying on them in their own home and offering them products.
Spying on them? Are you joking? They are on Amazons website. How in the world is that spying? Man, more and more Hacker News is starting to sound like reddit.
While one person might be moody and more like to demand said product, another could be more rational and need more incentives to buy said product - hence nothing actually changes, and the mean is what will be used.
The impact on demand at that given time will need to be compared to the value. Trust me, it won't be equivalent.
Now that's some baseless speculation if I've ever seen any. People aren't stupid. They start noticing that prices are cheaper at Walmart, they'll go back to shopping at Walmart.
Is it this product?
It looks like the price has been roughly the same for 4 years with jumps up and down. And before that, declined a lot.
If we include inflation the price seems to be declining.
Here's a graph for a chair mat:
If anything, the graphs seem to show a lack of price discovery as it's not jumping around enough. Maybe camelcamelcamel doesn't sample at a high enough frequency.
Same here. After almost a decade, I will not renew my Prime membership. It is just scary thinking about it especially losing other benefits like Prime Music and Unlimited Photos backup but Amazon shopping experience keep getting worse.
I am pretty sure I have received a few fake name brand items but pretty hard to tell. In past, if I ever had any complaint, Amazon reps would not only fix the issue but send $10-50 gift cards. Lately, they only fix the issue/replace the item. Maybe, they spoiled me but to me that is sign of declining customer service.
I used to be active Amazon advocate, introduced many of my friends to Amazon. But now I am pretty much on the other side.
That's a sign of "good" customer service vs over-the-top. They still send gift cards/free prime memberships from time-to-time, but frequent callers probably don't get those deals any more.
You are supposed to sum up those purchases and pay the state the 8.25% of use tax. Nobody exactly is doing that, and the cost of enforcement is high, but that’s what the state wants https://www.cdtfa.ca.gov/taxes-and-fees/sutprograms.htm
Instead of having to buy Prime to get 2 day free shipping, I can just shop at Walmart and anything I buy gets delivered to a local Walmart 5 minutes away for free so I can pick it up. Most of the time it's 2-3 days (sometimes same day if they have it locally).
This bypasses the $25-35 minimum price rule for free shipping on Amazon which almost always takes 7-10 days and a huge chunk of items aren't eligible for this.
Before Amazon started screwing around with shipping times and prices I used to shop there a lot for common items but nowadays I use them as a last resort.
Even if you don't have a local Walmart they also offer free shipping on totals above $35 and often times their non-free shipping is reasonable.
For example $5 to have it shipped to your doorstep in 2 days instead of a local free pickup. Walmart can pull this off because they don't have a hidden agenda to push something like Prime on you.
On Amazon that same item will likely be $7-8 in shipping and takes 4-7 days to get there without Prime.
I'm excited to see what Walmart does in the next decade...
but seriously, Amazon has gotten big enough to be 'bad' to customers and get away with it. The moment I saw an item was Prime only, I realized I needed to shop at the competitors.
I bought the book again, this time fulfilling through Amazon. They quoted an arrival date of a week in the future. When that day arrived, the package had not arrived and it turned out that the date was changed to the shipping date. I still had to wait the better part of the week for the book to actually arrive.
I did a search and found that I could have bought the book directly from the author (self-published), and would have arrived in three or four days.
While waiting for the book to arrive the second time, I decided I had another book I wanted to read. I had it loaded up on Amazon... then checked B&N, who had the book in stock. I cancelled the Amazon order, and drove 10 minutes to buy the second book.
So much for the convenience of Amazon...
I've actually wondered how many of Amazon's "counterfeit" items are genuine Walmart-class products commingled with Macy's-class products in Amazon's warehouses.
Offbrand, brand name, up-and-coming brand name, etc... Most have many different features and obvious differences in quality.
In my decade of shopping at walmart, the only thing that sucked were the offbrand crackers and a 5$ battery powered light.
* There's a non-zero chunk of the population not near a Walmart or similar.
* It costs time to go there
* It costs vehicle depreciation
So if you were going to Walmart anyway, or walked there with nothing better to do you saved the money.
But if you didn't then let's say the average wage is $25/hour or so and you spent 30 minutes there and back, and fully loaded vehicle depreciation is 50 cents/mile and it's 5 miles away then you spent $17.50 to go there.
I totally realize we could argue all this back and forth but just pointing out that most of the time the "savings" aren't real if you value your time and transport. And yes, I realize most people don't value their time and treat their transport as a sunk cost even if it isn't entirely.
edit: I was assuming going to walmart in person as opposed to online, because that's what most people appear to do but I'm happy to be wrong :-)
The change is meaningful both as a revealed strategy, and as a new datapoint about the fear of stores becoming "Amazon showrooms". For quite a while, it's been true that even after you're at Walmart or Target, comparing multiple items you couldn't evaluate well online, it was cheaper to drive home empty-handed and buy from Amazon - which is obviously unsustainable for someone. If that ceases to be true, we might see a more natural dichotomy where stores retain an edge on "see it in person" and "want it now" items while drawing back on their competition "any one will do, whenever" goods that are more convenient via Amazon.
Looks like the price has been going sideways for 4 years with some noise up and down, and before that, come down a lot?
At Walmart, I have to interact with employees who never seem happy to be there. A good quarter have no real reason to do more than minimum. I have to wait in line most times. Now, it has been over 5 years since I've had a walmart in the same country as I am, but I remember the horribleness of 2am walmart, mostly because they would only open one or two registers, no matter line length. I also have to deal with other customers. That can be worse.
Amazon? I click a few times, possibly put in some information, and I wait for my package.
You can do the exact same thing at walmart.com - not that I advocate shopping with either company.
The problem is brand inertia is not infinite. If you no longer do the things that have given you that inertia to begin with, eventually you'll run out of it. When a worthy competitor appears, your customers, who by then will have little loyalty to you, will switch.
And Amazon has the legendary fly wheel which has lower prices in it. So it kind of seems that Amazon is moving away from the original strategy and becoming an "normal" retailer. Not that investors don't like that, obviously.
Amazon captured peoples trust, and those with funds buy their counterfeit, overpriced goods. Along with that Prime scam. (I have kept track of their portable AM radios for ten years. Every year the price slowely ticket up.).
I fell for the Prime scam, until I realized I payed $130 in shipping for two items----along with the movies I never watched. (Amazon prime now sends you a reminder when your membership is due. Two months ago, the customer had the ability to cancel the upcoming month in advance. I don't know if they think we don't notice, or don't care?)
Anyhoo, I don't see any competition. Sad? All that VC money being poured into apps that will fail, and no one takes on the beast? Alibaba is not competition for those of us in the states.
I've been loyal to Amazon, but am certainly willing to buy items elsewhere if the top to bottom price + experience is better.
For example, camera equipment and many electronics, I've been finding prices better at B&H photo -- and you don't have to pay sales tax if shipping outside NY. Also, their customer service is at least as good as Amazon's.
Sure, it's less convenient to purchase across more ecomm sites, but I'm fine with it if Amazon's value prop begins to diminish.
A lot of states have created "use taxes" on goods purchased in another state and imported by the buyer. This is because requiring companies to withhold taxes for states in which they do not have a substantial business presence would be overly burdensome on interstate commerce. These use taxes are likely unconstitutional, but states ask their own residents to voluntarily report their cross-border sales, calculate their own tax amounts, and pay them anyway. I don't think the constitutionality has been tested from that direction, but it seems to rest upon an argument that use tax is valid, just because the goods were pulled across the border this time, rather than pushed, like all the other interstate commerce tax cases reviewed by SCotUS. As such, the only constitutionally valid use tax would be for goods purchased within your own state, for which the seller did not withhold and remit sales taxes. So cash-in-person flea market, swap meet, and classified-ad purchases, basically.
You only definitively have an obligation to pay tax on goods sold and consumed entirely within the same state. Traveling salesmen are insufficient to cause a company to qualify as having a substantial presence in a state--their sales are considered to be made in the state where their company is based, or in the state from which the actual goods were manufactured or shipped. I'd expect that e-commerce sites would be no different. If Amazon has an office, data center, or a fulfillment center in your state, you owe sales tax, and Amazon should collect it. If they do not, their site is just a traveling salesman, and your interstate purchase is subject only to federal taxes, rather than state taxes.
States bleat and squeal about loss of sales tax revenues to e-commerce sales by out-of-state companies, but they do not have a constitutional remedy for that, so too bad for them. Interstate commerce is explicitly federal jurisdiction. And Congress so far has not instituted any tariff/duty regime on goods crossing state borders. But it keeps coming up for votes, in Congress after Congress.
The state only has the power to tax intrastate commerce, where both buyer and seller are standing within its borders. If you are loud enough and persistent enough, you can even convince a seller to not withhold sales tax on a purchase where you are physically present, by making a solemnized claim that you intend to immediately export the goods you are buying out of the state. Businesses do this all the time. (But then they pay use tax for their own state, because it's cheaper and more certain than arguing their case all the way to SCotUS.)
The tax is an excise on the buyer. Sellers subject to the state's jurisdiction must collect it, by law, on behalf of the state, whenever they are able to do so. It is an undue burden on sellers to be forced to operate as tax-collection agents for all of the states, including those they have not directly chosen to do business in, by establishing some kind of persistent operation there. There are hundreds of individual jurisdictions able to levy sales taxes on the domiciled residents of their state making purchases within the borders of their jurisdiction. What a towering barrier to entry it would be if, in order to operate so much as a catalog mail-order lemonade stand, a business had to purchase software licenses or tax-handling services able to resolve taxes for all the states and territories, and all of their tax districts, and possibly also an alternate rate within that district.
Allow online sales to occur without sales tax and one day nobody will ever pay sales tax. Every transaction could be structured in terms of online order and local delivery. Starbucks could let you order coffee online, then pick it up at the counter. This is why states are moving on this issue now. Amazon is just the first to implement it on their side of the transaction.
There is also the fact that Amazon already has my info, it is worth a buck or two to not have to type all that in on my phone, or at least go through someone else's checkout process.
With Amazon, I can think of something I need, pull out my phone, and with their app have it ordered in minutes.
If I shop around and it takes me ~10 minutes (or more if it is a product category I am not familiar with), and then I give my info to another company that may lose it.
> They can do that because so many people don't price compare anymore before going to Amazon.
"Alexa, reorder cat litter"
So, no, I disagree with your premise here. They can demand a higher price by way of providing a better overall service, end to end, by way of innovation and hard work. Sure, some of it is in fact laziness like you say, when viewed one way. Viewed another, I am willingly paying for that convenience.
Not to be tautological, but in a free market, this works as long as it works. Cheaper alternatives exist, no surprise there. But you need to take into account value, which is more than just price.
"Alexa, set 11 minute pasta timer."
Understood, however, that as a seller eBay is a pretty tough partner.
Quite a while ago eBay switched to charging final value fees on shipping. Previous to that people would list items for $.01 plus $8 shipping, which was pretty obnoxious to weed through. With that change it ended up making sense for eBay sellers to just bundle the cost of shipping into the price, which ends up usually being a better experience for the customer, because they know what they are going to pay right away.
I've been a Amazon user since they started in Germany and a Prime user since its beginning. Will not renew in November for many reasons - the primary being Amazon logistics which has the worst delivery service I ever experienced. They moved delivery of many items to 7-9pm to an office address because they target people with an other job as drivers. Lots of calls with Amazon support, they will not change delivery times or switch to DHL.
 At least over the last months I didn't find Amazon listed e.g. on Idealo while the lens exists on Amazon.de
Between Walmart and eBay it's rare for Amazon to be the best price for an item or to be the same price and available with two day shipping.
For stuff that isn't time sensitive eBay is the clear winner because I can buy items at little markup as long as I'm willing to wait a month for them to ship from China/Taiwan/HK whereas you'll pay a large premium to buy the same junk and have it shipped from Amazon's warehouses.
But now my confidence in the two day shipping is gone, and I often run to a local Walmart to get the same item for the same price, but guaranteed to be at my house that day.
It seems when I get an item through USPS or UPS it’s on time, but a lot of the packages that go through Amazon’s own shipping service (often a large unmarked van that parks in weird spots!) end up delayed an extra day or two.
Now it's almost always 3 days because they do the "USPS last mile" bullshit. It never makes it early enough on day 2 to make it on the mail truck for that day. I've complained about this and still the same thing. Before I'd get a free month with a quick chat. Not anymore. Now I get a half-assed apology and have to pull teeth for any sort of compensation.
I don't care about next day. Some people get lucky and say "sometimes it's 1 day!" I don't care. I want 2 day shipping. I want to know when it will arrive and that it will arrive at that time. And it's too inconsistent now for me to rely on.
I've since cancelled my membership - only a few more months now to go.
This so much. USPS is literally the worst service I have ever used. If I see an Amazon package switch over to USPS I immediately email and get them to send it again and switch it to FedEx or UPS. You're right though that it is becoming harder to get them to switch it back to a delivery service that actually cares about delivery.
USPS, OTOH, never messes up my deliveries.
I've never been someone who used Amazon for everything, so a Prime membership never made sense. I'd estimate 2-3 orders a year at most. Placing 3 orders in a short time frame was an anomaly. But, all three had abnormally long delays compared to nearly every other retailer.
I find they are mostly good for mid-price items that are not too heavy or bulky, especially moderately "niche" items that are not carried many places and benefit from the super saver shipping. (Super niche items are no-go of course)
But the amount of broken or 'wrong' stuff I'm getting is really surprising. From one point of view this is very concerning to me as a customer. From another point of view, it's motivating me to find alternatives much more than just the idealistic worry was doing, so, there's at least a good point here.
At least they're simply charging more. I found this battery charger  that costs more the more you buy! You can get 1 for ~$33.00, or you can get 3 for the price of 4 (~$133.00). I selected the single unit and set the amount to 3 and got them for ~100.00 rather than buying the 3-pack for $133.00.
That's the assumption of google/youtube, facebook, microsoft, etc. Once you reach a dominant position, you don't have to care as much. You even see this with netflix.
> A random example... the cat litter I just purchased is $17.89 at Amazon, $13.49 at Walmart. Last week I bought a chair mat for $21.95 on Ebay - identical item on Amazon was $33.95 (both including free shipping but Amazon came with an additional 8.25% sales tax).
Bingo. Amazon used to be where the best prices were. Now so much of their products are more expensive than what you'd find in your local supermarket. And they are significantly more expensive.
This has been my observation as well, at least for a basket of household sundries and office supplies I was previously sourcing from Amazon. They were often more than a few dollars cheaper at a local store. I realized I had fallen into the too complacent to price shop trap for a while. I agree with your other points and for me deliveries issue started to become a regular occurrence. I think the bloom is off the rose with Amazon.
Like many other in this thread - I have already canceled my prime membership for the first time since 2004.
A mass market merchant who bulk ships to their stores has certain advantages over that model. One who stongarms their suppliers to sell them product with minimal to negative margin can beat Amazon.
Walmart can only stock so many SKUs. You can't walk into a brick and mortar store and select from 1M+ products including niche items that aren't profitable to sell at retail.
The internet does a fantastic job of taking what would otherwise be a localised cesspool, and making the entire thing efficient on a global level.
And I'm sure this suits Amazon very well because I don't use Amazon for discovery. I do my research elsewhere and then buy through Amazon (prime only, of course) because I'm too impatient to wait a week for a delivery!
But yes, those vendors are probably taking advantage of the effects you're talking about.
Isn't extra $4 for shipping? You are comparing store pickup to something shipped to your home.
Sounds like an antitrust issue. Great example of how it doesn't take full monopoly-scale control for markets to break down.
While I am no fan of the federal government, I am even less of a fan of a federal government that is dwarfed and captured by the power of giant corporate conglomerates, nor am I a fan of corporations large enough to act as governments in their own right. Therefore it is necessary for the size of the largest businesses to not exceed the power of the federal government, and it is necessary for there to be actionable antagonism between the interests of business and government.
Markets can only be free if this balance of scale between public and private interests is maintained.
Their retail business is like most other retail businesses.
it has gotten so bad I do not automatically click the order again button. with regards to prime, you don't have to wait to cancel