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Amazon is stuffing its search results pages with ads (recode.net)
942 points by doener 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 544 comments





Their basic underlying assumption appears to be that they're no longer in danger of losing customers and can now act accordingly.

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.


> Their basic underlying assumption appears to be that they're no longer in danger of losing customers and can now act accordingly.

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."


Does it though?

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.


It wasn't just that Amazon was the cheapest in the market. It was that they built up a reputation over the years of being cheap and reliable. There was a long period where I would buy things from Amazon without considering other sources. That's gone now and they can't quickly get it back.

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.


For me my trust is breaking over a couple pairs of socks, of all things. I ordered some socks from amazon which were a larger than normal size. I was actually excited when they arrived and they actually fit perfectly - something thats difficult when trying to find specific styles of socks.

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.


This hits too close to home. For years I used Amazon to replenish my sock supply with the exact same ones. Suddenly, one day, they weren't the consistent anymore. Then, a few times I ordered things and they were dropshipped from target or walmart.com where they were %30-40 cheaper! The wool had finally been lifted from my eyes and now I fill my walmart cart first and only order a few things on amazon that I can't find elsewhere.

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.


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

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.


Also, Walmart allows 90-day returns whereas Amazon is typically 30. Walmart now gets most of the business that Amazon used to get from me.

Exactly my case. I ordered a couple shirts off the same listing I’ve bought from before. Turns out they used a 3rd party for this color who sent me the wrong shirt (different cotton poly blend). It took a week for them to “approve” the return which they were going to make me pay. Way to lose customer confidence over a $12 order.

It was supposed to be a “Prime” order but it was a terrible experience. What is my Prime membership paying for?


> What is my Prime membership paying for?

a higher price

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/lawsuit-alleges-amazon-...


When is that article from? I can't find a date. Am interested to know if the suit has progressed.

It was published in March 2014. Both lawsuits were filed in February.

I have a very similar story with ordering Salbakos towels. I reorder them every so often to keep my linens fresh. However, one of the last reorders was delivered with a completely different brand of towels and they didn't even match the pattern of the Salbakos towels. It's so frustrating.

At least returns are super easy to make

The other comments here along with my own experiences suggest that this is no longer the case.

Had a very similar issue with socks. Re-ordered after ~4 years of the old socks wearing out. New socks came with the brand stitch in different color, and the new ones are already wearing out in ~4 months.

For me, the worst part was that the socks didn't feel like new socks. They weren't used, they just lacked the delicious new socks feeling.

For me, Amazon is basically the same gamble as ebay. There is a high chance I will get the wrong product, opened boxes, no box (shipping label stuck on vendor package), opened packages, swapped products, used products sold as new.

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.


I've actually had more luck with ebay recently, in fact I'd say that it's starting to become my go-to for small items.

> There was a long period where I would buy things from Amazon without considering other sources. That's gone now and they can't quickly get it back.

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.


>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.

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).


Or... if they hadn't tried to expand into "absolutely everything", you'd be buying from Walmart right now. Obviously you can second guess any single decision of theirs and try to spin that as "The Reason" Amazon is looking less dominant.

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.


How are we all the richer for shipping being slow and unreliable? Do counterfeit goods make us all richer?

Especially the part about everyone else sucks is ao true. At least in Europe there have a ton of opportunities to compete with Amazon that nobody took advantage of before the window closed.

Jungle.com was pretty big in the UK back in its day. Unfortunately issues with supplier confidence due to the original dotcom bubble burst were its undoing (supposedly).

There was no lack of competition before, it's just that everyone loved Amazon... they had no desire to look at the competition. As that love affair wears off, we're looking elsewhere.

> everyone loved Amazon... they had no desire to look at the competition

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".


There's a saying about trust that's worth remembering anytime a decision is made that prioritizes KPI over all else:

> Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair


> That's gone now and they can't quickly get it back.

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.


As a sibling comment pointed out, cheapest doesn't trump everything -- otherwise we'd be ordering from Aliexpress.

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.


Small but significant: I don't buy diapers from Amazon anymore, after so many reports of counterfeits. Target has my dollars. (Certainly a different kind of safety-critical!)

The supply chain problems are very worrisome for Amazon.


> I simply can't risk getting counterfeit safety-critical goods.

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)


I usually buy direct from someone like Black Diamond when it comes to things like that.

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...


A word to the wise, the first rule about pro deals is that you don't talk about pro deals.

Like Groucho Marx said, "I don't want to belong to any club that will have people like me as a member."

On my second order, AliExpress asked for a picture of my passport (or other id). Was a bit disconcerting. Did you encounter that?

I found what I needed on newegg and ebay instead.


My first order from Ali (couple weeks ago) asked for a photo id, picture of credit card, and picture of credit card statement. I declined to provide them and the order was cancelled by their system after a week or so.

This is my situation as well. I buy all my outdoor gear from Backcountry these days because I know I'm getting real products and their gearheads are super useful as well.

>1) The day Amazon feel threatened they can become the cheapest in the market quickly again.

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.


They have a pretty aggressive policy of repricing in some markets. For instance in e-books, the most extreme cases, Amazon can straight give away a series' first volume to recoup on the sales on the following purchases. If I remember well in some cases the author or editor has no say on it and Amazon pays for the price difference.

I wouldn't be surprised if they can do the same on other retail goods as long as they pay for it.


Considering most eBooks with the free first book are like $0.99-$3 a book after you take out Amazons normal profit cut for the book they probably aren't really paying that much for the free book anyway so it makes it worth their while to do it this way.

I knew Google did this with ebooks, but this is the first I've heard about Amazon doing it.

> I think this has been proven wrong time and again. There's always a way into the market.

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.


1) Amazon can lower fees easily, that's a 10 ~ 20% profit margin, which invites more competitors and thus lower prices.

1) When profit margins increase efficiencies decline. While their profit margins were low, you can imagine they spent a lot of time optimizing processes to remain solvent. This is an ongoing process, and when profit margins go up these kinds of processes are often neglected.

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.


> The day Amazon feel threatened they can become the cheapest in the market quickly again.

> 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.


> Buy Buy Baby

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.


> Always hated the name of that store. It sounds like a euphemism for Planned Parenthood.

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."

https://mashable.com/2011/07/22/facts-amazon-com/#QQ1l8PmD7q...


I too am surprised by the irony! And low and behold, a lot of brick and mortar stores price match Amazon.

Hell depending on your location instacart is an option and get it an hour later from Target. There are a ton of delivery apps though.

No, the issue they should care about is that I'm losing trust in them, for a number of reasons, and (anecdatally) I'm not the only one.

- 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.


Somewhat related, there's a chrome extension called honey that will compare the final price (incl. tax) of all sellers for a product listing and add the best one to your cart. I've saved tons of money in some situations where an alternate seller had no taxes, was cheaper but longer shipping, etc...

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.


Recently I saw an item where the warranty would only be valid for the Sold by Amazon version. The first bullet in the product description was "Amazon as the seller is the ONLY authorized Fulfilled By Amazon Dealer".

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).


while I applaud comparison shopping, My regular PSA is any extension you put in browser has a clear-text view of your content on ALL websites. Be careful with these extensions, especially the closed source ones!

> 1) The day Amazon feel threatened they can become the cheapest in the market quickly again.

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.


They could reduce fees and cut ad prices. That does have a big impact. They can also offer better deals to brands. They tend to offer really crap deals to brands on the vendor side, but they could easily just give them more margin.

If you're referring to Vendor Central, I've no idea since we've not participated in that yet.

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.


Yeah, they tend to give bad deals to brands selling to Amazon through Vendor Central. If Amazon wanted to be more price competitive vs. other retailers they could offer to subsidize coupons, stop requiring fees on lightning deals, subsidize lightning deals, cut prices on ads, etc.

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.


>1) The day Amazon feel threatened they can become the cheapest in the market quickly again.

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.


Call me unimaginative, but I find it unlikely that online retail can be supplanted by some completely different product the way that Blackberries could.

Someone just has to follow the Amazon model and sell to an under-serviced niche market before expanding into different product categories.

There are plenty of product categories that are poorly served by modern Amazon[1]. A small competitor specializing in one of these could eventually supplant them.

[1] 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.


VR / AR? Or just a better business model that caters customers' needs better...

Well, I can only speak for myself, but every time I've used VR I've become nauseated, so I'd rather drive to the store if that's how shopping is done in the future.

> 1) The day Amazon feel threatened they can become the cheapest in the market quickly again.

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.


I don't think that Wall St would accept Amazon going back to the money losing days -- they would pay a high price.

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.


Sometimes people don't even realize when they got items that were not what they ordered.

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.


"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." -Warren Buffett

Except people do, because they know that reputation matters little and even the biggest fiasco is forgotten under a year.

Catchy quotes are nice, but need to be checked against the real world.

See also: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17961703.


While I appreciate your point, I'm not so sure your generalization is any more valid than mine. Chipotle is a good example of a company that got slammed due to a reputation problem, and is still recovering from it years later. The jury's still out on Intel after spectre.

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.


> so it seems unlikely there will be a 'started in the garage' business compete with them now the market is maturing.

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.


If Amazon's reputation for reliability falls low enough, sites like Aliexpress could break into new markets, and then there's no going back for Amazon. "Ordering from China" has a bit of a dodgy reputation (even if many Amazon sellers are the same companies), but if Amazon gets the same reputation, I'm not sure they can compete on price.

1) The day Amazon feel threatened they can become the cheapest in the market quickly again.

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?


Consumer economic memory is limited in both capacity and duration; it only lasts about 8-12 months. After that they start to forget how you boned them and you can easily win them back with a deal on a shitty appliance.

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.


Ever seen a Black Friday stampede?

Price is king.


True.

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."


But a Black Friday stampede is not representative of a long-term stable customer base. Selling a crapload of stuff at a tiny margin doesn't say anything about your business's ability to make it to the next Black Friday.

My point is that—in the event they get significantly threatened—amazon has proven that they can run their entire retail business as a loss-leader until they re-establish a perception of price dominance.

Maybe not someone in a garage, but Alibaba and Tenecent are coming up behind them, and once they set up fulfillment centers in the States (to solve the fast shipping), Amazon may lose a lot of ground very quickly.

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...).


Maybe Amazon won't ever be replaced or "obsoleted" by something similar to Amazon, but rather by sth like 3d printers, I mean sth completely different

Re. your 1), yes, they can but they will have burned their brand in the eyes of what was until that point a loyal segment of their customerbase and once you lose them they do not come back that easily. It takes less effort to convince a new user to join and start using your products and services than it takes to convince someone that has left because they were unhappy.

I guess the problem is, if I want, for instance, electronics, I know several retailers I can go to (some with specialties narrower than that). But for a lot of products, where else am I even going to look?

Amazon search and non amazonbasics products are approaching garbage-level. How about half a page of advertising to buy some Chinese knockoff of a product that will break in a month.

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.


Amazon's search has always been terrible in at least some verticals. Computer hardware, for example.

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.


This is basically it. The day that Amazon decided they needed to be a "marketplace" instead of a trusted, authoritative, price-competitive retailer is when they started their slide, to me.

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.


Exactly. I was looking for a waterproof iPhone case. Finding a "reputable" brand on Amazon is near impossible now - their search results bring up pages and pages of the same rebranded knockoffs.

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.


If this is true, they have turned from an online store which fulfilled your order from its warehouses to now, basically, an advertising network with incidental products that attract users so they can shove ads at them. That’s a sad thing to see happen.

I agree completely. Before I buy anything, I check the manufacturer's website first as I'd rather see 100% of the money go to the company I'm supporting as opposed to Amazon, who I only use now when I need something fast, which is an area of their business I'm willing to support because it's the best in terms of fast delivery.

This is why I've been unhappy to see Bezos gaining steam. As his other products become more successful, you can expect a lot more of this.

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.


> 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.


How would you solve the counterfeit goods and preventing people from gaming the review system problems?

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.


It's a solved problem and not hard.

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.


Couldn’t malicious sellers circumvent this by sending quality product initially and then swapping it later on?

Sure they could, but with a proper approach to supply management, like the whole of the traditional sector is used to it gets caught. The lower quality switch would get caught in the random checks of incoming product in your first years as supplier, or rapidly from customer feedback. Then simply drop them as supplier.

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.


The entire TIC industry (I work for Underwriters Laboratories) does just that, we independently test and certify and then audit the factories to make sure it’s still made the same way as the original sample. Problem is... people counterfeit our certificates, and some retailers don’t care much

For those wondering, TIC stands for testing, inspection and certification.

Then stop using certificates. Have a website where retailers can check if the supplier is certified. Using signed pieces of paper as evidence is inferior to just querying the certifier directly.

This is where trust in a brand kicks in. Brand represents product quality. They work so hard on making the brand, that it then becomes the product. Back to square one.

They risk future sales if they do that.

Counterfeit problem? Stop co-mingling inventory - then you can track what inventory went to which customer and easily peg down which sources are selling counterfeits by looking at the reviews.

Amazon co-mingles different retailer's inventory when amazon handle fulfillment for them?!?!? Are you sure? That's insane.

Yup. Multiple sellers can sell the “same” item.

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.


Yes, that's the root cause of many of their fulfillment issues. And it makes sense for something like a mass-market book. It makes less sense for other things.

Yes, they do. It's one of the reasons you can buy a "new" hard drive that already has several years use on it.

> How would you solve the counterfeit goods and preventing people from gaming the review system problems?

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.


> 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.

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.


> 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

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").


> No idea what do to about the reviews,

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.


This just can't work on a logistical level. Let's look at diapers. There are lots of reports of counterfeit Huggies and Pampers. In some cases, it's true -- they're counterfeit.

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.


> Amazon cannot afford not to fix their supply chain legitimacy issues.

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.


Have you established that there are "numerous and credible indications" for all counterfeit products? I would, perhaps naively, think that this is just shifting the exact same problem to the reports.

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.


> Have you established that there are "numerous and credible indications" for all counterfeit products?

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.


> How would you solve the counterfeit goods and preventing people from gaming the review system problems?

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.


One other, and somehow more troubling alternative to safing money, could that Amazon's homegrown warehouse management systems and fulfillment software are reaching some kind of limitation.

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.


Actually, I have some experience as Amazon Seller/FBA. I believe on certain items, I would get an option to co-mingle it. It wasn't selected by default, so I didn't change it.

So Amazon has already built the system to keep inventory separate by sellers.


Also Amazon vendor here - co-mingling is really a lot better these days because of the new brand registry. Basically as the manufacturer you can restrict the other vendors from even hopping on.

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.


It's pretty easy to spot fake reviews. The tacticts are pretty obvious. I'd bet basic NLP and pattern-matching would work to catch a huge percentage of fake-reviews if it were something Amazon really cared about doing.

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.)


Love the ReviewMeta (website or chrome extension) for exactly this. It gives a computed "true score" based on some of the dimensions you mention above. (I am not in any way affiliated with this product)

https://reviewmeta.com/


fakespot.com does this for you. Just paste in the URL for the amazon product and it will analyze the reviews.

I really think they don't care that much. For them what they do is take a 20% rip from the random sellers that appear on there and always side with the buyer in any case of counterfeit or misrepresented products. This is working great in the interim as they truly have nothing (monetarily) to lose like this. Customers get a full refund no questions asked, and often get to keep the knockoff. Amazon makes more money on marketplace than selling themselves.

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.


Same way every other retailer (Walmart, Target, Sears, etc) prevent counterfeit goods?

I don't believe you can stop this. I have tried and failed. I steer clear of anything not shipped directly from Amazon. Trying to report shady sellers on Amazon is next to impossible and Amazon will not remove them.

The counterfeit items come from items shipped from amazon too thanks to their commingling inventory.

You don’t allow third party sellers and the problem goes away real fast.

You can still allow third party sellers, but just do some vetting of both their products and their operations first.

The counterfeit detection problem is one of the hardest problems that exists, fake branded products is much easier to solve, but at least in the world of fashion, the only proven way to detect fakes has been through leveraging teams of experts to inspect each item individually.

> but I also believe that they don't believe they are doing something (outright) wrong.

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?


I mostly meant upper management, where strategic and policy decisions are made; where the direction a company is going is determined.

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.


It's also a matter of degree vs kind. It's easy to say that Google is collecting too much data, but the basic premise of personalizing searches and selling ads is relatively unobjectionable to most people.

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.


Xyz company is not your friend. Ok, like we didn’t know they are trying to make money off the other side? When is the last time a company trying to make a profit is our friend?

This viewpoint fails to consider the nontrivial competitive advantage gained by building customer loyalty. There are plenty of brands that do well despite higher prices, longer waits, etc due to their consistent positive interactions with customers; A culture of trust between customer and company is frequently worth the cost.

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.


I agree with you. Amazon's questionable inventory tactics have been a factor for me in deciding to sometimes shop elsewhere. Although, I don't mind the ads, they're selling screen space, I can happily scroll past them, the adds are often very relevant, and they are clearly marked sponsored.

Exactly. As Adam Smith said:

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.


And if you don't regulate them in the interests of the people at large, they will conspire to advance their own interests.

The free markets need regulation, or they stop being free.


Everybody "conspires to advance their own interests"... that's pretty much the definition of self-interest.

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.


> Everybody "conspires to advance their own interests"... that's pretty much the definition of self-interest.

There are very different forms of self-interest, the one implied here is of the very shallow, short term kind.


You think your interests overlap. They have been carefully presented this way to extract maximum value from you over the long term.

If a transaction weren't in my interest, I wouldn't engage in it. And value isn't being extracted when parties engage in voluntary trade, it's being created.

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[1] 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.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satisficing


If a transaction weren't in my interest, I wouldn't engage in it.

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.


Fraud is not allowed in the 'free market.' Regulation need not apply, proper courts and remedy for fraud are required.

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.


> Fraud is not allowed in the 'free market.' Regulation need not apply, proper courts and remedy for fraud are required

Courts apply laws. Laws defining and providing remedies for comemrcial frauds are regulations of the market.


> Courts apply laws.

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.


> No, courts are arbiters, sometimes of the law, sometimes of civil disputes, such as contracts.

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.


Companies like Costco and Wegmans are known for being socially responsible, so it's possible. Both have a strong and loyal customer base.

any time where they are trying to make a profit by selling you something you want?

Bingo.

Why are so many people willing to throw away the baby (capitalism) with the dirty bathwater (monopolies and others crony deviations.)


One answer would be that with improved communication and improved transportation the relative advantage of monopolies has become intolerably large.

To use your analogy, it's not clear to me that one can have the baby without it spoiling the bathwater.

you don't think people exchanging goods and services using money as an intermediate exchange (aka capitalism) can be a net-positive? Because any other aspect of our current formation of capitalism is negotiable. We can regulate to counteract negative corporate behaviours (though that has its own set of issues) so that companies are working for the benefit of the populace.

> you don't think people exchanging goods and services using money as an intermediate exchange (aka capitalism)

That isn't capitalism, you just described a market. Markets existed for thousands of years before capitalism was created.


Yeah I know, but my point was that the market plus money is the indivisible unit of capitalism. You can take any other aspect away and it will still be capitalism. Unless you think some other fundamental characteristic is also required? I'm open to that idea. Private ownership of the means of production isn't really one because that existed during early market economies too.

Yes, private ownership is one condition, but not the only one. I'd add capital intensive production (building plants and machinery for automation), the existance of a labor market and the existance of a big class of people lacking ownership of the means of production, thereby being forced to sell their labor on the market. And you have a class of people living off of the profits generated by the means of production (in contrast to feudalism, where people also lived without working, but the means came from fiefs, not from the market).

throwing in all these requirements leaves you with a definition of capitalism that pretty tightly matches the system we have right now. This is my main issue with criticisms of capitalism - they (rightly) criticise the system we live with right now but instead of looking into individual rules, entities and interactions that cause the problems, we declare that (to quote the comment I objected to) "it's not clear [...] that one can have the baby without it spoiling the bathwater.". It's terribly reductionist to take a complex interlocking system and say "it's not working, we need to get rid of it!" because chances are that the problems could be fixed within the system itself.

Or in software terms, I think our current form of capitalism is in need of refactoring, not rejecting as fundamentally broken.


> throwing in all these requirements leaves you with a definition of capitalism that pretty tightly matches the system we have right now.

Because it's important to differentiate markets from capitalism! Otherwise feudalism would have been capitalism, too.


I don't think money is a nessesary ingredient of captialism (though it is immensely helpful). Money also exists in most forms of communism. Capitalism is more about private ownership of the means of productions, with different companies competing against each other on the market.

Monopolies run against the spirit of capitalism. Regulated markets on the other hand are fine as long as competition is ensured.


> Capitalism is more about private ownership of the means of productions

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.


We are in a historical paradise for consumers of selection and low prices, I think we are doing alright. If Amazon doesn't deliver (pun intended) we will go somewhere else. There is no shortage of competition in the retail space.

In my opinion that changed with the fire phone debacle. Arguably that was Jeffs baby, when it tanked (as far as I know) most of the developer team left. And the apparently told Jeff that some stuff he wanted in the phone was bad idea.

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.


Most people on the team did not leave. A lot of the people who worked on Fire Phone went to other projects inside the company including Amazon Go.

Bezos is going to space.

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.


Making money and wanting to make great products are not mutually exclusive. Nor does one necessarily follow the other. The latter does depend on the former, quiet often, though.

> Bezos is out to make an empire, everything else comes second.

Amazon investors just got a hard-on reading this.


Empires can fall. They just take consumer behavior to change.

Right, but we're still on the wrong side of the hill for now.

Theoretically yes. However history has proven that's no trivial feat. It can take decades and often requires a huge shift in the way people use technology too.

Welcome to capitalism. People are not in business to be nice, but to make money. Their behaviour is expected and the same as most private actors.

The two don't have to be mutually exclusive. Plenty of businesses pride themselves on customer satisfaction with the knowledge that happy customers are frequent customers.

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.


I remember reading easily a decade ago, when people were describing Amazon as a charity propped up by investors, that this was Amazon's long-term strategy--aggressively reinvest all profits, burn through cash making a loss in order to achieve monopoly or near-monopoly status, and then jack up prices once they'd captured the market. It looks more and more like they're following through.

If that wasn’t always implicatly the plan, they would have a very low valuation.

People say the same thing about Uber today. I wonder if they'll be around as some massive mega-giant in 10 years, or turn into another eToys or MySpace.

uber is easily replaced, amazon's logistics choking out your logistics are not

The issue with fakes (or deceivingly advertised) items on Amazon is something that seems to have gotten worse in the past year, and is a big reason I'm not renewing my Prime either.

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).


Don't buy car parts from Amazon, they are almost always overpriced compared to competitors, let alone the risk of fakes (That you claim, I personally don't know of any counterfeit products I have purchased).

Rockauto or Advance is the way to go in the US.


Funny you should mention, as Rockauto came to the rescue for the transmission kit, and Advance for the spark plugs. Now I only go to Amazon if the car part isn't on Rockauto, but it begs the question - if this part is so obscure it's not on the specialty site, can I really trust this Amazon listing is actually the part I need, and that I will not instead receive, say, a used birdhouse?

I got my tranmission rebuild kit from RockAuto as well ;)

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.


I have Prime, but I buy auto parts on walmart.com. Free shipping to the store that I drive past every day, better prices, no commingled inventory.

I almost ordered two pvc plumbing fittings from Amazon last week for $13.99. Thanks to some Hackernews skepticism I cancelled my shopping cart. I found the same fittings at my local hardware store for $8.99.

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.


No, prices (aside from "Amazon Business" pricing which was a large internal project to achieve what you're describing but only for differentiation between business and personal purchases) are all the same for every user.

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 heard that prices arw different for the webpage and the app in some cases. And even for Android or Apple users. Any truth to that or is it just office talk? Seriously wondering...

Amazon vendor here: pricing is not discrimated across platforms, BUT most vendors of a certain scale use repricing tools that dynamically change prices over time depending on inventory availability etc. (Think Uber "surge pricing" for products.)

Thanks for the feed-back! Never had any insight into pricing, so I again learned something!

You were likely buying from a 3rd party seller.

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.


Even better are the drop shippers, who just scrape retailers online and create marked up listings on Amazon. When a user orders from their Amazon shop, they just place the order immediately on the boutique shop with the buyer's delivery information. Get a lot of these scripts running, and you can make a good bit of money.

At least, that's what the paid online "run your own dropship business" courses would have us believe...

Pretty sure users all see the same price, because otherwise reddit would be up in flames on things like r/mechkeyboarddeals, r/buildapc, r/ultralight, etc.

Camelcamelcamel (price history checker) scrapes or pulls data from an external API, its going to be the same for all users


I also use camelcamelcamel to sanity check my recurring purchases.

For example, the range for my preferred elderberry syrup is from $20 to $45.

https://camelcamelcamel.com/Dr-Dünner-Sambu-Elderberry-Elder...

I waited the price to drop back down and then restocked.

YMMV


Out of curiosity, what use do you make of elderberry syrup?

Doctor's orders. I'm immune compromised. Dr says it's as effective as tamiflu. From my reading, elderberry doesn't prevent infections, but it does minimize the symptoms, which matches my experience.

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/euroelder

>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.


That's true for almost all herbs. There are few studies because you cannot stick a copyright on herbs so there's no almost incentives for big companies to push for such researches.

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." - http://www.omicron-pharma.com/pdfs/ElderberryClinicalOJPK_Pu...


And of course, even if it did absolutely nothing, it would still be useful as a placebo.

...which matches my experience.

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.


> 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.

I'm sorry but this is terrible advice, and is precisely how people like Steve Jobs die for no reason.


Don't apologize to me, just don't be rude to patients. Finding some half-assed study that might apply is no excuse. Do you really consider whatever treatment Jobs got to have been "effective"?

>just don't be rude to patients

I wasn't.

> 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.


Some other part of the plant might cause nausea and vomiting? Looks pretty half-assed to me. As if there's no way to harvest one part of a plant separately from the rest of the plant. As if the patient wouldn't notice nausea and vomiting. As if these aren't very common side effects for any number of pharmaceuticals. As if a physician wouldn't be qualified to weigh such side effects against the benefits of the treatment. As if a patient wouldn't be qualified to weigh such side effects against the benefits of the treatment.

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.


I upvoted you. I had tried to reply, but was throttled.

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.


Totally understand. I realize my original statement comes off a bit pithy, but I meant it when I said "may".

"Well it may work for you but this study suggests that it might not work for everyone so you're an idiot and you should stop taking it"

If they were personalised it would be hard for sites like camelcamelcamel.com to exist, right? I would speculate that they don't personalise. Offering price discrimination as a service to third party sellers sounds like a minefield too.

The price you see in the buy box is not always the lowest price. Anyone can click through and view all the sellers for an item. Sites like that track all the items for sale.

Now that I think about it, price manipulation is probably illegal in most countries.

> My question is, how dynamic are Amazon’s prices?

Camelcamelcamel charts the price history of any item on Amazon https://camelcamelcamel.com/


I heard once that Mac users see slightly higher prices, but I've never been able to personally confirm that.

I thought that was for airplane tickets?

I've never heard it about airplane tickets. However, I will definitely look for that the next time I need to travel.

Ugh. Do you have any source / evidence for that?

it's easily verifiable, spoof your h/w,s/w and connection and visit a webpage you just viewed. the prices will be different. there are even use cases of buying return tickets from the destination country being cheaper than buying it from where you are. it's such common knowledge that even popular youtubers are making videos about it - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Utsnt6GFrKo (linus tech tips-6 minute watch) VPNs are quickly becoming compulsory tools to save mucho dinero

Orbitz did it a couple of years ago, showing more expensive hotels to Mac users for example.

http://business.time.com/2012/06/26/orbitz-shows-higher-pric...


You could try the browser addon "Keepa" which show some historical price data -- very useful.

I'm not sure how it happened, but at one point I had two of the same product in my cart -- not Quantity of 2, but it was listed two times. Both of the same Amazon product ID. And each at different prices. And, over time, as they sat in my cart, their prices changed, differently.

Apologies in advance for the self-referential commentary:

I've put down a long list of reasons for why I've cancelled prime after almost ten years of consistent use.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16937290

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17568320

If you-the-reader need good reasons to quit prime, I hope these help.


I don't necessarily agree with the bits about 2-day shipping. TBH, I've had positive and negative experiences with that for years and don't really see a trend one way or the other. When it works well, it can be amazing (next day on a weekend!) and when it fails can seem really weird.

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.


> Prime shipping is no longer certain to be two days.

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.


I am also not about to renew my Prime membership. You list gave me a lot of confidence.

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?


You can substitute Google Photos for Amazon Photos. I have several Google accounts that have soccer photos, family photos, etc. I want to keep pictures of other people's kids from trying to be recognized as my own. And the family photos account can be be given to someone else to control without giving access to my email. You get 15G of storage with unaltered originals, unlimited if you let them compress.

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.


Amazon is free for uncompressed, though.

Amazon Photos offers unlimited full-resolution online photo storage, and 5 GB free video storage, to Prime members

I hear video is pretty popular these days.


I partially justified resubscribing to Prime through Amazon Photos. Then I actually used it. As it doesn't include video, it's not much use for backing up my Photos library.

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.


Did you ever end up installing the Helium10 extension?

I don't recall this being on my list. Remind me?

It's the first response to your second link.

Ah, sadly I'm not a seller, so that's not something I've explored. You should follow up with the original commenter.

Perfect customer retention is not their goal. If selling 100 for $70 gives $7000 in revenue and selling 70 for $100 gives $7000 in revenue and the inverse relationship is linear, they should sell 85 for $85 and get $7225 in revenue.

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.


So essentially price gouging. What a great business model.

Optimizing revenue given a particular supply and demand isn't price gouging. People are paying for the convenience of buying anything they want with two clicks from their computer chair, turns out that's pretty valuable.

That isn't what the parent said:

> 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.


Behavioral economics would like to disagree. Supply and demand are a function of what buyers want; somebody wanting something _right now_ has been a force that markets cater to since markets have existed.

Behavioral economics isn't a law of physics, much of it is completely unproven, relying on psychology, which has a huge reproduce-ability problem.

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.


> 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.

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.


It has to do with demand.

If it is that granular it can't have any impact on demand.

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.


> 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.

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.


Trying to find real data that amazon prices are going up:

Is it this product?

https://camelcamelcamel.com/Dr-Elseys-Premium-Clumping-Litte...

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:

https://camelcamelcamel.com/AmazonBasics-Carpet-Chair-Mat-47...

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.


> My Prime membership expires in a couple months time, and this time I'm not renewing it, after being a member for several years.

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.


> Lately, they only fix the issue/replace the item. Maybe, they spoiled me but to me that is sign of declining customer service.

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.


> Amazon came with an additional 8.25% sales tax

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


The one place where Walmart has Amazon crushed is a physical presence which drastically affects shipping.

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 find it weird to say-

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 a book on Amazon. I don't have Prime, so it took most of a week before the third party seller even shipped it. It never arrived, and the order status only said "left shipper facility". After staying in this limbo for several days past the arrival date, I was credited with a refund.

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 share experiences in a similar vein: a book being cancelled and refunded for being 'undeliverable', a CPU (one of the most important components in a full computer build, rendering it useless) ending up at the wrong facility, new items being sold out until weeks after their release date (Sony WH1000MX3 right now, at least in the UK) while available in other online stores, an item not being what was advertised (Dove soap from a different country with worse ingredients), and worse, them not disclosing this (I happened to check the page myself before picking it up and it had a warning about this). All of this happened in the last month. I cancelled all but the book (which I'm again waiting for now) and got stuff elsewhere with a much better experience. I absolutely do appreciate Amazon when it works, I just wish it wasn't so unreliable.

Walmart has a history making suppliers cut costs to the point that quality has to drop. Often, suppliers will produce inferior goods for Walmart, and mark them the same as the high-quality goods they sell to other retailers.

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.


Any isle I go in has multiple different pricing of similar products.

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.


You think Macy’s is getting higher quality goods? Hah, that’s too funny.

Higher class than Walmart... yes. That's the whole point of the comment.

So you saved $4.40 to go to Walmart.

* 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 :-)


Walmart has a major online shopping portal that competes directly with amazon. My assumption is the OP was talking about buying online from Walmart, particularly given the other example was eBay.

Correct.

I agree with this, but it's also true that until recently Amazon usually had all those advantages and lower prices.

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.


I agree if the prices are now really higher. They don't "feel" higher to me. Here's cat litter that's $17.49 (one of the root comments mentioned this but it might not be the identical product):

https://camelcamelcamel.com/Dr-Elseys-Premium-Clumping-Litte...

Looks like the price has been going sideways for 4 years with some noise up and down, and before that, come down a lot?


I buy that exact litter on a regular basis from Amazon. What happens is that Amazon periodically runs out of stock and the price jumps because all of the 3rd party sellers have much higher prices than Amazon.

You did a great job nailing the fiscal loss associated with going to Walmart - but with those aside, I would gladly pay $5 to not have to show face at Walmart.

Amazon is equally repulsive.

As a company, yes. As a customer experience, not really.

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.


> 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.


I was pretty sure the comment was referring to going to a physical store. Doesn't actually matter much to me anymore - I now live in a country with no wal-mart and no native Amazon. I'm pretty sure one doesn't ship here and when the other does, they usually are expensive (shipping) and do not include Norway's Vat in the price.

To be honest, with the growth of self-checkout at Walmart the times I actually interact with a Walmart employee directly is now probably close to 30%.

This experience has really improved over time. Twenty years ago, in some locations, the average Walmart customer would have had more luck operating the space shuttle than they seemed to have with the self checkout. Long lines of people who apparently had never seen a TV, let alone a touchscreen interface, chased me over to Target. I was that theoretical consumer who was happy to pay more... Something has changed since then, because I can't remember the last time I was in a Target.

They didn't have them at Wal-mart last time I lived around one - around 5 years ago. I use those in every store that has them, though, so long as possible (I can't if I'm using cash).

Walmart actually has a pretty good online shopping experience. They even give free 2 day shipping on orders of 35 or more IIRC.

Twice I've gone to walmart.com to load up my cart and get free shipping. Both times I ended up leaving empty handed because I got to the checkout and one or more items didn't qualify for free shipping. I get that there will be exceptions, but they could sure work on telling me that before I get halfway through the checkout. In both cases I ended up back on amazon.

I suppose GP used some Walmart e-commerce site, otherwise they would be comparing apples to oranges.

You can order online from walmart right? I assume that's what he meant

Yes, it is.

I noticed the price disparity this week as well. Suddenly Walmart is meaningfully less expensive. The math no longer makes sense for Amazon Prime in my case.

likewise, I am planning to cancel prim this year after the subscription runs out.

Amazon hasn't had the cheapest prices for a few good years now. They're taking advantage of the fact that they have what I like to call "brand inertia".

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.


One could almost come to the conclusion that Amazon running a global experiment on price elasticity on their complete customer base.

At any retailer that isn't running that experiment constantly, at least half of the executive team should be fired.

True that. For normal retailers there is still the competition part which kind of tends to pull prices down.

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.


So clearly there will be some delay in between when brand inertia is still going and competitors haven't caught up, but it does look like Walmart is stepping up its online retail business, so I have hope that Amazon won't maintain near monopoly status.

My local Target has started providing a service where anything you buy in the store can be rung up at the register and then delivered to your home as well. Really gets rid of the friction of buying anything when you live in a city and don't drive to any stores

I don't think it matters to those that can afford the service?

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.


> they've also raised many prices, to the point where they're far from the cheapest price in many cases

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.


Well, you may not be charged the tax but you probable still have a legal obligation to pay it. That you choose not to to fill out all the forms is on you. Each state and country is different in how they treat online sales re local taxes.

Constitutionally, states can't tax interstate commerce. That is a federal power.

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.


This isn't taxing interstate commerce. This is applying the applicable sales tax. There is always point of sale, in one state or the other. Some states choose to interpret that point of sale as being where the buyer is standing when making the purchase (ie the delivery address). Other states would say that it is wherever the server is (Nevada, ie gambling). A state demanding that online purchasers pay a sales tax is not taxing interstate commerce, it is enforcing a tax against sales occurring within its boarders. States do have that power.

The sales tax is not applicable on purchases that span multiple states. It doesn't matter how hard you argue that one state or the other should have the ability to tax a transaction, whenever there are multiple states in the equation, none of them are constitutionally able to do so. If there's an endpoint in one state, and an endpoint in another state, it crossed a border somewhere and earned the "interstate" adjective.

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.


Sure. I'd be curious to see some data on who actually follows through on this. Pushing the burden to the consumer to document these transactions doesn't make any sense to me. Additionally, I bet many consumers don't even realize when taxes haven't been paid during checkout.

It isn't anything new. When you order something from another jurisdiction you aren't a simple consumer. You are an importer, subject to all the rule of any other importer. Amazon just implements what everyone was supposed to be doing already.

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.


> They can do that because so many people don't price compare anymore before going to Amazon.

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.


Also achieved with PayPal

From those that accept it, which isn't everyone.

The Recode analysis was decent but problematic in that its test searches are pretty contrived. Does anyone really search for "shoes" or "cereal". There was only 1 reasonable search attempted "justins peanut butter" and the results were indeed mediocre. But I would have liked to have seen better testing.

I thought they were lame searches too, so I went to Amazon and searched "Bose headphones." Nothing above the fold was Bose headphones -- the second pair of headphones don't even have a brand listed. Thinking that wasn't specific enough, I tried "Bose noise-canceling headphones," and the same thing happened.

> 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.

"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."


Ebay purchases should also have sales tax, it's just that the onus is on you to report it on your taxes rather than being taken automatically. I don't think it's very fair to add that as a negative to Amazon purchases. Other than that, I agree, many things have 10%-15% markup.

Most eBay sellers also provide free shipping, regardless of your order size, and it’s often faster than Amazon’s free shipping. If you’re looking for something relatively common, you can filter eBay results by distance to your home, and sometimes you can get your item next day for free shipping. eBay is surprisingly good as a buyer.

Understood, however, that as a seller eBay is a pretty tough partner.


>Most eBay sellers also provide free shipping, regardless of your order size

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.


Same impression here. Could turn out to be a worrying trend for Amazon in the Long run. And with the growing fix costs coming with an ever increasing logistics food print and brick and mortar stores, Amazon might end up in tight spot, still an e-commerce leader but not dominating any more.

In Germany it looks like Amazon removed a lot of camera gear from comparison sites [1] - and often is more expensive than other large retailers.

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.

[1] At least over the last months I didn't find Amazon listed e.g. on Idealo while the lens exists on Amazon.de


If so many people weren't sharing access to my my prime membership I would have cancelled it a year or two ago.

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.


Not to mention that 2 day shipping is no longer a guarantee. I have had multiple items that have not shipped on time, or had long delays.

It seems to be about 50/50 nowadays if something that has the Prime stamp takes 2 days or 5 or more. It used to be a nice comfort knowing I could order some supply up to 2 days before it runs out, and I’d have it at my house when I need it.

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.


I've been using prime since 2010. At first, it was incredible. 2 days, every time, no matter what.

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.


> USPS last mile

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.


Weird. UPS has always been the worst. I'd say about 50% of UPS packages either get misdelivered or marked as undeliverable for me. The numbers on my street are a little odd, but it's not that hard to actually find my house, and it is listed correctly on Google/Apple maps. No matter how hard I try to get UPS to get on the ball and fix their mistake, nothing ever changes.

USPS, OTOH, never messes up my deliveries.


The last three orders I placed from Amazon took over a week to ship. Every product was sold directly from Amazon, and shipped from their New Jersey warehouse to Ohio. It's my opinion that they are intentionally delaying orders that aren't Prime.

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.


That's also my experience. I'm in Ireland, ordering (mostly books) through amazon.co.uk (since 2000) so Prime never made sense for me either, but delivery times from the UK have definitely slipped over the past two years. In-stock items 'sold & fulfilled by Amazon' used to ship within 24 hours, but now regularly take 5 days or more to ship. The result is that I shop elsewhere.

I've had a couple Prime free trials. Once there were two items I bought that were sold and shipped by Amazon, however, they weren't "Prime eligible" for no reason I could understand. It's just totally confusing to exclude random items from "Prime."

My experience has been the same, unsubscribed after many years. On top of that, I feel good knowing I’m not supporting a company with terrible working conditions.

It's sad that Amazon was perfect IMO years ago, and I assume was very profitable even then. But continuous changes, mostly after the introduction of Prime, have just drug the core product down. I still use Amazon for some items just because the selection is still the most outrageously huge, but I'll also go to Walmart, Monoprice, Newegg, etc. and the prices have generally been better there.

You could have guessed that a chair mat (big) and cat litter (heavy) might not be products Amazon would be competitive with.

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)


As a very long time and satisfied-but-worried Amazon customer, I think that prices going up was something to be expected and not a surprise at all. Instead, the way they're dropping the ball with customer satisfaction is really surprising: I recently moved to London and started buying even more stuff online - most of it from Amazon, even if I often try to find alternatives just because I don't want them to become a monopoly.

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.


I'm not in the US but for similar reasons I'm discontinuing prime membership and I refuse to order from Amazon. Everything is available in independent online shops or ebay or aliexpress/banggood (which one I pick depends on how much wait time I'm willing to endure, the first is usually the fastest).

> 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

At least they're simply charging more. I found this battery charger [0] 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.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Crosse-Technology-BC700-CBP-Battery-C...


That reminded me of a purchase I made a couple weeks ago. Washing powder where the 2kg is cheaper than the 1kg. That was a headscratcher. As far as I can tell they're both sold by the manufacturer.

https://www.amazon.com.au/Cold-Power-Regular-Laundry-Brillia...


> Their basic underlying assumption appears to be that they're no longer in danger of losing customers and can now act accordingly.

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.


I never really thought that Amazon was the cheapest. The draw for me was always the free shipping and convenience. I actually don't remember Amazon ever marketing their service as having the cheapest price but I could be mistaken?

>"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."

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.


> My Prime membership expires in a couple months time, and this time I'm not renewing it, after being a member for several years.

Like many other in this thread - I have already canceled my prime membership for the first time since 2004.


Amazon has to bake the cost of shipping and handling into their price structure. It isn't free for them and they can't take a loss on their core business operations forever.

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.


I have to admit, it confounds me that fraud can exist on such a large scale in a platform, without really doing anything to damage trust in the platform itself.

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!


One bit of clarification: Amazon doesn't set the prices for most of the goods, the individual vendors do.

But yes, those vendors are probably taking advantage of the effects you're talking about.


> . the cat litter I just purchased is $17.89 at Amazon, $13.49 at Walmart.

Isn't extra $4 for shipping? You are comparing store pickup to something shipped to your home.


No. I was comparing to Walmart.com.

This speaks to a bigger issue, which is that retail is hard. Now that Amazon can let down its hair and start charging prices that may actually be sustainable, we are learning that the local retailers it's driving out of business were actually fairly efficient. They didn't have the luxury of charging below-retail for 20 years, so they didn't look as attractive as Amazon did during that same period.

You're not taking into consideration the fact that Amazon prices fluctuate rapidly, sometimes daily (hourly?). You can still find good deals on Amazon, you just need to get lucky and/or be patient with their pricing algorithm. Using a third party website like camelcamelcamel.com can help you see if you are really getting the "best price" that Amazon offers.

If you have a baby, the prices are even more pronounced. Even 5 years ago, diapers on Amazon were way too much. Costco shines in this segment.

They will not lose customers over this, I skip the ads and still buy what I want, at a good price, and reliable deliveries.

Infact, knowing Bezos, they will lower prices further from the money gained by either reinvesting to improve process like delivery price, time and cheaper logicstis

Which means more customers $$.

I agree with this. Walmart in particular seems to consistently offer lower prices and fewer fakes. Walmart has free 2-day shipping for orders over $35, which is almost as good as having Prime; I just have to batch up household items that I want to order instead of ordering them one at a time.

i agree, i don't shop at Amazon anymore. I constantly get free shipping on ebay items. Some with fast shipping too. Not to mention the price is cheaper most of the times. I was also questioning why Amazon suddenly had such high prices for the same item!

> Their basic underlying assumption appears to be that they're no longer in danger of losing customers and can now act accordingly.

Sounds like an antitrust issue. Great example of how it doesn't take full monopoly-scale control for markets to break down.


Maybe Amazon is behaving badly, trying to scam customers by selling them fraud products at inflated prices. Is the best response to that to enlist the federal government to make them run their business differently? Or may we could just, you know, take our business elsewhere?

Taking your business elsewhere only works when individual customers represent a significant proportion of a company's income. With the volume Amazon handles, any individual attempt to send market signals is completely drowned out by noise and marketting. To send such a market signal strongly enough to be received, you would have to have an advertising campaign on the scale of another massive corporation. That indicates market failure. It is well known that markets are not resilient against tragedy of the commons, prisoner's dilemma, and similar phenomena.

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.


Amazon is a giant tax revenue generator for state and federal governments. It would take something quite significant to get to that level, in my humble opinion.

Not sure if your observation is one but many examples I hear about Amazon pricing seem to miss the fact that a growing percentage (recently at like 53%) are sold and priced by third party sellers.

If you compare their quarter from this year to last year their COGS as % of revenue it is about the same. Its close to WMT, TGT, etc.

Their retail business is like most other retail businesses.


I used to land on Amazon as a defacto shopping place, until about a year ago. Now Aliexpress is the defacto for me.

The shipping origin of the products also dictates the costs... were any of those cheaper items shipped from China?

When people wake up, Amazon's gonna crash.

not only can you see the price increases cross shopping but simply going back through your past orders. I have a few items I purchase regularly; some food items and bird food too; and the pricing changes seem at times random but they only consistently move up.

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


Amazon shows some of the problems of the current debt-based economy. Most Amazon orders are with credit card debt, and of course most of it is imported from China and will be affected by many of the Trump tariffs.
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