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> It’s kind of interesting- the asymmetry of moral expectations and entitlement.

First, there is an asymmetry in power too. Amazon can afford to double check or triple check everything if it makes economic sense.

Secondly, companies does not have morals. If you allow big corporations to change prices as they see fit because there is a "mistake". Companies will exploit that to their advantage with psychopathic precision.

You will get your package at home and then you will be informed that the price "was a mistake" and was 10% more expensive. They will print prices in adverts and then say that it was a mistake when people gets to the shop.

Companies are not human beings, as other comments already have said, to involve morality in this issue makes no sense whatsoever.

The real question is: is this an efficient way of improving the consumers well being? If this rules avoid companies of abusing price changes and labeling anything as being a "mistake" and at the same time it encourages better quality on price setting and the "punishment" is not big enough to send all companies to foreclosure. Then it seems a very good deal.

It makes economic sense.




I agree with both you and parent. People are uncomfortably inconsistent. If a certain rule benefits them then they'll favor it ... right until the rule becomes a problem for them or favors their adversary. Normally, I see this when people talk about their politics.

On the other hand, Amazon has an unbelievable amount of power. And I think things would be a lot better if we as a society applied the spider-man rule. With great power. If a small mom and pop makes this sort of mistake, then I'm all for them correcting it and not giving away $13K equipment for $100. Maybe they were doing it maliciously, but because of how small they are the scope of their malice can only affect a small number of people. On the other hand, Amazon has the power of a first world nation state. If they make a mistake, innocently or maliciously, then the scope can affect a lot of people. Yeah, you messed up Amazon. Don't export the cost of failure onto people without the power to fight it. Pay for it yourself with your considerable resources and then resolve the issue with your considerable resources such that you don't make the mistake again.

EDIT: Mom and pop might not have the resources to cover their mistake AND they might not have the resources to reasonably prevent it from happening again. And because of their lack of resources they are also on a level playing field with their customers. So if their customers feel that what was done to them was wrong, then they can reasonably challenge mom and pop in court. On the other hand, if Amazon decides that their customers are going to lose in court, then their customers are going to lose in court.


Do you make a distinction between stealing from a rich person versus a poor person?


I haven't really thought about it in those terms. But YES it turns out I do make a distinction.

The only reason I called the police on the guy who robbed me at gunpoint was because I was concerned that he might also steal from someone who couldn't stand to lose their money AND because he was using lethal force to steal money.

I didn't really enjoy the few weeks of stress that I got from being mugged. But I otherwise didn't hold it against him. He was much more polite than a person with a gun has to be. And I could afford gas at $4 a gallon (as it was at the time) where he couldn't (credit cards showed him immediately going an filling up at a gas station).

If a rich guy had mugged me, I think I would have been a bit more upset about the experience.


Hmm, I was mugged once in Philly, it was nighttime and I was returning back from uni. It wasn't particularly traumatic since it happened so quickly. I went to report it and as I was waiting, there were other people in line with gunshot injuries and people in knife fights and one lady whose boyfriend had stabbed her little dog and other crazy stuff and I was like.. you guys need the police's resources way way more than I do, so I just left w/o reporting.

But I guess the point I was making was that if stealing or taking advantage or someones misfortune is morally wrong in one context, then I don't quite see a principled way out of it, other than layering an assumption-ridden argument about Amazon being bad and therefore deserving of this. As is typical in most corporate environments some engineer/pm/sales dude is probably going to end up being the fall guy. IMHO the only way to "stick it" to Amazon and come out on the moral high-ground is to stop using them. There is a time for civil disobedience, but it is possible for most consumers to avoid shopping with them.


I think if you had actually experienced both situations you would be less shaken by the robbery from a rich person because you might have had less confidence that they would actually shoot you.

This doesn't change the post hoc moral reasoning, but it night have incurred less impact on you.


I'm not sure which point you're trying to make, but I would feel extremely uncomfortable being robbed at gunpoint by a person I knew to be "rich". A rich person has much better odds of getting away with it, or receiving reduced punishment. Also, the rich person has no material need to threaten me at gunpoint, so they have clearly become unhinged and are past the point of rational decision making. A poor person who robs you at gun point just wants your money, they're not actually hoping to shoot people.


Do you make a distinction between stealing a pack of gum and stealing a car?


Depends on the exact nature of your question. If you want to argue on simple moral terms, both are wrong because stealing is stealing. But the "wrongness" of each action can be debated so obviously under most legal systems the punishment is not identical - and that is a related but a different conversation. But note that the punishment for stealing, in most cases, is not dependent on the personal wealth of a victim. I say most because I'm sure some pedant is going to find the odd outlier.


I would, and I imagine most people would. I don't steal, certainly, and would never unless absolutely forced to do so, but if I had to I would definitely chose to steal from someone for whom it would make less of a difference.


Companies are not human beings, as other comments already have said, to involve morality in this issue makes no sense whatsoever.

This argument is wrong, there is no attempt to associate morality with a company. It is the customer and only the customer holding the arguably conflicting believes that errors in favour of customers should not be corrected while errors in favour of the company should be corrected. So you can argue whether those two believes are actually morally conflicting but you can not dismiss this point based on the irrelevant point that one can not apply moral concepts to companies [1].

[1] Which may itself be a matter of dabate, after all one aspect of companies is that they are collections of people working together.


But there is such an attempt of anthropomorphisation, when you say the company is "expected to be a good sport".

You don't say a herd of cows ought to be a good sport. A crying baby ought to be a good sport. That tree is being mean, casting shade. The anthill ought to return my sugar.

That is why there is no conflict. Because they are not the same morally and thus not expected to be treated the same.


I think one as to be more careful here. At a first level the company plays no role, it is just the customer expecting that mistakes are handled differently depending on who benefits. Replace Amazon with a private person you are intending to buy a used car from, would you still expect that mistakes - say a miscommunication of the price or miscounting of the money - in your favour are handled differently than mistakes in the sellers favour? And we assume no bad faith here, if the seller intentionally raises the price once you have taken a day off and driven a significant distance to complete the trade in the hope that you will pay the higher price in order to not have wasted your time, that is an entirely different story. Personally I would probably not do it, but I think it would be perfectly fine to sue the seller to get the initially agreed on price.

Expecting Amazon to be a good sport only makes sense after you have decided that mistakes should not be handled differently depending on who benefits and that you are therefore not entitled to keep your amazing deal. Then you can start to appeal to being a good sport, or the benefits for the public perception of Amazon, or whatnot to explain why Amazon should honor the deal. But this also brings up question like why would you not be a good sport in case of a mistake in favour of Amazon? Note that I do not want to imply any answers here, I just want to point out which kinds of questions one might have to consider.


C2C and B2C transactions can be, and in many places are, regulated differently.


This argument cuts both ways. If Amazon isn't a moral entity, then there's also no moral violation if they screw you over.


What you will find, one day, is that morality is just the name we give to the system of similar humans dealing with one another.

Everything else is attempts to extrapolate from that.

Many things that are punished if an animal does to a human, are accepted by the billions if humans do to animals.

Many times an adult has a responsibilty a child does not.

The Amazon example is one of the latter kind.

Besides morality there are legal systems. As you get more and more kinds of things, it is expedient to represent corporations as legal entities, but often they are held to a higher standard than just random people. Since a corporation can employ many people and machines, to prepare every sale, they are held to a higher standard for transactions, taxes, reporting, quality of product delivered, and so on. They also have deeper pockets and can take the hit.


It's good to know that you've got morality all figured out :)

I don't see any reason why it should be ok for people to knowingly rip Amazon off. There are worse things (by far) that someone can do, but there's no real justification for doing it.


Right, and it's not morally wrong for a mosquito to bite you, and no one would say that the bug "should have known better", but we do our best to prevent it anyway. Both entities will go precisely as far as we allow them to.


When companies like Amazon do things that are morally wrong, you never see people making this claim that moral concepts don't apply to companies. They only say it when it's convenient for them (i.e., when they want to take advantage of Amazon rather than vice versa).

To compare a company's actions to those of a mosquito strikes me as quite silly. Amazon is run by people who make conscious choices and who are responsible for their actions.


>When companies like Amazon do things that are morally wrong, you never see people making this claim that moral concepts don't apply to companies.

I see this all the time on HN.


> When companies like Amazon do things that are morally wrong

Companies don't "do things". The managers (and ultimately Bezos as the top manager) are the moral actors here. "Amazon" is just shortcut name for all the people that work there, this set is ever changing.


Also, that comparison is made specifically because companies have no morality and so if we want them to behave in any sort of way approximating our morals, they must be regulated to do so. Those comments are advocating a change in the way companies are treated in order to get them to behave in a more expected manner.


I don't follow. People also need to be regulated in order to behave morally. Companies are run by people and it's entirely possible for companies to take moral stands or deliberately decide to do the right thing even when it's not the most profitable thing. It might not happen as often as we'd like, but it certainly does happen.


> This argument cuts both ways. If Amazon isn't a moral entity, then there's also no moral violation if they screw you over.

In that case, it's not a moral violation if they screw you over, but it's not a moral violation if you end them for screwing you over either. The mosquito isn't violating morals when it bites me, but I'd still have no problem eliminating them all from my backyard if i could do it in a reasonable manner. Not many people claim it is immoral for me to swat the mosquito.


Sure, maybe it's all about power and there's no real difference between right and wrong.

I just don't see why that kind of nihilism suddenly becomes more plausible than usual when you're buying something from Amazon.


Yes, but it is undesirable. Which is why we have legal and financial incentives and regulations, to force corporations to behave.


If you make a mistake, you cancel it with a standard return policy.

Amazon's "mistake" looks like bait and switch, or any number of other scams. I'm under the impression they usually cancel said orders.


When you start going down this line of arguments, then you also have to take into account the abuse of return policies, ordering and wearing clothes once before returning them, ordering several similar items while intending to only keep the one you like the most, and that sort of thing. Also Amazon could easily add - in case it does not already exist - a policy to its terms and conditions that explicitly states that orders can be canceled in case of errors, at least as far as laws allow such policies. But there are certainly already some policies targeting fraudulent orders and whatnot.


> abuse of return policies, ordering and wearing clothes once before returning them, ordering several similar items while intending to only keep the one you like the most

How is this considered abuse at all? The EU even mandates a 14 day return window for online shopping since you don't get to try stuff on or see the item like you would in a physical store.


I am totally in favor of this 14 day return policy, there are good reasons why it exists. But behind every law there is also an intention and the intention behind this law was certainly not to allow you to order an expensive suit or dress, wear it at one event, and then return it without ever having had the intention to keep it. At the very best this is an gray area and it certainly is abuse because it is against the intention of the law.


A friend of my wife is a studio photographer (in the US) and she was banned from several high end stores because she used to buy tons of clothes for a model shoot, and then return them when done. Occasionally she would keep one or two items she liked. I would tend to agree that this is abuse. I think now she rents them ...

> How is this considered abuse at all? The EU even mandates a 14 day return window for online shopping since you don't get to try stuff on or see the item like you would in a physical store.

Hmm, I think the product must be unused and unworn for you to return it. I might be misremembering though..


> First, there is an asymmetry in power too. Amazon can afford to double check or triple check everything if it makes economic sense.

There's an asymmetry because Amazon can "afford" to double check everything? How? They lists millions of items. You're only in the market for a few. They're good at inventory management, but the scale is crazy which is why this mispricing is happening. Besides, I don't see why them "being able to afford" checking has to do with someone exploiting a mispricing, from a moral sense. Are you punishing them for not doing so and creating a financial incentive to be more prudent? Seems like a stretch.

> You will get your package at home and then you will be informed that the price "was a mistake" and was 10% more expensive. They will print prices in adverts and then say that it was a mistake when people gets to the shop.

It's ironic that many people still believe the narrative that corporations are evil and would screw over their customers at any chance while at the same time living through the greatest upheaval of popular consumer brands in history. Amazon wouldn't do that not because of benevolence or legal reasons, but because its not in their interest to upset and screw over repeat customers for 10% and the operational headache of somehow retrieving your item. Also considering that Amazon receives billions from Prime and that would likely drive down subscriptions. Some companies practice deceptive advertising, but these are the companies that are primarily losing favor to new more honest competitors due to the competition.


> There's an asymmetry because Amazon can "afford" to double check everything? How?

Well, Amazon shows you the percent discount. I can't imagine that there are too many items over, let's say, $1000 that are at a 90% discount at any given time. Seems easy enough to flag those for manual review, especially if they are being sold by Amazon directly.


I'm not sure that the fact that corporations sometimes fails disproves that they are evil or proves that they will not screw their customer's over. As an analogy: criminals often go to jail but that doesn't disprove that criminals exist or prove that they won't victimize people.

I'm also not sure that I agree that more deceptive companies are failing in favor of more honest ones. It seems to me that many modern business models make use of questionable strategies such as dark patterns, regulatory capture, and vendor lock-in.

Perhaps the greater point is not whether a corporation would take advantage in a specific situation. Rather the larger point could be that, due to their size and distributed nature, global corporations are not accountable in the way that individuals or local businesses are.


> There's an asymmetry because Amazon can "afford" to double check everything? How?

When you sell on Amazon and for some reason don't want to sell something out of your inventory by changing the price from $10 to $999999, Amazon will put a "possible pricing error" alert next to it in your dashboard.

Not sure if they do it when the price is too low. Either way it's super easy to detect by comparing to the item's price from other sellers.

It's very easy to introduce errors since most products are batch imported with a clunky spreadsheet, or the API.


I agree with some of your sentiment, but this argument isn't cut-n-dried.

> It's ironic that many people still believe the narrative that corporations are evil and would screw over their customers at any chance...Amazon wouldn't do that not because of benevolence or legal reasons, but because its not in their interest

That is not a counter-argument for them not being evil -- that's could be more along the line of lawful evil (pragmatically evil). If it is in their interest to screw people over and they don't is more a counter-example of not being evil.

I don't think all corporation are evil. I think corporations should be judged on their behavior towards people. If they carry out evil actions they are evil (or at least part of them is). If they carry out good actions then they are probably not evil (maybe it's just that interests align with being good).


Repeat after me: Amazon is not a person. Why aren't you arguing against the daily electrocution of toasters?


Amazon is a corporation, essentially a legal structure meant to encompass a group of investors. Investors range from its founder Jeff Bezos to small investors holding Amazon shares in pension funds and 401ks. You too can buy one share of Amazon for ~$2000 or invest in a low cost ETF that would own Amazon. The value of the stock is driven partly by expectation of future earnings. If Amazon were to lose future earnings relative to what investors believe they will receive, the stock price will likely go down.

On the extreme lets say that Amazon stock goes to $0, it would reduce the wealth of the world by about $1 trillion in stock valuation. That means that $1 trillion disappears from people's accounts (with ~$100 billion disappearing from Bezos' account). This would be wealth destruction no different from simultaneously reaching into every person's wallet and removing some amount of cash and burning it.

The whole "[corp] is not a person so [immoral act] is okay" is not productive.


>This would be wealth destruction no different from simultaneously reaching into every person's wallet and removing some amount of cash and burning it.

Unrealised profits are very much different than physical cash.


I own the stock and can sell it for $2000. If the value of the stock drops to $0 and I can no longer get $2000 for the stock, it would be no different than me losing $2000 cash


If I have $0.50 cash and someone reaches into my wallet and takes it, is that any different to if I've got a lottery ticket with an expected value of $0.50, and the draw occurs and its value drops to $0 when it doesn't win?

Some would say that in the first case it's morally wrong to steal my cash, whereas in the latter case I consented to the risk of my ticket losing when I purchased it; and therefore performing a lottery draw is not an immoral act.


Yes, if the Amazon model doesn't work out and you lose value, that's not immoral. It just happened like your lottery. If the value decreases from people stealing from Amazon then it is the same as going in your wallet and taking the cash.


How is this "stealing", if Amazon advertised the price they sold the product at?


Except you did't have $2000 cash because you invested it in Amazon, whose value dropped to $0.


Cash is simply the physical form that the government has deemed legal tender that must be accepted for payment. In the case of countries like 1920s Weimar Republic, that cash can lose value due to hyperinflation in currency trading markets.


/r/iamverysmart


You'd still own the stock even if it was valued at $0. You didn't lose anything.


If Amazon stock goes to $0, all that says is that literally nobody wants to buy Amazon stock.

You still own your shares. You were not robbed, your gamble did not pay off.

Also, for this to happen, Amazon would have to be very very very bad at doing its job, which is to sell products for a profit. A company that is that bad at doing its one job has no god-given right to remain liquid.


I don't think Amazon's stock going to $0 would necessarily entail wealth destruction. The money doesn't just disappear, people who have sold at the high have profited. Wealth destruction only happens when credit is involved.


If you're confused by the downvotes, it's because the stock market is not a zero-sum game. This is a common misconception about equities. The stock market can both create and destroy wealth because it is not a zero-sum game.


I'm not an expert and I would love for someone to tell me I'm wrong. Having said that I think what I wrote in the previous post is wrong, Amazon going to $0 would clearly entail some wealth destruction, namely at least the amount that was raised in the IPO and any further issuing of stock (options not included since they only dilute). But besides that any temporary increase in the stock's value, is not equivalent to each stockholder getting an equivalent amount of cash (which was what the OP claimed and what I assumed he meant with wealth creation/destruction) just as a decrease in the stock price is not the same as an overall decrease in money in the population. Some people sell at a high or at any price above the price of the IPO/ price at which money was raised, which captures some of the temporary increase, any loss that includes the money that was actually raised by Amazon would be actual wealth destruction (cash losses), but I don't see how the rest of those losses would also correspond to actual cash losses.


>if the purchase was made in bad faith (ie- knowing Amazon mis-priced it but purchasing it anyways.)

>The same behavior would happen with a company with better public trust and respect. And it’s not like anyone is selling those cameras to donate money to a warehouse worker in need.

>I just think it’s amazing how frail people’s morality is, how it goes out the window when certain conditions are met.

The parent wasn't talking about companies, they were talking about us people and how morality is shit these days. As to your focus in companies, they derive their morality from the people that run them. What's shit for the goose is shit for the gander.

People taking the high road makes a better world.


> how morality is shit these days.

This sort of implies morality was better in the past. Do you believe that?

I am not suggesting today's morality is good but it seems like an improvement over the history of humanity to me.


Touche and great question. It probably seems worse today due to the ability for news and information to travel so far and fast. Just like it's easier to hear about ALL the bad news stories... kidnappings, murders, shootings, flesh eating bacteria, etc. Even though the rates are the same or possibly even lower today, the [noise] volume is easier to be heard.


That is my impression as well.


Shit begets shit. If you're buying from a local mom and pop where the owners are part of your community it's far less likely you would take advantage of the situation.

People still return wallets full of money. How are they morally bankrupt?

Amazon is an example of unfettered capitalism, and are seen differently in the eyes of the consumer. Right or wrong, people just don't care about a megacorps well being (and I don't blame them).


What is unfettered capitalism? The "unfettered" part leads me to believe this is a pejorative. Wikipedia redirects to economic liberalism, which is just free markets in opposition to planned economies. Is there anyone even remotely serious who thinks planned economies are superior? Is there a planned economy in the world that isn't in tattered ruins, impoverishing its people in the most hideous and evil fashion, while literally stealing its pittance of wealth for a few dozen autocrats in charge of the government?


China's economy is planned to a significant extent and doesn't match that description. Of course, it is not a textbook example of a planned economy, but neither is the economy of any Western country a textbook example of a laissez-faire free market economy. The US economy, for example, is significantly distorted by an enormous amount of planned 'defense' spending. Real economies tend to be complex and have a mix of features.


By unfettered capitalism I just mean a system where you end up with disparities of 500x, massive multinationals, and horrible behaviour by many (yesterday we had an article about Cargill for example) that's too hidden or abstract for most of society to fully realize. I believe it's unsustainable and will inevitably come crashing down.

Personally I'm in favour of worker coops with a capped pay disparity between the least and most valued workers (like 8x).

I'm not advocating for planned economies or a Chinese or Russian approach (power in the hands of the few).


>a system where you end up with disparities of 500x, massive multinationals, and horrible behaviour by many

That's not unfettered capitalism though. That's captured markets via regulation and laws picking winners and protecting incumbents. That's due to corporatism... when corporations, via imaginary person-hood, are given the same rights as humans. What I label as corporatism.


Well whatever you want to call it, it's what we've got. Pure free market can't work because of externalities (dumping chemicals upstream of your town), so we have regulation, and yeah it gets captured.

I think people would get more value out of work if they had a stake and a voice, instead of being peons for a super rich board of investors. I suspect we'd make longer term decisions, instead of cutting corners. We elect our leaders (antipathy aside), why can't democracy extend to the workplace? It can and does work already, so let's have more of it. More experiments, more critical thinking about the way things are. Subsidize co-ops the same as incorporations (or just get rid of subsidies entirely) so it's an even playing field.


I keep seeing "capitalism" leveled at Amazon as a pejorative when people seem to mean "consumerism."


This was not a price "mistake"!

This was a well executed marketing campaign - they are looking to see how much ROI they will get on such marketing move. By the next prime day there will be millions more people logged in - looking for super deals!!!!

Do you really think they dont have a complex system in place that would flag this huge price discrepancy 100x before the product ships out? I dont think so.


> companies doesn't have morals

Call it whatever you want, the way big companies like Amazon operate has moral implications and, therefore, Amazon has a moral. The fact that is isn't a single living organism but a sum of many doesn't mean it has no morals whatsoever.

I do understand your line of thinking - how do we create a law that can't be exploited? Because, after all, we expect it to be exploited at some point.

Although in my country the rules are the same (the lowest announced price has to be honored) there was a issue a few years ago that a product was announced at a much lower price. A judge ruled in favor of the seller. I don't really recall the details but I think the ruling was based on the fact that the law was supposed to avoid sellers exploiting buyers, but the announced price was a clear mistake.

Common sense above all, I guess.


> You will get your package at home and then you will be informed that the price "was a mistake" and was 10% more expensive

Don't seem very likely. When word gets out (and it will) they'll lose customers that are much more valuable than that extra 10% they just got from you.


"Companies are not human beings, as other comments already have said, to involve morality in this issue makes no sense whatsoever."

Is society human being? Is nation a human being?

If not then is it moral to deceive and cheat them too?


It means just that it makes no sense to answer that question based on human morals ... doesn't mean the answer is set in stone.

It specifically doesn't mean that one non-human entity should be treated the same as all other non-human entities.

For instance an argument could be made that it can be moral to cheat the State, but not Society. It's not an argument I want to discuss now, but the point is, you can use ethics and come to different conclusions about entities that are not human beings ...


Companies are people. They fight very hard for that label in the courts (USA)


"Companies are not human beings"

I beg to differ...

Corporate personhood is the legal notion that a corporation, separately from its associated human beings (like owners, managers, or employees), has at least some of the legal rights and responsibilities enjoyed by natural persons (physical humans).


"Human beings" =/="personhood".


Corporations are people.


That's true. But that doesn't mean they're "human beings". A corporation doesn't have blood or skin or a physical human body. Again, based on our definitions here, "Human being" =/= "Person/Personhood"




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