FWIW, this does contain some new/different information. IDK what the dividing line is for dupes, but would like to see new information as it's released.
Conspirators paid $100k in bribes. "Products and merchants earned in excess of $100 million in sales revenue."
I haven't heard the job titles of the amazon employees yet, but presumably these are not very senior people. In terms of corruption dynamics, Amazon is now like a planning authority where a friendly official can rubber stamp a large fortune into a real estate developer's pocket.
Also note that, like with government corruption a lot of corruption stays just to the left of criminal red lines. Many former employees of large marketplaces (amazon, FB ads, adwords) move into the more lucrative seller side, either as employees or consultants. They are expected to bring inside knowledge and contacts to the table.
There have already been serious antitrust cases (eg the EU adwords case) concerning these marketplaces. More are coming. Meaningful fines or enforcement is yet to be seen.
Now, $100m corruption incidents.
I'm putting my money on the table now. Tech monopolies are the major political-economic issue of the 2020s.
To a certain extent Amazon's dominance has also directly led to the Web being filled with listicles. It's much easier to write up a list of "recommended" products when all of your referral links can point to Amazon, which is a trusted source of ecommerce for a majority of Americans. It would be much harder for listicles to be as profitable if consumers had 10+ Amazons to choose from when doing their online shopping.
Ehud Olmert was removed from office as Israel's Prime Minister for taking bribes (in exchange for rezoning) years earlier as mayor of Jerusalem. The amounts seem very petty. About $25k IIRCC. We actually went from Prime Ministership to jail over it.
I suspect the reason these bribes always seem petty is that only a fraction are uncovered. These people take bribes regularly, sometimes for decades. They get busted for one or two.
This aren’t people on high comp packages the bulk of Amazon’s workforce even if you discount the warehouses isn’t paid SV salaries.
I wanted to do a website called "Ransom Rewards" allowing you to sign up to ransomware your own employer and you could set your own price to pick up data for a research paper but it was considered unethical to even imply you could get paid to fuck over your employer :(
In any case, it's hard to know quite what these numbers represent specifically. You also don't really know exactly what a real estate developer "earned" by bribing a city planner to approve his building.
Take it as an approximation, an estimate of the scale. The $trn market caps and >$100bn revenues of modern tech monopolies can dwarf everything else.
Make no mistake though, $100m in sales is entry level industry-scale. That is, there are industries where $100m of sales due to outright bribery of market officials (what amzn employees are) is enough to make the industry a corrupt industry.
This is not always unethical, we exclusively hire former AdWords account mangers for our sem team. This primarily done for branding and reducing the recruitment cost.
That said, it's not illegal (in the US) for politicians to receive payments from companies for consulting, giving lectures or such. It's not illegal (in most countries) to hire former staffers for a politician you wish to lobby as lobbyists, compliance officers or such. I would say that most people do consider some of these ethically questionable.
IMO, the issue is one of nuance and scale. The more subjective, arbitrary or ilegible decisions these employees can make, the larger the risk of corruption. The more employees can make these decisions, the larger the risk. The larger the economic impact of these decisions, the larger the risk.
This case, demonstrates a dangerous nexus. The marketplace has a lot of moderation (or whatever amzn call it). Subjective decision making. Culprits removed suspensions on sellers and products in exchange for naked bribes. For adwords, that might be ad copy approval, adsense categorization. IDK if an adwords account managers can affect quality score, but that would be a big one. I suspect they can. A lot of amazon and google employees make these decisions, another scale for the nexus. These decisions are worth a fortune. In this case, $100m in sales.
Subjective decisions made by many people affecting very large sums.
Once you are at Google or amazon scale, this is big money corruption. $100m in sales. There are whole industries where whoever wins at amazon marketplace, facebook ad market or adwords wins a major market.
In terms of ethics... Ethics either works against some sort of professional or societal standard (eg legal or medical ethics) or you have to examine it from a "who is harmed and is that fair" perspective. Here amazon itself was harmed, so it's straight crime. In other cases, it might be unfair to competitors or consumers. If you are outperforming your competitors on adwords because you hired the most well connected former account manager... I can see where competitors would consider this unfair.
Jokes side: Do you see society coming to realize that a similar system can actually implement a planned economy for real?
> A man goes into a shop and asks: “You don’t have any meat?” “No,” replies the lady, “We don’t have any fish, it’s the shop next door that doesn’t have meat.”
Under the new system, the man wouldn’t have to bounce from store-to-store. There would be one convenient online shop with no meat AND no fish.
That sets a strong environment for corruption.
Why is this not a condemnation of Amazon? Turns out each corporate structure has problems. You pull on one lever, and you get a dozen unwanted consequences. But it's important to recognize the faults of such structures.
Organizational design is a complex problem. It's like finding a great employee or a great spouse. They don't exist; it's a question of fit-to-function. Linus Torvalds would be a lousy doctor, and my doctor would be a lousy programmer. You really can't get everything. If you try, you fail. It's a question of aligning organizational structures to what you're trying to do. If you're running a sweatshop in India like a corporate R&D lab, or vice-versa, you're gonna fail.
I would argue Amazon has a great corporate structure which scales well for the purpose it's designed for. Amazon has been winning for alignment to profit/growth, for innovation, for customer-focus, and loses on the employee sweatshop front. That ain't bad. I think it's cracking a bit under COVID19, but at least for two decades, it's done really well for both customers and growth.
Google was a great org structure for its first decade, and then grew complacent in hiring, and when bad employees came in, it started failing in virtually everything else; I'm not sure it's coming back, but I hope it does. For now, it's been sailing on its (very significant) momentum, but that eventually wears off. It doesn't seem to have the right executive team in place anymore, though, so I'm not sure how it might come back.
For instance, want to grab a couple buddies and do a game jam? That's against the rules and could result in you being disciplined.
I didn't want to work for Amazon in part for that reason.
this is a feature unique to capitalism not just Amazon.
The direct blowback on the individual company is pretty small. Would you ever find out if a manager you were interviewing with had done that? Or a startup?
The US was more efficient when companies treated employees better, and when companies were like a community who took care of each other. But, as an individual manager, and even more so as a company, I come out ahead if I treat employees more aggressively.
Better transparency would help. If employees could see company financials, it would solve a world of hurts. The information asymmetry is a lot of what leads to inefficient markets here.
Fortunately Amazons service oriented architecture should make this break up a breeze.
If the market supplied by Amazon was instead supplied by 10 smaller companies, the attack surface would be higher but the impact would be lower, right?
Feels like large corporations could be seen as a national security risk (and not just “guns and ammo” security but “economic stability” security)
Already are, governments have outsourced many functions to corporations. Ban on Huawei is an example.
The barrier to entry for retail is very low, and reflected in the low profit margins.
My point was that Amazon has many capable competitors.
I also don't agree with your list of competitors. Amazon is more like a mall, while almost uniformly the others you list are more like a retailer acting as a middle-man between wholesalers and the general public. I'd agree with Aliexpress and maybe Walmart.
It's just not a healthy market.
Competing against Amazon's scale is tough as it would be a huge challenge to be able to offer next day shipping for free anywhere in the US, but you can add value other places.
The barrier for that is not a Shopify page... that's not going to get you a fleet of Boeing 767s that shore up your nation-wide logistics chain able to deliver a 3 dollar dog toy 200 miles in less than 24 hours.
Even Walmart is struggling to compete with that, how can someone say that there's a low barrier of entry there with a straight face?
In fact you seem to be aware of this because literally the next line down you say... Competing against Amazon's scale is tough
This is just another typical HN contextomy. People need to learn read a comment in the context it's given, rather than going "well technically, if you just ignore the context given, it's actually this totally unrelated thing."
It gets exhausting having to constantly point out context that's literally right there.
I stand by my statement that the barrier to entry for retail has never been lower.
My comment refers to "the barrier to entry for competing with Amazon's retail unit" to which you reply "it IS very low".
Which is comical.
Now it's shifting to "the barrier to entry for retail has never been lower."
If you had said that we wouldn't be having this conversation, because newsflash:
> This is like the people in the 90s who were going "How can anyone compete with Wal-mart who has retail stores in every city and an incredible distribution network?"
It only took this little thing called the Internet taking off, a company that took decades to grow to the scale where they could compete with it along with their revenue from other business units like this little one called "AWS".
So yeah, if we're willing wait another couple of decades I'm sure the next Amazon would have an easier time now that they don't have to wait for the concept of Internet shopping to become mainstream.
Doesn't exactly address the original comment's point that the barriers to building something to compete with Amazon are very high though does it?
It's almost like trying to compete with Amazon's retail unit means somehow competing with a product riding on their revenue from all their other units, including AWS. The writing has been on the wall there though: https://www.businessinsider.com/amazons-cloud-is-funding-its...
It’s also not next day many times in my experience, and other companies online ordering experience and shipping times are comparable.
What’s not comparable is that Amazon doesn’t stand behind stuff purchased from their flea market of a store, whereas I can have more trust in the supply chain at pretty much any other retailer.
On the other hand, competing in the market is not easy.
Maybe that's what he meant?
The comment I replied claimed Amazon didn’t have competition, to which I wanted to point out that the retail side of Amazon has a ton of competition. And single digit profit margins are pretty hard proof of competition, and/or low barrier to entry. Because again, people have a goal of earning money, and the only reason they would accept single digit margins is if others would take their business.
1,user x disables account, fraudulent health products
2,user y enables account, ????
Seems like many major changes almost never require a user to justify them with a written explanation.
Because of course it's not problem for the company that owns and controls the marketplace to compete with most of the products in it. It's only a few bad apples.
That was sarcasm by the way.
There is a sane alternative and it's called distributed protocols.
- fake products
- fake reviews
- ad based search
- massive scale bribery scheme
Me: Hi. The box for this product contained a card that says "Amazon $20 gift card" and looks like a gift card, but the back says I have to give a 5 star review and send my order information to an outlook email address. Is this legitimate? Is it really a $20 Amazon gift card?
Amazon: Thank you so much for your information on this, I will certainly pass it along here so that we can check this promotion or offer directly with the seller
Because I am not seeing that advertised on the item at all
And would not be capable of confirming if that is a legit Amazon gift card because, I do not see that offer on the item
Me: So what should I do?
Amazon: My best suggestion would be to contact the seller directly for this through this link [redacted] So that you can confirm directly with them if this is legit or not
Certainly giving away gift cards for good reviews is not professional And I have to report the seller for that
Me: I thought this type of offer was forbidden by Amazon's own policies for sellers. But I will contact them using the link you sent to ask them if that's what you recommend.
So I contacted the seller through Amazon's closed system. This is what happened:
Me: I received your product and inside the box is a card that says "Amazon $20 gift card" and looks like a gift card, but the back says I have to give a 5 star review and send my order information to an outlook email address. Is this legitimate?
Seller: Thanks for your contact. Could you please follow the instruction and contact us on the email? Please be rest assured that we will fulfill our promise.
So, to summarize:
- Amazon has strict rules in place that forbid asking for 5 star reviews or paying for reviews (https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/help.html?itemID=18...)
- Amazon's own support people have a difficult time telling the difference between violations of this policy and legitimate promotions, and leave it up to customers to contact these sellers on their own to figure it out.
- The rule-breakers are all too willing to lie through their teeth, brazenly using Amazon's own communication system to do so.
- Nothing happened to the seller, they are still selling this equipment without penalty on Amazon and will continue to violate the rules knowing nothing will happen.
Amazon is completely broken.