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Amazon hires 427,000 people in 10 months (nytimes.com)
286 points by brian_herman 57 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 363 comments



Before the pandemic, my household purchased items online for delivery perhaps 1x per week. Now, it's 2-3x per day. Clothing, LPs, pearl milk tea, ...

This is a behavioral change that is playing out worldwide. I'd certainly expect people to head back into retail stores once the virus is spent, but they will also likely continue purchasing a higher portion of overall shopping online, simply because they've been forced to learn that for many, the experience is satisfactory. This is something they may not have previously realized.

What I wonder is, where is the labor shift happening? Warehouses need management, delivery needs drivers, live customer service is still valuable for handling corner case complaints & returns. Can cashiers and floor salespersons and store managers take those jobs? Even a town of, say, 25,000 needs drivers to deliver. How much of the brick-n-mortar workforce can be absorbed in this phase of Internet Automates Everything?


I'm finding I'm using Amazon less as more retailers go online and offer better prices. Rarely does Amazon have the best price anymore.

I find their delivery times dropping.. Last order, I ordered and paided more for same day rush.. that came by the end of the next day instead. They gave a $10 coupon but I literally picked the product based on it arriving that day and would have made a different purchasing choose if I knew it was coming tomorrow.


> Rarely does Amazon have the best price anymore.

If you ignore shipping, maybe sometimes.

But I still find that 99% of the time, for items on Amazon.com that are sold by Amazon.com, it's cheaper on Amazon because of free shipping, while most others site charge $7-10 shipping or have a minimum of $75-100 for free shipping.

And even if you don't have Prime, the minimum for free shipping is just $25, and you can pretty much always add in stuff that you need to buy soon anyways (shampoo, paper towels, whatever).

And delivery times usually has zero to do with Amazon, obviously, they're best in class. With the pandemic and all, UPS and USPS are obviously straining in general. It's not like Wal-Mart, Kohl's, or any other online stores are any better. Despite their advertising, everyone knows you shouldn't be expecting UPS/USPS packages to be reliably arriving on time since March.


Just an anecdote, but Home Depot has lost its collective mind over shipping. Twice now I've ordered a single pack of 2 light bulbs for about $3 and had it shipped to my door for free.

I think other stores see what's happening and are trying to crowd in. Best Buy, too, seems to have no trouble shipping me anything I want for free. It'll take a week, but most of the time I don't really care vs Amazon's 2-4 days. And with Best Buy/Home Depot/etc I at least know I'm not getting a knock off.


>I'm not getting a knock off.

That is what has done it for me. Amazon has zero control over their inventory. I've gotten burned too many times at this point. Amazon is now a last resort or obscure items only retailer for me. That or I use it to find an item then buy it from the manufacture direct, funny how that has reversed from the old days.

I've even gotten unrequested refunds from amazon with a note about how the product I got was counterfeit. That's great and all but I needed the actual product not a refund and waste of time. Once you reach a livable income your time is worth much,more than saving a couple of dollars.


What are you buying?

I've bought 1,000+ items from Amazon over the past 10 years and exactly one item was counterfeit -- a camera battery from a third-party seller.

Honestly, worrying about counterfeits on Amazon, for items sold either by Amazon.com or reputable storefronts like Pharmapacks, just seems silly, it's so incredibly rare and easy to get fixed immediately with a single quick phone call to Amazon. And for third-party storefronts you've never heard of, it's no different than doing the same on Walmart.com or eBay.


It's easy to get counterfeit clothing, I'll tell you that. I'm confident that's happened to me a few times.

For electronics products, some reviews go into excruciating details on what counterfeit v real products look like.

Then some products literally explain how to avoid counterfeit products, especially the smaller producers of goods with niche products.

Finally there are articles in the press about it.

eBay has less of this problem because it's set up to select sellers based on reviews. Amazon's stores are more obscure, and often don't have many reviews, or sometimes you get an item fulfilled from a third party without knowing about it. I'm not sure if that still happens though.


Tools, Household Chemicals type stuff, tech parts.

Yeah easy to refund but I spent 2 hrs insect treating my house now I have to do it again, not a pleasant task. Oh yeah now I have a roach infestation because the traps were fake. The effects are much farther reaching than you make it out to be.


Walmart lets you restrict search results to items shipped and sold by Walmart, whereas Amazon removed this option years ago.

Amazon removed it years ago because they do not want to be in the law margin retail business. They want to only be in the higher margin platform business. And that makes me not want to support Amazon.


Is it very obvious? Is it more pronounced in specific categories? I keep hearing this, and I've never gotten an obvious fake, despite a large amount of Amazon usage. But maybe I've just been using fake stuff?

That said, I almost only buy the "shipped from and sold by Amazon.com" stuff, so maybe that's why. And if it's something that has obviously similar photos from a bunch of different "brands", I hop over to AliExpress to buy it at the source for 1/10 the price.


I wonder if there are a lot of people who go with the lowest price, don't even look at reviews, and are fine with FBA so long as it's cheapest. I order quite a bit off Amazon and just haven't had the counterfeit problem AFAIK.


My main concern is the non obvious fakes. The memory card that looks right but is slower than it should be or fails earlier than expected. The rechargeable battery that catches on fire. That sort of thing.


Or even worse, the knockoff toy with swallowable magnets that results in your baby needing surgery to remove part of their intestines: https://www.workingmother.com/mom-is-warning-others-after-po...

From https://www.inc.com/jeff-bercovici/amazon-dangerous-kids-pro...


> Twice now I've ordered a single pack of 2 light bulbs for about $3 and had it shipped to my door for free.

I can't tell if you think this is excessively bad or excessively good? Seems reasonable to me - they're just a couple of bulbs?

> I don't really care vs Amazon's 2-4 days

Isn't the big thing about Amazon is that it's next-day shipping? I don't live anywhere near a major city and Amazon still manage to deliver to me in about ten hours now.


You can't package and ship a parcel for less than $3 so they are losing money on small sales like that. It's clearly a loss-leading effort to compete with other online retailers.

Amazon free shipping has been terrible here. Weeks, at best unless you pay for the express options. And yes Walmart is better. One of my recent online purchases (cell phone screen protector) was estimated at 3 weeks delivery on Amazon. I bought the same item from Walmart.com instead and had it in 2 or 3 days.


Amazon's free shipping routinely delivers items worth a few dollars in about ten to twelve hours for me, and I don't live anywhere near a major city. Are you in some extraordinarily remote location?


Small-ish town (~80K) Midwest USA


Are we guessing? Parma, Ohio?


His point is easily seen if you go to the post office/fecex and try to mail 2 bulbs for $3 and see how far you get.


That's retail rates. Depending on the size of the bulbs, you could likely ship them first class for around $1.5. packaging might be another $0.20 assuming the bulbs are already in stuff boxes.

But still, not much room for profit. And from my experience, a lot of big box sellers will just put it in a huge box and pay a much higher rate than necessary for shipping.


I think the GP is implying that Home Depot might have lost money on the sale because the delivery probably cost them more than they earned from selling the light bulbs.

For Home Depot, assuming it's not a mistake, that's probably an investment in persuading customers to look to them first and not shop around.


I stopped ordering light bulbs from Home Depot as they always arrived smashed, and I had to enter the store to return them.


It’s a lot harder to smash LEDs though.


These were Cree LEDs. $10 each at the time


> while most others site charge $7-10 shipping or have a minimum of $75-100 for free shipping.

Target and Walmart both have free shipping for orders over 25/35 depending on which items.

Our local Target also offers drive up service where they'll load items into your trunk for you, and you can combine orders so you pick up $30 worth of items same day and get a $5 item (not in store) shipped free since the total is $35.

2 day shipping and 5% off with Red Card makes it a pretty compelling competitor to Amazon. Especially with all the fake/potentially unsafe items on Amazon, I prefer to get food related items from Target if possible.


The other thing is that, for a cheap item, especially one I'm reordering, Amazon takes me literally about 30 seconds to order something. Will I do some comparison shopping for a $100 item? Sure. I do order from other online sources as well but it's probably easiest to have a default whether that's Amazon or someone else.

To the parent point, even with 2-day delivery, most of the things I order aren't stuff I need right now. And the reality is that, normally, they'd have gone on a list where they'd have rattled around before I got around to going to the store with a shopping list. But, now, generally minimizing or at least reducing store trips, has reinforced the notion that a lot of in-person errands are pretty unnecessary given online options.


Target is always underplayed here. In many cases, you can have product pulled in 20-30m.

I was on my way to a meeting in Manhattan last year and it was pouring rain. I ordered an umbrella from the highway just north of the city, and had it in hand within 15m.


They makes me sad because Manhattan used to be a place where you could get an umbrella on very street corner without the bother of ordering ahead or entering a store


When I lived there, I thought that they sprouted from the sidewalks like mushrooms when it rained... Magical & a bit eerie!


Same here, very depressing to see how extreme, fake liberal policies have destroyed the city. No more street vendors, everything boarded up, no high class people paying tax anymore.

We need new leadership in NYC to fix this up!!


My comment wasn’t complaining about the lack of umbrellas in NYC. It was pointing out the really cool capability of Target.

I had to show up onsite in Midtown with a few hours notice, and was able to roll off the highway somewhere in Rockland county and pick something up rather than look around.


Without Prime the free shipping averages something like 2-3 week delivery times. It’s not like years ago before they made Prime. I tried ditching Prime; it’s painful. I still try to prioritize Target, Best Buy, etc. because I like having the option of the physical stores and easier returns.


Amazon is making this a lot easier now, too, with Kohl’s acting as return hubs.

I’m able to just drop off the item without packaging or label or really anything except my name and other info like the order number. Couldn’t be much easier (if you have a Kohl’s close).

I’m sure for areas that don’t have Kohl’s, they’re working on figuring out how to make returns as easy as possible (relative to the b&m experience).


They also do this "just show up with the item" sort of return system with The UPS Store, which is probably closer to some people than Kohl's.

(Allegedly you can also return to an Amazon Locker. Never tried that)


Non-Prime shipping is 5-8 days, usually faster. I think you are conflating "non-Prime" with "not Fulfilled By Amazon" which has delays before shipping.


That's just not true.

It's usually between 3-8 days. I used it for years and have friends who still do.

The first couple months of COVID a lot of stuff was taking 2-3 weeks but that was often true even if you had Prime. Then they hired tons more people and it stopped. Maybe that's what you're talking about?


I'm sure it depends on where you are located and what you're buying. I routinely see the free shipping estimates at 2-3 weeks these days for some things, but other things have 2-3 day shipping still. The longer times have certainly become more common than before.


I have a low tolerance for being fucked with, and a long memory. I have received enough broken, misrepresented, obvious returns-sold-as-new, etc. from Amazon that I avoid them most of the time these days. The one thing I still buy there is what they started with: books. Because there are no local bookstores anymore.


Supply chains as they are now, I think the MSRP of a lot of retail goods is significantly below what demand would dictate. As a result, a lot of things are only available at an inflated price from resellers, and not ‘sold by Amazon.’

In these cases, I’m willing to backorder from other retailers (or the manufacturer) and wait for their slower shipping.


I totally agree. I actively try other sources and unless you end up ordere $75+ at a site you're not going to get free shipping most of the time, and certainly not 2 day shipping which is almost always "true" to being 2 days.


The low minimum is what makes Amazon work, plus the same day shipping. Assuming that I do not take work time off to go get something, Amazon will deliver something faster than I can go get it if I order it in the morning.


Amazon also has clear quality and counterfeiting issues. I now purchase durable goods from the retailer's website rather than through amazon. My recent amazon purchase history is mostly consumables like snack foods and rice. Clothing, electronics, cookware, and almost everything else valuable gets purchased from somewhere else. This is also because the experience of shopping on amazon is extremely frustrating - they keep trying to force lower quality products on me instead of the things I want. It feels more and more like a digital walmart with fake brand names, sketchy products, and even sketchier fake reviews.

For example, a search for "snow pants" turns up products by Arctix and Outdoor Ventures. Outdoor Ventures is presumably a knockoff of Outdoor Research, a reputable cold-weather clothing brand. Outdoor Ventures seller page says their actual company name is "FUJIANSHENG SHANGFEI ZHIYI YOUXIANGONGSI". And Arctix is presumably a knockoff of Arcteryx, and seems to be owned by a very small financial services company in NY.

I rarely feel like I'm being presented with accurate or meaningful information when I look for things on amazon.


Are those really counterfeit? I understand they're knockoffs, and it's a shitty practice, but Arctix / Arcteryx is not a hidden difference in name - especially if you're searching for "snow pants" rather than the brand you want explicitly.


These specific examples aren't counterfeit. But wirecutter had a good breakdown of the breadth of counterfeit products sold on amazon.

https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/blog/amazon-counterfeit-f...


Interesting, with the counterfeit problems the last things I would buy on Amazon are food items.


I find Amazon to usually have the best price, or quickly price match in case of sales. Even if higher, the I prefer the speed, convenience and reliability of Amazon. I know I get it quickly and any problems are sorted easily.

If it was that easy to beat them with just pricing then other retailers would've done it already. The only other company that gets close is Target which has vastly improved its online and digital experience.


Had the same experience here. Same day shipping has very limited availability here in Germany with a fairly limited inventory, most items are next day shipping. I ordered a product at 3AM with a huge text claiming "same day delivery when ordering within the next 5h". The order arrived at 8PM the next day, which was relatively annoying considering the same day arrival heavily influenced my purchasing decision.


I end up ordering from Amazon the things that Whole Foods, OfficeMax and BestBuy won't keep in stock. I moved recently, so we've been ordering 2-4x /week while getting the new place in order.

I buy locally what I can, but retail offerings are so anemic (even for, say, granola bars) that online options massively eclipse what stores carry.

I don't want to order from Amazon, but I don't want to get by with the meager brick-and-mortar offerings.

Another example: Recently I went to Best Buy to grab an HDMI-DisplayPort cable. They had it priced at $38. Amazon had it for $12. I'd have paid up to $20 for the retail stock surcharge, but that overage was obscene.


Cables have been this way for years for some reason, and it's not just Best Buy, it's the same here in the UK. Brick-and-mortar stores charge several times what you'd pay online.

edit I've heard they make more selling you a USB cable than selling you a printer.


Cables have been that way when I worked as a bestbuy black shirt 20 years ago


FYI, in the US, monoprice.com is usually the place to go online for cables, as long as you don't need them quickly.


A decade ago, I remember the experience from Monoprice being very fast. 1-2 days between ordering and having it delivered from Rancho Cucamonga to the Bay Area.

But earlier this month, I ordered something from them and it took 4 days to hand it off to some shipping company, 3 days for that company to deliver it to USPS, and another 2 days to get to my door.


Good if you need a lot of cables, if you just need one or two then amazon is still cheaper and you get it faster.


Cables is how best buy makes their money. They don't make anything on the TV you buy, its the 400% markup on the cable where the profit is.


People buy a TV. They need a cable. They comparison shopped and maybe bargained the hell out of the TV. They just buy the cable. I wrote an aticle about this ages ago: https://www.cnet.com/news/the-economics-of-cables/


> I'm finding I'm using Amazon less as more retailers go online and offer better prices. Rarely does Amazon have the best price anymore.

For me, I found this not to be true. I've been ordering gifts for people fleeing the company I work due to a merger and the changes, so there has been a lot. Literally everything I found on niche sites I found on Amazon for cheaper and at a faster delivery rate aswell.


Yeah, that's true. I also have send more things back, all the things they left in the rain or go back straight away.

Lately also more and more books are dented or damaged when they arrive so they get send back too. If I want a book that looks like second hand copies I would buy one of those.


The majority of my "next-day" and "2-day" orders have been late (often cancelled) for months.


Well, Amazon did say this would occur for non necessity items months ago because of the huge demand strain put on their system, which is exactly what this article is about.


Who cares? It's a competitive advantage they no longer have and less value for my expensive Prime subscription


Yep. This is a massive shift. My amazon order stats are:

2020 - 235

2019 - 107

2018 - 91

2017 - 112

2016 - 34

2015 - 39

2014 - 53

Note the two step jumps. I broke my arm at the start of 2017 for ref.

Edit: also to note I've had two (yes just two) issues with Amazon in that time and they just sent new items the next day without argument. Retail has been a shit show on that front for years. I remember standing in Argos arguing with the manager because the DVD player I bought had broken with one of my DVDs inside it and he wouldn't replace it until I'd got it out and I couldn't get it out because the thing had no release hole.


That's a lot of orders. It seems like many people are buying a lot of things and I'm just gobsmacked that you can come up with so many things to buy! I mean, I order groceries once a week online, but what are the _things_ that people buy? I buy things maybe three times a year in total (excluding things that are necessary for the household, like glue and leather oil).


Why would you exclude things necessary for the household? As a random datapoint, my most recent Amazon orders include cutting board oil, new bedsheets, winter tires, a couple of long sleeved shirts, a new cookbook, an ice scraper, a sewing machine and an air filter for my truck. That's all in the last month and all of those things are pretty basic things in my mind.


Other than the air filter, all of those things will last a person for years. I second GP's question. What exactly is everybody buying?


It's all over the map. 88 orders this year so far for one person. Some trivial things I'd probably have searched in the grocery store for normally, e.g. toothpicks. Though now I'm sort of "Why would I bother searching?" But also office gear. Stuff I'd have picked up at the pharmacy. Pandemic entertainment options. Etc.


I buy a number of personal products somewhat regularly. Things like deodorant, beard oil, toothbrush heads, etc. There are also things like pet treats and with one click it's pretty easy for people to purchase four or five things as they go through their day.


I have three children and a high throughout of some items. If you don’t have kids you will learn this one day.

This month: DisplayPort cable, blu tack, coffee, Mac mini, apple magic touchpad, blanket, 2 kindle books, laser toner, face masks, fleece, bulldog clips, replacement calculator for one that was stolen at school, 2 replacement lightning cables for family, cards against humanity, roller skates, two revision guides, glue sticks, thermometer, toilet paper, wallpaper repair kit, envelopes

A lot of this stuff would have traditionally come from retail outlets.

We can also do our grocery shopping via amazon here although that’s a shit show so I won’t be bothering with that until they’ve ironed out the kinks.


I have been wondering that. I've placed 12 orders this year and half of those were very cheap kindle books.


I have hated most in store retail experiences my entire life. The staff are low paid and hate their jobs. They are forced to create uncomfortable interactions with shoppers. The big box stores like Macy’s are often dirty and smell bad.

Aside from trying on clothes, I don’t know why anyone would shop in a store.


Now that low paid workers are away from eye sight


The's a lot driving this change. Shipping costs, shipping speed, selection, membership and retail's refusal to adapt to change. Ecommerce, and not just Amazon, has in many ways become a better experience. Will be interesting to see how retail adapts because at the core, selling something for more than you paid for it is really what business is.


Similar trend here -

2020 - 181

2019 - 124

2018 - 116

2017 - 93

2016 - 62


European here for perspective. During this time I've lived in four different countries, all without Amazon warehouses:

2020: 6

2019: 4

2018: 1

2017: 0

2016: 2

2015: 8

2014: 3

2013: 14

2012: 12

If I lived in US/UK/DE/IT or wherever they do have warehouses the numbers would probably look different.


Getting stuff shipped from Germany or the UK takes for even, and packages from amazon.co.uk frequently goes missing. Shipping cost are reasonable, given that it’s across borders, but you can get it cheaper by buying “locally”.

I’m down to just buying books on Amazon, because no one else really sells books anymore, at least not the books I want. For everything else there are better and cheaper local webshops.

Amazon is a mess, you can’t easily find what you want, filtering sucks and 25% of the stuff you want doesn’t ship to your country anyway. Oh, and they treat their warehouse staff terribly, so I minimize what I buy from Amazon.


I live in the UK.

2012: 19

2013: 28

2014: 61

2015: 27

2016: 41

2017: 64

2018: 22

2019: 2

2020: 0

There are alternatives. I'd rather use them.


Same here...

2012 - 1

2013 - 7

2014 - 109 (mostly free ebook)

2015 - 18

2016 - 76 (more disposable income + moved to a house)

2017 - 116

2018 - 214

2019 - 243

2020 - 212


> Before the pandemic, my household purchased items online for delivery perhaps 1x per week. Now, it's 2-3x per day. Clothing, LPs, pearl milk tea, ...

What are you ordering per day?

I'm happy knowing that I can survive not leaving the house if I need to by doing a single bulk online food shop once every two or three weeks. Then I might need the odd delivery for broken light bulbs and things I couldn't foresee. I also don't need a car at all as there's enough shops in walking distance and decent public transport.

I second the concerns about the carbon footprint of frequent orders. At the very least, people should try to do bulk orders and avoid buying stuff they don't need. Driving around 3 times a day to buy stuff shouldn't be the norm either.


How many trips to the store do these deliveries save? If I order something small it likely hitches a ride with my neighbors delivery and the delivery of the package itself will have negligible carbon footprint.


How much extra packaging are you introducing with many small orders vs bulk orders?

Food shops in the UK can deliver without any bags at all for example. A single bottle of something from Amazon for instance will likely come in a cardboard box with some kind of plastic bubble wrap.

And is it really true that the driver is going to have items to delivery to almost every block of houses every day? Not everyone is shopping from the same retailer either.


> And is it really true that the driver is going to have items to delivery to almost every block of houses every day? Not everyone is shopping from the same retailer either.

My apartment literally has Amazon drivers coming twice a day with a cart full of packages


Pandemic-style living with wife & 2 adult, self-sufficient daughters. All 3 of them working from home and shopping for entertainment & to battle boredom. Those items above are examples of what actually shows up at the front door. Groceries as well, either from Costco (usually a large order) or Whole Foods (for stuff they can't get at Costco). Sometimes baking HW (a new hobby for one of them). Sometimes, it's boyfriends that drop off Trader Joe's or In-n-Out...

None of us have set foot in a store since March.


From a climate change perspective, it just doesn't sound sustainable that everyone lives like this no matter how you do it. There's plenty of ways to learn, entertain, cook etc. that don't require weekly physical purchases. It's insane what you can do with just the internet compared to 20 years ago. You don't need fancy equipment and ingredients to get deep into bread baking either.

People shouldn't be discussing if it's better to do all these deliveries by car vs Amazon, but how we reduce excessive consumption and waste.


The convenience of online is too convenient. I'm not a "gotta have it now" person very often. I generally don't like the general public either, if I hang out with people it's someone I care about or have somehting in common with (meetups and such). I can generally wait a day or two, and will plan meals around amazon deliveries a couple of day in advance. I don't have a lot of fridge storage space so I'll order Amazon Fresh every couple of days for food. I get most of my household items the same way. I generally plan ahead well enough and "buy in bulk" so that emergency runs happen very seldomly. I love the freedom of ordering online, also it's a lot more efficient and environmentally friendly than driving to a brick and mortar store.


There should be less jobs in the switch; that's how automation is supposed to work, after all, increasing efficiency and whatnot.

The bigger question is whether the total number of jobs in the economy will stay high enough to not have permanent mass unemployment. My guess is, "yes it will, for now at least".


Most of these jobs are long term indeed going to be automated away. Order picking in a warehouse is still difficult enough that it involves some people but it's not hard to see how that could be reduced over time. Driving delivery vans is also an obvious candidate for getting automated away. However, short term this is just Amazon responding to increased demand because of Corona.

Mass unemployment would get accompanied by mass loss of disposable income, so that would actually be bad for Amazon. Automating the supply kind of automates away some of the demand.

The notion of bullshit jobs is basically about people doing busy work without actually doing or producing anything of real value. The industrial revolution produced a lot of that already. There's going to be more of it. Easy to predict, because there already is a lot of it.

IMHO the lockdown kind of revealed just how pointless some of our jobs really are. Masses of people suddenly worked from home and it did not really disrupt a lot of the supply chains or economy. Instead of being useless in some cubicle, people now got to be useless at home. Technically that should have been a huge productivity hit; except a lot of these people were never really that productive to begin with. The most important thing these people do in our economy is spending.


> The notion of bullshit jobs is basically about people doing busy work without actually doing or producing anything of real value.

I think this is real to a certain extent; think of it as bureaucratic 'cruft'. However, it's also hard to spot exactly which jobs are bullshit; if it was easy, you won't have this problem of dead weight positions in big companies. There are almost certainly jobs that look bullshit but aren't, and vice versa.


> Technically that should have been a huge productivity hit

....unless of course most of those jobs can be done effectively remotely.

If we'd instead had all the people now WFH not work at all the economy would look a bit different today, even if you'd kept sending them paychecks.


> and it did not really disrupt a lot of the supply chains or economy...

Your argument made sense up to this point, I agree we should have implemented WFH and Online classes years ago in order to lower traffic congestion and reduce our carbon footprint as inter-connectivity increased.

What I think you're missing is the critical flaw when we saw a massive hit in the Supply Chain, the Value systems within them responded in kind. I'd argue the Supply Chains remarkably broke down (specifically in food, gym equipment and toiletry). Distribution becomes an impossibility when demand far outweighs production and you have nothing to ship for weeks to months, or you have no one to harvest and it rots in fields.

> The most important thing these people do in our economy is spending.

Consumer based economies have this baked into the system, and is actually one of my gripes with this Crony-Capitalist system we've been operating under, but it has it's limitations: this year's black Friday which was a monumental failure by most economists metrics, but was actually a reversion to the mean wherein people have lost significant amounts of expendable income they spend this time of year (which is really debt driven) and overproduction was met with large price reductions that will likely remain. Target, one of the largest online retailers, had a month long 'black Friday' sale as did New Egg and these are the affects of supply forecasting done several quarters ago, perhaps some even from 2019. Unfortunately politicians make giving them bailouts a priority and the model never really seems to undergo the correction that needs to happen to reduce overall consumption to sustainable levels.

For someone who did Supply Chain and Logistics in the Auto Industry and is now returning back into it after a 4 year hiatus, its a Brave New World with immense challenges. Some things still remain, but it's definitely not the same animal at all.


> Mass unemployment would get accompanied by mass loss of disposable income, so that would actually be bad for Amazon

This is nonsense. You’re saying Amazon should keep paying wages so people can use those wages to shop at Amazon. When put that way you can see it makes no sense.

The only thing that matters is that as we increase productivity the benefits are relatively evenly shared. If a 4 or 3 day week becomes normal for everyone and we still output the same or even more, that’s great.


>You’re saying Amazon should keep paying wages so people can use those wages to shop at Amazon

This is exactly the idea behind UBI so the economy doesn't collapse under the pressure of millions of unemployed and unemployable.


UBI comes from taxes collected from across the state/country. It’s not a private industry thing.

There’s no way any company would pay wages to employees under the premise that it will keep their company afloat because they’ll spend the money they just gave them on their goods. Why not just not give them the money in the first place.


Jobs have constantly been automated away for 250 years of the Industrial Revolution.

We don't have to guess how it plays out.


I understand the attitude that this isn't a new phenomenon, but degrees can't be ignored. The labor force participation rate has been consistently falling for a long time (at least 20 years) in the USA (https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/labor-force-parti...). I'd argue that the data there still doesn't cover the full force of what's been going on: career positions have typically been replaced with a gig economy.

It's not hard to see that the scope of automation could increase in areas that would more drastically affect employment in the short to mid term than the other developments we've seen in the last 20 years. Either full long-haul automation or almost full automation with remote intervention could be a reality in the very near future, but almost certainly will be in 10 years. Call centers will be almost completely automated. Factories are automated to a much higher degree than they have been in the past. Every industry is solving problems with software that increase efficiency of workers (ie, fewer workers needed) and that trend is accelerating.

We can always say "this time isn't different". History tends to repeat itself. My point is: the trend is already there to see and the evidence suggests that it may accelerate very soon.


Sure you do. New technologies are new and do new things.

So far, there hasn't been problems with mass unemployment. But looking into the far future, when robots are advanced enough to do the basic labor of growing food, building homes, doctoring, shipping stuff around, etc. It's not super clear how much you'd really need human labor at that point, which could easily mean mass unemployment.

Of course, with the right societal design, mass unemployment could be a perfectly fine thing.


Dinosaurs lived for millions of years, till the moment they didn't.


Sweden (in the countryside):

Local smallish grocery stores have expanded their order-online-and-pickup-outside offerings massively. Also a lot of hiring of low skilled labor to do the picking. One of the nearby grocery stores I shop at even rented a chiller container as overflow for pickup storage over the spring/summer/autumn.

Edit: The reason these small stores have been able to do so: They are franchise stores in a chain a with a big enough national presence that's able to do software development. Or just owned outright by a large central outfit. They have some kind of centralized inventory management.


This simply doesn't scale. We have this happening to an extreme in the US because cities are spread out and people are already used to drive to get what they want (so roads are well-built for deliveries), but the more density you get the less this becomes practical (O(n^2)). Large cities everywhere else in the world perform distributions not point-to-point but point-to-hubs, where people are used to go out for a short walk to get what they want from their local grocery store, electronic store, restaurant, etc. I think we'll see more and more deliveries being made for semi-large items though.

Looking at my history, I made an average of 60 orders per year through Amazon while living in the US, an average of 4 orders while living in the UK, and an average of 5 orders while living in France.


Yeah, I'm really surprised by how dependent I've become on Amazon, a company I don't even really trust. The convenience can't be understated, especially as it's not really apparent until you start buying a lot from a site like Amazon.

I didn't realize I hate shopping in a physical store until I started using Amazon. You spend 99% of your time either wandering through aisles trying to find what you want (which they usually don't have) or waiting in the checkout line.

Neither of those things apply to online shopping. The biggest hassle when shopping online is having to login and navigate to dozens, if not hundreds of different websites, re-entering your personal info each time. But a site like Amazon is the Internet equivalent of a department store that has everything, so you only have to login once.

Even if Amazon's prices are the same as physical stores, or even a little more, the time I save not having to drive in traffic and waste walking around a store or standing in lines still makes it worthwhile.


You never even have to leave your chair, it's the future.


~450,000 employees over 300M people, equals about 37 employees over 25K people.

Plus 500K delivery drivers , it's another 37 employees.

So 74 employees. How many did work retail in that 25K town ?


I guess this is added global workforce, not US.


I'd imagine the vast majority of that was in the US, since while Amazon operates in many countries, in most it's only a pale shadow of the US juggernaut. For example, in Singapore it's nearly useless for anything except books, and even there local inventory is pretty sad.


Don't underestimate Europe, we have a population of about 500 Million people and Amazon is big here too.


Nowhere near as big as in the US though, and it's only active in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy[1]. They have a total of 341 million people. In 2019, Amazon employed 600 000 people in the US, and only 115 000 in Europe[2].

[1]: The Swedish site did just open, but it's rubbish. [2]: https://ir.aboutamazon.com/files/doc_financials/2020/ar/2019...


For what it's worth, I'm in Portugal and have ordered from several amazon sites. Mostly it's from the Spanish one which gives free shipping on orders of 29€.


Amazon is only in 7 countries in Europe. However, Amazon is in China and India. Both countries have a larger population than the US and EU combined.


Why are they in only 7 countries ?

Is it because they won't likely to sucseed ? Or is it just a matter of time until they expand to more countries ?


Because why setup a warehouse in Denmark when workers are half the price in Germany and shipping from Germany to Denmark is only marginally more expensive? I suspect the same is true for other countries like The Netherlands and Belgium.


They ship throughout Europe from those 7 countries but serve most, if not all, of Europe.


In fairness, not all the employees in a town work for one company, and Amazon isn't all there is now in that hypothetical town.


The point is that the retail service industry was a big source of "bullshit jobs" that America needs to a) keep wealth distribution reasonable^, and b) keep people believing that success is all about hard work and gumption&.

   ^ There are differing opinions on what is "reasonable".
   & It sometimes is, but is usually about circumstance.


javajosh, you seem to have a very strange model of the motives of managers in retail, a famously low-margin business.


450k employees globally, not just in the US.


Do you really need to buy things online 2-3x a day? With the planet getting heated like an oven, the least you could do would be to purchase things in bulk, so the transportation cost (to the environment not just to your pocket) is a little smaller.


Even before the pandemic I try to buy everything online, either through Amazon or another retailer. I really do not understand how brick and mortar retails stores stay in business. Just today I needed to buy some plumber's putty. I ordered it from my phone on Amazon in about 30 seconds, that's not even enough time to put my shoes on and get in the car if I were to go to the hardware store. Going to the store is such a gigantic waste of time I don't understand why anyone would do it unless they really need an item immediately.


I’ve honestly found online shopping to become increasingly anti-consumer. The absolute worst trend is what I would consider to be aggressive dynamic pricing, especially on Amazon.


Where specific items cost double on Amazon? Yeah, its better to shop around.

For me, Amazon has become very slow since the pandemic. I only shop on Amazon when I can't find it elsewhere


That's actually perfect, as you can game the system for non-immediate items.


I don't think you've been in stores much then. The entire experience is designed to be anti consumer and to trigger impulse purchases as much as possible.

Some would say this is the impact of late stage capitalism. There is no money left to be made on conventional purchases, but instead the profit is in trickery or deception.


I haven't ordered anything online all year. I'd rather support the local retailers in my town that have been suffering and on the brink of shutting down all year.


In Australia with COVID mostly eliminated we are still seeing numbers that would indicate a step change in the portion of retail happening online. The slow move towards online seems to have been accelerated by a few years.


> satisfactory

No just satisfactory, but retail stores also need to learn that if they want my business they need to have interesting, quality products.

My local hardware store only has Philips drywall screws. Guess what, Philips heads are shit, that's why I'll even wait 2 days to get Torx head screws from Amazon. Hardware store wants my business? Learn that Philips head is shit and get with the beat.

My local Asian grocery store has the shittiest brand of Thai tea leaves. I get good ones from Amazon. Local store wants my business? Taste the tea you sell, learn that it is shit, and have better tea on your shelves.


You underestimate how many people either like or are fine with shitty tea. My parents still drink folders coffee (yuck). I've never bought Folgers yet look at the store shelf, there are generally 2 or 3 shelves dedicated to only Folgers.

We are part of the ultra customized product generation or I think the marketing calls it the "Jeans" generation of shopping. It used to be levi's only. Now even old navy has at least a dozen various on cut let alone style.

Philips sucks but what sucks worse is mixing screw types in an already built product/house. People still need them.


Well, times are changing, an increasing number of people are NOT okay with shitty tea, people are discovering better things online, which is why they are losing business to online sellers like Amazon.


And how is the store supposed to carry 50 different brands of tea catered to the 5 bags that you buy once a month?

They are losing business because there is no route to competition on a local level.


They don't need to carry 50 different brands, they just need to carry a selection of a few good things. Just get rid of all the shit brands.

Trader Joe's has an excellent model that keeps me going there. A huge amount of their stuff is decent and interesting. Although I can't vouch for their tea they have plenty of stuff that is original and well-priced that you can't find online easily.


Tj's also targets wealthy clientele, not the average shopper. The difference in your cart between them in Walmart at the end of the day is huge. I too would rather shop at Joe's, but its likely both your and my income is significantly higher than most Americans simply because we are on HN. We are not a good measure on what stores should cater for.


OK. so now the retail store has to hold both Philips and Torx screws. Over the their whole store, they need to hold double the selection/inventory. All while keeping prices low.

They can't do that.


Switch to Torx only and they'll have my business instead of Amazon. They don't want to take the leap of faith? Too bad, I'm buying from Amazon or McMaster then because Philips is just shit and shouldn't exist anymore.

I'm not here to defend anyone, I'm just saying very matter-of-factly why I often don't use retail stores anymore, and what they can do to make me want to use them.


Interestingly my Amazon purchases have gone down. I'm down to 25 this year, from 116 in 2016. I can't really explain it beyond I got tired of (and maybe a little guilty for) buying so much junk online.


No doubt many of the merchants and businesses that are being put out of business and/or complaining about amazon are in fact buying from them for the same reasons others are.


I have decreased my online shopping. I am supporting local retailers who are having a tough time right now.


2-3 times per day? Until transports are carbon neutral, free shipping should be made illegal....


A delivery to ten houses from one delivery truck is less carbon than ten household cars driving to the store (10 roundtrips). Or more likely, 2-3 different stores per each household.

What you propose would reverse that and increase carbon.

Its also worth pointing out theyre moving to electric delivery vans


> What you propose would reverse that and increase carbon

You forget that by adding a price tag on delivery certain purchases wont be made. Also I would certainly batch my purchases instead of going three times a day to the retail store.


If I buy 3 things separately in a day from Amazon, usually I get one box. (It's only when the things are not all at the closest fulfillment center that there's multiple shipments).


Same, I'm pretty sure if the products are all available in the same warehouse they will get shipped in the same box for efficiency purposes. I don't think such a simple system efficiency would be overlooked by Amazon logistics engineers.


Before the pandemic i saw many people make multiple trips per day to different retail stores. This isn't new behavior for these people and disincentivizing their behavior is going to be difficult.


That's not my experience with Amazon here in the UK... Two separate orders ordered on the same day are arriving at different time slots


They were probably from two different warehouses.


But it's also an example of this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox


That would entirely depend on the distance to the store, and the assumption you'd always use a car.


> the assumption you'd always use a car.

which seems like a reasonable assumption for anyone

- living in a rural area - living only close to a city but not within - city parts with poor public transport connections

Also, the kind of product also heavily influences that. For more specialized products, people tend to be willing to drive longer distances, therefore making the carbon emissions worse. If the store doesn't carry the item but has to order it first, it also means you double the round trips. Overall, Amazon certainly has a massive environmental impact, including GHG emissions, but in terms of emissions, everyone going to the store by themselves wouldn't really be a better option I imagine.


Over in Germany, 77% of people live in cities. You don't need a car to do grocery shopping in a city in Germany, since public transport works well. In Switzerland, public transport is even better, so you might not need a car even if you don't live in a city.

I know that the US is very different - many cities are not necessarily pedestrian-friendly - but over here, the idea that it's more environmentally friendly to have stuff delivered to you is definitely false.


I live in Germany, in the city. If asked, I guess about 60% of people in my street still need a car. Why do you ask? Because public transport is slow and expensive in lots of instances. Even if you'd be able to cover 60% of your needs without a car, you'd still need a car for quite a lot of cases.

Public transport is certainly better than in some other countries, presumably better than in the US. But it still has to become a lot better the be an actual complete replacement for a car for the majority of people.


"needing a car" and "doing all your grocery shopping by car" are two different things though.

Yes, some people, especially with kids, might take the car when they need to buy lots of stuff, but when it's "oh I ran out of milk", people will probably just walk to the nearest store, or take a bike, etc.

I think the context here was that some people were ordering from Amazon multiple times per week or so and claiming that that was environmentally friendly which I find... doubtful.


> which seems like a reasonable assumption for anyone

Absolutely not. There's plenty of people who live without needing cars.


The gp itemised which sorts of people they were talking about


I disagree. They most certainly need cars, they just do it byproxy. While they certainly reduce their footprint by not having a personal car, they exist at the far end of a very carbon heavy chain that allows populations of our size to exist.


I do my shopping when I'm near the shops anyway. It's creating negligible extra emissions.


It's not like Amazon (or others) dispatch one truck with one item per order. They will batch these to save cost, and I have to imagine it's more carbon friendly than having an individual car from every household making trips, parking in parking lots, etc. etc.


I’m consistently surprised by how bad Amazon is at this. Admittedly this might be because I’m in NYC and there are multiple distribution centers but even when I specifically choose to have things bundled up and delivered at once on my “Prime Day” (or whatever they call it) they still deliver separately on different days.

Not the end of the world but it does annoy me. I’ve been doing a bunch of shopping at Target since the pandemic too, to balance out reliance on Amazon. They’re much better at delivering items together on the day they originally state.


Try ordering online from Walmart. You might order five items and get four packages in four days. Amazon used to be like this 15+ years ago.


Good point, let's also make driving yourself to the store illegal unless you hit a minimum item count while there.

Companies already have a natural incentive to batch orders, because doing so reduces their costs. I don't think you need to lean on them to do what they already want to do.


I have a better idea. Let’s make driving to the store a net positive for the environment, and then people can do it as much as they damn well please.


Considering the overall environmental impact of any personal vehicle on the street, regardless of power source, that seems like a close to impossible task.

Public transit seems like a promising solution, but only goes so far. With the strong automotive industry here in Germany, there is no incentive to get cars off the streets.


> Let’s make driving to the store a net positive for the environment.

Impossible. Even if the car is powered by renewable electricity, each trip to the store contributes to wear and tear on the vehicle, and the parts on the vehicle were almost certainly not produced with renewable energy but with polluting sources, and plus the industrial process producing them likely produces some toxic waste.


They meant by pricing the externalities. An emissions trading scheme can mean that carbon-emitting activities just displace each other. A carbon tax can mean that carbon-emitting activities can result in net reductions in emissions. Road user charges, taxes on vehicles bought, you get the picture.


I wish Amazon would offer some "green" packaging for items not needed immediately. Pool them and then send them out together, not in 5 different packages by 3 delivery companies.


They do offer that in the Amazon Day program - "Order throughout the week and select FREE Amazon Day Delivery to get all your items in fewer boxes on a single day"


I ordered some Christmas presents to be delivered to my parents' house yesterday and was amused to see that I could choose to have them delivered on my Amazon Day.

Seems like Amazon Day should be tied to an address, not an account, but I guess it's an edge-case not worth addressing.


Cool, may I ask in which country you live? Unfortunately it's not (yet) available here in Germany.


This seems to be available only in US unfortunately. https://techcrunch.com/2019/02/28/amazon-prime-members-can-c...


In addition to the other commenter's "Amazon Day Delivery" option, I often also have another option of "No rush delivery" which usually includes $1-$5 credit for digital items (ebooks, music, movies...) - https://imgur.com/a/XtmOmv3


Agreed. The amount of superfluous packaging is sickening. I dont need russian nesting dolls of packaging. Especially when most stuff is not even breakable or at least is not fragile.


Then sign up for a delivery day for items that you don't need right away. That's what I do. It's pretty simple.


Or... we could just tax carbon.


This is what everyone thinks is the only solution, the issue is that it will have different winners and losers than today. And some of the current winners that will be losers have immense political capital and are willing to spend it.


I don't think it's the only solution, but it's pretty much a necessary part of any comprehensive plan of attack. It's the best tool we have.

You're totally right that some current "winners" who benefit from the current state of affairs are fighting and will continue to fight it. That's the case of any major change worth making, though, I think.


So we just pay the losers a fee to go away.

If that means giving Exxon, BP, Shell ... a trillion dollars to just cap all their wells and F'off.... fine. Amortize it over 100 years and pay it down with the tax revenue from carbon.


Fine. As long as we also charge them damages for lying to the public about climate change for all these years.


Consumers willingly purchase and burn hydrocarbons. Joe average consumer is as culpable as some C-suite executive.

And the only viable alternative until very recently... nuclear... is endlessly disparaged as unsafe by 'save the earth' types. So as far as I'm concerned, the green movement is equally culpable on the lying front. Should we charge the Sierra Club luddites too?


what are the 1, 5, and 10 year effects on food prices for a carbon tax at a rate of your choosing?


They go up. Probably by a lot. I didn’t say the taxes would be fun.


Amazon is probably batching a lot of these orders into one delivery.


I'm really curious about this. I've noticed though time Amazon seem to be batching orders less often (This is in the UK, and merely anecdotal.)

I was recently looking at the courier's parcel tracking app, i was interested recently to see that my delivery was '120 stops away'. If this is typical, the marginal cost of delivering a parcel must be small in terms of miles driven and driver time. (Obviously this is highly contingent on population density).

Another good example of this is Royal Mail, where the cost of a marginal piece of post or small parcel must be tiny (since the postman is already delivering to 50%+ addresses every day).

It occurred to me that in some situations, it might actually be more efficient _not_ to batch. The complexity of attempting to batch at the warehouse must be very high, and take up quite a bit of warehouse space, and slow down dispatch significantly.

A related and relevant observations why are courier companies not a natural monopoly? If the marginal cost of delivery were high, a courier company with higher volumes would naturally make more profit, and so the market would push in the direction of fewer bigger couriers. This seems to suggest that the volume of parcels means that we're already in a situation where couriers are pretty efficient and marginal costs are low. It'd be interesting to know empirically how this works out.


> A related and relevant observations why are courier companies not a natural monopoly? If the marginal cost of delivery were high, a courier company with higher volumes would naturally make more profit, and so the market would push in the direction of fewer bigger couriers.

I think you are onto something, that the courier business enjoys huge advantage from economies of scale. However, I think that there is no actual monopoly, because the advantage of higher volume in last-mile delivery probably saturates fast enough that you can take it all at relatively low total levels of volume.

For example, if you have higher volumes, you can optimize courier routes so that they waste less time driving around. However, at some point fixed per-package overhead like parking getting in and out of the truck, walking up to front door, etc become so large that time spent actually moving between deliveries becomes smaller and smaller part of your time, and so optimizing it becomes less and less valuable. Then, the issue is how much volume you need to hit that level, and I think that the answer is "much less than monopoly level".


This is a fascinating comment

In particular -> It occurred to me that in some situations, it might actually be more efficient _not_ to batch. The complexity of attempting to batch at the warehouse must be very high, and take up quite a bit of warehouse space, and slow down dispatch significantly.


And once again the responses are about personal rights and freedoms while ignoring the good of society and the planet. This is exactly why developing countries tell first-world countries to shove their lofty and hypocritical demands for others to reduce their carbon footprint.

If first-world countries and their citizens can't be bothered to reduce their consumption and behavior, why should developing nations?

Especially the comments about "batching orders" somehow having an impact is just ludicrous. Aren't we in a thread about a company forced to hire more people because of the amount of orders coming in, forcing more deliveries? How does it not click in your brains that more orders = more boxes = more resource consumption = more drives = more weight = more fuel consumption = more carbon?


It's way more carbon efficient than driving to three different stores in a day yourself.


But far less carbon-efficient than just not buying so much unnecessary crap in the first place.


Moralizing hasn't solved the obesity crisis, so I don't think it will solve the climate crisis either.


Using cars too I'd guess then?


Cars are not free, one of the biggest household budget posts.


what's a budget post? I don't think I've ever heard that term before.


They do a lot of work to combine multiple orders placed within short windows (motivated by cost savings, rather than carbon savings, but the effect is the same)...


I live in Massachusetts and I have been boycotting Amazon for over a year now. Fact is, I just don't need to buy that much shit. I can go to microcenter for needed electronics, and otherwise grocery / hardware stores have what I need.


After reading articles and anecdotes about the way Amazon treats its employees - warehouse and office - I tried to stop giving my business to Amazon. It is hard. Amazon offers a much better customer experience. Trying to place an order at Best Buy or Staples or others, I often encounter random website issues or distribution issues (bad packaging, out of stock despite showing available) that I never had with Amazon. So it costs me more time. Amazon is also cheaper where I live but I'm willing to spend a little bit extra on the alternatives.

What scares me is that Amazon is getting so big that there will be a future where some products will only be online and only on Amazon. It will be too expensive for local retailers to carry them. Amazon will control distribution and supply. That is not a future I want so I put up with the inconveniences of not support Amazon, even if I am tilting at windmills like Don Quixote.


Before worrying that Amazon will take over the world, it’s useful to remember that roughly 50% of the S&P 500 will be replaced over the next 10 years. There’s never been a company that has climbed to the top, and stayed there forever.

You’re effectively worrying that “this time is different,” which isn’t a good thing to worry about when it comes to humans.

The issues with Amazon’s treatment of labor can’t be solved by a few wealthy consumers like yourself deciding out of guilt to not shop at the place with the cheapest prices and best customer experience.

Workers all over the US are treated exactly the same way, but we don’t shed a tear for them because they don’t work under a big brand with tons of media attention.

Killing Amazon won’t solve the fundamental issues with the US’s lack of worker protections. We should spend our efforts working to fix that, not on conducting economically irrational behavior out of a sense of guilt from some news story we heard. Most people won’t be able to do the same.


"This time is different" happened in 2008 when instead of letting inefficient behemoths crash and burn, they were bailed out. And before that, it happened around 2001, when Microsoft got away with a slap in the wrist after the Netscape thing. The big players of 2020 are entrenched much deeper and are much more in bed with the regulators, so it will take longer to level off.

I am also suspecting that the level-off will happen one layer higher. I.e. the economic relevance of the current incumbents within the US economy will not drop, but the global relevance of the US will. For a perspective, you can look at the German economy that is dominated by companies founded 100+ years ago.


very, very true

This: am also suspecting that the level-off will happen one layer higher. I.e. the economic relevance of the current incumbents within the US economy will not drop, but the global relevance of the US will. For a perspective, you can look at the German economy that is dominated by companies founded 100+ years ago.

Because US government is getting in bed with Amazon, Google, Facebook

it is causing a double effect

A) They are letting them keep growing their monopolies in return for surveillance of Americans and non Americans

Which makes them stronger

B) US innovation is slowing down

For Example: Now most of US technology is around showing ads, surveillance, and basically treating people like stupid ATMs

They might be able to make it work for another 10 to 30 years, and then there will be big breakdowns

A good example is what is happening to Amazon in countries like China and India


Replacing one set of abusive tax-shirking anticompetitive monopolies with another isn't progress.


> We should spend our efforts working to fix that

How?


Donate time and money to groups championing a few common sense things the majority of the US supports--and the rest of the world already has. Ie. mandatory paid sick leave, mandatory overtime pay, paid maternity leave, socialized disability pay, higher minimum wage floors, etc. Hell, even support for single payer healthcare hovers between 55-60% depending on the poll. These are all likely to happen within the next 10-30 years.

And you might think, but that's impossible in our current climate! This time is different! But looking at it historically, the US changes course and its public opinion shifts dramatically all the time. All it takes is a few viral news stories and some hit TV Shows and we (as a group) change our opinion.

When public opinion changes, policy changes follow (with a 10-20 year lag or so) since the US is a democracy. Think Marijuana legalization, Gay marriage legalization, etc. etc.

If you don't like interacting with the law making political machine, you can try to help influence the public opinion side. Create media, PR campaigns, etc. There's tons of things you can do instead of spending time/money to avoid Amazon. They are doing nothing wrong based on the rules of the game we set up for them.


I have nothing I can possibly add to your excellent comment, but I just wanted to say your attitude is a refreshing viewpoint in contrast to all the doom and gloom you read about in newsrooms around the world (I'm sure it sells a ton of copies though! That's good for the economy, right?)

I aspire to have your optimism. :)


> the US changes course and its public opinion shifts dramatically all the time

And if you want a more recent example of this, look at gay marriage!


> It will be too expensive for local retailers to carry them.

How is this any different than any other company being put out of business because someone does it better cheaper or faster?

Would you have said the same about automobiles putting out of work people who work in and around horses and replacing them en masse?

Candle makers when oil came out?

Oil lamp makers when electricity csme out?

> about the way Amazon treats its employees - warehouse and office

You have no data on how others treat their workers vs. Amazon. Amazon is almost certainly way better than a local smaller type company paying less less benefits and so on. They have modern warehouses not the crap that is typically out there. I have worked in my earlier years in one of those. Nobody is forced to work at Amazon it's not the military where you are drafted. And you will always have a small amount of people saying they are driven to hard and outlier situations (bosses and supervisors). Nothing is perfect. Small about of people dissatisfied creates a large amount of noise.

> Amazon will control distribution and supply.

Ok so this happens and then if they get 'to big for their britches' it opens up for others to nip away at what they do (craigslist as an example maybe?).

> That is not a future I want so I put up with the inconveniences of not support Amazon

Your choice of course. I don't think of buying from Amazon as me 'supporting' them. I think of it as being able to get what I need for a reasonable price and very convenient. There are things I can order that I can have later in the afternoon and no hassle returns. Very generally I mean sometimes things are wrong but generally as we all know and judging by the business they are getting they did build a better mousetrap.

Guess what? I know they will raise pricing and I don't even care. I often pay them more just for the security of the ordering and convenience and certainty. Not everything is price price price.


This is already happening for some products, especially small hardware manufacturers I think. For example, I live in Switzerland and wanted to order a product from vanamco.com and since they let Amazon handle all the logistics, this is what they replied:

"Thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately, we are not able to ship to Switzerland from our EU Amazon warehouse. [...]"

The most incredible thing is that this is a company based in Switzerland...


Before the pandemic, I never thought twice about ordering from Amazon. However, shipping now takes 2-3x as long. It's faster to order from most any other website.

After learning about how they treat their workers (including tech workers) I try to avoid ordering from Amazon as well.


ebay is great, but you have to watch out for people selling on ebay why are just arbitraging from amazon


Add in that no one can build an ecommerce website without strong web services its almost impossible for another ecommerce company to come in compete with them. Amazon is a monopoly.


The U.S. Private Sector Job Quality Index (JQI) https://www.jobqualityindex.com/

The long term trend is down. Data suggests that mid-level jobs are disappearing. They will be replaced with small number of very well paying jobs, but mostly by lower paying jobs.


This is what Cal Newport says in his book "Deep Work". I think this is correct. His book scared me to my core. I do not want to be left behind and fall even more behind overtime. Which is how it has been for my parents.

This fear is what drove me to really change how I work. I do deep work on tasks for stretches of time and I've been doing a lot of personal automation.


can you expand on that last sentence?


Do other countries track this metric as well? I'd be curious to study worldwide trends in the quality of work and study the efficacy of policy in trying to reverse this trend.

I'm of the opinion that the future of work is focused on knowledge and creativity, but my worry is that that will leave out a big swath of people. Is Truck Driving an occupation that people want to do, or would freeing up people to do other things be a greater goal? Truck driving is a hazardous occupation, but it also provides opportunity for people that otherwise may have limited opportunity. There will surely be a transition period, but how can we create a large number of opportunities to ensure people are prepared for an economy with more robotics and automation? Maybe space ship building will employ a vast number of people, maybe indoor farming will provide new opportunities in an urban setting and maybe there will be new opportunities with implementing new forms of energy and transportation. I certainly think if you take a long term view the world it has trended towards solving many problems over the course of centuries, but we do need to factor the human element in or there will be another Luddite movement.


Wage share (labor share is the part of national income) have been decreasing in all OECD countries since 70s.

It's related to capital deepening and capital intensity. Capital as a factor of production is increasing and labour decreasing.

If you have both declining wage share and increasing inequality, it's good assumption to make that this is happening everywhere.


While I fully agree that job "quality" is crucial and getting worse in many societies, the methodology of that website is pretty bad.

They are focusing exclusively on salary and even counting hours per week as a positive thing (!!!).


Amazon is like a plantation owner for small and medium sized businesses. When you sell anything on Amazon, you have no way to build a brand as Amazon not only takes ownership of your customer, but they also forbid you from directly advertising to them. It can all be taken away in an instant and by withholding your money for 90 days+ (which is what happens when they take your account away), it can bankrupt a small business because they don't have the funds to pay staff or run their company.

I had an Amazon seller account and they banned me 12 years ago over one disgruntled customer that I believe was just a competitor (I had 100% feedback from hundreds of customers before this) trying to shut me down.

I've been banned for life. I not only can't sign up with a new seller account, but if my name is associated with any other seller account, it gets banned for life as well. I've tried to contact support over the years and it just goes into a black hole and I get automated responses with no help or no response at all.

This needs to be part of a broader conversation: Do we really want to give big companies like Amazon this much control over what we can do online?


Can't you open a normal online store that doesn't rely on Amazon? You could try shopify, or etsy, or sell on eBay? Or make your own?

Otherwise I feel it's a chicken and egg. It's like saying we need Amazon or a similar big known marketplace so that customers can find you and buy from you, but at the same time, we don't like the concentration of power it brings.

So if nobody tries to open an online store on their own anymore, what then?


You can, but the fact that other large companies (like MonoPrice, and even newegg) sell alot of things on Amazon as well shows just much market Amazon controls.

One should likely have both, their own store, and an amazon store


I never go to Amazon to buy monoprice items. I go to monoprice and get guaranteed quality control over the items I will receive. If your products are compelling and your customer support is good I would prefer your own site vs going to Amazon.


I agree 100%, and often use NewEgg and Monoprice for specific needs, but there's a huge swath of stuff where I check Amazon first just because they're always competitively priced and ubiquitous. Recently, there was an appliance accessory I needed that was only available from Amazon. Their position as the first place to buy online is crazy.


While you dont, and I dont either we are not the only customers of Monoprice, and it seems monoprice gets enough sales from Amazon to justify having a store on that

The fact that we do not shop at Amzn for those items do not really change the reality of ecommerce in 2020


I've had to go to amazon several times to buy monoprice products since their website was just broken on multiple different occasions in the last year.


Platform traffic and discoverability. ECom volume lives or dies by traffic and Amazon has the bulk of it in Western markets. This is only going up as people take their product search directly to eCom vs. generic search (this BTW is also why Baidu began losing market power vs. Ali in China and Ali has also been a lot more innovative than Amazon in terms of attracting content creators on site)


Amazon's ads are 10x cheaper than Google/FB etc ads, that's why many brands remain amazon-only - they can't afford to advertise outside of it with their narrow margins.


Sounds awful, my recommendation is to find a connection who can put you in touch with someone at Amazon.

My experience with these huge companies is you can either get stuck in Algo Hell where you either get automated responses or are redirected to people who can't help you.

Or try to get your story to the top of HN, that seems to work with Google


> find a connection who can put you in touch with someone at Amazon.

I was at Audible for many years, and at least within that section of Amazon this would have been very sound advice.

If any complex legal procedures, economic regulations, or necessary international standards must be followed to sell your product, there is a strong chance that Amazon's policies are being handled by a single GM/PM type who can directly handle the internal tooling necessary to remedy the ongoing issue.


If you're in the US, could you contact your representative about your experience? The government is starting the wake up to abuses like this and you might find a receptive audience.

At the very least, Amazon might suddenly talk to you or reverse their decision to ban you with a Congress person breathing down their neck.


I’ve been saying for a while that a serious class action lawsuit, government intervention, or both, is needed in order to curtail these practices.

Amazon, Google and Facebook have laid a path of destruction far and wide through this practice of lifetime bans.

Today these bans mean being excluded from the online business world (achieving scale is almost impossible without them).


Isn't this how its always worked?

If you're a farmer selling to a grocery chain, they have all the power in how your product is sold and marketed. If they feel your product is subpar, whether rightly or wrongly, and drop you, you have essentially zero recourse.


The problem is no given retailer has the sort of market power Amazon does. There are at least a dozen grocery reatailers in my smallish city, and dozens nationwide. In fact, merging grocery store chains are frequently forced to divest of stores in order to ensure communities have multiple options.


There are some who came close, though Amazon is in a league of its own. Sears Roebuck, in its day, aalong with Montgomery Wards (which long had a bad reputation with both sellers and customers), K-Mart, Walmart, and before them the railroads and AT&T.

There are a few grocery chains with national reach (and they've been further consolidating), but none controls major markets (rural regions are often another story).

Amazon is World - China.


Amazon, like Uber and all the other companies criticized here gives me exactly what I want: a trouble free shopping experience without getting ripped off. No one else wants to enter the arena. No one wants to even come close. If there were viable alternatives, I would use them.

I live in NYC where Walmart is banned so we're left with the Mom-and-Pop stores + the permitted national retailers like Walgreens and CVS both of which charge multiples over products available on Amazon. We're talking like 300% more for items like toothpaste and other toiletries. And in-store experiences that flat-out suck. Everyone knows this and that's why practically no one cares about Amazon's bad PR or their questionable HR practices behind the scenes. In one ear and out the other.

Execution and customer service is everything and right now and Amazon's execution for customers has been amazing for a long time now. This isn't like a 37Signals space where you can one-down the competition. You one-up or go bust. I can't sympathize with your situation without more details being shared. Whatever your response was to that case must not have been up to Amazon's standards. It seems unlikely they would randomly pick on revenue generating sellers without cause.


Can't you create an LLC and obfuscate your name that way?


> I've been banned for life.

Why would you even consider associating with them again? Ban them for life as well and do your business somewhere else.


Ummm can’t help but feel like your comment started off a little tone deaf? Yikes.

dvt 56 days ago [flagged]

I only post this because you seem to have a history of low-effort comments like these. Please take this kind of clap-back nonsense to reddit, as it's not appropriate here on HN.

The ethos of the GP was obvious, not to mention that many plantations were not slave plantations, but rather sharecropper plantations (which is most likely what GP means). So even looking at the metaphor from a historical context, there's no "yikes" to be had. Maybe instead of polluting one of the few remaining decent communities on the internet, your time would be better spent reading a history book or two.


I'm only posting this because I've seen this type of response to responses many times. While it's good to encourage higher standards of communication and thoughtful response, there's no need to slam a different community and think people on HN are somehow better.


dvt made no claims about the people on HN being better than those on reddit. Simply that Reddit's community standards lead to it being a lower quality place for holding discussions compared to here. I find that point to be so obviously true I don't know what else there is to say.


Reddit is home to both trashy discussions and also excellently broad and deep discussions, both due the large audience it intentionally cultivates. But anyway, it's not relevant. Here is here and justifying rules by comparing to Reddit is unhelpful.


Reddit hasn't been a home to deep discussion for 2+ years now. Every community is an echochamber, any dissenting views are downvoted to death simply for disagreeing with the hivemind. If someone compared HN to Tiktok, you'd laugh. But reddit is closer to tiktok than it is to HN in terms of signal to noise ratio.

HN is one of the last communities where I can see someone post a contrarian opinion and have an actual discussion about that opinion instead of it vanishing from downvotes. I don't ever want HN to become like reddit, and in that context calling out reddit specifically makes sense.

The sad thing is HN is slowly trending towards being like reddit as the community grows. I see more and more instances of people using downvote as an 'I disagree' button or posting low-effort comments. To that end, yeah, I think the community should do what it can to call those behaviours out.


I have seem quite a bit of echo chamber on HN as well, it's not limited to reddit. For instance your post is getting more gray because people here don't like an opinion like yours that is strong but not necessarily in line with "community standards" aka "echo chamber resonance". almost all online platforms have become echo chambers on anything that is just pure technology or science articles.


I've been an Amazon fan for a while. When the first lockdown started here in the UK, it was anarchy in the retail world. I needed a few bits after the first month: household MCBs (fuses) after some power issues and a new mechanism for our toilet. All 4 of the national DIY retailers were unable to handle online orders. Some simply removed the Pay button. No note explaining they were closed, you could browser and make a basket, register, put in card details. You just couldn't find the Buy button.

They continued to sell "essentials" like wallpaper and flowering plants once they opened. But they wouldn't sell other items like the ones I needed. If it wasn't for amazon, I'd have literally been sitting in the dark, filling the cistern with a bucket.

That's amazon's killer app: basic competence and taking some vague interest in customers needs rather than profit margin and half arsing everything and being allergic to basic tech and customer experience.


the other suppliers will catch up eventually


It's been 20 years since I started using the Internet. How much longer before major national brands start using it?


maybe. but his not talking about eventually. Amazon delivered when the world needed them the most.


I’m not sure if this widespread but Amazon is the only place I can order from and get the package at my door in a high rise building. And right now every time I think there’s a slight chance of me getting other people sick I order my basics through them (including Whole Foods). This morning it was toilet paper, sparkling water and a replacement for my headphones I can’t hear out of anymore.


That's odd. At the beginning of the pandemic Amazon was definitely the least cooperative with our building's requests to deliver to the door instead of just dumping everything in the lobby.


On the contrary, Amazon are the only ones that are completely unable to deliver to me if I'm not at home whenever they come.


I’d rather have thousands of small businesses continue to exist instead of Amazon hiring 400k people. Apparently that’s an uncommon position these days.


It's common enough when people are speaking with their words, and less common when speaking with their wallets.


Individual effort isn't going to break up a company Amazon's size.


Of course not. To consumers, Amazon provides an excellent service.

(This is the point where everyone always kramers in with their personal beefs with Amazon)

Like many others, I use Amazon because it's extremely useful, overall it's simply a better experience than shopping at other places. I have nothing against small businesses, but when I shop, I don't treat businesses like charities. If small businesses want my money, they have to actually present a better service. If they can't do that, it doesn't overly bother me that they go away.


> To consumers, Amazon provides an excellent service.

I'd rather say, like Starbucks, Amazon provides a consistent and adequate service.

Small businesses might provide a better service or worse service, but consumers can't easily know which in advance - so large conglomerates present less risk and less cognitive load. Amazon is the obvious choice, more than it is the best choice.

Presenting a better service is not enough, for a small business to survive against a monopolist. It's one of the monopoly advantages that Amazon has.


I'm surprised you're being downvoted for this.

I've consciously tried using Google Shopping to get around Amazon (an company with obnoxious employees IMO), but the experience is so much worse - no unified shipping, issues with returns, lack of trust... It's just not sustainable.


amazon doesn’t seem to be a monopoly.

walmart is bigger than amazon.

amazon’s share of retail in the US is around just 5%.

maybe i missed something...


you missed something, apart from giving intentionally misleading and old figures, and yet within that you're still able to identify Amazon's market share as a percentage of all retail as an industry? ok.


nothing misleading about my comment.

it’s not all retail. it’s retail minus auto sales, travel etc etc basically anything that amazon doesn’t sell.

they have 5% of that pie.

offer a rebuttal if you can instead of attacking the commentator personally next time you leave a reply on this website.

i was actually curios as to why you considered it a monopoly when in fact the numbers are against you.


Because your comment was so wrong it's hard to know where to start, it seemed like trolling. Here you go:

1. Monopoly (in law and in practice) is not just defined by what percentage of the pie they have; it's also about what power they have and what non-competitive behaviours they can and do engage in.

Claiming that Amazon is not a monopoly based on the technicality that they don't have 100% of all retail is an irrelevant claim.

2. It's possible to estimate Amazon's "addressable retail" in 2019 as a whole number percentage - that is already huge. There are few companies with that percentage in much smaller sectors.

3. You put it in competition with Bricks and Mortar stores in order to get to this figure, which makes your figure artificially low.

4. I understood your figures were from a 2019 estimate, although they were unsourced. Amazon revenue has been growing exponentially. There's now a pandemic on. Year-on-year sales have increased something like 50%.


Being a known quantity is an advantage, to be sure. But there are downsides to size, too; that's part of why every restaurant isn't a chain.

And as restaurants show, you can win off of a better service/product compared to a big company.

But do these small businesses people champion offer a superior service? Because mostly people just seem to urge you to buy from them for moral/ethical reasons, not because they're better.


I've seen starbucks branches that are dirty. I don't think I have been a dirty independent coffeeshop.


McMaster-Carr provides a better service than Amazon does for what they do. It’s not the cheapest, but the experience is insanely good, and they’re even faster than Amazon. 3000 employees vs over 1 million.


That's exactly the point I bring up in discussions with friends. Amazon provides almost everything in one store - so I don't have to buy at half a dozen shops - combined with great customer service. I can even buy used books from many sellers via Amazon. That doesn't mean that I don't want to support regular shops but as a customer Amazon is just the most convenient option.

Example: a local book chain sells me a book for 10% more money and takes 4 weeks to order it - Amazon sells it cheaper and it's delivered 2 days later.


I started ordering from Amazon marketplace companies directly.

It feels better and yet its the exact same company.


I would nominally agree with this logic, but surely the exact same applies when voting? Should people not bother voting because they are just one in a sea of many?


In the United States I would say it depends where you live. I'm a Democrat in a forever-red state. My vote for President will never matter as long as the Electoral College is there.

I still vote for state-wide and local matters and that is where my vote really does count.


Millions of people don’t vote for exactly that reason.


I'd argue that modern megacorporations have become sufficiently adept at morphing around state interventions, that coordinated grassroots movements might be the only means of mitigating their influence.


My wallet buys beef, goat cheese, and vegetables from my neighbors. I am blessed to live where this is possible.


Customers (like competitors) are the victims of monopolies, not the perpetrator. The only perpetrator is the monopolistic company itself, and the only solution is government action.


Amazon didn’t get how they are today without the help of consumers. It’s not like they started out as a monopoly


Name a single product or service that Amazon has a monopoly on.


I wasn’t saying they do or don’t have one... just that they didn’t get as big as they are today without the actual consumers. My wording could’ve been better.


I dunno about a monopoly, but they arguably have market power for online retail since IIRC they have 50% market share.


Kindle books



Walmart.com, Target.com

So not a monopoly.

Edit:

Walgreens.com, Costco.com, Honest.com

All 5 of those popped up on Google/DuckDuck before anything from Amazon.


That's absolutely true. It's just also a very narrow lense to look at the situation. I've worked retail and it honestly sucks for everyone involved. The customers can't make informed choices or even get an unbiased direction from sales people. It's a market designed to work with as little information or agency as possible.

People have a limited appetite for friction when they shop too. An ideal store with a better return policy and selection seems to look a lot like Amazon. I'm not saying that it's good for us to invest all of our shopping into one business. It's just what unregulated capitalism breeds over time.


The problem with this logic is that if you dont create such monopoly someone else definitely will.

Companies like Amazon are of national interest and cannot be easily regulated by governments.

My proposal is to have a "social responsibility tax". That does not have to be necessarily be a financial thing.

Companies like amazon should provide adequate housing and other perks where they can utilize economies of scale.


Why does it need a special tax? Just use regular ass taxes, raise them if they're not high enough.

> Companies like amazon should provide adequate housing and other perks where they can utilize economies of scale.

Sorry, but this is ridiculous. Why twist Amazon's arm into providing random social benefits, when you can just, y'know, have the government do it? Because that kind of thing is their job?

Imagine if you were like, "hmm, we don't seem to have enough public parks and libraries...I know! We'll force huge private corporations to provide them! I can't wait to go to Jeff Bezos Park, sponsored by Prime Video!" Would that really be an improvement over the local government doing it?


I am from a former communist country and I have yet to see a competent government that used taxes efficiently and was not like "it's never enough".

The problem is lack of accountability, corruption, nepotism and lack of vision (shortterm thinking).

It's easier for Amazon to find a way how to construct more efficiently housing that's adequate even for lower classes.

The government just need to set a quality standard for that housing.


Yes, if anything needs fixing, it's governments. Because they are the ones who should fix large corporations. Not their employees or their customers.


The nordic countries seem to do well enough. And for social housing, Vienna seems to be a good example.


Unironically, I legitimately expect Amazon would provide better social services than the government. Having dealt with a lifetime of various governmental entities, I struggle to think of a time I was actually satisfied and impressed with how they handled whatever, unlike Amazon, who continuously impresses me and quickly fixes mistakes.


Speed is one of the selling points of dictatorship.

Companies (except worker-owned cooperatives) are hierarchical and completely undemocratic, by design.

They are also focused exclusively on maximizing profit, not providing social services.

Replace democratic institutions with billionaire-owned companies and we just reinvented feudalism.


And when they do it badly, you can vote the CEO out. How democratic.


> if you dont create such monopoly someone else definitely will

Indeed, unless the government stops them.

If you don't murder your neighbors and seize all their assets someone will do that as well, unless the government stops it.

Your point is less salient than it appears at first glance. It's not actually controversial that without government intervention people acting in their own narrow self interest will destroy society.


> It's not actually controversial that without government intervention people acting in their own narrow self interest will destroy functional society.

Are you not being overly pessimistic of human nature? Even in places and times of extreme lawlessness, generally society continues to function without everyone being murdered. Or perhaps you were being hyperbolic?

granted I'd personally rather not be living in such a time or place.


> Even in places and times of extreme lawlessness, generally society continues to function without everyone being murdered.

Typically in a generally lawless environment the prevailing means of social organization is what you call a mafia or warlord state, where small scale tribal sized areas become semi-stable anchored around a strongman type figure who maintains a monopoly on the use of violence.

In those situations survival exists at the discretion of the local warlord, who informally settles disputes and extracts whatever reasources they see fit, distributing the spoils to the militia members that keep them able to maintain their monopoly on violence.

This is easily recognizable as the default state for most of human history, and the state that society returns to when ungoverned. Examples include Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, various narco-states, and so on.

While functional, one very noticeable attribute is that it's not a pleasant way to live for everyone except those who win all the resources. Sound familiar?


I would recommend studying up on some history. The current generally prevailing peace is not the default state of human nature. Indeed the good thing we have going right now is a very notable exception to the normal order of things: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/03/pinker-explai... (and there's no guarantee it will continue indefinitely).


> "Even in places and times of extreme lawlessness, generally society continues to function without everyone being murdered."

Remind me, how many people are declining to wear masks and ignoring stay-at-home directives during this pandemic?


Amazon's dominance and small business' decline this year is mostly the blame of the government. An earlier quarantine would have both been shorter and more effective. Large corporations were the only ones able to survive to storm, and you want the government to break those too?


It’s the only entity with that power, in both directions.


I needed to buy a set of bolts, I checked my local hardware store and 12 was sold by £2.99. I thought: 'this is expensive, let me check online'. Went to amazon, found the same for £1.99 with free shipping (prime). Now, which one should I buy? The one where I have to go somewhere and then pay more, or the other where I click a few buttons and the next day the product is with me? Should I 'invest' in my local hardware?


A margin of a dollar? I believe you should support your local store as long as you can afford it. It's more work, money, and time off your day but it's likely you waste the extra time Amazon convenience gives you with browsing HN, or the like, anyways. Local business also most likely have picked up curbside for convenience.

It's in Amazon's best interest to shutter all locals aside from what they own (Whole Foods, Amazon Grocery, etc). Their ultimate goal is automating everything they can to remove the human element and maximize revenue. You can see other businesses like Starbucks taking over as well in different fields. In my opinion it's a matter of time until Amazon starts their own attempt at local cafes.

We had presidential candidates in the US like Andrew Yang that recognize this effort and want to get ahead of it with UBI but I'm sure you know how that turned out. If the government isn't going to support local businesses in dire times, who will? And who wants to live in a boring world where there are no local shops?


How long should we go out of our way to protect horse and buggy manufacturers?

I say that as someone who runs a business focused around increasing customer engagement with local businesses in small towns, but honestly it would take a monumental effort to save so many of these "general store" type of businesses that a small number of people paying the "local" tax on commodity goods isn't going to cut it.

Local mom-and-pop stores need to be looking for ways to differentiate from their mega-competitors. It's possible, and many stores are doing it successfully. But hardware stores? Selling bolts? Their only customers are people who don't use Amazon (older/rural) or people who need that bolt right now and are willing to pay 2-3x retail price for it. Especially in a pandemic where Amazon/Walmart are allowed to be open with few restrictions, but mom-and-pop has to close.

Successful small business going forward has to offer something Amazon/Walmart can't copy. Authenticity, experiences, memories. Escape rooms were a huge success story, creating axe throwing and fowling and other group activities, and often those places opened their businesses in the empty stores of businesses that couldn't compete with Amazon/Walmart and went out of business. Live music is another place Amazon can't compete with. A beautiful river-front promenade with park benches and an ice cream shop and a coffee stand and a vendor selling popcorn from a cart with some people getting ready to launch their kayaks while others are fly fishing, Amazon and Walmart and big box stores and strip malls can't compete with that. That's downtown, small, local. That's high profit margin.

Rather than clinging to the past where shopping local meant paying high prices on commodity items, we should be looking forward to a future where shopping local means "I can't get this anywhere else". That takes innovation. Grocery and bolts aren't innovation, they're commodities.


This is a beautiful and profound take on a brighter future despite the huge changes we’re all seeing. It is very possible that while local mom and pop basic retail dwindles, it is replaced by more enriching social opportunities. People will have marginally more free time due to time saved running errands, and marginally more dollars to spend. hopefully more meaningful local experiences can fill the void.


A strawman from the onset in my opinion.

What happens if your country of residence enacts laws and/or regulations that make business unprofitable for Amazon (or the like)?

Better yet, what if enough people are put out of work such that there isn't enough demand for the economy of scale required for Amazon to remain profitable?

I assume you are technical, perusing this site, thus isn't a monolith, a single point of failure a significant risk?

Your perspective appears to be of wealth and privilege. What about those that can't afford a Prime subscription?


Sure. If it was only a single dollar. But do it for every purchase and it adds up.

In a way if you are relying on the "community" to help your business stay alive, then your business is clearly not creating enough value and shouldn't exist.


> then your business is clearly not creating enough value and shouldn't exist.

how do you factor jobloss and destruction of your community into this 'value'?


Theres a spectrum of differences throughout the country, but in my area Amazon is providing a better starting wage and vastly better benefits to hundreds of warehouse workers on day 1 than any small retail businesses can compete with in the area.


Shouldn’t you compare this to 25 years ago as the demand long of communities has been in progress for decades?


Fighting systemic changes by making individual decisions is quixotic, to put it nicely.


It doesn't matter what you "should" do. In aggregate, all the people who take the margin where cheaply available will outcompete all the people who don't. It's less about you and whether you can be replaced by a facsimile of you who does all the same things but this one thing differently.

At the margin, that facsimile is a superiorly-adapted species and evolution then takes its course. You have to modify the environment in order to make the unmodified you more competitive than the doppelgänger.


It depends on your goal. If your goal is to optimize spending, go with Amazon. If your goal is to support mom and pops over multinational corporations, go with the mom and pop.

I think NDizzle's point is that most peoples' rationale goes economically as you did, and that maybe we should reconsider that.


Everyone is so afraid of one government world order. What about one corporation world order?


Having things available right now, in small quantities, near to you, is precisely the service local hardware stores have always provided. For a small fee.

Of course they can be had cheaper, and in a wider variety, from some huge warehouse further away. But then you can't get the job done this afternoon. The change from 1950s mail order is that the payment is easier, the shipping is (sometimes) faster, and that you might get the Chinese knock-off.


Bolts for a car? I would not dare buy bolts on Amazon due to the risk of counterfeits with lower grade than advertized.


I'd consider an extra £1 fairly cheap to get them immediately, be sure they're not counterfeit, and not have to deal with receiving a package.


For saving $1, you get extra trash from shipping, have to track a package. And there's the waste of ordering it and having it shipped, some bloke's going to double park with hazard lights and walk the thing to your door. On the other hand, you're already there in the store, and the bolt could be yours without that nonsense. What's the value of that dollar then?


Depends. You could also get into a car accident on the way to the store, someone could scratch your car in the parking lot, you could be the victim of a crime, and many other things that you and I can come up with. Then that dollar seems pretty significant.


We live in remarkably different worlds. No car, and the likeliest crime here would be theft of the package itself.


You can either "invest" in your local hardware store or "invest" in paying unemployment for your neighbors. Choose wisely.


in the short term, at the individual level, that is entirely rational thinking. I would argue in the long term all of these tiny decisions in aggregate end up being net negative.

if that is an accurate assumption, what is the solution? perhaps a paradigm shift in retail tech that enables any manufacturer to engage in direct to consumer at far reduced complexity? micro/regional manufacturing?


Is it the same bolt? Or is the one from Amazon a cheap chinese bolt made with low-grade steel that will break when you tighten it?


I think of it this way. £2 is nice and cheap but it's directly funding making the world worse. That's why in this case £3 is better as long as 0 of it goes to Amazon.


For such a small outlay yes you should support your local community. I can't believe this even needs to be said.


It’s a balancing act between a short-term gain and a long-term loss.

For a while, you may notice Amazon has slightly better prices on things. One day you may need some advice on a project, so you go to the local hardware store. Except the store was eventually run out of business by not being able to leverage the same economies of scale as an e-giant.

I think of it less as investing in your local hardware, and more of investing in your community


The problem is are you willing to deal with 5000 different return policies, 5000 different merchant policies, 5000 different shipping times, etc?

Amazon eliminates all that friction. I can one click buy something and know when it will arrive, what the shipping will be, and the rules on returning it.


Yes?


50% of Amazon sales come from 3rd party merchants, most of whom are small and medium businesses. I worked for two family businesses with 10+ employees where Amazon selling was a lifesaver.

That's not to say Amazon is a saint by any means.


I wouldn't count on that over the long-term.

Currently Amazon has better ways to use their money to grow.

When that's over, a lot of the 3rd party sellers will be at risk.


I wouldn't count on that over the mid-term.

I've worked with a lot of Amazon merchants where they would put up a item with a decent margin and good sales only to be reliably be cut out from that exact item by Amazon offering it themselves after 1-2 months. The core of their business on Amazon was to continuously hustle and identify new products that would fill that niche, as that made up for the biggest chunk of their profit.

So there are many 3rd party merchants at risk _now_ on Amazon.

Apart from that there are also numerous brands from Amazon themselves already. Most obviously "Amazon Basics" and "Amazon Essentials", but also many with a non-obvious name[0].

[0]: https://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=17602470011


>> The core of their business on Amazon was to continuously hustle and identify new products that would fill that niche, as that made up for the biggest chunk of their profit.

That sounds like a very risky business. How do they manage/lower that risk ?


For some of them I would say that they barely had any strategy to reduce that risk, and just had people whose sole job it was to constantly try and identify new products, and then they just accepted that they had better or worse months of that working.

The merchants where it was more stable had generally less of those products, and had a bigger existing offline business. Through their offline business they had bigger volume on those products and could cut a better deal with the supplier than Amazon, and through that offer them at a lower price[0]. I would guess though that that's also only a very temporary position they can hold, as Amazon should be able to beat them in warehouse logistics and demand forecasting.

[0]: As a silver-lining Amazon is pretty fair that if you underbid them even if they have the item in stock themselves, you will still make the sale "by default".


They're at risk now without Amazon.


This gets tricky. Consider another version of this:

Should we have saved the 9,024 Blockbuster stores?


Exactly. It's great that so many people are getting jobs, but it just means that many small businesses closed. And as amazon gets bigger, it'll put even more pressure on smaller businesses.

With amazon getting into the pharmacy business, I wonder what impact it will have on pharmacy chains which themselves put small independent pharmacy stores out of business.


> Apparently that’s an uncommon position these days.

Is this recent though? US made Walmart the behemoth it is. Also, chains like Target, Best Buy etc are also not your friendly small neighborhood stores.


I think that's the main reason I try to limit my shopping on Amazon. Shopping on Amazon means limited circular economy because all the large profit centers are concentrated on few large metropolis ( probably must of then in the US ) and by large shareholders. Lower amount of tax is collected from that purchase that in a local shop because of fiscal optimization.

Overall at the scale of the city it seems to me ( I don't have any numbers for that ) that consuming on Amazon is not a great deal long term.


Brick and mortar stores and especially small stores fucking suck. Amazon is not perfect but it sucks less.


Exactly. In ecological systems we don't get confused when a single species or type of cell replicates out of control and crowds out everything else. It's instantly, and intuitively, understandable as a pathology. A lesson that seems to suddenly get forgotten when we see it happening in an economic ecosystem.


Sorry, but that's bad ecology. You're overlaying moral human values on an environment.

Scientifically, it's simply evolutionary survival of the fittest. It's adaptation. By your argument, every sudden game-changing evolutionary leap was a pathology, which is obviously false.

Plus, there is absolutely nothing "out of control" about Amazon either. Amazon's a private enterprise competing in the marketplace like any other. It's just doing a better job at it.


> You're overlaying moral human values on an environment.

Indeed.

> By your argument, every sudden game-changing evolutionary leap was a pathology, which is obviously false.

The definition of pathology is always context-driven. Worth noting that a massive bacterial infection is a fantastic success from the perspective of the bacteria.


Right? We would have never had humans in the first place without a government intervention when these replications were getting out of control!


something being popular and eliminating other options is not inherently bad. there is nothing wrong with one company acquiring a monopoly through superior service. you can attack amazon's behavior as anticompetitive, but that's not what you're doing here.


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