Which tech. company has the biggest impact on our lives? Twitter? Meh, it’s now passé. Facebook? Full of … well, people. Google? It gets you to where you’re going, be it via their Search or Maps. All of the above trade in your data. The biggest risk is your reputation or a surprise Trump election (which hasn’t actually been as bad as we’d thought). Amazon, on the other hand, has real implications on our economy, and we’re allowing it to get more powerful.
Dishonest Customer Service
Their Customer Service is dishonest. Twice I’ve been promised recompense, twice nothing, they’re more keen on getting positive feedback for individual representatives. It makes you wonder where their priorities lie. By measuring the satisfaction with their overly-friendly reps, they’re not actually measuring the effectiveness of their reps. The way to solve this is to ask 5 days or so after contact for feedback, not immediately afterwards, with the representative almost pleading for a positive review as they close the call.
Gig economy to reduce costs
Everything about Amazon is cost. By shaving where they can and investing in what at first appearance looks like ridiculous technology (such as using drones to deliver, starting their own delivery infrastructure) As part of this, they use the gig economy courier Hermes. Hermes themselves save costs by not employing the same level of professional as other couriers. They don’t need that lower layer of distribution. They rely on the gig economy, unprofessional couriers in your area who use their own vehicles and time to meet that last leg of delivery. These people don’t have the same level of checks or rights as an employee. They are measured on successful deliveries, but this is not necessarily guaranteed. Our delivery agent deliberately marks packages as delivered when they haven’t. These people are essentially uncontactable when you miss a package or need to query something, because there is no “hub” or depot you can contact. No accountability.
I’m a believer in free market economies and competition can drive prices down and quality/range of service/products up. This is doubtless the case with Amazon. To the point that it has become detrimental to not only those bricks-and-mortar stores that we’re used to hear about struggling (RIP Toys’r’Us and Maplin, hope you can make it Debenhams, John Lewis, Mothercare and the rest), but also other online retailers. Through their “Marketplace” strategy, smaller retailers can supply their goods through the larger Amazon site (saving a tonne in hosting, development, maintenance, security), which is brilliant. Except the terms of that agreement is that retailers often cannot compete with their own position on the Amazon store, resulting in traffic to their own sites declining. It’s now too easy to “Click Once” on Amazon.
My purchases over these last couple of months have been from the retailers themselves, rather than via Amazon. For a few moments extra time to research, it is possible to find the same products with an improved level of attention to customer service. It’s almost embarrassing as a consumer, having follow-ups and almost-pleading messaging on sites to keep you and have you return. So far, I cannot say I’ve had a negative experience.
The plight of Amazon workers is well documented. Their rights are minimal, their satisfaction around the same. Huge warehouses with awesome technology looks good, but there is inevitably the need for humans to pick, package and post items. The rights of a worker even reportedly impinges on basic bathroom breaks. Now, they want to track their employees hand movements. Workers also avoid going to the bathroom. This race to the bottom for employees and their rights inevitably means there will be redundancies.
Prime: Pay to Pay
Amazon have managed to create a scheme whereby you pay a subscription to get benefits such as quicker/cheaper postage, films and music streamed, access to e-books, etc. A lot of benefits, for sure. Look deeper and you find it’s not that good a deal. So what if you have to wait an extra day for your package? So what if it costs slightly more, just batch your order. Try finding a film on Amazon Prime, you’ll probably have to pay for it (again). That’s right, you’ve paid £7 a month to pay another £6 for Office Space. Just pay the £7 for the BluRay and keep it. (You know, because they can withdraw that title at any time they like even after you’ve bought/rented it). Work it out. £7 a month is the same as a BluRay/DVD a month you get to keep. They have become so arrogant that they’re willing to lose sales by limiting accessibility to actual disc content to Prime subscribers. Then we get to the confusion between Amazon Prime Music and Amazon Music Unlimited.
Only 5 years ago, if you’d have been offered a gadget that listens to every word you say and now even has a camera next to your bed, you’d express concern. Apparently, not now. We are definitely in a data economy, whereby companies are competing for our data. Now we are paying money to put gadgets into our homes to give these companies even more data. What is the real benefit here? A few gimmicks such as “Daily briefing” or home automations are less than convincing. It’s not even particularly good, with requirement to use “trigger phrases” and structured questions so we’re still a long way away from natural language recognition. Every demo I’ve had of Alexa has ended up with failed requests and frustration.
Jeff Bezos is now approaching richest man status and is literally going to go to space on your money. From what was a really useful source for text books at university has turned into the default choice for sourcing and buying products. It is globalisation on a micro-scale. Bricks-and-mortar stores, other online retailers and employees have already started to accept their loss. They’ve used supposed competition to build out the infrastructure but who ultimately suffers? You, the consumer. The fact you haven’t realised it yet is a bonus.