Troy

Amazon's Stranglehold: Stifling Competition, Eroding Jobs, and Threatening Communities

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“Today, half of all U.S. households are subscribed to the membership program Amazon Prime, half of all online shopping searches start directly on Amazon, and Amazon captures nearly one in every two dollars that Americans spend online. Amazon sells more books, toys, and by next year, apparel and consumer electronics than any retailer online or off, and is investing heavily in its grocery business. Its market power now rivals or exceeds that of Walmart, and it stands only to grow: Within five years, one-fifth of the U.S.’s $3.6 trillion retail market will have shifted online, and Amazon is on track to capture two-thirds of that share.”
Institute for Local Self-Reliance

You can download the entire report here.

timeline-of-amazons-expansion.jpg

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I have not read the entire report yet. But I did not want to wait to read it before sharing it.  Anyone who has been reading these forums, for more than five minutes, knows how I feel about how these massive corporations exert their power and how terribly Black businesses, in particular, are adversely impacted as a result.  

I'm surprised to read that 1/2 of all households have a prime membership--that is a staggering figure.  Most businesses have to give customers and incentive to return, but Amazon has turned that into a revenue stream.  Amazon may be a greedy monopolist, but they are so brilliant, one can't help but admire their gangsta!

Preventing Amazon from dominating the market, and gaining a collective long term benefit is simple; all we have to do is stop using them.  But that is not likely to happen until Amazon has extracted as much wealth out of the economy as possible.  They won't stop until they have all the wealth and right now there is nothing in their way.

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17 hours ago, Troy said:

 Most businesses have to give customers and incentive to return, but Amazon has turned that into a revenue stream.

The incentive is "first run movies television shows, indie movies, tv shows, music and free shipping" and that was what they offered  when I was a prime member.  For example, amazon has a huge  film/tv/ music catalog and the cost is $8.25 per month - whereas netflix is 9.99 and napster is 7.99 per month.   Plus with your prime memberships there are  a lot of freebies.  Before I left the service I received a free kungfu panda for download.    I'm not singing the laurels of Amazon but..I've enjoyed a lot of the perks. :unsure:

 

 

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@Mel Hopkins, I'm a prime member myself right now, so I completely understand the appeal and benefits (ignoring the long term disadvantages).  I don't even use it for the movies or music.  It is just that I order enough books from them that the free shipping works out in my favor.

I guess by this point everyone knows you can easily hack your Amazon Fire to watch any movie even bootlegged movies that are still in the theaters for free.  Obviously, Amazon knows this too and no one is doing anything about it.  I'm sure sales for this device will go through the roof.  Again this is just another way Amazon makes money that no one seems to ever talk about--let alone even challenge Amazon.  

I just printed out the report (79 pages) and plan to start reading it tonight.  I'll comment later.


 

 

 

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1 minute ago, Troy said:

you can easily hack your Amazon Fire to watch any movie even bootlegged movies that are still in the theaters for free.

oh snap!  Did. Not. Know. This. :D

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This discussion goes so much deeper. Amazon with the Echo is integrating itself so deeply into our lives that we don't even recognize that they are putting a listening device into our homes that allows us the ability to order with our voice, completely removing the barrier of "one click" which Amazon is famous for. By getting rid of this last barrier they become the perfect impulse buy business. It's to the extent now that people simply trust that Amazon has the best price and will buy items without researching anything. You can't compete and the tragic part of this is that to earn 1 million dollars Amazon needs a fraction of the people it takes Wal-Mart to make a million dollars. Amazon and companies like Facebook and Google kill jobs. They don't make a product and they sell a service so making money requires fewer people which in turns kills our economy in the long term and there is literally nothing we can do about it. Amazon is predicted to become a Trillion dollar business by 2025. They currently control over 50% of all online transactions. They are the most efficient company in history and they provide their shareholders zero dividends, yet people keep buying based on the potential and promise of Amazon. In the next few years they will begin to build brick and mortar locations and fully integrate themselves into every aspect of our lives and we are welcoming them in via Echo and keeping our credit card numbers on file. It's amazing... and I'm officially researching L2 and data companies way too much.

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Yeah, the Echo is a trip and I don't believe for a split  second that it is not listening to you when you don't think it is.  Who knows maybe our cells phone are transmitting our conversations when we are making a call as well.  We already know corporations monitor our physical locations.  Why wouldn't they listen in and call it a bug or a hack if they get busted.  If they are Amazon, they can just say. "Go fuck yourself; we've Amazon Dammit!" 

When I found out Facebook monitors what you type--even if you decide to change your mind and never hit the send key, I changed my behavior on the platform.  

 

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They are listening. My wife and I were talking on the phone about houses in a certain area. She picked up her phone and on Facebook there was an ad for the area we were discussing. The same thing has happened to me on several occasions. I now use my browser to access my social media as opposed to the apps and I deleted the apps, but I'm sure they are still actively acquiring data. It's crazy.

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Man, I'm about half way through the report and it is brilliant!

It substantiates all of our observations--in fact is if FAR worse than I imaged.  Chris, you really should read it.

If describes in great detail how Amazon is driving business to use marketplace.  Amazon then mines the vendor's sales data for popular products which Amazon's promptly makes themselves--driving the original vendor out of business.  

If a company refuses to sell their products on Amazon, Amazon will allow knockoffs to be sold by third party vendors.  Amazon will also sell products at a loss until competing vendors go out of business or join marketplace--where they will give up both a big chuck of revenue and business.  

The articles also relates how Amazon changes prices dynamically throughout the day, sometimes raising prices and much as 170 percent.  Amazon, often charges more that other sites because people start their search for products on Amazon rather than Google or even the vendor's website!  I discovered this myself once; I wanted to buy a coffee filter and was taken aback by the price.  I went to the manufacturer's website and learned that Amazon was charging three times the price!  I had to double check to make sure I was not seeing things or comparing different products (I wasn't). 

Amazon pays workers less than other companies for similar work, they exploit part-time worker to avoid providing benefits, and in many states they make billions or dollars without contributing a cent to the tax base.  The don't pay their fair share of federal tax because of the loopholes.

The only hope is that the government will still break up this monopoly before even more damage is done.

Everyone really should read this research report. 

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I have long known everything you've written as an active marketplace store I've been dealing with this firsthand, but the reality is this isn't on the government to break up, it is simply a matter of the consumer deciding against what's comfortable. That's the only hope is that consumers wake up.

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I know Chris I read your articles on your experiences with Amazon, so it made reading the report much more compelling.    

Chris, in the unlikely case that consumers do in fact wake up, there is nothing that they can do.  Unless the government steps in and breaks up the company, the way they did with AT&T and Standard Oil nothing will change and we will continue to be at the mercy of Amazon

I'm about to float the idea of boycotting Amazon in an effort to revive the Black Book Ecosystem. Honestly, I don't expect much support for the idea, because today the short-term benefits that individuals enjoy always override the long term benefits of our people.

For example, Amazon has sent me a check every month for 15 years for commissions earned on the books I sell.  I'm a member of Prime and like the benefit of being able to get books the next day without paying for shipping and while most of the book I buy are not discounted; they are not available in stores and are still less expensive than buying directly from the publisher or author.

Today, if I sell books directly people will choose to transact with Amazon--even if they discovered the book on this site.  

Now imagine if the book was not available from Amazon, I could still earn a commission by generating the sale on behalf of the publisher and the publisher would make more money on the sale.  Today I suspect the reader would simply not buy the book if it were not available via Amazon.

So the boycott would must include readers as well.

We would also need Black owned media (what is left of it) to get on board to help publicize the effort and help people understand why it is important.  But since people consume news via Facebook and Bezos (Amazon CEO) owns the Washington Post, it will be hard for this effort to get the sustained traction (on the order of years) it will need to succeed. 

I would be willing to make the sacrifice because I know I would benefit much more in the long term.  But without enough support those benefits will never manifest any of the folks who choose to Boycott would just be sacrificing themselves for no reason.

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As noted, it's hard to draw folks away from "40% off, with free two-day delivery".  Sustaining a boycott would be challenging.
 
Is it possible ... to slice between Amazon and Black book buyers with an app/browser-plug-in that stays in place?
  ... to transparently route book buyers to black book sellers where the Black book sellers are competitive?
  ... to pop up Black book seller options when Black buyers click on Black authors at Amazon?
  ... to re-route or pop-up only in big cities, where a local Black printer can print & bind the books?
Of course, installing browser plug-ins is its own major hurdle ... and Amazon has a huge head start.
 
"Preventing Amazon from dominating the market ..."
Is shifting more of our individual purchases to group purchases and community-accountable purchasing agents viable?
Businesses have long used them to get the most from their purchasing, and to apply their political filters. Might a similar approach work for us?
 
I'm guessing sales through Amazon are typically contingent on authors/publishers contractually agreeing not to undercut Amazon through other channels ... i.e., to be included, authors/publishers must guarantee Amazon a price that lets it undercut any other seller's price. Is that part of how it works?
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CDBurns, thanks for answering my question, noting at least some vendors can sell via Amazon, and at lower prices through other channels.

I also heard:

  • Etsy & eBay arbitrarily shut vendors down, sometimes for suspiciously inscrutable reasons.  Vendors should weigh the long-term risk of abrupt termination and loss of setup investment.
  • Amazon sales don't get much traffic to vendors' own sites.
  • People don't trust vendors' sites to sell the SAME thing sold on Amazon, even when sold at a lower price.

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I figured it would be easier to put the videos up. In the words of the Borg on Star Trek, resistance is futile. Amazon is a machine on track to do a trillion dollars. You can either get on the ship or face certain death unless you have a website that is garnering a ridiculous amount of traffic daily. I got so pissed about this I did an entire series scolding the consumer. It's a no win situation. No one is going to abandon Amazon and doing so there would have to be a machine in place that could keep people coming back and incorporate the ease of zero to one click buying and quite frankly black folks don't want to leave their credit card info with anyone except Amazon and Apple. 

 

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Hey @Bill, thanks for commenting here.  There are is one hard fact which makes your suggestion impossible to implement

No other online bookseller can compete with Amazon on the things that are most important to customers, price, speed of delivery, and trust.  Indeed, it is impossible to do it.  

I'll also go a step further and say this is even more true for the Black independent online booksellers.  This is why there are so few of us selling books, independent of Amazon, and making very much money doing it.  

What is worse the VAST majority of publishers and authors who direct people to Amazon don't even bother to use an affiliate code.  

Increasingly authors are using Amazon as their primary website.  This is probably worse than using Facebook as one's primary web presence because at least Facebook allows hyperlinks to external websites (for now) and Amazon does not.

I say this as someone that has been selling books on the web since 1997.  Amazon, to our detriment, owns the Black book ecosystem, and it is our own fault.

The question is what do we do about it?

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As a newbie writer, I am still trying to wrap my head around selling books to Black audiences. My book published in July 2016. I went to the most prominent Black bookseller in our city and before I could finish introducing myself the owner told me "I am not interested." I was trying to figure out a polite way to ask why when he said "And I am not going to answer any questions about why." Besides the fact that I was crushed, personally, I was surprised to be turned away so abruptly. Possibly booksellers like this man could be a part of the problem for Blacks who want to sell books. My book is on Amazon. As a person who has written a book, that's good for me. As a new writer who happens to be Black, I wanted my book to be inspirational to many people, but I chose to begin my marketing strategy by approaching a Black owned book store. Bad idea! So how can I be a part of the solution? I am thinking of submitting an essay to a new upcoming Newsletter dealing with these types of issues. Perhaps that will help.

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Hey @Bill, thanks for commenting here.  There are is one hard fact which makes your suggestion very, very difficult to implement:

No other online bookseller can compete with Amazon on the things that are most important to customers price, speed of delivery, and trust.  Indeed, it is impossible to do it.  

I'll also go a step further and say this is even more true for the Black independent online booksellers.  This is why there are so few of us selling books, independent of Amazon, and making very much money doing it.  

What is worse the VAST majority of publishers and authors who direct people to Amazon don't even bother to use an affiliate code!?

Increasingly, authors areusing Amazon as their primary website.  This is probably worse than using Facebook as one's primary web presence because at least Facebook allows hyperlinks to external websites (for now) and Amazon does not. This too hurts us more than it helps in the long run.

I say this as someone that has been selling books on the web since 1997.  Amazon owns the Black book ecosystem, to our detriment, and it is our own fault.

The question is what do we do about it?

Hi @Elva D. Green, well if that newsletter you publish your article in has enough of the right readers it may help.  What we really need is a critical mass of folks with a platform to hammer into the public what the impact of Amazon means to Black-owned businesses and what this means to readers of Black literature.

But most people are really too involved in their own struggles to be concerned about Amazon's impact on the Black book ecosystem, particularly if Amazon is giving them discounts on books and free, same day, delivery.

I'm sorry to read about your experience with that one bookseller. Ignoring his rudeness (there is not excuse for that); his reaction is not terribly surprising.  

Look at it from a book seller's perspective; in the last 15 years or so there has been an explosion in the number of self-published books.  Booksellers have been inundated requests to stock these books.  We simply can not afford to waste time vetting products that will not likely sell.  These books are often poorly edited, have no advertising budget, no publicity support, have not been critically reviewed, and written by obscure writers without a platform or much knowledge of the publishing industry. 

So the authors of these books are often left with no choice but to sell their books themselves using Amazon as their primary platform. Again this usually does not result in the sale of many books, because the reach is too small and there is a ton of competition.  

Now Amazon, who is the publisher of a large percentage of these books, makes money no matter what, for their revenue is transaction based--quality is incidental.  

So today, your only perceived option is Amazon.  It shouldn't be, it does not have to be, but sadly this is the situation we are in for now. 
 

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I've been following Amazon on all fronts. What really blow me away is the latest project in grocery shopping. Thus far Amazon has been experimenting with staff. They walked into the store, chose the product, scan it with their I Phone and walk out without interfacing with a cashier--loss jobs--the sale goes to their bank account. 

Mr. Bezos is preparing a rocket for commercial travel into space--hopefully by the end of 2018!  (I Love space travel projects.) There is a race going on to colorize Mars. 

Trump (that's about as respectfully I can come in naming him) invited top executives of the Sillacon Valley to a discussion on the future of technology,  I believe Bezos was in attendance. Word in a legitimate news media said Trump informed the equally (?) rich individuals that he is going to take care of them [as president]. Bezos was heard to say later that he would let him ride in his rocket into outer space. 

Om Malik wrote in the New Yorker.com/business/,  November 28, 2016. The lead-in was that perhaps it's time for those of us who populate the technology sphere to ask ourselves some really hard questions.

But what caught my attention was, "However, when you are a data-driven oligarchy like Facebook, Google,  Amazon, or Uber, you can't really wash your hands of the impact of your algorithms and your ability to shape popular sentiment in our society. "

Malik goes on to say,  and I quote, "If you are Amazon, you have to acknowledge that you are slowly corroding the retail sector, which employs many people in this country."

We, African Americans, are going to have forge our own way in the Trump-era. Be it in retail, literature, and--God forbid--space travel. 

Season Greetings. 

 

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