We used to be the best of friends, Amazon and me. The online retailer sparked my interest in shopping without all the unpleasant walking around in soulless malls or on busy high streets. Beating the Christmas rush by sitting at home and buying all my presents from Amazon became an annual event that made me feel smug.
For birthdays or Christmas, when people asked what I wanted, Amazon vouchers were an acceptable answer, while cash wasn’t, and they seemed like the closest alternative you could get. Computer monitors, keyboards, HDTVs, jumpers, trainers, printer ink, an espresso machine, books, Blu-rays, toys for the kids…the list of my purchases over the years has been long and varied. When the Kindle came out I was opposed to the eBook revolution, but after trying a friend’s device I took the plunge and found I liked it. A lightweight library in your hand and the ability to read one-handed without getting cramp or having to turn pages was undeniably practical and the eBooks were so much cheaper. I even bought one for my wife.
I can still remember the day the magic died. I went to turn on my Kindle and was greeted by a series of grey lines with a tiny readable portion of screen at the bottom. Switch off and on again, reboot, plug into my desktop, phone customer support, run through exactly the same process again, only to be told there’s nothing I can do and the Kindle is fit for the bin. It was just over warranty and I end up with a promise of a small discount on a new Kindle and would I like to just order that now? No I wouldn’t thank you very much.
That early crack in our relationship started to grow over the next few weeks, it spread, it widened, and eventually the ceiling came tumbling down on my head. I have seven reasons to stop using Amazon and I’m going to share them with you now.
Since we just discussed the death of my Kindle we’ll start there. I realize that electronics don’t last forever and something as cheap as the Kindle is inevitably not long for this world. When my first Kindle died just outside warranty I was annoyed, but it was only when the Kindle I had bought for my wife did exactly the same thing that I started to doubt Amazon’s commitment to quality. The customer service is reputedly good if you’re within warranty with fast, no quibble replacements. I’ve even read online accounts of people getting replacements out of warranty, but I wasn’t offered one, so I’m not sure how that works.
Take a look online and you’ll find a mountain of reports of Kindles dying just outside warranty. You begin to wonder about built-in redundancy, like washing machines and fridges. The situation is even more annoying with a Kindle because you’ve invested in Amazon’s ecosystem. If it wasn’t for the Kindle app I would have felt blackmailed into getting a new device from Amazon. As it is reading on the S3 or the Nexus 7 just isn’t the same. I miss the comfort of the Kindle, but I’m not going to pay more money for something that breaks so easily without any obvious external stimulus (neither of our Kindles was dropped or bumped).
You know the difference between tax evasion and tax avoidance? Tax avoidance is legal for some reason best known to millionaires, multinationals, and their army of legal drones. I don’t know how big a story it was elsewhere, but in the UK tax avoidance hit the headlines in a major way. Amazon funnels its sales in the UK through Luxembourg where it claimed a turnover of £6.5 billion in 2010. Despite a reported turnover of £207 million in the UK in 2011 the company paid just £1.8 million in tax. Estimates suggest Amazon should have paid UK corporation tax of up to £100 million over the three years leading up to 2011 and yet it actually incurred a tax bill of just £3 million in nine years from 2003 to 2011.
Incidentally Google does the same thing, funneling profits through Ireland. The only company to publicly capitulate and agree to pay more was Starbucks and that had a little something to do with protesters occupying their stores. Amazon and Google refused to admit any wrong doing and hid behind their investors claiming it would be impossible for them to voluntarily pay more tax, and that the rules are to blame. With a Tory government currently in power, intent on abolishing benefits, criminalizing the poor and privatizing everything, I won’t be holding my breath for those loopholes to be tightened.
Naturally Amazon was quick to point out that it does contribute to the UK economy by creating jobs. It employs lots of workers on minimum wage to staff its gigantic distribution centers and they all have to pay proper taxes. Reports of sweatshop conditions, heat and mandatory overtime, and a culture of bullying have popped up regularly over the years. There was a recent protest here in Scotland about low wages and poor working conditions. Amazon also takes subsidies to locate its distribution centers in specific places, but if it doesn’t get preferential treatment then it just closes up, as it did in Texas.
The publishing industry has been the most vociferous about Amazon’s business practices with regard to squeezing down prices. It’s something that also impacts on app and game developers because Amazon reserves the right to put your app on sale or even give it away free for a day. The idea that developers will benefit doesn’t seem to hold true, just look at Shifty Jelly’s Amazon App Store experience. Consumers love bargains and giveaways, but it’s harsh to enforce them. The people who make the things we enjoy are entitled to fair recompense.
If Amazon’s success with aggressive discounting, efficient service and generally low prices is achieved by avoiding paying tax and treating workers poorly then it is gaining an unfair advantage from morally dubious tactics. Book stores are dying, the high street in general is dying, and one of the main assassins is putting considerably less into your economy that the businesses it is killing. It can crow about creating thousands of jobs, but when they come at the cost of thousands of jobs elsewhere and they pay less with worse conditions, is it really a good thing?
Here’s a reason I know Android fans will get. Amazon decides to use the Android platform, but then cuts out Google as completely as it can. The decision to lock you into Amazon’s ecosystem of content is entirely deliberate and it’s all about putting Amazon’s profits ahead of the consumer experience. There is no way you can argue that the Kindle tablet range is better without Google and the wider range of Android apps available through the Play Store. Amazon sells the hardware at knock down prices to try and tempt you into its ecosystem because it wants you to invest and hopes you’ll find it hard to leave down the line.
A lot of Amazon supporters will insist that the prices are just too good to resist, but how often have you pulled the trigger on Amazon only to find the same product discounted further the next week or offered cheaper on another site. Amazon sells itself as a one-stop shop and it can afford to have loss leaders because it tempts you to buy all your shopping there and some of the prices are far from the lowest around. How the Amazon pricing algorithm works is a mystery, but you can be sure that it returns big profits for the company. The next time you’re shopping don’t assume that Amazon prices are the lowest, do a quick search and you might be surprised at what you find.
I suspect many of you will feel that Amazon is just engaging in sensible business practices that ensure maximum profit, but in the current economic situation many of us feel that it’s just plain greed. Those profits are concentrated in the hands of a few and it doesn’t have to be that way. Plenty of successful companies pay their fair share of taxes and ensure that working conditions and wages are good. It’s not like the company wouldn’t survive without exploiting people and forgetting ethics.
There’s only one thing that Amazon will understand and that’s losing customers because it will hit the bottom line, the only thing the company seems to be focused on. I’m not going to use Amazon anymore. How about you?
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Oh man, but once you’re in it’s so hard to leave! Nice article Simon!
Could you recommend an alternative website then?
1] At the cost youre getting it at, youre complaining, they dont make that much on each if anything at all. both our Kindle 3s are over 18 months old and haven’t missed a beat, despite heavy usage. You may have got two bad pieces, but there’s no conspiracy, and of course they’re built to a price.
2] Most multinational and big companies try and avoid tax, it’s what they do, holding amazon alone to a higher standard is illogical
3] Apple has the same issues, but yes, they need to fix that
4] The world breathed a sigh of relief when amazon pushed for lower ebook prices, not because publishers/authors were being paid less, but because they were asking more than was fair anyway, with Apple pushing them along, maybe you didnt hear of an antitrust case against Apple and publishers? While the app store freebie doesnt look to be helping app developers, it doesnt relate to wanting fair book prices
5] Same can be said of any large chain, again, pinning amazon alone to this criteria seems a bit harsh, walmart can be said to kill smaller retail and B&M shops and even google is killing phone retail with it’s play store
6] again something that apple does itself, it’s good business for them, it’s not an amazon unique feature
7] Prices are discounted every week all over, a pc i built in june is 25% cheaper just a month later, if you cant be bothered to search a bit to find the lowest price that’s your failing as a customer. I buy from newegg mostly, but amazon as well, being lazy and trusting amazon is no excuse.
For disclosure, I had a Kindle Fire first gen, and we have two K3s in house, i sold my Fire and got a Nexus 7, i dont regret either purchase, it was a conscious decision, pinning Amazon to blame for their eco system in what is a very competitive one is just silly.
Thanks for taking the time to comment so thoroughly.
On 1 I think they are cheaply made, Amazon does sell them cheap, but makes money through content by locking you in. Are they really good value for money?
On 2,3, 5 I don’t hold with the whole everyone is doing it argument, it simply isn’t true and anyway this article is about Amazon, but I don’t condone Apple or anyone else avoiding tax or treating workers poorly.
On 4 publishers do deserve a kick, but an Amazon monopoly where it can force all the prices it wants isn’t going to do authors or developers a favor.
On 6 I don’t like Apple doing it either.
On 7 the problem is people have an assumption that Amazon is cheapest, you’re right they need to wise up and shop around rather than default to Amazon, which is basically what I’m saying.
There is no such thing as a corporation that isn’t self-interested and interested in making a profit – that’s what keeps the lights on and doors open.
However, I see nothing wrong with expressing – as Simon has – his impressions based on his experiences with Amazon.
Personally, for some of the same reasons but actually quite a few more that (don’t worry) I won’t make you endure – I would not take an Apple product even if you gave it to me and allowed me to resell it. (Same reason I wouldn’t have purchased cotton produced in the South during the time slavery was in effect, or buy blood diamonds in the here and now.)
Is Amazon the only company that uses the tactics it uses; that has an effect on the surrounding economic ecosystems it touches, nope, but that doesn’t mean hearing about another man’s opinion and experiences and feelings isn’t both illustrative of valid points and useful info.
Nice to hear what you says Simon! SMS
Great article ethical shopping is a must!
Amazon paying 3 million in UK taxes is a joke, they should be booted out of the UK just for that…
I almost stopped buying Apple products until Tim Cook started taking steps. Amazon I dumped 3 years ago. Creative local sourcing in brick and mortar shops works fine for me and they will often match online pricing.
Plus walking to the shop is healthier.
My sister`s KINDLE died just out of warranty, no replacement small discount.
My Samsung phone died (bought it 2nd hand) under a year old, replaced same day by new phone. Full retail price also reimbursed. Major good service.
My Apple hard drive failed, they seemed surprised I would even care to claim warranty, eventually replaced after loads of emails.
LG totally no service, failed to send HDMI cable as advertised for my optimus 2x…phone crashes 2x daily (maybe inspiration for the name???). No replacement no service at all.
So with the exception of Samsung I would suggest all electronics is regarded as no warranty disposseables.
For a lot of stuff you can get a better deal off the manufacturers like the phillips shop or sony store. And these companies alldgedly pay their taxes, not heard they don’t anyway. On a mountain of stuff though they are simply not the cheapest. Any pc bits and pieces in the uk try aria.co.uk or ebuyer.co.uk , scan.co.uk. Amazon act as a middle man for smaller companies, so if you know its out there, go use a search engine to find it.
I feel that you went too deep into politics with this one. I guess that you’ll just Google some another online place to buy something, and that you won’t research that store as much as amazon, so your conscience will be “clear”.
Sorry you don’t like politics with your tech, I realize a lot of people don’t. No, I won’t do that. It doesn’t take a huge amount of research to find tax paying alternatives. http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/boycotts/boycottamazon/amazonshoppingalternatives.aspx
I have two things to say:
1. “Greed” is the only reason we have smartphones and web servers for you to post your opinions. Profit motive is why we have Google, Amazon, Apple, and all other modern technology. Perhaps you’d like to go back to feudalism?
2. Your romanticism of retail stores is sad. I imagine you’re one of those people that wants to subsidize newspapers because readership is way down? We have proposed that here in the States and it’s one of the silliest ideas I’ve ever heard. Move forward! Stores like Amazon and tech sites like this are the reason we don’t need brick and mortar stores or newspapers anymore.
Feudalism? Lol, not what I had in mind. It’s sad that you think we need greed to drive humanity forward, but it’s a familiar capitalist chant. Let’s just agree to disagree. No I don’t agree with subsidizing newspapers, but even Amazon argues that we need physical stores, people try things out in store and then go and buy them more cheaply online.
Well Simon, i wonder if Amazon would have given you a new kindle, would you have wasted so many words on them… Everything you mentioned about them, looks like every other business model plan. Get a grip on yourself man…
Ha! I like to think I would. No it’s not like every other business plan, plenty of businesses treat their workers well, pay tax, and provide a good service or product for customers.
Do you shop at Wal-mart? Easily one of the worst employers and business practices on the planet!
I agree!! If you want to start somewhere, make it WalMart!! Easily the killer of your hometown mom and pop shops.
The kindle is garbage.. why would you want ads.. oh i mean “special offers” on your lock screen. The nook is the way to go. Also, i am pretty annoyed with Amazon too. I pay $80 for prime and i still have to pay to watch most shows and movies, also their FALSE Lightning deals that, on the most popular items, expire the second they go on sale. I once waited for the clock to count down, clicked buy and was instantly put on a “Wait list”. My wife did the same twice and the second time her wait list number was lower, aka like she cut in line. (we never were able to purchase it) Honestly the prices aren’t that much better than retail stores and other sites for a lot of products , but i HATE going to stores. I would have quit amazon awhile ago but there are no good alternatives and good luck to any company taking that on.
This article bashing Amazon & then another promoting it – http://www.androidauthority.com/android-authority-on-air-one-year-anniversary-cruzerlite-giveaway-157222/
You guys might want to think before putting up articles.
I’m just an individual writer here and this is my opinion, I can’t speak for everyone at AA.
I don’t think you should speak for anyone at AA. This is a well respected site and then you post your crying out loud. It’s only because you feel that you got burned that you posted something. How many others do every day and most likely tell you about it but since its not you, you don’t care.
He’s a writer here and can write about whatever he wants. If you don’t like it, there are many biased conservative news sources for your ilk e.g. faux noise.
Sounds like a disgruntled employee. All was good until you didn’t get your way.
I don’t usually comment.. but what a load of crap! Your ignorance of economics I’d staggering… May I suggest ‘Economics in one lesson’ by Henry Hazlitt. Peace…
I agree. You will not find many writers who understand economics. They have never hired nor fired someone nor been responsible for running a business. Instead, they live in a fairytale world where everyone is happy and makes the same money and everyone is rich.
It doesn’t exist and until we reach heaven, it never will exists.
If you do not like Amazon, that is fine. If you want to pay more in other places, that is fine. But no need to give them a black eye because people who otherwise would not have a job work in hot buildings.
I am typing on my phone but I will have to be short and to the point. Let’s look at Walmart here in the United States poor working conditions horrible people and crazy black Friday sales. The Walmart uses imminent domain law to gain more land for their stores. They have effectively killed businesses and forced businesses to move overseas to bring down costs at the cost of domestic jobs. manmanufacturing out of us to over seas to bring down cost
toto rake land from home owners
Seriously, did Google pay you to write that article about a competitor? Are Android users that insecure?
This particular site is more openly disparaging of other ecosystems than most.
I’m beginning to think AndroidAuthority is a troll site. It spends most of its time bad mouthing other companies.
I hear this kinda crap about large, successful companies all of the time and it sickens me. You bought a product with a warranty, NOT a guarantee; tax avoidance?, loopholes? maybe if popular culture didn’t constantly bad-mouth large corporations, stopped trying to penalize them with confiscatory taxes and maybe even acknowledged the economic good they do, they might not have to tip-toe through the tax laws to find advantages (which ARE NOT illegal, by the way); sweatshop, poor working conditions… all of the same crap that is hurled at large companies to demonize and all because you have a beef with a warranty. You were fine with it when your Kindle worked; Aggressive discounting? is like “predatory lending”? another term invented to demonize a business instead of the people at fault (our government)? C’mon, man! People choose to work there; Aggressive discounting? People make a choice to sign an agreement to sell with Amazon; All of the rest of your arguments are right in line with what we hear about all of the other big companies. We’ve got a generation or two that have grown up with a warped view of America and it really sad, because we’re getting this attitude of entitlement and everybody wins a ribbon. Your Sesame Street world view is not what I was looking for at ANDROID AUTHORITY. I think I’ve heard the first crack of my relationship with Android Authority. I love when you talk tech, but don’t want your politics or product warranty dirty laundry.
Well it’s lucky these successful companies have you to ride to their defense. Why do we impose any laws on them at all? Maybe we should just let them do whatever they want. I wasn’t fine with it when my Kindle worked I was ignorant and wrongly assumed that Amazon wasn’t up to this kind of thing. As for choosing to work there, some people don’t have much of a choice and they end up getting exploited as a result. I don’t think we should be grateful when companies extract huge profits and then don’t pay tax or decent wages. It’s got nothing to do with entitlement, it’s got to do with the fact that companies don’t do the right thing unless they are compelled to and you’re right that is the fault of the government.Why does criticism of large, successful companies sicken you? I don’t understand that sentiment. Sorry you didn’t like the article, but don’t blame AA, it’s an opinion piece not reflective of the whole site.
‘ll be the first one to jump to the defense of anyone who has been truly exploited. It certainly happens and should be punished when people are treated with less than human dignity. I know I was harsh in my response and mean nothing personal, but it just happens so frequently that there’s another bandwagon to jump on when someone feels they were wronged by a company, and the attacks always go to the same place.
I believe in free markets and understand that that might bring some things that are morally repugnant to some, you can’t please everyone. By and large the companies who last and grow to be large do great things for the economies they participate in and in many cases bring more opportunity to places that might have otherwise seen less. I’m tired of the hipness of dragging large companies through the mud. Large companies are started by people who take large capital risk and if they are not handsomely rewarded when that risk pays off, there will be no more incentive to innovate. We only have a product to bitch about and a website and Internet infrastructure to do it on because of big business. The fact of the matter is that you cannot buy ANY product from a large company that someone isn’t accusing of wrongdoing. Some of the time it’s true, much of the time it’s unfounded. It’s the nature of the beast in this imperfect world we live in.
Nothing personal, I just disagree and find this article flat-out silly.
As others have pointed out, EVERY major international company tries there best not to pay taxes through whatever clever means their accounting department comes up with. And most big box warehouse retailers pay their employee robots minimum wage….the only people unhappy about discounting of unreasonably priced ebooks are publishers.
Now about killing local retailers….
They were ALREADY DEAD before Amazon came along. Before Amazon became what it is, Best Buy and Circuit City all but destroyed all the local electronics stores here, the same with other product fields. Warehouse stores killed Mom&Pa in moderate sized and larger cities….now the only local retailers left to feel the sting are the warehouse stores, that quite honestly suck as a shopping experience and suck in pricing.
Example: I can no longer even by printer toners for my Brother laser printers that are only 2 years old. Quality lasers like Brother units last forever. When I could buy them locally each cost $180USD+tax to get them from OfficeMax or Staples for just the toner. I get them on Amazon with $3 overnight shipping for $76USD.
*Disclosure, I refuse to shop at NewEgg anymore. Their operation has become a crapshoot with customer service worse than BestBuy.
Isn’t this a bit hypocritical? Actually, rather?
Don’t get me wrong, I get your point. But if you are going to use the power of your pen to right a wrong, why single out a single company? Aren’t ALL organizations now more than ever before over-promising and under-delivering so as to “remain competitive”? Even as their stock values soar and their stakeholders become phenomenonally wealthy?
I don’t buy, supply or advise on Dell products anymore since my very first Dell laptop broke just after it ran its warranty. I’ve seen it happen with other clients’ Dells too, but obviously not all. And despite this foul Dell experience, they remained profitable for about 6 years after my personal experience. But alas, that didn’t last.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
You’d probably buy the American Apple or many Korean Samsung devices, or any of many, many other products made in Communist China wouldn’t you? I have nothing against communism by the way, but since most of the world seems to, I just thought I’d point that out. I’m more concerned about how the workers there are treated in the sprawling, underpaid sweatshops for our affluent lifestyles here in the West.
How are you going to use your pen and medium to right these wrongs?
I wish I knew.
Ironically, the Doubleclick ad block at the end of this article is advertising my recently viewed products at Amazon …
Sounds like another angry liberal to me…
So you say Amazon is “evil” because they use what the law allows them, avoiding taxes. They created the kindle and give it away as cheap as possible so you can enjoy the shiny new world of ebooks and eMagazines. This also means that they try to make it just as good as necessary.
Then you write that you suggest that we look around and look for the cheapest prize. Well guess what, you do exactly the same as this big evil Amazon and all those other companies. You try to get the best prize, spend as little money as possible. Just like Amazon.
If you go into a store, even if it is a store like Walmart or BestBuy and check out a product there. Do you actually buy it there or do you go online and check if you can get it cheaper somewhere else? I have a strict rule for myself. If I go into a store, check it out there and I like it, then I buy it there. The only exception is if there is a store close by who has it cheaper. In other words, when I go into a store to check it I buy in a store.
We people vote with out behavior. We want everything as cheap as possible and then we condemn companies for giving it to us and trying to make the most profit out of it. In my mind, every company is “lawful evil”. If you want companies to pay taxes where they make the money, put a law for that in place.
I never said Amazon was evil. Agreed they should put a law in place to compel companies to pay taxes where they earn profits.
Surprisingly statist garble. I suppose a state-owned phone company running a state-owned OS, for consuming state-owned media would be preferable in your opinion. Trabants are something to aspire to, I guess.
Lol, no I think there’s a middle ground between rampant unethical capitalism and full state control or communism.
Bay Area, California here… I fully support most of what ou say, Simon and definitely your overall point. Yes, people, corporations have a responsibility to be ethical, decent, and pay their fair share! This unchecked greed is good mentality is straight out ignorant! Go watch some more Faux News….
With the low price matching scheme; a lot of the brick and mortar stores are competing with Amazon; so I dont agree with your point of Amazon killing retail.
The “add-on item” program was the last straw for me. They took a product that I would normally buy alone and now they won’t ship it unless I buy at least $25 worth of products. I can’t even pay to have it shipped. Ridiculous.
Seems like you touched a nerve by pointing out how much harm a corporation like Amazon can do in pursuit of profit.
You didn’t go deep enough, though. The problem isn’t Amazon, or Apple, or Wal-mart, etc. etc. It’s with the very structure of our economic and political systems that enable these kinds of behaviors to be profitable.
Unfortunately, thinking rationally about this sort of thing rapidly leads you to places outside what’s considered mainstream acceptable political discourse.
I think you’re right, thanks for commenting.
The ‘locking you in’ point is interesting. I have refrained from buying ebooks from Apple’s store out of (the possibly mistaken assumption?) that, as is the case with their movies and TV shows, they’ll only work on Apple devices, whereas Amazon supports loads of different devices with its Kindle app. Now you’re telling me Amazon blocks its tablet owners from accessing the Google Play store despite Google allowing Android users access to Amazon’s store? That is pretty lame.
I do have to say, amazons inclusive ecosystem is why I got a galaxy tab 7 vs a kindle. Iknew I wanted something that could do more. I use the kindle app for hours a day and have not regretted not getting a kindle yet. And honestly, if they want to discount prices, to the consumer I say take advantage. I certainly will not spend more than I have to on an ebook that cost pennies to produce limitless copies of. I applaud Amazon, and will continue to do 80% of my shopping through them. I use Amazon mp3, the Amazon store app, and the kindle app. That is mostly what my phone is for. stockit to the man Amazon, and thanks for the free shipping, books,reviews, recommendations, andwhatever else you have given me. Thank you for doing it all on my android devices because I choose not to give you all my money.
I dont care about ANYTHING other than 1) who has the best inventory/selection, and 2) who has the lowest price. Amazon has both. the end. Thanks for wasting my time with this stupid article. this doesn’t even have anything to do with android. go write a song about whales and acid rain or something…
What a goofy liberal. Any company that is successful by giving consumers what they want is the enemy. Get over it. Apple is the company that screws its customers over.
Have you considered a move to North Korea? Possibly more to your liking. Oh wait, command and control economies have terrible technology because of a lack of competition and the state limiting pretty much e everything.
Just hang in there, the Obamas of the world are doing everything they can to limit the incentives for success. Just give them time.
Wow! I really enjoyed this read. Actually found it hard to suppress chuckles. Amazon is using every legal loophole to pay less taxes? Guess what? I do that too. They try to keep prices down and operate in places where their overhead will be lower in order to have more attractive pricing than their competition? What a new and innovative business strategy! So Simon, I would like to know the name of your corporation at which you voluntarily pay more taxes than you are required by law, set up shop in places with the highest cost of operation, and pay your employees more than all of your competition. I bet business is booming. Ha!