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  • Geebo 9:00 am on July 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amazon, , working conditions   

    The true cost of Prime Day 

    The true cost of Prime Day

    Later today, Amazon will kick off its annual summer version of Black Friday they call Prime Day. This means anyone with an Amazon Prime account will be able to get great deals on any number of items being offered by the online retail leader. According to an estimate by CNN Money, Amazon is expected to make $3.4 billion this year during its Prime Day rush. However, while you may get a great deal on an Amazon Echo delivered to your door, there’s a human cost to the slashed prices and marketing blitz of Prime Day.

    For the past few years, Amazon has been under fire for allegedly treating its employees at its fulfillment centers like so much chattel. According to a blistering expose released by the New York Times a few years ago, not only does Amazon supposedly overwork their employees in such a way that it’s often referred to as a sweatshop, but Amazon has also been accused of playing fast and loose with labor laws when it comes to its staffing practices. In many cases, an Amazon worker is ‘on the clock’ even when they’re not being paid because they need to be in constant contact with Amazon all hours of the day and night.

    As I posted around this time last year, many people refuse to shop at WalMart due to the supposed poor working conditions their employees have to endure, yet we have no trouble giving Amazon our money when their employees are treated just as bad or worse. Again, is it because we don’t ever see Amazon’s employees work so they’re out of sight and out of mind? Or is it because we value having indulgent computer boxes that we ask inane questions sent to our door with free shipping over the lives of the workers that bring them to us? Please consider that before making your next Amazon purchase.

     
  • Geebo 9:31 am on May 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amazon, banned, , returns   

    Amazon banning customers for too many returns 

    Amazon banning customers for too many returns

    Amazon offers a lot of incentives to get customers to try to use their service extensively. For example, Amazon offers its Prime membership to its users so the customer can have free shipping for the length of their membership, usually paid in an annual fee. Another one of those features was Amazon’s easy return policy. However, while Amazon wants you to order as many items as possible they’ll send out for ‘free’, don’t send back too many or you may not be an Amazon customer anymore.

    Reports came out this week that Amazon was banning customers who made excessive returns. Amazon claims it’s to prevent fraudulent returns but many customers say they were banned even though they made reasonable returns. Like too many tech companies, Amazon relies on an algorithm to identify potential abusers and only worries about false positives if the banned customer calls to complain. Apparently, Amazon lives by the edict that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

    Let’s be honest, mistakes happen in all retail spaces. Sometimes you get the wrong order or the product wasn’t exactly what you imagined when you received it. Now let’s translate Amazon’s policy to brick and mortar space. For example, Walmart has a very generous return policy. You can almost return a half-eaten fish stick to Walmart without a receipt and still get a refund. Now imagine you returned too many things to WalMart and you were not only banned from your local store but also from all the other Walmarts in the country.

    Amazon would do well to remember who it is that allows them to make all those billions of dollars in profit before customers start leaving their service without being banned.

     
  • Geebo 9:51 am on May 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amazon, facial recognition,   

    Is Amazon watching us? 

    Is Amazon watching us?

    Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos not looking Orwellian at all.

    Ever since George Orwell published his dystopian novel 1984 it’s become a cliché to accuse whatever political party you’re opposed to of being Big Brother. What if it’s not the government you have to worry about surveilling us without our knowledge? Instead, what if it’s one of the largest corporations in the world? Amazon has found itself amid a controversy lately after many civil liberty groups have called upon Amazon to stop selling its facial recognition software called Rekognition to police departments around the country.

    Now the advantages and drawbacks to law enforcement using such software can be debated ad nauseam. However, when you combine this Amazon technology with some other aspects of Amazon’s business a disconcerting picture starts to form. For example, how many of us have Amazon Echo’s in our homes with its microphone always listening for the command word from its user? Amazon claims the units aren’t recording our ambient conversations but that could potentially change at any time with just a firmware update.

    Yet the most ominous aspect of Amazon’s business holdings is the fact that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns one of the country’s most respected media outlets in the Washington Post. Jim Morrison once said that “Whoever controls the media controls the mind” while Orwell himself said “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” While we’re not ones to usually indulge in conspiracy theories, separately these actions by Amazon can be seen as benign, but when looked at as a whole it shows a potential future where corporate monoliths can become so overreaching into our lives they could have almost unparalleled influence in our daily lives.

     
  • Geebo 9:13 am on April 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amazon, delivery, Key In Car,   

    Amazon now wants access into your car 

    Amazon now wants access into your car

    Recently, it was announced that Amazon has started a new delivery program called Amazon Key in Car. It’s similar to their Amazon Key service which allows delivery people to leave your packages inside your house, except now deliveries are left in your car. Once again, Amazon is asking you to put a lot of trust in them for the sake of convenience.

    This is an idea that Amazon has been toying with for some time now as previously they were said to be working with some kind of smart license plate holder in order to gain access to your car. However, Key In Car relies on existing service in order to open your car. In order to get Key In Car deliveries you need to have a late-model GM vehicle with the OnStar service or a Volvo with their On Call service. Of course, you’ll also need an Amazon Prime account and the service is only available in 37 cities so far.

    While many people will no doubt consider Key In Car as a viable option for them, to me it seems like it has too many points of failure to be trustworthy, not to mention the privacy issues. In a lot of cases, cars can contain more personal information than homes as many of us spend an inordinate amount of time in our cars due to long commutes or other circumstances. That’s not even taking into account the information Amazon could gain access to through the OnStar and On Call services. We’re all up in arms about Facebook’s privacy leaks but since Amazon is sending us creature comforts we’re more than willing to give up our privacy.

     
  • Geebo 8:57 am on March 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amazon, grocery delivery, ,   

    Walmart offering home grocery delivery in its war with Amazon 

    Walmart offering home grocery delivery in its war with Amazon

    Retail giant Walmart has fired the latest shot in their ongoing battle with Amazon. After Amazon purchased Whole Foods last year, a number of grocery chains started offering home delivery. Since Walmart is the nation’s leader in grocery sales, they’ve announced that they will be rapidly expanding home grocery delivery into at least 100 cities over the coming year. Currently, through Whole Foods, Amazon only offers that service in six markets.

    The main difference between the two services, besides availability, is cost. With Amazon, you need an Amazon Prime membership which can cost as much as $99 a year. Walmart’s new delivery service will be a $9.95 flat fee per delivery and deliveries have to include at least $30 worth of groceries. While that may seem a little exorbitant at first, at least it’s not Whole Food prices and no membership is required.

    On the one hand, Walmart’s new delivery service could be great for lower-income families who may not have the transportation to get to a local grocery store. When you factor in costs such as public transportation, taxis, or ride share programs like Uber, the $9.95 delivery fee doesn’t seem so bad. However, with Walmart and Amazon battling it out like this for retail dominance, the shadow of a duopoly continues to loom over consumers. While better access to affordable food is always a good thing, what happens if only two corporations control those avenues?

     
  • Geebo 11:02 am on February 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amazon, ,   

    Amazon offering Whole Foods delivery amid stock shortages 

    Amazon offering Whole Foods delivery amid stock shortages

    As of yesterday, members of Amazon Prime can have orders from Whole Foods delivered to their homes. So far the program is only available in Dallas, Austin, Cincinnati, and Virginia Beach although Amazon has full plans to roll out the service nationally. Prime members will be able to get Whole Foods orders delivered to their homes in two hours as long as the order is over $35. With Whole Foods’ pricey reputation that could be just a bag of Kale and a bottle of Sriracha sauce.

    In all seriousness though, one has to wonder if this announcement will only compound the preexisting problems at Whole Foods. Previously we’ve not only posted about how the shelves on many Whole Foods stores are close to barren thanks to their ordering procedure, but we’ve also discussed how employee morale is at an all-time low thanks to an almost Orwellian employee review system.

    Before Amazon starts offering new programs in their bid to be the global retail solution, maybe they should fix problems already plaguing their acquisitions. As of right now, this new delivery program is akin to adding an addition to a house that’s on fire. In their quest for retail dominance is Amazon starting to cut off their own nose to spite their face?

     
  • Geebo 10:00 am on January 26, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amazon, e-books, Kindle, Rakuten,   

    Walmart to take on Amazon’s core business 

    Walmart to take on Amazon's core business

    It’s been no secret that Amazon and Walmart have been at odds with each other recently with both retail giants trying to infringe on each other’s territory. Amazon has been expanding into the brick and mortar space while Walmart is trying to increase its online presence. Now, Walmart is trying to steal a part of Amazon’s customer base by launching their own line of what started Amazon’s success in the first place, books.

    Walmart has teamed with Japanese company Rakuten to start selling e-books and readers to compete with Amazon’s massive library of e-books available on their wildly successful Kindle e-reader. Does Walmart really expect to take a chunk out of Amazon’s book business? Barnes & Noble tried to take on Amazon with their Nook reader which was superior to the Kindle. While not exactly a failure it didn’t have nearly the success that the Kindle has. Also, with all due respect to Walmart, it’s never been seen as a book lover’s first destination to buy a new book.

    While on the surface it seems like a bold strategy from Walmart to try to further entrench themselves in the retail battle against Amazon, it seems more like an act of playground bravado with Walmart claiming ‘anything you can do I can do’. The problem is that books are Amazon’s bread and butter and are what basically turned the company into the success it is today. For Walmart to succeed in this space they would have to offer better deals for publishers and authors which may lead to higher prices of books and higher prices is just not Walmart’s way.

     
  • Geebo 10:27 am on January 22, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amazon, , ,   

    Amazon to unveil new cashier-less store today 

    Amazon to unveil new cashier-less store today

    For a little more than a year, Amazon has been developing their highly touted store without cashiers known as Amazon Go. Later today, Amazon will finally unveil Amazon Go to the public in Seattle. The original concept of the store was to have a store that would be fully automated, however, it seems the reality of situation means there will in fact be human employees in the store.

    According to Tech Crunch there will be several human employees in the store such as someone checking for IDs in the beer and wine section, and a person standing by for any assistance needed with the app used for shopping at the store. There are also stockers and chefs who prepare sandwiches and meal kits.

    While the videos of the store seem to give the appearance of a slick and seamless shopping experience, one has to wonder if that will be the reality of the situation. Often times in tech, what tested perfect in the lab can often fail in the real world. For example, one of the problems Amazon Go had in its testing phase is the store would come to a halt if there were too many people in the store. Plus in real life there are always situations that arise that no one can account for until they happen. It will be interesting to see how Amazon Go will handle such a situation.

    So will Amazon Go be the future of brick and mortar retailing, or will it be just another retailing fad that refuses to take hold? Today, just may hold some of those answers.

     
  • Geebo 10:10 am on January 19, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amazon, ,   

    Whole Foods has less foods in more stores lately 

    Whole Foods has less foods in more stores lately

    Lately, more customers of the now Amazon-owned Whole Foods have been complaining about the lack of stock and empty shelves in many of their stores across the country. It leaves the customers wondering if it’s because of the winter weather or has Amazon finally interfered with their favorite store so much that Amazon has screwed up the supply chain. As it turns out, it’s been the fault of Whole Foods themselves for some time now.

    According to an expose by Business Insider, Whole Foods started using a new ordering technique called Order to Shelf, or OTS for short. This technique, ordered by the Whole Foods home office in Austin, Texas, for all its stores, is supposed to reduce waste which many say it has. Instead of storing additional stock in the back, now if a store is running low. they’re supposed to get it direct from the supplier, bypassing the store room.

    However, the problem as evidenced by the Business Insider story is that Whole Foods now have little to stock their shelves. While OTS may be reducing waste, it is also turning away customers. Empty shelves make stores look like they’re about to go out of business making the store look less reputable. While Amazon may have been seen as the Whole Foods bogeyman before, maybe now Amazon will be their savior.

     
  • Geebo 10:01 am on December 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amazon, , , Newsweek,   

    Do tech companies foster a culture of human trafficking? 

    Do tech companies foster a culture of human trafficking?

    Before being lambasted by Congress for their alleged roles in the Russian ad scandal, many tech giants like Google opposed an amendment to the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that would allow the prosecution of websites that hosted obvious ads for sex trafficking. After their PR disaster in Congress, many tech firms reversed their position and supported the amendment, but why did they oppose it in the first place?

    A number of arguments against the amendment from tech companies was because they felt they might get caught up unfairly in prosecution. Could another reason be that some of these companies foster a culture where sex trafficking is not only tolerated but encouraged? Now, it’s not being said that the heads of these companies have some kind of unspoken rule where they will look the other way if their employees are caught engaging in sec trafficking, however there does seem to be a belief among the male employees of many of these companies that sex trafficking is not only acceptable but they also allegedly get together to compare notes about it.

    Newsweek recently broke a story where they allege that in the Seattle area many employees of both Amazon and Microsoft were caught allegedly engaging in behavior at local illegal brothels where Asian women were being trafficked. Some of these employees were said to have spent anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 a year in these brothels. The employees were even said to have communicated with these brothels while using their company emails.

    While both Amazon and Microsoft condemn these activities, if there is this cavalier attitude towards the trafficking of women in these companies who’s to say there aren’t similar attitudes in other tech companies in other regions of the country? With the slew of accusations of sexual harassment in Silicon Valley recently, could there also be an environment where brothels are frequented where women who can barely speak English are being kept against their wills. If the Seattle allegations are any indication then the answer seems to be yes.

     
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