By Jeremy Howard.
As a shopper, I have come across a topic that may have implications for all classes of people shopping anywhere in the world. I will get back to this important point in a minute. First, let me define myself for you, so you can relate—understand that I am just like you. I rarely go to the store anymore just for a price quote, and with my budget, there is only so much money to go around for everything I want and need to do. The money for my needs list covers house repair, car repair, and food. The ‘needs’ list is even more extensive for those with young children and babies. I called a friend and asked them what their top three concerns as a parent were, to which they replied, “Formula, diapers, clothes, they grow very rapidly”. Back to my point: every one of us has become savvy, cost-checking consumers of everything we need and everything we want. I have become an internet shopper and a good amount of people I know have done likewise.
There are great deals to be had online—from your fingertips straight to your front doorstep. I can even get groceries delivered to my home without fighting long lines, grumpy clerks, or even traffic. Convenience has morphed me into an exclusive online shopper for most items I will purchase. The compute I am typing on was ordered online and so did everything else in my office. The current issue arose from a striking comment my parents—now in their seventies—made about how many major chains are now either shutting down completely or returning to warehouse footprint models where retail locations are cut off. As a result, stores are empty in my local community, cutting vital tax revenue that could benefit the community overall. Instead, parts of my town—and maybe even your town—are looking run down. With drastic progress comes drastic problems and this is the current problem we must face today.
The largest online presence that has changed the face of global business is Amazon. A quick Google search and this image below shows clearly they are the leading online shopping site worldwide today—and likely in 2020.
The simple fact is Amazon is gaining more and more ground in the cyberworld. Even the fiercest competitors in the world now understand they have to match the ease of Amazon, compete in prices, while dealing with customer complaints and struggling to maintain customer loyalty. Andrew Maff (Sellerschoice.digital, 2019) once said:
“Walmart knows that in order to stay in business, they need to meet Amazon toe-to-toe in product offerings, price, shipping, and service, and Amazon knows that in order to stay King, it constantly needs to be innovating and mending it’s seller legitimacy.”
On the other hand, Maff also says:
“Both Amazon and Walmart are still working out their imperfections. They will cancel orders, misplace shipments, or mishandle customer service complaints. But all in all, the competition between the two is working to fix these problems…” (Sellerschoice.digital, 2019)
As a consumer, I have had several orders recently cancelled for apparently no reason. While waiting for several car parts to arrive, they never did and was given the run-around when I requested a refund—which took too long anyway. They further insulted my wallet with the price of the parts. Thanks to Amazon, I now sit here eating Ramen Noodles for dinner. Many view Amazon as a menace and a threat to all other local and online retailers.
Just recently in 2017, Amazon was quietly given a patent to censor anyone from accessing and using a product on their retail store grounds. The article is a Draconian and overreaching and monumental decision that erodes my freedoms as well as every other American’s. According to the short version, the patent will not allow price checking and comparison while shopping in their retail locations—effectively censoring what they view as inconvenient information they do not want you to have. Dan O’Shea (Retaildive.com) explains these intrinsic censorship models given as rights by the U.S. Patent office are as follows:
- “Amazon was granted a U.S. patent late last month for an application described as Physical Store Online Shopping Control, which would allow the emerging brick-and-mortar retailer to block customer searches of competitors’ products while using Amazon’s in-store Wi-Fi, Squawker first reported.
- The patent lists several actions that could occur when a customer uses Amazon’s in-store Wi-Fi to conduct a search of a competitor’s products and prices via smartphone, including the possibility that access to competitor information may be redirected to other content and the search could trigger and in-store Amazon sales associate to be directed to help the customer.
- The patent also suggests the control mechanism might not be deployed in every instance of an in-store search, but could be used depending on the value of the specific customer to Amazon, as well as other variables.”
We can only assume since 2017, Amazon’s grip on the internet sector of our shopping experience is only tightening and secretly crushing the windpipe of dissent and competition behind the scenes without anyone realizing. This is without anyone’s notice until now, at this egregious affront to our freedoms and choices. This is a terrible idea and the fact that Amazon has a direct patent for censorship should smack you as unethical and unconstitutional.
There is a good article by the Washington Post that seems to point out that for the most part, Amazon is infallible in reaching a grand market (Gene Marks, 2018). He argues that the answer to this question regarding whether Amazon is good or bad largely depends on who you ask. Jeff Wilke (Gene Marks, 2018), the chief executive of Amazon Worldwide Consumer gives glowing praise to Amazon and then unsuccessfully attempts to turn the attention to the President. He attempts to get the reader to believe they are in fact the ones calling the President a bigoted liar, although not expressly stating so, saying:
“President Trump is certainly not a fan, recently accusing Amazon in a tweet of paying ‘little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their delivery boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!’. Amazon, which did not respond to Trump’s tweet, collects taxes on products it sells to customers in the 45 states with sales tax, the Washington Post has reported. Items sold by third-party vendors, however, may have different arrangements (Gene Marks, 2018).
The article wraps up by quoting former Chief Executives of Walmart and Hudson Bay, Bill Simon and Gerald Storch. They openly accuse Amazon of putting small retailers and many others out of business. Owned by Jeff Bezos, it’s likely the Washington Post wasn’t being entirely forthcoming on Amazon’s wrongdoings in that piece—likely giving only half-truths for the sake of appearing objective. Gene Marks is a customer relations manager for the Marks Group, a Bala Cynwyd, PA-based PR consulting firm and was a major contributor to the article. So, Amazon hired a PR firm to enhance their image in the face of growing criticism regarding their destructive actions against retailers, small business owners, and competitors.
As a shopper, I continue my journey to find the answer to this burning question: is the Amazon phenomenon a good thing for the world to be run by a large monopoly. The obvious answer is hell no. I was looking at another article on how small businesses can adapt to the Amazon effect and how most small businesses see no way around this effect. The consensus for small businesses was that either you deal with it or fail (D’Angelo, n.d.). It effectively transforms Jeff Bezos into a virtual monarch over the new cyber frontier. D’Angelo further described Bezos as a ruthless leader, investor, software developer, rocket man, and a Rockefellerian corporate titan who has positioned himself to thrive in a crowded market.
As a consumer, I in no way want to purchase the same products from the same merchant until the end of time. This monopoly is a nightmare for any consumer because once he gets a stranglehold on everything, anything can happen because the consumer is seemingly powerless—at the mercy of the one and only viable merchant. Prices can be raised to unreasonable rates because no one can argue. There are laws and a constitution set up to stop this kind of totalitarian monopoly, yet lawmakers in Congress doing nothing to stop this madness. Nothing. Corruption has idled them to grovel at the feet of Bezos—likened to drooling sycophants on his every word. The truth of the matter is that Amazon is stomping out the little guy and small mom and pop shops are dying off everywhere. The impact on small business was stated best by Jeff Somers of Insureon, who said:
“Amazon’s impact on small business yields countless articles praising the glory of Jeff Bezos or crying foul at a company crushing the hopes and dreams of every mom-and-pop shop in America. As is typical in our modern age, this polarization is the reflection of loud opinions and not the actual truth of the matter, which is that all Amazon is doing is changing the way small business owners sell their products. It has forced [small businesses] to embrace e-commerce as a critical route to reach their consumers and revenue source,” (D’Angelo, n.d.).
There is a feeling there that we are faced with an overwhelming issue of David versus Goliath, with Amazon and small business. In the end, David overcame Goliath. Where is our David, our savior from an overwhelming and crushing giant? That remains to be seen, and the task set forth is to arm up a David of our own choosing to battle the terrible Titan of Amazon.
D’Angelo (n.d.) further noted a business impact report that was released by Amazon earlier in the year, which claimed that half the items sold on Amazon were in fact products of small- and medium-sized businesses and has now even opened up Amazon Storefronts, where SMBs can advertise and grow their business. Likely, this is another attempt to distance themselves from a negative reputation.
The article does little in the way of assuaging my fears that the monopoly of Amazon is good for the country and my local community, and it’s certainly not good for yours either. Congress needs to regulate this giant with the laws already in the books. We don’t’ need a slew of new laws—just to follow those that are already in place. The damage will continue along the retailer landscape of the entire world by Amazon. The Rosenbaum Famularo Law Firm wrote an article highlighting Amazon’s destructive nature, stating,
“John is an intelligent man. He sees what the future has in store for his shoe business. He begins to adopt new forms of marketing and other ways to sell his shoes. Though Walmart certainly poses a threat to John’s way of life, he is still capable of sustaining his business through his passion and persistence. The late 1990s arrive and e-commerce is booming. The same shoes that John has in his 60-year-old shoe shop are being sold at half the price. In addition to the reduced prices, Amazon is also carrying every type of shoe ever made—size, color, pattern, material, anything the customer wants.
The malls cut an arm off of John’s shoe store.
Walmart cut a leg off of John’s shoe store.
Amazon stuck a dagger in the heart of John’s shoe store.
How can the small business owner ever possibly compete with a global e-commerce empire? I will leave that for you to decide (Rosenbaum Famularo Law Firm).
The world we live in has changed rapidly in the last few decades. Gone are the days of small stores and small retail living independently with no input from the world. Now, every store is connected through cyberspace to the entire world—our global storefronts compete with large and small businesses alike. It is not too late to enforce the current regulations against giant monopolies to make them play fair again. We are at the brink and there are sites coming online to combat the giants of today. David versus Goliath. We know how this story ends. We can topple the giant. We can bring forth change. We can decide who we buy from and how we buy it. Where we go one, we go all.