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Has Amazon Taken Over the World?

When I was eight, my family’s life changed when my dad’s bookstore went out of business. Most of the memories I have with my dad are of going to his store in downtown Chicago. Now that I think back on it, there never really was the hustle and bustle of crowds coming in. According to my dad, it wasn’t always like that, though. In fact, my dad initially opened up two more locations, since he had major success with the first bookstore. Then, large-scale superstores like Borders Books came to Chicago and began to change the bookselling business. They offered coffee and pastries and offered a larger range of books. When Amazon came into play, everything changed. Not only did it knock out most independent booksellers who were barely hanging by a thread, but Amazon actually forced stores like Borders Books to go out of business as well. Bookselling was Amazon’s first step toward dominating the retail marketplace. They sell anything from groceries to electronic devices, which is why it appears that Amazon is taking over the world. They make everything easily available online and have a reputation of destroying any competitor in their way. A retail juggernaut, Amazon’s growth has taken away part of the culture that independent stores give a local neighborhood. Amazon has become too powerful and is negatively affecting millions of people despite its cheap prices, and supposed easy service.

Amazon’s original goal was to eliminate the classic brick and mortar bookstores. Now that they have essentially succeeded, Amazon has started to open physical bookstores across the U.S. to knock out any remaining independent competitors. According to Amazon’s website, they have opened six stores, and they plan to open up six more (amazon.com). The arrival of the Amazon bookstores has caused a lot of negative reactions in the bookselling community. Independent bookstores tend to collaborate with each other when a company threatens them. For example, when Amazon announced they were opening up a bookstore in Lakeview, Chicago, it caught the attention of Teresa Kirschbraun, just one of the many local bookstore owners being affected by Amazon’s expansion. According to Kirschbraun, “You can choose to go there [Amazon], a place that is choosing their books based on algorithms, or you can come here where we base what we have on what you really want” (Unrau). Amazon knows that most people will be drawn into their store for their low prices, so if they stock their inventory with the highest rated books, they can make a profit. Building a personal relationship with individual customers is not Amazon’s priority. The goal of the brick and mortar versions of Amazon Books is to eliminate local booksellers, which will essentially help the company succeed.

The company also succeeds through its lack of respect for those who work with and for them. In an interview with Jill Shimabukuro, Director of Design and Production at the University of Chicago Press, she explains that “working with Amazon’s CreateSpace division is frustrating. If a book’s spine is below a certain width, Amazon removes the spine type because they don’t want to expend the extra effort to position the cover properly. This not only ruins the aesthetic of a book, but it also makes the book defective when it sits spine-out on the shelf.  It makes the press [University of Chicago Press] look bad” (Shimabukuro). Amazon is so focused on reducing the amount of money spent, that they balk at the thought of doing extra for the benefit of their clients. Ultimately, Amazon’s business practices reflect poorly on the publisher.

Additionally, Amazon treats its workers brutally in order to come up with groundbreaking new ideas. According to the New York Times, “At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings,” and they have an internal phone service that allows workers to report their co-workers to their bosses without the co-workers knowing. This service is usually “used to sabotage others” (Kantor and Streitfeld). Amazon prides itself on its popularity, low prices, and innovative ideas, which is why they push their workers so hard. They want them to do whatever it takes for the company to succeed. The workplace environment is set up so that workers look out for themselves. Amazon claims that it is focusing on building teamwork, but insiders report that it is breaking worker morale, and is not good for their emotional health. Amazon is too focused on the company’s success, rather than the well being of their workers.

Although there are drawbacks to shopping on Amazon, such as counterfeits, if you are able to obtain a good product for less, it can be worthwhile. While I do agree that getting a good deal on Amazon is fulfilling, Amazon has many techniques to earn back the money they lost, without you knowing. Amazon actually “offers its biggest discounts on its most popular products, while making profits on less popular ones…” (D’Onfro). One of the most popular TVs sold on Amazon is the Samsung TV, for $350. However, on Black Friday, they reduced the price to an incredible $200. To counter the amount of money they lost on the TV, they raised the price of a router that you would have to buy with the TV. “Amazon knew the less popular item wouldn’t affect price perception like the TV would, so it went with the price increase” (D’Onfro). This is only one example of how Amazon takes advantage of the psychology of price perception. Before you buy an item on Amazon, you should make sure you are really getting the best deal.

Over the course of 22 years, the company Amazon has gained so much popularity that, despite their low prices, they are creating headaches for many people across the globe. Amazon is resurrecting the brick and mortar bookshops, and in turn, are eliminating any remaining independent bookstores. Amazon is so focused on the company’s success that they will disregard their partner companies and their own staff. Even though there are good deals on Amazon, the company can still recover those savings from you without you being completely aware. Amazon’s actual stores are unnecessary because they are more of a showroom for Amazon’s products rather than a bookstore that cares about what people really want. It is clear that Amazon is on the verge of monopolizing the retail market. My family, as well as a few others, are boycotting the Amazon brick and mortar stores, and instead, are supporting the local stores who offer real customer service. Small things like boycotting the stores, or turning to other websites to shop for good deals will show Amazon that they haven’t taken over yet. Since it is clear that past laws are unable to stop Amazon from growing into a monopoly, it is now up to us, as customer and citizens, to prevent Amazon from taking over the world.

 

Sources

Brent, Ruby. “Talking About Amazon With Jill Shimabukuro.” 3 May 2017.

D’Onfro, Jillian. “The Clever Way Amazon Gets Away With Not Always Offering The Lowest Prices.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 13 Jan. 2015. Accessed 8 May 2017.

Levy, Ari. “Amazon’s Counterfeit Problem Is Getting Worse and Sellers Are Enraged.” CNBC, CNBC, 8 July 2016. Accessed 8 May 2017.

Levy, Ari. “Birkenstock Quits Amazon in US after Surge in Counterfeit Sales.” CNBC, CNBC, 20 July 2016. Accessed 8 May 2017.

“Robot Check.” Robot Check, Amazon.com. Accessed 8 May 2017.

Streitfeld, Jodi Kantor and David. “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Aug. 2015. Accessed 8 May 2017.

Unrau, Reuben. “Independent Bookstores Wary of Amazon’s Arrival to Chicago.” Chicago Tonight | WTTW, PBS, 6 Sept. 2016. Accessed 8 May 2017.

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