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Amazon is a company that sells just about everything – clothing, food, electronics, furniture, and more. Amazon has an extensive catalog of products to choose from with free shipping on many items for members of Amazon Prime. It’s safe to say that most people have purchased something from Amazon at one time or another. However, there are many reasons not to buy from Amazon.
There is no denying that shopping on Amazon can be convenient, exciting, and extremely hard to quit. But there are some aspects of this online retailer worth considering before you make your next purchase. More people are choosing to ditch the corporate giant because of its long history of bad behavior. There are many reasons why I stopped shopping at Amazon. The reasons range from mildly annoying to “Amazon is the source of all evil and must be stopped,” and all are pretty compelling.
Here are 9 reasons to not buy products from Amazon:
- Counterfeit products.
- Fraudulent reviews.
- Deceptive advertising.
- Suppression of competitor’s products.
- Mistreatment of warehouse employees.
- Shady delivery practices.
- The exploitation of temporary workers.
- Two-faced public relations.
- Evasion of tax obligations.
Some of the items on this list will take a look at why you should avoid the products themselves, but others will explain the ways that Amazon has made its billions by preying on those in desperate circumstances. Read on to get a complete picture of Amazon’s ugly side.
1. Counterfeit Products
The amount of counterfeit products on Amazon has gotten so bad that there are now programs specifically made to help spot the fakes before you buy them.
If you are a frequent shopper of the retailer, you have more likely than not received a counterfeit product at some point. It is a problem that Amazon itself is trying to fight, but they seem to be losing the battle.
Sometimes it is easy to know that something is counterfeit. Brands like Birkenstock and Nike have completely cut ties with the retailer, so anything of theirs on Amazon is almost surely a fake product.
Other times, it isn’t so easy to tell.
I fell victim to a counterfeit product when my son was a few months old. I was trying to purchase the $30 rubber teething giraffe that all of the Instagram moms swear by but found out much later that our Sophie the Giraffe was probably an imposter.
The convenience of Amazon breaks down pretty quickly once you realize you will need to spend an hour researching everything you buy, and even then, you might get duped. It is worth it to buy from the source and skip the uncertainty, especially if your kid will be chewing on it.
2. Fraudulent Reviews
Have you ever been searching through Amazon for the perfect niche kitchen gadget and come across one with overwhelmingly positive reviews that are complete nonsense?
This happened to one shopper named Timothy, who said he was looking for a drone to buy his children. Of course, he took a look at the drone that topped the search list with thousands of 5-star reviews. He was optimistic until he started to skim the reviews that were raving about the great taste and described it as luxurious.
Even though Timothy was on a listing for a drone, he was reading reviews for what turned out to be honey. Those are not exactly two things that are easily confused for one another.
What is going on here? Well, third-party sellers have figured out how to take advantage of their old listings to sell other products.
The reviews are kept, but the product is changed. In other words, the seller baits you with the rating and number of reviews, then switches the product. Accordingly, this issue has been coined “the Amazon bait-and-switch.”
In addition to the bait-and-switch reviews, some reviews have been indirectly paid for. In exchange for a glowing 5-star review, the seller might offer to reimburse you the purchase price through another avenue, such as PayPal.
This means that even the “verified buyer” flagged reviews can be fake.
One program developed to spot fake reviews, Fakespot, suggests that something near 60% of reviews are fraudulent somehow. There are other online spaces to shop that do a much better job of keeping reviews legitimate.
Rolling Stone put out this list of alternatives, depending on what you are looking for.
I have already made this switch in an effort to keep my children safe from accidentally sending them to school with peanut butter-and-drone sandwiches.
3. Deceptive Advertising
A lot of the time, it seems that the price markdowns on Amazon are pretty substantial. It is easier to be excited about purchasing a product when you think you are getting it for a deal. Amazon knows this, which is why the list prices are often over-inflated.
This makes it seem like the purchase price is a much better deal than it is.
For example, there is a particular pair of socks that I became obsessed with a few years ago. They were from a well-known sports brand, and they were the only no-shows that did not end up falling under my heel all day.
I was not the only one obsessed with these socks since they were often sold out on the brand website. The only place I could consistently find them was on Amazon, which listed a 3-pack of my socks as being priced initially at $28 but was now available for $18.
However, a little research into the pricing of these socks showed that they have never been sold at the price of $28, not even in the original retailer’s history.
Amazon did trick me at first. Instead of buying one pack, I bought three because it was such a great deal, right? Wrong. In fact, they were only $5 per pair on the brand’s website; meaning, I had given Amazon almost ten extra dollars just for being manipulative.
4. Suppression of Competitor’s Products
There was a long period of time where you couldn’t get YouTube on any Amazon Fire products or buy an Apple TV on the Amazon site. This is because, despite often referring to itself as the “Everything Store,” Amazon doesn’t like to sell products from its competitors unless specific terms are met.
Apple and Google products that offered streaming services were pulled off Amazon because they did not support the Prime Video application. The battle between the three was annoying and tedious, but eventually, there seemed to be a truce.
Amazon, Google, and Apple’s devices now all seem to support each other’s services.
While Amazon was not the only player in this particular game, it is worth mentioning a few things. First, Amazon started it, and second, they are the only one of the three that claims to be an online marketplace for everything under the sun.
It seems that the terms for being listed on Amazon are pretty simple. Just do exactly as Amazon tells you to, and don’t make more money than it does.
5. Mistreatment of Warehouse Employees
For more than a decade now, reports have come out of the horrific conditions that are commonplace for employees in Amazon’s warehouses.
Workers have been forced to endure long hours, often mandatory overtime, in warehouses with no air-conditioning. The temperatures in these warehouses were reaching dangerously high levels, over 100℉ (37.7℃).
According to The Morning Call’s report, employees routinely collapsed and needed to be treated by the onsite paramedics.
A regular day at the office would often include your coworkers arriving on foot but leaving on stretchers, pregnant employees requiring hospitalization, and countless injuries in an attempt not to be fired for unproductivity.
If you find you can’t survive another day at the warehouse, there is always a long line of workers waiting to replace you. As an Amazon warehouse worker, you are taught to smile through physical pain and be grateful to work at a place where you are disposable.
After Amazon received backlash over the hazardous working conditions, The Verge reported that Amazon invested in installing air-conditioning in the warehouses. While this is an improvement, it is worth noting that by installing air-conditioning, Amazon no longer needs to pay paramedics to treat warehouse employees 24/7.
The air-conditioners didn’t fix everything, though.
Warehouse employees are still injured at three times the rate of other companies’ warehouses. The numbers that these employees are expected to hit are so unreasonable, according to one employee, that they are often injured just from trying to keep up.
However, if you don’t hit those numbers, the computer tracking your production will flag you. If the computer flags you, then it is very likely you will be fired.
Amazon’s mistreatment of employees disproportionately is aimed at those who are Black and Latino. The New York Times published statistics that Black employees were as much as 50% more likely to be fired than white employees.
6. Shady Delivery Practices
The mistreatment is not contained to just warehouse employees, as delivery drivers also face terrible working conditions.
Angel, a former warehouse employee, sought to escape the terrible working conditions by transitioning to working for Amazon as a delivery driver instead. The disappointment he felt was crushing when he realized his new job was just as awful as the last.
The picture Angel paints of working as an Amazon driver is bleak. Hired as independent contractors, they are given no training and no benefits but are still expected to deliver one of the 400 daily packages roughly every 30 seconds.
If you don’t meet those numbers, then Amazon cuts your hours down. Angel and other drivers often need to urinate in bottles and even wear adult diapers during their shifts to try and keep up.
With the pressure to deliver at a rate faster than most people would consider safe, many drivers end up hurting themselves or others. Since drivers aren’t given benefits or insurance through Amazon, this often results in life-altering consequences.
However, because they are subcontractors and thus not directly employed by Amazon, the company claims that this is outside their responsibility to the driver. Even when a 9-month-old was struck and killed by an Amazon delivery driver, who was running behind on his quota, Amazon responded to the New York Times that they are not liable for the loss of life.
The infant’s name was Gabrielle, and she is one of many deaths that Amazon claims not to be liable for.
7. The Exploitation of Temporary Workers
A large population of people working for Amazon is employed through staffing agencies. This means that Amazon deals with an agency, which then sends temporary workers to fill the jobs needed.
There is no stability or continuity to these jobs, as they are first-come, first-serve. For Amazon’s temp workers, every day starts with the uncertainty of if there will be work available if they will get to the agency in time, and if they will be able to put food on the table.
A documentary by Vice News shed light on the life of an Amazon temp worker, and it isn’t pretty.
The agencies prey on undocumented immigrants who find themselves desperate for under the table jobs to earn money. Amazon’s temp workers will only ever see a fraction of their earnings regardless of the hourly wage.
The agency charges the temp worker a transportation fee for the ride from the agency to the place of work. According to one such temp worker, you will be fired if you make other arrangements not to take the agency transportation.
What often happens to these workers on the agency’s transportation is the stuff of nightmares. Women are often forced to endure sexual assault and violence or else go without work.
Unfortunately, that isn’t where Amazon’s abuse of these workers ends. A large portion of these temp workers are undocumented and live in fear of deportation. Since it is the agency employing them, Amazon profits from the cheap labor while not being liable for any repercussions.
With this in mind, it was extra insulting when Amazon developed facial recognition software and pitched it to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to locate and deport undocumented people living in the United States.
Not only does Amazon exploit immigrant workers for profit, but it then turns around and contributes to the terrorization of these people.
However, there is no way for them to speak up against this mistreatment for fear of having their family separated or being sent somewhere that their lives are endangered.
Watch the full documentary here:
8. Two-Faced Public Relations
Many corporations have a public relations team that can spin things positively, but Amazon takes the cake.
When Amazon announced that it was raising its minimum wage to $15, people all around the United States thought that Amazon was creating the sort of jobs worth having. Politicians who had been critical of them suddenly decided that Amazon was one of the good guys.
It was great marketing on Amazon’s part because many employees were unhappy, despite the raise.
- When Amazon raised its minimum wage, it also slashed benefits, sick leave, and stock options. Having a few extra dollars at the end of the week doesn’t seem like such an act of kindness when it costs you retirement and the ability to take time off for sick leave. You can see what happens if you don’t save for retirement are all terrible options.
Additionally, when you compare the rate of $15 per hour against other companies with warehouse jobs, that pay is actually a bit lower than some competitors.
If you are looking to make $40,000 per hour, you can convert how much is $40,000 per year per hour to compare.
Let’s not forget that these raises did not benefit the temporary workers, of which Amazon has plenty. The staffing agencies would have benefitted from this increase, but it is doubtful that this would extend to those the staffing agency hires.
9. Evasion of Tax Obligations
When a company has profits of billions and billions of dollars, it would be a reasonable expectation that the company pays taxes in accordance with those profits. Not so, with Amazon.
For the majority of past years, Amazon has not paid a cent in federal income taxes.
My income is a drop in the bucket compared to Amazon, and I have had years where I have paid more than the company in my annual taxes. In all likelihood, you have also paid more than the corporate giant on a bad year.
I am not a tax expert, but through a series of loopholes and dishonest practices, companies like Amazon can skirt their tax obligations to either pay a fraction of what is appropriate, nothing at all, or even sometimes receive money for income tax.
For an in-depth overview of how federal income tax works for companies like Amazon, read here for an analysis by Business Insider.
Alternatives to Giving Amazon Blood-Money
Amazon has a lot of blood on its hands and money in its pockets. There is not a lot that an individual can do against something as huge as Amazon. Still, as more people become aware of the problems of supporting Amazon, the collective impact also increases.
There are a lot of things to like about online shopping on Amazon. You can get something outrageous, unique, and lightning-quick with just the press of a button.
However, knowing that what you receive might be counterfeit or was the cause of someone’s hospitalization is enough to make the magic of Amazon fade away and let the real picture of exploitation and deceit come into focus.
One of the best alternatives to giving Amazon more blood money is looking up the brand you want on Google and then shopping directly on the brand website instead.
What companies rival Amazon?
Amazon is a monopoly in the online market. Amazon has taken over large parts of the world and divided its territory with no other companies.
When did Amazon begin selling books?
Amazon first began selling books online in April 1995. This was about 20 years ago. One of the biggest reasons for the success of Amazon is its early entry into e-commerce, which gave it a huge head start on other competitors by securing brand loyalty through exponential growth at an early stage. However, this also came at a high cost to many small businesses that were put out of business or failed to compete with Amazon’s cheaper prices due to the inability to match their resources. Some independent bookstores are now offering online purchases.
How are brands using Amazon?
If you have heard anything about how great it is that companies are selling products directly on Amazon, forget it. Companies are not allowed to sell their products directly on Amazon. They can set up a page as an outlet for the same marketing as other channels (Twitter, Instagram) but with the added benefit of being able to mark it down attract more customers.
Is buying from Amazon bad for small businesses?
In short: yes. While Amazon is good at what they do, this success comes at the cost of many small businesses. According to a report published by Washington Post, independent merchants accounted for almost half of Amazon’s traffic. This means that while these brands were considered separate entities (with different website addresses, social media pages), they all shared the same destination: amazon.com.
There are many reasons to choose not to buy things from Amazon, and in fact, many people do turn up their noses at the company’s business practices. Whether you are concerned about your privacy, how Amazon affects small businesses, or want to stay close with what you buy and help out your local community.
Maybe you have a moral problem with supporting a company that has been accused of both collaborating with government agencies for mass surveillance as well as selling products that contributed to people’s death. No matter which way you slice it, there are many reasons why buying from Amazon is not worth it.