Amazon is the largest online retailer in the world after Alibaba, and as size always does, it’s corrupted the two-pizza-meetingi company to the core.

Without going too much into the firm’s multifarious and multitudinous tentacles – its monstrous web services business,ii their “dynamically” stupid audiobook offerings, and their owner’s newspaper for people who are too old read logsiii – let’s look at their core business : retail, warehousing, and shipping. Starting with a little tell-all straight from the horse’s mouth :

Now, the average employee stays at Amazon for LESS than two years, so when you do the math to compare offers from various companies go ahead and factor that in. The entire system is designed to bring you in, burn you out, and send you on your way with as little equity lost as possible.

Does this surprise anyone ? What’s a megalithic crown corporation supposed to do ? The options for anything the size of Amazon is 1) Treat everyone with dignity and respect, or 2) Squeeze the living daylights out of the otherwise useless and fungible lumps of clay called “employees” so as to return even a modest, and I do mean perpetually modest, profit to shareholders.iv

That signing bonus they offer you to offset the fact that they give you jack shit for stock your first two years? If you leave before two years is up you actually end up OWING Amazon money. You have to pay it back on a pro-rated scale. It’s not a bonus, it’s more like a payday loan.

Hm. Sounds suspiciously like Walmart’s ‘General Store‘ scam to me. Not that this is a Snowden-level shock.

But that’s just the employees right ? And who gives a fuck about them as long as the prices that you, the consumer, pays are lower than they’d be anywhere else ? And that, especially with than Amazon Prime membership you’re forking out $80 per month $82.95 per year for, the “free” “express” shipping option means that you and instant gratification are no more than two days apart ? Unfortunately, there are a few problems here as well. Here are a couple that I’ve observed first-hand.

On lower prices : I have a none-too-modest affinity for dead tree books – yes, a tragic figure is me, what can I say ? – so if I have a book recommended to me from someone in my WoT, the first place I’ll go is to Amazon’s used book library to see if I can pick up a copy for maybe $0.01, maybe a few dollars at most.

While I’m usually only looking for one book at a time, sometimes I’ll order four, five, even six in one go if there’s say, a collection that’s only sold in individual volumes or when I’m looking to add a number of works from a novel and new-to-me author. When this happens, since there are only so many third-party used book retailers that Amazon sources from, there’ll be some overlap and I might have several books coming from the same company in, say, Indiana or Vancouver or wherever. This would seem to be a perfect opportunity to economise on packaging and shipping costs… but it isn’t ! Amazon has a flat-rate shipping policy for all used books of $6.49 regardless of whether the books are coming from the same city as the customer or from half-way around the world and regardless of whether the customer is ordering multiple books from the retailer simultaneously. Amazon undoubtedly takes a significant cut of this ‘flat-fee’ but how much precisely is beyond the scope of this inquiry.

This price scam was made all too apparent earlier today when I went to order the first four volumes of “A History of Private Lives” by Georges Duby et al. on Nassim Taleb’s recommendation. Plunking Volumes I-IV in my shopping cart, I noticed that I was sourcing 3/4 of the titles from “Better World Books” in Indiana. Not particularly enthralled about the idea of spending $19.47 to ship three books from the same place at the same time, I went in search of the BWB’s direct website. Sure enough, I found all four titles there, with FREE INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING for less than Amazon’s shipping quote alone. Not only was the shipping infinitely less expensive, but even the books themselves were being listed for less than they were on Scamazon.v So instead of spending C$ 69.11 to have the set delivered to my doorstep, I ended up spending a modest C$ 20.16, or 29.2% of the ‘Amazon’ price.

On faster shipping : A screengrab from my “Orders” page shows the gross discrepancy between date of order placement and delivery.
Amazon Prime shipping delaysSo Scamazon’s “free” “express” thooper dooper Prime shipping option, for which they list an estimated delivery window of “1-2 days” at checkout and for which my wallet is lighter by $1,000 $82.95 per year,vi takes between ¡¡¡ 22 and 35 days !!!vii Such speed, such service, such a fucking scam.

In summa : If the terrible employee treatment, high prices, and slow shipping weren’t enough to dissuade you from using Amazon, remember that they’re an implicit USG crown corporation and that supporting it is supporting the devil himself.

And you don’t want to find out which circle of hell is reserved for people like that.

___ ___ ___

  1. Bezos has long, perhaps even always maintained a policy that if a meeting requires more than two pizzas to feed the attendees, it has to be split up into smaller groups. In praxis, this probably leads to hundreds of anorexics meeting together in one room and two fatsos in the one next door.
  2. AWS is a direct result of the USG’s inability to avoid that scary tendency towards centralisation.
  3. N.B. There’s a stark contrast between those who are old and decrepit and those who are active. The old are aged and slow, often trapping whatever accrued wisdom they’ve accumulated over the decades beneath their wrinkles, nostalgia, and pale blue eyes. While it takes some measure of discernment to appreciate just how wise #b-a is, it takes none to sense the energy it produces. That place is like a nuclear reactor.
  4. Amazon loses money about every second financial quarter. But hey, that’s better than every quarter like Twitter !
  5. I grant that I have no way of knowing whether the exact same copies of the titles were being cross-posted or whether the copies in better condition end up on Amazon and worse condition on Better World Books’ own website. I must further admit that I dun really give a shit.
  6. Megal0l math here. Thanks to Stan for point this one out.
  7. This doesn’t even factor in the fact that, having tried out this little Scamazon experiment for the past two months, I can report that the shipped boxes are beaten half to shit about 65% of the time, which’d be neither here nor there if it was just the packaging, but the contents themselves are damaged 10% of the time !! It’s obviously not worth my time to return a box of kleenex or an exploded dishsoap, but it is worth my time to find an alternative, which I’m actively doing. Your input is welcome if you have experience ordering higher-end cleaning supplies in Canada. I’ll be trying ‘’ soon.

9 thoughts on “Scamazon.

  1. $80/year, not month. Unless that was a Canadian oddity.
    We don’t have the $6+ flat rate used book postage here, either.

    • Decimation says:

      I think the used book shipping/handling fee is $4 in the US. Loads of mass-market books sell for $0.01 – I guess the bookshops ‘make it up’ on volume and a few cents of handling fee (using USPS media mail of course).

    • Pete D. says:

      Shipping books across the hinterlands of the sparsely populated Americas to the remotely colonised ports is understandably more expensive than it is to dem dere bustlin’ hubs in de United States.

      Still, while I used to see far more books selling for a penny, maybe 2-3 years ago, it’s become increasingly rare. The cheapest are often around $5-7, still no hardship, but considerably more dear. Then again, conflating the variables in this experiment are that my tastes are becoming more refined with age, which is to say more obscure and expensive.

    • Pete D. says:

      Hm. Yes. Until CAD ‘goes Weimar,’ I suppose that this is a discrepancy worth correcting.


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