90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
The Amazon Economy

Amazon.com is busting way off the web, taking over huge chunks of the “real world” economy. We’ll lay it out.

A worker separates packages for final shipment inside the 800,000 sq. ft. Amazon.com warehouse in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP)

A worker separates packages for final shipment inside the 800,000 sq. ft. Amazon.com warehouse in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP)

Amazon.com has become so familiar it seems like no big deal.  An online bookstore.  An online department store.  Yes, it killed Borders Books and probably a lot of others, but so it goes.  Well, it’s about to go a whole lot further.

Amazon has quietly become the back end of a huge number of businesses on and offline.  Amazon takes their orders, warehouses their stock.  Amazon ships what you buy – from them.  Its infrastructure is ginormous.  Its next target: same-day delivery.  It may be the knock-out  blow for physical retail as we’ve known it.

This hour, On Point:  Amazon, taking over the world.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Barney Jopson, U.S. retail correspondent for the Financial Times. His investigative series on Amazon, which ran in the newspaper, can be found here.

Sachin Anand, director of business development at GoVacuum.com. He is also the son of the company’s founder and owner, Bill Anand.

From Tom’s Reading List

We did a show earlier this year on the realities of online shopping, what it means for those people who ship your orders.

Financial Times “This has lifted Amazon’s economic influence beyond its tech peers Apple, Google  and Facebook and taken it into the realm of network businesses such as stock  exchanges, power grid operators, credit card processors and shipping lines.”

Washington Post “A wave of states, including Virginia, have passed laws that will require consumers to pay sales tax on all Internet purchases as soon as next year. Other states and the District are pursuing similar measures. And in Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) wants to go further and levy a tax on songs and other digital products bought through popular sources such as iTunes.”

Wall Street Journal “Amazon.com Inc. AMZN +0.91%is working with component suppliers in Asia to test a smartphone, people familiar with the situation. Officials at some of Amazon’s parts suppliers, who declined to be named, said the Seattle-based company is testing a smartphone and mass production of the new device may start late this year or early next year.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Salzburg

    Love Amazon.com, .de, & .co.uk!!! 
    Hate, just not little hate, big HATE their shops concept. 
    Been ripped off twice already with their shop users.

  • Request

    NPR – please do a show on the work conditions in Amazon warehouses - or the places that Amazon outsources the labor to. I’ve read awful things about them.

    • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

      Use the search feature, they’ve done it (not solely about Amazon but about the entire industry):

      http://onpoint.wbur.org/2012/02/28/on-line-shopping

    • Adks12020

      They have done one on Amazon working conditions.  I can’t remember if it was Fresh Air or Talk of the Nation but I heard a lengthy interview with a reporter that worked in one of their warehouses for a few months and published a story about it.  It aired a month or two ago.

  • Yar

    Uncollected sales tax collection for internet purchases is wrong and amounts to a government subsidy to online companies.  Temp work and lack of health insurance are other ways we are dividing the nation into haves and have-nots. 
    A Kentucky state park campground is turned into a Amazon work camp each Christmas shopping season.Read this news article about Green River State Park.http://www.examiner.com/article/green-river-campground-improvements-help-amazon-com-workers
    Ironically, this is seen as economic development. Does the party of Lincoln understand the concept of a living wage that includes health insurance with enough left over to eat and pay the rent, or are they only interested in getting their Kindle shipped as cheaply as possible and turn a blind eye to the economic slavery that still exists in the USA?

    • Ryan_hennings

      Give me a break.  ”Economic salvery”?

      • Yar

        What would you call it?
        Ezekiel 12:2
        Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people.

        • Steve

          The people perish for lack of understanding.

          Even more tragic when future generations are sacrificed by the self-interest of their parents.

        • Ryan_hennings

          Yar,

          You will always have winners and losers, it’s natural.  We can’t all be winners.

          Tons of people have made better lives for themselves and some have not.  They are not victims as you suggest.

          • Yar

            Slavery may be natural, but that doesn’t make it right.  I believe we are called to make the world a better place.  We are all losers when our profit is based on the exploitation of others.  We are making our society unstable. That is destructive.  We are victims of our own selfishness.

          • Ryan_hennings

            It’s not slavery!  Where in our economy does economic slavery exist?  You have the freedom to work for whomever you want.  You aren’t forced to work for one owner.

            Where is profit based on the exploitation of others?  You sound like you are part of a union, but maybe I’m wrong.

          • Yar

            I am not in a union, other than belonging to a church. I grow produce, my wages are based on the exploitation of migrant labor. So I am a victim of economic slavery even though I work for myself. What is freedom if you don’t have real choice? I actually do have choices, I chose to be a slave to a low price industry (farming), however many don’t.

    • William

      Actually, the government should encourage more people to shop online by not allowing any taxes for online buyers. This would lessen the traffic burden. Roads are very costly to build and maintain and just taking 20 percent of the shoppers off the roads would be a huge plus.

      • jefe68

        Are you serious? So you think that by keeping 20% of shoppers off the roads this would help the road infrastructure. Are you aware that most of the damage done to roads is from large trucks and poor maintenance. Your premise is beyond the pale of absurd.  

        • TFRX

          I guess he’s as serious, but what I read was:

          “William shops online and doesn’t want to pay sales tax. Ever.”

          • TFRX

            (Ugh. Me pronoun bad today. What I read was my take on William’s opinion.)

        • William

           Trucks, trucking companies pay much higher taxes and fees than the average car owner. Fewer is better.

      • Yar

        Roads are paid for mostly by fuel taxes. Tax forgiveness is a subsidy.  Paying less than a living wage subsidizes consumption.  Wages are too low for the poor and gas is too cheap for the rich.  We should raise both wages and the price of fuel.  I support adding a dollar tax on fuel, and a minimum wage indexed to the price of energy.  Healthcare is included in goods and services that are preformed by the professional class.  In essence healthcare is a tax, much like a VAT, yet we don’t pay it on goods and services preformed by low wage workers, such as Amazon temps.  We want them to pay for our healthcare when they buy goods or services from us,yet we don’t pay for their healthcare or provide a living wage to them when we shop at Amazon.com. I see this as exploitation of the poor and as a form of economic slavery!

        • William

          I would like to see a labor shortage which would cause wages to go up on their own. Additional gas taxes would just crush the poor and middle class. A VAT tax would just give more money to Washington and it would get tossed down another wasted idea. The solution to moving up in this society has always been about getting a skill or education that is in demand. The current problems with the poor is mostly self-inflicted and there is not much more we can do about it.

          • Yar

            You seem to be saying that slavery is self-inflicted.  Are you telling the poor to rise up and take from those who profited off their labor?  My statement is, that healthcare is already a VAT, at least for goods or services provided by professionals.  While the poor pay it when they visit the doctor, or lawyer, the middle class and rich don’t, when they buy a hamburger or salad at a fast food franchise.  I think that is unfair.  I disagree with you that there isn’t much we can do about exploitation of the poor. We can demand a living wage for ourselves and for others.  That is what the union movement did 100 years ago and we should return a balance of power by building organizations.
            I suspect you benefit from exploitation and don’t like being reminded of that fact.  Blaming the victims is a way of avoiding personal responsibility for their plight.

      • Steve_T

         Then we would have 20% loss of jobs. I guess you don’t work in retail sales, that would cause a whole new drop in employment, not just from those who work there but their other suppliers, because no store sells just one thing.

        • William

           Most retail stores have a short lifespan and  make it or break it at Christmas. I won’t miss seeing more strip malls going away.

      • ana

          Seems like a lot of deliveries by gas using vehicles if most people  shopped on line.

    • J__o__h__n

      Sales tax shouldn’t be charged by states on brick and mortar stores either.  They are regressive.

  • cynthia atwood

    that’s entirely the problem (see below).  People fail to understand the concept of “logistics..’   there IS NO Amazon warehouse.  
    Sure I can find rare out of print books through Amazon because some teeny bookstore in some small town has a copy they can supply. I would never know about it if not for Amazon.
    More often though, people shop in the big independent bookstores because they’re interesting, neat and the staff is knowledgeable. then they run home, purchase  a book through Amazon, or 10, that is supplied through some other bookstore or distribution center elsewhere because they can ‘save $5 and the  shipping is free.’

    My mom has been in the book business for more thirty years.  first on the retail end for The Tattered Cover in Denver, then as fiction buyer, then she flipped to the sales side, first for Random House and then for a group that included Farrar Strauss and Giroux. 

    So there’s a problem if we lose all the bricks and mortar bookstores. An even worse problem if we close out publishers because no one learns about the up and coming writers who do not happen to to make the NY Times Best Seller list or or not picked up by a ….Crown Publisher.  And last, if we lose freedom of expression, or cultural expression simply because we put all our trust in Amazon (a ‘company’ that has no people, per se) then what?

    What happens when there is ‘no there there.’

  • Patrik

    I was browsing Amazon yesterday, it is definitely an example of where business is heading.  They are just waiting for their CEO in Chief to be elected and open the flood gates.  Too big to fail comes to mind…

  • http://www.idc-ri.com/ Greg Girard

    From my perspective as an retail industry information technology analyst I see several facets playing out here. Erstwhile denigrated “brick and mortar” retail once relegated to the ash heap of history is fighting back with the full assets of its physical presence, prodigious and profound investments in information technology, and a renewed vigor to bring their stores into the mainstream of their omnichannel customer engagement strategies–Nordstrom has pegged its five-year ecommerce investment target at nearly $1 billion, Macy’s isn’t far behind. Tesco’s Korean grocery store subsidiary is creating ‘shopportunities’ in subway stations with QR-coded virtual shelves for same delivery. Showrooming is a double-edge sword–one that omnichannel retailer might wield better than online retailers–might is the operative word here.

    Meanwhile Amazon has a slew of assets retailers with a physical store heritage lack, primarily that its customer relationships are inherently one-to-one, more akin to that which telecomms and banks have with their customer, and that it’s business model–and commercial advantage–is fundamentally founded in its use of information technology. It’s advantaged too with its complementary marketplace of other retailers, that it often doesn’t take the financial risk of owning inventory, and has a growing high-margin business as a provider of cloud IT infrastructure services, and again related to its connection to its customers, it can aggregate demand (customers) and supply (inventory) at greater scale and accuracy than physical store retailers.

    After  12 to 15 years of ecommerce behind us, the channel’s overall share of total retail sales remains about at the same figures–a share in the low teens. Its rate of growth as a sales channel is slowing but its rate of growth as a channel of influence is growing much faster than that and in that regard the influence of social networks — Facebook and Twitter primarily but now including Pinterest and others — is outpacing Amazon. In the realm of social media as the fulcrum for influence that playing field is more evenly split between store-based retailers and Amazon.

    In the end, though, the battle will be won by the parties best able to engage the consumer whenever, wherever, however she or he wants to shop. In that regard, the jury is still out.

  • Vasco DeGrabya

    I miss my local bookstores (sniffle).  Audabon books, Borders, Harry Schwarz, all gone.  There is one Barnes and Noble and one Half-Price Books within driving range.  Cool places to shop and hang out that have been driven to extinction by “progress”.

    • MrNutso

      Gene’s books at the King of Prussia, PA mall.  What a great store.

    • Still Here

      Apparently they were cooler to hang out in than to shop.

      • Steve_T

         That would be you, hanging out at a place where you could educate your self, and walk out empty handed and empty headed.

  • Charles Vigneron

    As much as I liked the early Amazon, (& online shopping) it’s now more important to me that brick & mortar bookstores survive and continue to pay local wages & taxes. They are my neighbors. I still shop Amazon but check locally first, Powell’s online second, then Amazon.  

    • guesty guesterson

      Those wages may be local, but they are minimum wage, almost always part time and usually provide zero benefits (this includes Powells – well, since they went union I think they get a
      $1 more per hour than min wage…the point is they do not pay a living
      wage). 

  • William

    Amazon is a great American success story.

    • nj_v2

      Genuflecting to their god of profit, right wingers will always cheer huge, predatory businesses that game the system and abuse workers.

      • William

        Yes, profits matter, just ask Obama. He needs those rich companies and individuals to pay for his new entitlement program. Those “free riders” are just not paying there fair share.

    • ana

      At whose expense? 

      • William

        I find embracing change and technology is always better than trying to live in the past.

  • Jay

    All of my purchases with Amazon in the last year haven’t even dealt with their website. I purchase all of my new books and reading materials now through my Kindle. As much as I love my Kindle, there are some times where I still wish to curl up with a good paperback instead. I hope that ”physical” books aren’t going to disappear in the future, as CDs seem to be since the MP3 player was created.

  • corb

    INSTANTANEOUS price increases.  Amazon manipulates listed warehouse prices.  On Monday, Amazon listed 12 used electronics items at $206, which matched the lowest price by an individual seller.  Two days later, the individual low priced item was sold, and surprisingly, the prices for all of the remaining items were raised by 30%, to $260.  I’ve never seen a brick and mortar store raise their prices 30% after they’ve sold one listed item.

  • Brad

    Brick and Mortar stores must offer something new and different that Amazon can’t offer: intelligent sales people, comfortable surroundings (wifi, coffee bars, movie theaters or even a restaurant in Best Buy?). 

    • TFRX

      A movie theater in a Best Buy would have to compete with whatever idiot has turned up some sound system to 150db from 80 yards away.

      But otherwise, you’re on to something good.

    • Ping1

      I thought are already intel. sales people in these reatail outlets….after all most of them are college grads

      • TFRX

        A friend of mine interviewed at a Best Buy, and described the manager there as paranoid about theft.

        One third of the conversation from the manager’s side of the table was about “What would you do if you saw an employee stealing? What would you do if you saw a customer put something in their pocket?”

        Not “Where did you work in retail? How do you handle customers who don’t know about game systems buying for their grandkids? Can you explain the difference between 720p and 1080p?”

        I have no idea if this is representative, but I can’t imagine that making a good working and shopping environment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1816544 Dan Trindade

    I understand the negative aspects of Amazon’s marketshare and look forward to hearing more about it in the next hour but what about the good it can do? For example, considering the all encompassing industrial powers and reach of the Amazonion Colossus, the company’s involvement in small business development through KickStarter is an excellent example of a massive corporation giving a helping hand to small business.

    • Thew

       Dan, you can shop with the Amazon Market Place vendors like us.. We are a Small Mom and Pop..And must use Amazon Network to compete..  So just be sure to buy from the Marketplace and you get the best of both worlds.. Don’t forget we make up 40% of Amazon Sales..  And we are local Mom and Pop’s

      • guesty guesterson

         Me too, me too!

  • Drew Down

    Instant gratification, deferred cost.

    What a bargain.

  • AC

    who handles their shipping?

    • jefe68

      USPO, FedEX and UPS.

      • TFRX

        I’m wondering how many oil price spikes before that free shipping goes away.

        I hope people aren’t too attached to that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/skiatomic08 Bradley Stewart

      UPS if the expected delivery date is on a weekday. FedEx if the expected delivery date is a saturday.

  • willis117

    I have no problem with the size of Amazon, what does concern me are the stories about how the massive company treats its employees and evasion practices the company engages in in many states. I’ve heard stories on NPR about how many of the warehouse jobs at Amazon border on slavery and recently here in Tennessee there was a big battle between the state and the giant about collecting state sales taxes. Those issues really bother me.

    • Keith

      This is, of course, very relevant to the story about the Walmart seafood supplier under investigation for forcing workers to perform 20+ hour shifts, 80+ hour weeks, and threatening both workers and their families with violence. History shows us clearly that big companies fail to do good things. Support local businesses!

  • TFRX

    What percentage of Amazon shoppers are actively involved in leaving reviews on the site?

    How do other folks here find the “wisdom of the crowds” when it comes to product reviews there? How does that hold up compared to other sites, such as NewEgg or (your favorite niche-tailer)?

    (I’m not talking about books, movies or music, which are subject to individual taste.)

  • Karlsgateharley

    The heart of commerce is competition so when a company gets so big that it suppresses competition and thereby competitive pricing then I worry about the affect on the consumer.

  • Realist

    I live in Vt and I have an Amazon prime membership and it’s great.  As opposed to driving for miles to go to a store which may not have the product I want I order it from Amazon and its at my door in two days.  I buy a topical skin medication (coal tar ointment) from Amazon because no local pharmacies carry it anymore.  I have a small machine shop and I can now buy precision tools and safety supplies from them also.

  • Max R

    As a recent university graduate, Amazon has been a huge asset. No one rips you off more than campus bookstores, and Amazon was a great option for buying second hand books, especially older editions of textbooks that have no change in content and are simply used to make students and campuses buy new books every few years.

    • http://www.facebook.com/skiatomic08 Bradley Stewart

      Not to mention the substantially higher buyback price. Amazon’s buyback prices are much more appealing than a university bookstore. The amazon credit you get back may not be actual cash, but you can use it towards your textbooks for the next semester.

    • Adks12020

      I’m in grad school right now and buy all my books used, if possible, and from Amazon.  I simply can’t afford the inflated prices of the campus store.  I’m getting a degree in finacial services law so all the books are extremely expensive.  If I can buy a book for $35 with some notes written in it or buy it new for $175 I’m going to choose the $35 book every time.  Plus it saves paper which I like a lot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/peterjonathan1987 Peter Leonard-Solis

    It has been said many times before, but there really is nothing like an independent bookstore. There’s something so powerful about stepping into a room and instantly being surrounded by ideas from yesterday and ages past. I’m so lucky to be employed by such a bookstore – I get to experience this awe every single work day! It’s an instant connection into our history. Endless titles with their digital book covers on a screen cannot compare.

    • Sheri

      Unfortunately, the employees at the independent bookstore in my area, Iowa City, act very stuck up and exclusionary.  The bookstore is just one more brick-and-mortar store that makes me feel uncomfortable.  I prefer to look at and for books, and other merchandise, in a comfortable setting, which is increasingly just my own house.

      • guesty guesterson

        Powell’s (various locations in Portland, OR) has a similar problem.  Some (not all) employees can be really, really rude…..or even worse, positively indifferent.

    • Thew

       Smart independent book sellers Sell on Amazon.. Use the Marketplace vendors and you help out your Mom and pop..

  • HAJ

    Even when he can get it at a local store, a friend of mine buys everything he possibly can on Amazon. It’s almost always cheaper, and saving a few dollars makes it worth it to him. I understand the need to save money (I’m in grad school), but what about supporting businesses in your area? I don’t want to live in a neighborhood chock full of empty storefronts.

  • nj_v2

    Some things to consider about the massive consolidation of retail:

    http://www.ilsr.org/amazon-infographic/

    Amazon Infographic: How a Single Company Gained a Stranglehold over Online Shopping and the Future of Retail

    http://www.thenation.com/slideshow/168179/ten-reasons-avoid-doing-business-amazoncom

    Ten Reasons to Avoid Doing Business With Amazon(dot)com

  • Jim

    The whole Amazon retailing system is based upon cheap oil and cheap air and truck distribution. What happens if oil prices go up or becomes scarce, thus driving up the cost of cheap transport? What about all this air shipping and what it is doing to the climate (CO-2 emissions)??

  • potter

    Consider that big box stores have been cutting back on sales help. Go into one of these stores- too huge to begin with, in fact exhausting for some- and you can’t find people to help you.

    • TFRX

      Given the turnover of employees at a WalMart, how helpful one is when you can find them is a crapshoot.

      Six of one…

  • Adks12020

    The current caller points out a problem that is present in other deliver jobs as well.  I have a friend that works for a pharmaceutical delivery company.  The drivers that work for him are in the same boat.  His bosses keep dropping the prices they are willing to pay the drivers (they pay per run, not per package) and they keep losing workers as a result.  The workers cannot afford to live, maintain their vehicles, etc. on the wages they are paid.

  • Barb Darrow

    I’m a tech reporter in boston area and cover amazon. One of my sources, who develops web sites for etailers etc uses Amazon Web Services all the time. one of his Amazon contacts told him recently (vis a vis the constant rollout of new features, price cuts etc.) that Amazon will know it’s doing well when the federal regulators come knocking on its door.

    • guesty guesterson

      Unfortunately, that makes total sense…

  • CharlesMcEnerney

    I stopped buying through Amazon.com two years ago for all these reasons. I encourage others to do the same. 

    • Charles Vigneron

      Me too.

      • Sheri

        But, the shopping experience at the real stores is so completely horrible that I prefer to shop online without being chased through a store by a sales person.

  • Kristepher Severy

    It’s not just Amazon’s putting retailers out of business that is a problem.  Taxpayers subsidize Amazon by paying for roads and other infrastructure and, much like in the case of Walmart, subsidize health costs and cost of living for those who are employed by the company.  I am a retailer who pays taxes, and believe Amazon should pay taxes as well.

  • Paul M

    There was a time when people thought technology would allow people to work 20 hours a week or less (and not starve). Efficiencies like this, along with having the Chinese make everything for us, modern farming, etc. are what could make this happen. Do we no longer want our advancements to make our lives easier, other than a few minutes we save by ordering on-line, and a few dollars we save from free shipping? By the way shipping is just built into the cost now.

    And what about anti-trust and tax justice? Super companies now make a large percentage of our economy but don’t want to pay the same amount of taxes that a larger number of companies doing the same volume of business used to pay.

    Lastly, there are so many successful small businesses that compete successfully with chains and on-line stores. They do so by offering excellent service that on line business or chains can’t. If I can talk to someone in a store and have a meaningful conversation I think it is always worth the money. The problem is that most small business aren’t really as useful as they should be.

    Paul

  • Charles Vigneron

    I would hope that Bronze (?) comments show as a transcript. Well-spoken!
    He reduced many programs i’ve listen here, to societal change v technology.

  • Tncaneoguy

    Planned obsolescence – it’s needed for continuous growth.  Of course continuous growth is not possible, or healthy (economic cancer?), but that is what the modern economy is based upon.  

  • Stan Przybylinski

    The word is disintermediation. IT and the Internet specifically have caused this in many industries. Yes, it is a good deal from some perspectives but not for those intermediaries, who mostly are middle class and less educated. Can you say travel agents?

    Also, say hello to Dr. Florida, a professor of mine from my time at Carnegie Mellon.

  • mbm

    Tom, Barney, when does this become an antitrust issue?

  • Joe in Philly

    Today’s world: (i) a highly paid inventor and entrepreneurial class, (ii) a small cadre of well-paid managers that support (i), including lawyers and finance folks; (iii) a middle class comprising  mostly civil servants; (iv) a majority mac-job labor force that receives minimum wage with little-to-no benefits; (v) a significant under-class, reliant on social welfare programs.

    Bottom line: those with ideas and the ability to execute on ideas will be rewarded, and the rest will be struggling to make ends meet.

    Consequence: increasing economic disparity (given the status quo wrt tax and employment policy)

    Why: technology (that dis-intermediates traditional jobs) and free trade (that pressures labor costs)

    Welcome to the information age!

  • Jill T

    I buy my food and some special items from the local farmer market and everything else from Amazon.  My shopping experience is completely different from my parent’s generation but I feel I have a better sense of my community and an overall better buying experience.

  • Ky Dj

    Walmart, Amazon, and franchises all reduce our creative & entrepreneurial abilities to some degree.   It improves the chances for those educated at certain schools who are born with connections to be able to invest in those things owned by their friends and grow their fortunes.  This trend also reduces the chances for small businesses in small towns to be able to compete & grow.  These companies like EBAY & Amazon can squeeze nearly every dollar out of the sellers to the point where the sellers are really just working for Amazon & EBAY.  However, that is the way the world works, and creative people have had this same problem for years and learned to work their way around it.

    Every year we gain more productivity thanks to technology.  Today, thanks to technology, we have more time to spend with friends and family, our dollar buys us much more than ever before, and we take many more vacations because we have so much more time thanks to technology.

    Well the first sentence is true, the last one is not true because of banksters and government printing money which goes down in value each year.  If you feel very busy despite the fact that we can make things in 1 second which used to take all day, the reason is because of currency manipulation between global private banks and your government.  Amazon has nothing to do with our stresses really, and creative people are not working hard enough to dig their way out of this idiotic currency system – a system which was created mainly to produce wars related to Middle Eastern politics.  Our currency system, and the privately owned war-mongering companies who control our currency system, those are the problems worth talking about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=810125719 Julie Christensen

    In spite of concerns I have with the way Amazon seems to be putting brick and mortar stores out of business, and depleting local tax revenues, I have to give it kuddos for the way it has allowed writers who can’t find an agent to sell their books (e and paperback).  I’m a writer who spent ten years trying to find an agent.  I published my novel, The Truth About Dating, on Amazon and sold 25,000 copies in about ten months. 

    • Thew

       Again  it is not putting us out of businesses unless you ignore us marketplace vendors selling on Amazon.  Buy from Amazon Marketplace vendors not Amazon..

      • guesty guesterson

         I second that emotion, Thew!  Lots of hardworking folks like us out there trying to put food on our family’s table through selling on AZ’s marketplace.  Please support us!

  • Pdemos4

    Full circle back to where we work for and buy fom the company store…

  • WL

    A generation ago, the local economy and the local political base included a variety of small business people who cared about their communities.  In this brave new world, the wealth goes someplace else while local communities suffer not only economically but also in the absence of active and effective local business people who keep a community vital.  It has contributed to many of the shortcomings in our political system we currently suffer.

  • Sasha

    The previous caller made it sound like it’s a reality the God created for us and we don’t have choice… But it’s a reality created by a handful of powerful humans capable of fallacies! How far they would go? How far their greedy and ambition would lead them? 
    Just because it is technology does not make it all right. It’s amazing that in a democracy like the US, people are trying to shovel this type of ‘reality” down the throat of the majority of the public !

  • Mac

    I don’t care what amazon or walmart do as long as they:

     are required to pay a living wage rate

     are required to provide all social benefits to all employees (including part-time employees). This includes either providing the benefit directly or paying taxes to fund the cost ( eg. health insurance, pensions).

    • Keith

      But, they aren’t required to provide these things. And they don’t provide these things.

      • Mac

         I know they aren’t, my meaning exactly. There needs to be more laws on the books to protect employees from bad social practices of business. When it gets bad enough people will see the value of revived unionism.

  • Webb Nichols

    Imagine the future. Cities and towns with reduced people activity and interaction. Closed storefronts. Big box warehouses surrounding settlements. Parking lots are more profitable than buildings but cities are not covered in asphalt. Capitalism will continue to chew away and swallow culture and the very structure of our physical environment which promotes the things which make us human. Progress often destroys the very things that become our memories.

    • Keith

      Sad, but painfully true words. And it happens because so many revel in the dismantling of cultural institutions. “DEREGULATION! The market will correct itself!”

  • Megan

    Americans need to look at conditions in the Amazon warehouses and make some decisions.  From what i have heard, they rival all the labor concerns we are so concerned about in warehouses overseas

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    This is an EXTRACTIVE economy.  Things are designed for the dump.  And a few get rich.

    Great.

    Neil

  • John Muccillo

    I believe that adherence to being fiercely individual stands in our way of seeing the opportunity here. Of course Amazon should have competition to keep their prices and treatment of staff fair and balanced, but small business owners, in the majority, are many times not as nimble as they should be considering technology today. This is not the 1950′s, so these so-called entrepreneurs have to embrace forward movement, display our American spirit, and make some lemonaid from the lemon. Who knows – maybe we could bulldoze some of the half empty malls, plant some trees, and have more free time with our families and neighbors – we won’t be out shopping. By the way, I am a businees owner.

    • Thew

       John, this is why we sell via Amazon Market place..  It seems this discussion has not taken into affect that the Market Place vendors, over 40% of Amazon Sales.. are done by Smart Small Mom and Pop Business Paying though the nose to use Amazons Network.. Simply shop with Market place vendors..  And ignore the Amazon only offerings.. Almost everything on Amazon now is brought to you by a local Mom and pops paying Amazon for the Chance to sell to you.. Don’t forget about us..

  • Scott

    it is my understanding that at least in MA there is a huge tax advantage an Amazon gets by NOT having to pay any sales tax.  A competitor such as Barnes & Noble is penalized because they have a retail presence in the state so are required to collect MA Sales Tax for online sales to MA residents.

    • Thew

       All of us Amazon Vendors Must pay Sales Tax to the State we operate in.. Even when we sell via Amazon FBA program.. Amazon itself may not pay taxes in your states..

      Another Reason to be sure you are buying from Amazon’s Marketplace vendors. And not from Amazon Direct. Support your Mom and pop Buissness by using only the Market place vendors on Amazon.

  • OnPointFan

    Borders failed because of classic business mistakes–overexpansion, poor strategic planning, etc.–not due to Amazon. Borders was a fun and lively destination. Barney is right: there’s room for both.

  • Robert_galla

    are there more or fewer products available because
    of amazon? Since they onlt sell the most popular items.

  • Val

    All the callers who talk about Amazon’s great low prices are missing the point – those low prices come from depressed wages and skinnier margins for manufacturers, neither of which are sustainable.  Come on, people, look at the big picture!

  • AC

    as for their distribution processes and amount of resources they use, they should pay additional taxes for, and contribute to state infrastructure funds….

  • Marian Librarian

    I don’t shop with Amazon as much as I do other retailers. Sears, J.C. Penney, etc. I do not have internet access at my home. I have not had this technology for about three years. I fortunately work at our local public library and make purchases for our library. Sometimes their prices are very close to the book wholesalers like Baker & Taylor. 

    The push for technology has not reached the rural areas of the United States. Our town’s population is 5,000. I put a people counter on my front door last year. We had over 17.000 walk through that door. I am able to maintain three public access computers (PAC). We are very under funded and under staffed with only two full time employees and one part time employee. We are open 9 hours 5 days a week. I limit PACs to one hour per patron per day. Many times we have people waiting in line for a PAC. 

    Because Amazon depends heavily on internet access, it really has not had an impact in our community – - yet. I don’t know what the future holds for rural America. But right now, it looks dark.

  • Vanessa, Jamaica Plain

    I feel torn about Amazon. I have an Amazon Credit Card and a Prime account both of which I love. They offer great rewards and you can buy practically anything on Amazon. 

    BUT I have a rule:  I will not buy books on Amazon.  I have a soft spot for independent bookstores and I realize that the “value” of a product (the man hours that go into producing a product) is a lot MORE than what Amazon lists it as.  It’s not fair to the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people that put effort into making that product.  It is causing a lot of companies to go out of business and I am always cautious when one company pulls so far ahead of other companies with respect to competition. 

    It’s hard to turn down a good deal though, so I do understand.

    • Keith

      Pretty reasonable ideas.

    • Thew

      Read my post above.. if you buy from Marketplace vendors on Amazon using the Fulfillment system you are buying local.. WE make up a over 40% of all Amazon sales now.. so don’t be so quick to disregards items on Amazon.. just make sure you buy them from marketplace vendors.

  • potter

    I don’t always get the best price on Amazon- even with prime membership including free shipping.

  • Lindam11

    Amazon is a boon to those of us who live in rural areas and would have to travel 2-3 hours for retail stores to buy books, music, electronics, and many other items. The customer reviews are extremely helpful. Even more helpful than Consumer Reports!

  • Greymatterbooks

    I have a brick and mortar used book store in Western Mass. Amazon has had a very equivocal effect on my business. People are constantly checking my prices against amazon before they buy, but since I have thousands of books that are cheaper than amazon’s $4 shipping charge, the results of their comparison often fall in my favor. I also sell a fair amount of my higher priced books through amazon.

  • Phillipvedol

    A major feature that Amazon offers is user reviews.  I can shop on their site using the customer reviews to assist me in making decisions on the pro and cons of a products based on multiple feedback, whereas going to a brick and mortar store, my judgment of product is based on my quick perception and maybe one salesperson

    • ana

      I, also, rely on the consumer feed back and have been saved from unwise purchases especially “As Seen on TV” items.  I, do, however, like to shop locally for most items out of loyalty and support for the merchants.

  • Sheri

    I prefer to shop online for big-ticket items, such as furniture, when the brick-and-mortar store sales people harass me to no end when I am trying to browse.

  • Jaki Reis

    I choose to shop at my local stores.  But I use the internet for information, so I’ve turned the system around.  I look up products online, I use Consumer Reports, check prices, then I go to my local store with that type of item and if they don’t have the one I want, I ask them to order it and I tell them the price I saw it for online.  So far, the store owners (most of whom I know and have friendly chats with) have met the stated price.  I may have to wait a bit longer for the item, but… well, patience is a virtue I get to cultivate, along with my friendships with local storeowners. 

  • Greg

    There is a larger conversation that we’re not having with respect to companies like Amazon that are successfully leveraging technology to reduce cost, increase productivity and challenge more traditional business models,  and that is what happens to those traditionally aligned jobs?  What plan as a society should we be developing to handle more and more job loss due to technology?  If more technology and greater increases in productivity are the ONLY goals, what happens to those folks left without jobs?

  • Yar

    Your guests are acting like some new technology makes this possible.  My grandfather ran a general store in the 1930′s and did same day delivery with a three digit phone number.  He would buy hams and eggs from the farmers that would bring them to his store, he took phone orders and would even put groceries in some of his customers ice boxes.  It was a different time and personal service from a local business man was built on trust and quality of service, not just low price.

    • Perry

      My grandfather bought all his shoes and most other clothing from LL Bean. As a little kid fifty years ago I though that was weird. But he knew and trusted their quality and reliability. It is nothing new that a retailer can command a significant portion of a market with quality products and customer service, even if a customer has to rely on pictures and descriptions of the items for sale.

  • http://www.facebook.com/melissa.eisenmann.7 Melissa Eisenmann

    Though instant gratification is the primary reason people will continue to use brick ‘n mortar stores, we offer more than that. (Full disclosure: I still receive a paycheck from Barnes & Noble though not as a bookseller anymore.) I run a book group and I’m the person inside the costume character at the children’s Storytime at my B&N.  Yes, you can discuss books online, but it’s not the same as getting together in person every month.  And there is no online replacement for your child visiting with a walking, gesturing (I don’t speak while in costume) Clifford the Big Red Dog, Curious George, etc.  You can hug me.  You can’t hug a computer.  

    Outside of my own book store experience, I don’t always trust the photos of big items online.  Recently, I went into a Sears to check out the Dyson vacuum cleaner I had been looking at online.  I needed to see and touch the vacuum before spending $300+ on it.  The extra benefit is that the sales associate who helped me owned a Dyson and was able to give me a detailed demonstration of the nifty, unique components.  And yes, I bought the Dyson there at the Sears.

  • Ky Dj

    You don’t get better deals online today because these big sellers don’t have enough competition.  EBAY in particular has pushed prices up on all their sellers every few months lately.  They even take a percentage of shipping costs now so that adds another 15% to the shipping costs on top of all their other continued increases. 

    The bigger problem is the banking system which now charges 3% every time a transaction occurs.  In the old days, a dollar would come out of a bank and exchange hands 100 times without a loss on each transaction.  Today when a dollar comes out, it is automatically depreciated by out banksters (so that it forces us to use their banking system or else the value of our past work is lost), and each time our dollar changes hands there is a fee so it turns from 1.00 to .97 to .94, to . 91, etc….Amazon & EBAY prices are going up on sellers all the time, but the problem really is the banking system behind it all.

  • Drew Down

    Starvation? It’s okay though, many feel it’s well deserved.

    Should have been reply to Greg four comments prior to this one.

  • Jocelyn A Tavares

    I’m a public librarian who feels forced to use Amazon to buy media because of their prices on a limited budget, but I hate hate hate their part in the electronic publishing wars with traditional publishers. I appreciate how aspiring authors feel, but I don’t like being in the middle of the acceptable format war between publishers, Amazon and other booksellers. I have a problem with a library patron checking out an electronic book for their kindle, and amazon will know what they are reading – with a special offer to buy it if they haven’t finished it. When is “good business practices” a little too intrusive? Why can’t they leave me alone after a look at a vacuum cleaner? I don’t need their suggestions for everything. The consumer is the one in the middle.

  • Michiganjf

    Amazon… and people wonder why jobs are in short supply, as if it’s somehow Presdient Obama’s fault; likewise, with disappearing tax revenues for municipalities across the country.

    I hate it, but can’t resisit the pricing.

    My answer:

     I now price on Amazon, then go to local retailers and tell them I can’t afford to pay much more than the Amazon price, but I’d rather give my money to a local seller.

    Some have rebuffed me, but others have basically said, “I appreciate that, let’s see what we can work out.”

    I’ve kept my money locally on about a dozen purchases this way in the last year. The retailers aren’t necessarily making their desired margin on my purchases, but at least they’re making SOMETHING, and my money has largely remained in my city!

    I’ve paid just a little more than I would have paid to Amazon, due to sales tax, but I consider the trade-off well worth the karma I feel I get, plus I get my merchandise immediately, no wait!

    • Steve

      You may want to consider paying your local retailer in cash rather than with a credit card which:
           -syphons off profits to banks
           -raises consumer prices
           -contributes to lower margins which sacrifices jobs
            and/or wages.

      • Michiganjf

        I agree!

        Excellent point, and part of what I offer local retailers if they are willing to meet or come close to the Amazon price!

      • Prairie_W

        That’s one of those basic pieces of wisdom that should be repeated over and over, daily!  Thanks, Steve.
        ___

        But I’d like to add that one of the most valuable thing about Amazon for me has to do with books.  I don’t like new hardcovers –they’re harder on the hands than paperbacks.  For much the same reason, I prefer a “seasoned” book — not marked up or spotted with coffee spills, just used, softened, appreciated. The books often arrived with little notes, like “Hope you like this as much as I did!” or similar.

      • ana

        Thank you.  Great information.

      • http://www.facebook.com/karl.seidel Karl Seidel

        …or use Dwolla.com to pay – they make .25 per transaction instead of the 2.5 – 3.75% of each transaction that VISA/MC/DISCOVER/AMEX (my knowledge is old – it may be more or less now).

    • Thew

       When you buy from Amazon you are buying from Small Local Business like us.. We use Amazon Fulfillment system. Pay them thought the nose to do so.. So don’t forget that you are supporting your local Mom and Pops by using Amazon Merchants like us. DepotEco.

  • Hude75

    Great show on Amazon.com.  Please read Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Shell and do a follow-up show on what our consumer culture and  our obsessive need for bargains has done to our economy and most especially to us as a society.  We all need to be constantly reminded about the consequences of our actions!

  • Kaganmoo

    Tom: Just to push back against the notion that the Amazon/Wal-Mart model is based on “technology.” It is not. What the model (and the technology itself) is based on is cheap oil — and that is clearly going the way of the dinosaur. One caller on your show — the delivery guy for Amazon — showed us all quite clearly that the model is unsustainable. On some days, he can’t afford the gasoline required to make a profit.

    With the BRIC countries expanding by double digits (!!) every year, cheap oil is doomed. Thirty years from now, Wal-Mart will not be able to sell Braeburn apples from New Zealand for 69 cents a pound in rural Kentucky (my home). For apples, we’ll be going ten miles south of us into Casey County — where there is an apple industry struggling to survive against Wal-Mart/Kroger (and perhaps Amazon).

    Things will change: as Milton Friedman once famously observed, “Things that are not sustainable tend to stop.”

    Love your show — but I would suggest that the very fact that you have a program devoted to discussing the potential breadth of the Amazon/Wal-Mart paradigm is a very good sign that it’s already dead.

    • nj_v2

      In almost all cases (including on On Point) where stories  have some significant economic component, the broader context—dependency on cheap, liquid, fossil fuels; the opportunity to exploit desperate workers; the dwindling base of raw materials; the externalities involved in using the environment, etc.—rarely even get mentioned, let alone given the examination that is warranted by their importance.

      At least labor was briefly mentioned today, but as Kaganmoo points out, dependence on cheap energy was nowhere on the radar screen.

      The factors that enabled and continue—at least for a while longer—to underlie western consumer “culture” are in the process of changing, and yet they are mostly ignored (denied?) by the vast majority of the professional prognosticator and punditry class.

    • http://www.idc-ri.com/ Greg Girard

      The VAST majority of US retail, not just AMZN and Walmart, is based on a lot of things–1) the highway infrastructure. It is the prerequisite for malls, big box retail, and strip malls. 2) Global trade 3) US agricultural policy 4) labor laws 5) land use regulations and zoning 6) consumerism and just about everything else typical US lifestyles are based on

  • Into the ether

    It’s not just its retail presence. The computing infrastructure owned by Amazon and positioned in data centers around the world and make up a significant chunk of the internet itself. Amazon’s storage service (S3) and remote computing resources (EC2) could make the promise of “cloud computing” and virtual presence a concrete reality.

    The popular website reddit.com is hosted by Amazon’s cloud resources. They host a website which gets on the order of 4 billion page views per month with only 10 employees of their own. Other websites such as smugmug demand massive storage, and Amazon can easily and reliably deliver it.

  • Hennorama

    I HATE shopping in stores, but I am still a consumer.  Ergo – I LOVE AMAZON!  Not only are the prices good, I get free 2 day shipping with my Prime membership.  I am one of the rare taxpayers who actually calculate and pay the uncollected sales tax to my state on my tax return, so there’s no price advantage there.  To me, it’s the convenience of being able to buy what I need any time of day or night, without going out.  This also saves fuel costs and wear and tear on my vehicle.

    Plus, I can easily compare scores of products, and get enormous selection.  Not to mention I can find some hard-to-find items that are impossible for local stores to stock, since they don’t turn over often.

  • BJ

    I have a very small business, unique items,  and sold through a distributor at a very deep discount.  Others would buy from that distributor to sell my items on Amazon.  A buyer from Amazon called to tell me that Amazon would like to handle everything I have.  Now I sell to Amazon for more than I sold to the distributor.  Everything is done on line through Amazon.  I get the order and I acknowledge it .  After I ship, I send ASN’s (advanced shipping notices) and Invoicing. Then in 60 days, I receive e-mails from Amazon that payments have been wired to my bank.  I do pay shipping to Amazon, but still make a tidy profit.

  • Akilez Castillo

    Amazon is just going with the Flow of 21st Century cyber shopping. There is nothing wrong with that.

    Even Stop and Shop or Roch Bros has web sites that you can order groceries via click of a mouse.

  • Akilez Castillo

    Amazon could not be responsible for the 25 million unemployed Americans. We wish it did but Amazon is just another Web Store that everyone loves. I prefer Ebay free shipping and handling with discounted prices.

  • Cahaus

    At work I do all of the ordering for my large-company and Amazon sometimes is the only vendor who can fill the quantity and unique items that we need but in my personal life I make it a point to purchase things that are handmade by artists and craftsmen and to support my local community. I just can’t make that same moral decision for The company I work for.

    • Thew

       Be sure to check with the Marketplace vendors on Amazon. Call them and ask about your large orders. We do it all the time.. WE don’t list all of our inventory in Amazon system for various reasons but we sell Bulk and Wholesale large amounts.  So call up the Marketplace vendors you see on Amazon and ask them about your Large Amounts.. We can almost always help..

      • rkm0

        You don’t get it. One of the benefits of online shopping is the time saved: click, click, done. If you can’t be bothered to list your inventory, don’t expect me to call you.

        • Thew

           No you don’t get it, we list the inventory for Sale.. But Large orders need to be handle via the phone to get a lower price as the OP said. hes buying for is Company. So if he wants to buy bulk Call the Amazon Market Place vendor don’t just relay on Amazon .. Unless you want to Screw the Mom and Pops.

  • Vince

    Might it not be a mistake to consider Amazon and brick and mortar stores as the same product? It’s the shopping experience that Amazon is really selling.  Just like a hamburger from a grocery store and one from a steakhouse are the same but different so Amazon and a mom and pop.

    Vince, Chicago il

    • Thew

      You are buying from Amazon because of the Rating System, that is also very flawed and favors Amazon against all of us Marketplace sellers ( ever notice that Amazon is unrate-able but the market place vendors are not? )..  But The reality is if you buy from a Marketplace Vendor that is in your Area they can and most times do ship it cheaper as they are in your area.  Be sure to look at the offerings by us marketplace vendors on Amazon ..
      We give Free local delivery to anyone in our County!

  • Shari Brady

    I am a novelist and just published with amazon/createspace which as a writer, means I can make a living doing what I love to do. Amazon changed the landscape of the publishing world and has allowed writers to finally have control of their careers and not be slaves to publishers.

  • Jessica Hornick

    As a full time working mother of two small children, I find it very difficult to find the time to get to a brick and mortar store and appreciate the ability to shop online and also, am very budget conscious so finding the best price is important and often that comes from Amazon. However, recently, I’ve become very aware of both the environmental impact of getting items shipped to me versus the bulk shipping to a store. Additionally, in these tough economic times, would like to support locally owned businesses whenever I can so I am making a conscious effort to “Buy local”, even when I can save a dollar or two on Amazon.

    • Thew

       so buy from us local merchants that sell on the Amazon Market Place..

  • Pk Morris

    I needed a new cell phone battery.  Drove to sprint store, they dont sell them.  Drove to Target, they dont sell them.  checked online radioshack they sell for $20, so i went to a local store, they dont stock.  only sell online.  so i bought one on amazon fo 3.95 delivered.   

    • Thew

       I hope you got it from a Marketplace Vendor.. Always hit that button below the Price that says “from so many New and so many used ” Thats how you find us Marketplace vendors..

  • Mary

    The problem with having Amazon dominate so much of the market is that if their systems get hacked, or their cloud servers fo down… you’re in deep trouble!!!

  • GMG

    The independent contractor ordeal that Jason has to live through seems like nothing more than a way around the minimum wage. 

  • Amazon is a 9000-lb gorilla

    Hi Tom, I wish I had contacted you several months ago asking you how about challenging a big 9000-lb gorilla-Amazon. One dark side of the story is how Amazon treat their sellers. Quite often we make $1-2 our of the a $30 item which includes shipping, Amazon’s fee of 8-30% charged on the item and the shipping. Amazon shut down my account citing some unfound reasons. They don’t listen to you or look into the evidences. They tell you their decision is final and their analysis is proprietary. Amazon becomes so big and so dominant. They act with impunity. They act like they are the god almighty or the supreme court. Who provides check and balance against Amazon’s practices?

    I thought my shut down was an accident. But once checked online, it appears that many sellers have similar complains.

    Consumers love Amazon’s A-Z Guaranty. But Amazon doesn’t pay a cent. Everything is charged back to the sellers.

    You had a show talking about the fulfillment center workers and how they were treated. I wish you host another show talking about the sellers behind Amazon’s bright curtain. You’ll be shocked.

    tempstd@yahoo.com

    • Thew

       Yup, 100% true.. and very hard for us to make any money at all. But the point i think everyone here is missing is that WE are the Market Place vendors that sell on Amazon and buying from us is buying local.. WE are not the 9000 pound gorilla, We are the Ground its walks on..   Buy from Market Place vendors on Amazon .. Help us out..

      • Amazon is a 9000-lb gorilla

         Amazon’s vendors are not the gorilla but Amazon the company is. Amazon satisfies the consumers but they don’t care about the sellers regardless how much profit that got from your sales. Once they have the customers hooked on, the sellers are forced to join in. If you sales pass certain volume, Amazon will target you and uses your trouble as excuses. They crushes a seller like a robot killer without mercy and at their will. You’ll find out if you’re not lucky.

        • Thew

           WE have been at this since 2005 on Amazon as a Marketplace vendor. We have seen them Remove many merchants for not following there very strict rules. ( like logging on from an insecure internet location) With little to no warning.. All I can say is its there Sand Box we just play in it..

    • William

       IBM was pretty arrogant until Microsoft and a host of other companies saw a weakness and exploited it. Sooner or later someone else will do the same thing to Amazon, Ebay etc….

  • Ron

    We are at our present state of commerce largely because of strides made in technology. I observed and participated in gains made in electronics. Continued and unimagined technological gains will change the world as we know it today and will be accomplished by today’s emerging generations. Some new technologies are beginning to emerge right now which can pose a threat to today’s giant on-line retailers.

    Technology will drastically change your life and the lives of future generations.

  • George

    You provided a link to Mr Jopson’s articles, but when I got there I discovered that I could read them only if (a) I paid a fee, and (b) I first certified that I had read 30 pages of legal documents.  No, thank you.  Amazon’s policies could hardly be more offensive than those of the Financial Times.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/6GJQWUOVWZGUEVHJ3MYQK5DGOU patrickh

    Aviod or pay minimal taxes.  Squeeze venders and delivery contractors. Work everyone at the lowest possible pay so the few can reep huge profits. This has got to stop! We need real jobs with liveable wages, benefits and opportunities. Sounds like Amazon is doing an excellent job of driving down wages and reducing real job options. This is unconscionable.  The erosion of the middle seems to be complete with the likes of Amazon business models.

  • Mfcarr

    (Apologies if this veers slightly off-topic)

    Although I see wisdom in (Brans’s ? Bronze’s -sorry unsure of spelling) on-air comments, and know from firsthand experience in my job how important it is to evolve with changing technology, I think there is some value in occasionally taking a step back and looking at technology critically.  It seems to me, from time to time, people should step back and ask, does this technology/technological product/technological service improve my quality of life?  In what ways does it improve my quality of life?

    I’m obviously not going to argue that the web hasn’t enabled great advances and great improvements in quality of life.  More often than not, it has enabled advances

    But I think in an atmosphere in which technological change is unfolding at such a dizzying pace, it’s very easy to forget about or set aside questions about the impact of a given technology on quality of life.  In a desire to keep pace with rapid technological change and to seem “with it”/up-to date, many people uncritically accept new technologies without asking whether the new technology actually makes their life better or not.  And then of course, there’s a built-in coolness factor in being on the cutting edge and up-to-date with the latest gadget

    And I guess some of it feels a bit like hype to me.  There are commercials on tv telling me in no uncertain terms that in 10 years time I will have 10 or more digital devices hooked up to the web in my house.  It is my destiny to buy, buy, buy all kinds of digital gear!    They know this for a fact!  How?  They just do.  It is my destiny to be a good consumer and buy the new gizmos they put up for sale.

    I’m joking, but I just trying to make the point that some of it is hype. Commercial entities trying to convince you that if you don’t have such and such a product, people will look down on you, or think less of you, because you don’t have the iPad Mach 8. It’s the same old ad campaign, given a new twist in the digital age

    I’m not a Luddite by any stretch, and I know there’s no going back, and that to try to deny the changes taking place would be folly.  This country obviously needs to embrace new technologies and keep pace with new technologies. That said, we should do so in a conscious way, with a critical eye towards whether or not a new technology/technological gadget/technological service does in fact add to people’s quality of life.

  • Guest

    I have never been inside a Wal-Mart and I avoid all Super stores because I know what that does to Mom&Pop stores. Too bad people sold this country out by shopping at Amazon AND Wal-Mart. They were WARNED and they did NOT listen.  They are still being warned and they are still NOT listening. Good Luck with your future!

    • Thew

       So us Mom and pops that Sell our Wares on Amazon.com and pay through the nose to do so are just doomed?

      Remember Amazon.com Marketplace vendors is 40% of All Amazon Sales.. So Dont Forget about us Mom and Pops just trying to get your buissness !

  • Nina

    what I find most valuable about Amazon and online shopping in general are the other customer reviews about a product that is offered…

  • Minim Firenze

    Yes, Amazon has turned out to be an online Wal-Mart — undercutting the competition by forcing below-cost pricing on its suppliers.  As an example, just look at the current conflict with publishers who want to do e-book business.  Amazon is a fitting name for this company, although maybe Anaconda might be more appropriate, as it gobbles up business and destroys jobs and companies in its wake.  This isn’t about a changing business model.  It’s about an out-of-control monolith.

    • Thew

       It is a know fact that Amazon wants to under price Wallmart.com but currently is not.. However they do put pressure on us Marketplace Vendors to be at the lowest prices.. And if Amazon sells the item with us they will drive us down below there target Wallmart.com price.

  • Suncityphoto

    As Walmart has sucked the economy dry by importing junk from Asia and other third world countries, forcing their sub contractors to work for them for nearly cost, put many companies out of business as they run up huge invoices and don’t pay their vendors on time, pay their workers poverty level wages..this is their business plan. Concern for the American Dream is not at the forefront of their philosophy. Amazon has followed in their foot steps. The technological advances of the Internet which have given Amazon a platform to initially sell product at lower cost then brick and mortar stores will ultimately go away if there is no competitor that can offer similar pricing for the same goods. Ultimately if there is no competition Amazon pricing will ultimately rise as there will be no other outlet for goods.
    So as Amazon becomes UPS and Fed Ex number one customer, they will force these companies to lower their pricing, affecting millions of working class people.
    The capitalist model doesn’t work for the middle class anymore. Greed is not good.
    The times they are a changing…for the worse.

  • Chris

    This is a great topic, thanks for the report.  I have been very curious about the employment replacement ratio  for amazon/apple music etc vs. brick and mortor. It seems lopsided.   We will need to redefine the jobs of the future.  
    Winners appear to be:  Transportation/Logistics/Programming/Consumers/Delivery/Packaging cosLosers appear to be:  Retailers/Teens (jobs)/Ancillary businesses like restaurants etc/Societal connectivity/brick and mortor support business

    Seems we need to be talking about it….

  • rude boy

    I love online shopping & I hate myself for saying this, but it’s about time to end the unfair sales tax break for online retailers.
    They should be responsible for collection sales taxes for all customers from all states…give local businesses a fighting chance… Also, I hate Amazon’s “flexible” pricing. I call that obfuscation & discrimination.

    • Thew

       Again, you choose to shop with a merchant that does not collect Sales tax.. But most of us do.. If you live in our home state we charge you Sales Tax, on and off Amazon.. Its the law.. It is also the law for the Tax payer to report any non Taxed sales on your Taxes and pay them if you did not pay the store.. So there’s nothing Unfair about it.. WE pay the Sales Tax to our Home State.. So shop with Merchants on Amazon that do!.. WE are there..   Use the Marketplace vendors find one in your home state.. !

  • Adam Smale

    Convenience is tempting: without having to leave your house, you get it in a day or two. However, when I, as a musician, want to purchase a music instrument, you can’t replace a brick-and-morter store. You have to be able to try that piece of gear in your hands, hear it, play it. No two guitars a alike.

  • A1

    Remember the old ‘wells fargo wagon’?  Rural areas have always been without brick and mortor.  Things change they always do.  

  • Doug W.

    Amazon just cannot compete with brick and mortar stores on some things: I just tried to buy some body wash on Amazon – $9.99 compared to under $4 at Walmart. Personal items/hygiene/etc. seem to be much cheaper and easier to obtain locally. 

  • http://twitter.com/mikewashere Mike

    1 word: Bitcoins 

  • http://twitter.com/mikewashere Mike

    You’re looking at it from the past, the future is in P2P currency maintained by technology and not by governments and huge credit cards companies. 

  • cno167

    Amazon is not WalMart, nor is it the reason for the demise of Borders. Each firm is charged with providing a differentiated service based on their core competence; Amazon provides selection based on its skill at logistics. In the old days Border provided a differentiated benefit of expertise in books; they systematically dismantled this competence in the years leading to their demise. WalMart destroyed channels by attempting to extract too much profit for themselves; Amazon has not done this.

  • http://www.popularlogistics.com/ L J Furman

    You reported that Amazon.com makes it difficult, if not impossible, for me as a seller to know my customer’s identity – essentially creating a security firewall between me and my customers. This is a showstopper.

    But it makes me wonder about security. How secure are Amazon’s data centers? They are global. Am I, an American, guaranteed that my data are warehoused in the USA – under the jurisdiction of American authorities?  If I open a brick an mortar store, and it is broken into, local police will investigate.  What if Amazon stores my data and warehouses my goods in Russia, Ukraine or Mexico where local police are known to, shall we say, supplement their income? What if Amazon stores my data in China, where the government reads everyone’s email?  What if Amazon’s warehouses are broken into and robbed. It seems possible that Amazon’s own merchandise will not be stolen but their clients’ merchandise will disappear.

    And what if my business grows and I want to pull my data out of Amazon’s cloud?  How easy is it to get my data? If, as you discussed, Amazon creates a firewall between me and my customers when I am a paying customer of Amazon, the answer seems likely to be “difficult.”  

    Looks like another bubble waiting to be popped.

    • Thew

      “Amazon.com makes it
      difficult, if not impossible, for me as a seller to know my customer’s
      identity – essentially creating a security firewall between me and my
      customers”

       That is untrue. We know every customer we have. And contact them via Phone or Email.. WE do not get any Payment info as that is handle by Amazon .. So who ever says we don’t Know our Customers is telling  a story.

  • Christie

    dude, it isn’t “bricks and mortar.” It’s “brick and mortar.”

  • Christie

    Let’s punish Amazon for doing a great job of connecting suppliers and buyers. Nothing is more dangerous than success…

  • Christie

    Oil is cheap? You must be kidding?

  • Christie

    Amazon uses its technology to create actual value as opposed to convincing people to posed the minute details of their lives…

  • Christie

    We are not talking about the loss of “downtown.” Shopping malls killed downtown 20 years ago. If Amazon kills shopping malls and superstores, more power to them…

    • Melanie

      Okay, Christie—are you going to object to paying for the unemployment compensation for the people that lose their jobs when shopping malls go under? 

      • Thew

         Shopping malls go under because Rent is way to high and folks wont leave there house to visit them anymore.. That is the Fault of the community that the Mall is trying to support.  Go visit your local Malls if you want it to stop.

  • Christie

    Amazon is not a technology company. It is a logistics company.

  • Christie

    What evidence do you have that Amazon is not being a good steward of this system?

  • Christie

    Now you are acting like Fox News – fearmongering. What horribles things might happen if Amazon takes over the world? Amazon is linking small businesses to the world! They are providing access to millions nationally as opposed to hundreds locally.

  • Christie

    Amazon allows small business to avoid the potential risk of investing capital in brick and mortar while still being able to test whether their products are appealing.

    • Bigleyjoshua

      u can rationalize it anyway u like but the fact remains u put all business, the entire into the hands of a few, while 99% become wage slaves. u empower ten and reduce 6 billion to peasants. u take the Independence n the power of democracy out of the hands of the people. small business is vital to prosperity and freedom. i would much rather have borders than amazon, and much rather have the corner bookshop than borders.

      • Bigleyjoshua

        should read: entire economy

    • Thew

       Seems people here don’t get it.. Amazon sells stuff ,, then Amazon lets us pay to sell our wares on the Amazon network. And if we pay more we can ship our inventory to them and they will ship it to the customer with all the Free Shipping etc that Amazon offers its own customers.. But The customer is that of the Mom and Pop Business like mine. They do not belong to Amazon. Amazon is simply allowing us to pay them to Compete against them.. Pretty cool for Amazon but a bit like working for the Mob..
      Anyway.. When Talking about Amazon People need to make it clear that they are also talking about thousands of Small Mom and Pops like me that use amazon to sell to our customers.

  • Christie

    Amazon has clearly stated their ultimate vision – they want to be retailer to the world.

    • Bigleyjoshua

       you’re clearly invested in the juggernaut, which makes your opinion irrelevant. Yeah, i pick on all institutions, dictators, greedy banks, bad men, corporate shills, bad ideas, globalization, anything that empowers monopoly, hegemony, class hierarchy, slave economies…  why do u support the Borg! u must not be human. a slave to ignorance and apathy. no empathy.  u clearly do not understand the ramifications. foolish n childish. 

  • http://www.popularlogistics.com/ L J Furman

    It also seems that Amazon is engaged in a strategy that is similar to Microsoft’s from the 80′s and 90′s. Microsoft, it was alleged, would either buy a competitor or reverse engineer its product. Amazon isn’t buying competitors, exactly, it’s killing them with kindness, or absorbing them like the Borg. 

  • Pingback: Structural Knowledge » Where is the Amazon Marketplace?

  • http://twitter.com/13BlueRust 13BlueRust

    Did the big “A” effect the fail of Borders?  Borders had initially given the online portion of their business to them to run in 2001.  

    1) http://money.cnn.com/2001/04/11/companies/amazon/?s=2

    2) http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20110719/FREE/110719891/borders-demise-may-have-begun-with-decision-to-hire-amazon

  • Bigleyjoshua

     amazon should b taxed enormously! more than the 99%, more than the 1%–especially when the 1% have no taxes.  tax the heck out of amazon! and break it up

    • Thew

       So they will just pass the Tax on to us Market Place Sellers. The Mom and Pops merchants you are fighting for.

  • Bigleyjoshua

    hi on point team,
    suggestion for show, inquiry, investigative journalism…

    U.S. contractors have made billions from the wars in Iraq and
    Afghanistan. But now, several are being investigated for slave labor.

    Vinnie Tuivaga, a hairdresser from Fiji, was one of the many victims
    who fell into the trap of modern slavery. Recruited to work in a luxury
    hotel in Dubai, instead she was trafficked to a military base in Iraq.
    She was forced to live in a shipping container, paid only a fraction of
    what was promised, and was unable to leave.

    Meanwhile, the contractors kept the difference, lining their pockets with the taxes of ordinary American families.

    U.S. tax dollars were never meant to fund slavery.

    Almost 130,000 people have already signed the petition – will you
    tell the U.S. Senate to pass the bipartisan End Trafficking in
    Government Contracting Act and stop taxpayer-funded modern slavery?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Fechter/100001457278019 David Fechter

    Amazon is now starting to collect sales tax in certain states???? ………………….. How about Amazon now collecting the taxes that I am required to collect in my mom and pop store here in South Carolina?

    • Thew

       Amazon Collects Sales Tax for us in our Home State Per the Law. its up the the Merchant to ask Amazon to-set up there account to do so . in fact it was easy.  Since 2005 AMZ has collected the Sales Taxes as per Calif Law.

  • Sewanee

    I live out from the city and shop at Amazon for most of what I buy except groceries.  Amazon has built a better mousetrap and is here to stay until an even better mousetrap comes along.  It has indeed evolved into–as one caller described it–”a Utility,” far superior to the huge chain shopping malls that reign over our cities and countryside ad nauseam, and that sap so much of our resources including our time and energy.  Human nature is greedy and competitive.  Our government realized that and guarded against it by regulating utilities.  The Reagan era decided to indulge greed rather than regulate it, and the results are as we see our debased and polarized consumer landscape and society today.  The moral of this sage is that any corporation may be smart, efficient, and helpful, but it is greedy and must be regulated by our government.

  • NotAGrammarNaziJustAPetPeeve

    Dear Mr. Jopson,
    Products don’t literally fly off the shelves.

  • Lori C

    Amazon isn’t new.  Sears Roebuck was delivering to households back in 1888.  Some people will always prefer the immediacy of ordering 24 hours/7 days at week and at their leisure.  It is enticing to receive hand-delivered goods to your home which beats poorly-trained and bad-humoured retail associates.  Who doesn’t like browsing online?  It is wish fulfillment.

    • Thew

       Its Funny cause you would have thought that SEARS would have been the Amazon of our Age, Yet Sears.com is just now getting up and running.. WE sell there to but SEARS.com has very little traffic.

  • Debbie Welch

    I had been using Amazon for years and spent thousands of dollars. I recvd a  small gift card and they cheated me on it. I stopped shopping with them. Since then – I have saved money by finding a local store that sells the same item w/o S&H or credit card charges and/or problems with shipment or the item itself. They are a monopoly now and acting like it. I am glad I left. Thanks – good show – listen often and learning much.

  • Pingback: The Kindle Chronicles - TKC 206 Jeremy Greenfield

  • Jsland1

    For me there are only a few, a very few items I’ve bought that I don’t need to look at, touch, try out, try on, have explained by an expert, and generally be in the same room with, before I buy.  The trend that I see today in many things that we buy is towards less indifferent consumption, not more, and more personal, careful, local and hands on purchasing. Mind you, there are a few things I buy regularly that, once I’ve shopped for them a few times myself, I know what I want and would enjoy ordering them from a delivery service “on demand”.

  • Myprettypennies

    p { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }

    p { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }

    Listening to NPR On Point: The Amazon
    Economy: 1.) Builds new business infrastructure which appears to
    lower the bar toward allowing more people to run their own business;
    2.) Requires business owners to innovate faster as Amazon
    assimilates; 3.) Appears to spread out, albeit more thinly, the
    opportunity for profit among many small businesses, as opposed to a
    more thick spread among a few big boxes; 4.) Ultimately causes a loss
    of income to the brick & mortar business model; 5.) Clearly
    causes a loss of wages to labor without union organizations. Perhaps
    policy innovations, could help negotiate the costs, or navigate the
    perils of automating labor. The open source movement is an
    interesting example where labor costs have come down to. But what
    about other costs like health, energy, and education. Perhaps by
    developing better a infrastructure we can adapt to where costs are
    going after the big boxes go. How will we adapt to an automated
    world where delivery is not only same day, and possibly free, but
    also possibly, totally automated too, something like the Matternet
    business model?

  • Lsuntop

    There was barely any comment on the impact of jobs and wages in this discussion.
    Those who have read the recent book on working in an Amazon warehouse alerted us to the outrageous conditions and low wages and benefits these workers make. It almost sounds like late 19th Century workhouse. Primed to see that workers DO NOT stay on after 2-3 years.
    This is what happens when corporations cut prices to the bone.
    WalMart has destroyed a huge number of businesses, pays its employees a pittance, low benefits. And now they have quietly slipped back to the original retail prices. So they are making obscene profits at the expense of the workforce, theirs and all the companies that supply them.
    It is all dog eats dog. Big company devours small businesses, then get knocked off by bigger companies. 
    Stock holders, CEOS, banks make wealth while the landscape is left with the wreckage-unemployed and poor people, no health care. Basically serfs. The legacy of the Reagan years. Self serving and bugger the rest!

  • jsland1

    Can you imagine how much fatter people will get if this online shopping becomes the norm? Can you imagine the shops that will disappear in downtowns and malls? Can you see the disintegration of our public spaces, the only arena where a living democracy actually takes place? 

    • Prairie_W

      We see the world differently, jsland!  I think of public spaces as parks, of course, and public libraries –  places the public owns, in which the public has pride, and for which the public has responsibility. A mall isn’t publicly owned.  It’s a place of pure capitalism, impure air, and hands out at every turn — not in friendship but in our pockets. 

      Give me Amazon, take down the mall, and turn those 20 acres into a natural, pleasurable air filter.  Now that Amazon is paying state taxes, we can afford to think differently about how healthy we’d like our communities to be.

      • jsland1

        Hi there!
        My perspective about downtown comes from living in Europe and loving the old cities, small shops and cafe culture, and also from growing up in Toronto Canada, where we have many downtowns, shops are owned by locals, small business for the most part, and people fight to keep away the American big box stores as much as they can. Since the very beginning of the city over 6,000 years ago, the market place has been synonymous with democracy, the places where the essentials of life are brought together and sold and where people like Socrates held conversations with city folk. Toronto is really a city of multiple villages, each one having its own ‘downtown’ and very often each has a flavour of a particular nation. In the cafes, in the food shops, in the sidewalks where you come upon the friends who aren’t just your family but who are from the wider community, you can “go somewhere and catch up”. Parks are great too, but they seem to be used more for personal reflection and play than the hard work of buying, selling and the important back and forth of democratic exchanges. I know people who love to live in the wilderness too, but even they need a built place where they can bump into those who are not their close friends, but who are part of the democratic public arena, and need to be talked to. I don’t want to make shopping for my food, clothes, hardware, books, movies, drawing materials, music, computer gadgets etc invisible. I don’t want the showing and exchange of goods to go on where I can’t see it! I don’t want it to be removed from society and from the public eye.

  • Pingback: OBI Creative Blog

  • eldiosdedios

    Thanks to this show I think Amazon has implemented new ways for their employees to get a better standard of living.
    Amazon Career Choice Program Thanks Tom and staff.

  • sam liu

    BEFORE, playing the podcast, I thought the show would be on the Amazon River economy.

    Shouldn’t this be called the Amazon.com economy.

  • sam liu

    As of yet, I have not used BBY as a testing shop.  I do buy things there, earlier this month a dated Seagate HD.

  • Pingback: lecture series: “on interactivity” – prof. dr. trebor scholz « bachelor design

  • Pingback: Amazon gears up to go big on real estate | Institutional Real Estate, Inc

ONPOINT
TODAY
Apr 24, 2014
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, left, talks with Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Covina at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, April 21, 2014. Hernandez proposed a constitutional amendment that would ask voters to again allow public colleges to use race and ethnicity when considering college applicants. The proposal stalled this year after backlash from Asian Americans. (AP)

California as Exhibit A for what happens when a state bans affirmative action in college admissions. We’ll look at race, college and California.

Apr 24, 2014
A Buddhist monk lights the funeral pyre of Nepalese mountaineer Ang Kaji Sherpa, killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest, during his funeral ceremony in Katmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 21, 2014.  (AP)

A Sherpa boycott on Everest after a deadly avalanche. We’ll look at climbing, culture, life, death and money at the top of the world.

RECENT
SHOWS
Apr 23, 2014
Attendees of the 2013 Argentina International Coaching Federation meet for networking and coaching training. (ICF)

The booming business of life coaches. Everybody seems to have one these days. Therapists are feeling the pinch. We look at the life coach craze.

 
Apr 23, 2014
In this Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, file photo, Chet Kanojia, founder and CEO of Aereo, Inc., shows a tablet displaying his company's technology, in New York. Aereo is one of several startups created to deliver traditional media over the Internet without licensing agreements. (AP)

The Supreme Court looks at Aereo, the little startup that could cut your cable cord and up-end TV as we’ve known it. We look at the battle. Plus: a state ban on affirmative action in college admissions is upheld. We’ll examine the implications.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
The Week In Seven Soundbites: April 18, 2014
Friday, Apr 18, 2014

Holy week with an unholy shooter. South Koreans scramble to save hundreds. Putin plays to the crowd in questioning. Seven days gave us seven sounds.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: April 18, 2014
Friday, Apr 18, 2014

Space moon oceans, Gabriel García Márquez and the problems with depressing weeks in the news. Also: important / unnecessary infographics that help explain everyone’s favorite 1980′s power ballad.

More »
Comment
 
Some Tools And Tricks For College Financial Aid
Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Some helpful links and tools for navigating FAFSA and other college financial aid tools.

More »
Comment