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Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power

Can Amazon Conquer the World? NY Times “On Tech”

Excerpt with link to pieces in the NY Times. You can subscribe to their “On Tech” newsletter by email without being a NY Times subscriber, as I understand it:

 

Technology

September 28, 2020

Can Amazon conquer the world?

Gianluca Alla
Author Headshot By Shira Ovide
Amazon is the opposite of our romantic imagination of Italian villages lined with bakeries and old cobbler shops. But the pandemic persuaded Italians to overcome their reluctance to online shopping — and Amazon.
Adam Satariano, who writes about European technology for The New York Times, talked to me about his article on why Amazon’s playbook started to work in Italy, and if the country is a template for other parts of the world where Amazon hasn’t caught on.
There are underlying questions in Adam’s article: Will Amazon become something the world doesn’t really have: a dominant, globally popular store? And what might we gain and lose from that?
Shira: Why wasn’t Amazon that popular in Italy before now?
Adam: Online shopping has never been as common there as it is in the United States or elsewhere in Europe. Italy has the oldest population in Europe, and people tend to prefer shopping in stores and paying in cash. Roads in many parts of the country, especially in the less affluent south, are pretty bad.
The pandemic changed habits. One survey found that two million Italians tried e-commerce for the first time from January to May. Amazon was ready for this moment. So was Esselunga, an Italian grocery company that has done well with food delivery.
How did Amazon get ready?
The company was patient. Since it started in Italy in 2010, it slowly built warehouses and a distribution network, and convinced merchants to sell their products online. For local appeal, Amazon sponsors events like a Christmas festival in remote villages to show that the company can reach everywhere. Amazon also let Italians earmark a percentage of their purchases for local schools.
How do Italians feel about Amazon?
There’s tension between tradition and change. There’s concern about what a shift to online shopping means for the economy and culture in a country where small and midsize businesses are a large part of the economy. In Italy, as elsewhere in Europe, there are strikes and organized efforts to get better pay, benefits and working conditions.
Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power

Amazon Bribery Scheme to Game Customer Reviews

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-24/amazon-amzn-bribery-scheme-could-be-tip-of-the-iceberg

It’s described as potentially “a $100 million dollar swindle.”

NY Times tech columnist writes:

  • A wild crime story about our software-driven lives: Prosecutors have charged former Amazon employees and e-commerce consultants with bribing Amazon workers for years to erase bad reviews, get competitors booted off the site for bogus reasons and other manipulations, Bloomberg News reported. The tactics show that what people buy on Amazon is influenced by computerized assessments of things like reviews and the reputation of the seller — and that those factors can be gamed.
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Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Surveillance Capitalism

Amazon Hawking Q-Anon Conspiracy Products

https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-selling-qanon-shirts-masks-products-2020-8

Excerpt:

  • Amazon currently displays hundreds of results for products associated with QAnon, the far-right conspiracy theory, which the FBI has deemed as posing potential domestic terrorism threats.
  • Business Insider found hundreds of results for t-shirts, books, stickers, masks, and other items when searching for “QAnon” in Amazon’s marketplace.
  • However, not all of the results were directly tied to the far-right fringe conspiracy theory — some were pro-Trump propaganda or messaging associated with “Blue Lives Matter.”
  • Amazon’s third-party seller policy prohibits the sale of “products that promote, incite or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.”
  • While Amazon lists hundreds of QAnon-related items for sale, other tech companies including Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook have declared a hardened stance against QAnon-related content leading up to the 2020 presidential election.

 

Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power

Whole Foods Censors Its Workers, Who Walk Out

https://truthout.org/articles/whole-foods-is-quietly-telling-workers-not-to-show-black-lives-matter-support/

This week, a group of Whole Foods workers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, walked out after being told they couldn’t wear Black Lives Matter masks because they weren’t part of “the company dress code.”

Prior to the incident, wearing masks with other symbols or logos, including ones that featured the New England Patriots, were reportedly acceptable.

This is according to a report in the Boston Globe, which details how Whole Foods worker Savannah Kinzer and a few of her colleagues wore BLM-themed masks on Wednesday. A manager told them they either had to remove the masks or go home. Seven of them walked out. On Thursday, Kinzer showed up and passed out more masks, but they were met with the same fate. Dozens of workers were sent home again.

The story from Boston is merely one of many reports of many of Whole Foods workers being sent home for wearing masks featuring the phrase or iconography of “Black Lives Matter.” There are similar reports from workers at Whole Foods stores in New Hampshire and Seattle, Washington. In Philadelphia, protesters protested in front of one Whole Foods after a similar incident occurred.

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Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power

Amazon Monopoly Power in COVID Marketplace

https://www.propublica.org/article/the-amazon-lockdown-how-an-unforgiving-algorithm-drives-suppliers-to-favor-the-e-commerce-giant-over-other-retailers

At a time when much of the retail sector is collapsing, Amazon is strengthening its competitive position in ways that could outlast the pandemic — and that could raise antitrust concerns. Increasingly, manufacturers of in-demand products are catering to Amazon, while competing retailers take the leftovers, consultants and brand executives told ProPublica.

“Amazon has the power to bury sellers and suppliers if they don’t comply,” said Sally Hubbard, director of enforcement strategy at Open Markets Institute, a think tank that has been critical of Amazon and other big tech companies. “It might be automated through an algorithm, but it’s still the wrath of the monopolist that they are afraid of. … Amazon is able to cut off its competitors’ access to inventory by leveraging its monopoly power.”

As locked-down shoppers have flocked to buy food, medicine, cleaning supplies and personal care products on Amazon, the retailer has in turn upped its suggested inventory levels for many manufacturers that sell their products on its platform. It has also expanded purchases of certain essential products that it sells directly to shoppers, often buying two or three times as much as it did before the pandemic, executives said.

Note from BDS-LA: There is an economic concept called “monopsony” — the power of a BUYER rather than a manufacturer or seller to make the market and set prices. Amazon appears to have created a third category, by straddling the line between wholesaler and retailer as the essential “middleman”.  By demanding the lion’s-share of product from producers on an all-or-nothing basis, they become the go-to site for purchasers, driving smaller retailers to the brink.