The curse of Amazon

When I moved to Rochester, N.Y., in 1974, one of the attractions was the number of excellent individually-owned bookstores.   Later on the Borders bookstore chain opened a store here, and I was delighted at their huge selection of books.   The smaller new-book stores went out of business, one by one, but I accepted that s the price of progress.

Click to enlarge.

Borders was pushed aside by Barnes & Noble.   Now Barnes & Noble is losing sales and operating at a loss.  Unless something changes, local bookstores will be replaced by Amazon.

What’s wrong with that? you may ask.  Amazon provides low prices and excellent customer service.  What difference does the lack of a physical store make?

What’s wrong is that Amazon treats its employees like work animals or like machines.   I read an article today about how Amazon has patented wristbands for tracking what employees do with their hands, presumably so they don’t put something in the wrong bin or pause to scratch their noses.

Amazon hasn’t said when, whether or how the new system will be implemented, but employees already are subjected to an inhuman work pace that is determined and monitored by computer.

I don’t want to buy the lowest possible price if it comes at the price of human misery.   I’d hate to see a new Amazon facility in western New York.

Sometimes I give in and buy through Amazon.   This is wrong of me, because I’m helping to make its monopoly power more complete.   But in the total scheme of things, my decisions as a consumer make little difference.  It is the government’s responsibility, not mine, to enforce the anti-trust laws, and make and enforce decent labor standards.

LINKS

Slavery, Amazon Version by Ian Welsh.

Amazon Patents Wristband to Track Hand Motions of Employees by Mike Novak for Gizmodo.

Amazon conducts total surveillance of workers in new German plant by Marianne Arens for the World Socialist Web Site.

When Amazon Opens Warehouses by Alana Semuels for The Atlantic

Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers by Simon Head for Salon

Whole Foods Becomes Amazon Hell as Employees, Managers Quit, Cry on Job by Yves Smith for naked capitalism.

‘Seeing someone cry at work is becoming normal’ by Hayley Peterson for Business Insider.

Amazon HQ2 is ‘money losing’ for taxpayers by Matthew J. Belvedere for CNBC.  [Added 1/5/2018]

How Amazon Benefits From Losing Cities’ HQ2 Bids by Nick Wingfield for The New York Times.

The Return of Monopoly by Matt Stoller for The New Republic.

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2 Responses to “The curse of Amazon”

  1. silverapplequeen Says:

    I have bought books from Amazon, generally used books for pennies. One thing I have noticed is that most of them are former library books. I find this troubling, too. My library here in Buffalo, NY (I used to live in Rochester, as well), regularly sells off their books to create funding, since the government doesn’t give enough money to libraries anymore. I think it really says something that Amazon is selling former library books that TAX dollars once bought for ALL of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jessie Says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been buying things from Amazon since moving into the city, because it’s so hard to get to stores, unlike where I was in suburban Detroit for most of my life. But in terms of books, even back in my hometown, the bookstores, as you note, are disappearing. My second job (after the public library) was working at Borders Books and Music. I loved that store, and the job was a good one, nothing at all like what Amazon workers now face. I couldn’t get everything I wanted at Borders as a customer, at least not as fast — but they could order things for me, and I had the experience of getting to browse books and stumble across their events. I prefer that model to Amazon’s. I would certainly choose to go back to that way of buying books if I could.

    Like

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