After what seems like decades, but was probably only a couple of years — which is long enough, I finally decided to sign up for Amazon Prime.
The truth is that I hate Amazon. If we had a proper FTC, Amazon would have long ago been broken up into about 10 different companies. And they probably already would have gone out of business if they had not been given the huge advantage against other stores of not having to charge sales tax on their goods for over a decade.
The Government Made Amazon Rich
This isn’t the main point of my article, but let me explain something to you. The government allowing Amazon (and other online comparies) was a big deal.
Sales tax in California, the state with the most people and money, is roughly 10%. Since I have been, one way or another, in the publishing business for 25 years, I know that the margins in bookstores are extremely small.
So if all that time when Amazon was becoming a behemoth, the government had been giving all these other little brick-and-mortar stores had been given 10% extra money, they would have had no problem competing with Amazon.
You could do an experiment: randomly give half the restaurants in downtown 10% from the government and see what happens. I’m certain the only restaurants still around after a couple of years would been the ones that would still be in business. That’s because they would be able to cut prices where necessary and take extra profits where possible.
Economists Chime In
So Amazon’s good fortune over all these years has been due to the fact that the government gave them a whole bunch of money. This is something that should outrage everyone. But no one seems to care. I’ll write about it more later, but here’s a summer from Alternet, How Tax Avoidance Is a Big Reason For Amazon’s Success:
Amazon’s sales have fallen in states where it is now required to collect sales taxes, according to a new study by three economists at Ohio State University. The study offers striking evidence of how much Amazon’s dominance of the retail marketplace is owed to nearly 20 years of favorable tax treatment.
I Signed Up for Amazon Prime
So the thing is that I signed up for Amazon Prime. And I bought a few things because that’s necessary if I’m going to get Psychotronic Review off the ground. But my first two purchases gave me an offer. I could get my DVDs within 2 days or I could get $6 off Amazons Prime Pantry. So I looked at it and it looked okay. There were razors and tea. Those are two things I buy quite a lot. So that sounded pretty good to me. $12 of free razors and tea!
Amazon Prime Pantry
I was skeptical of course. This was Amazon, after all. And they are a vile company. I know Google no longer uses the slogan don’t be evil. But Amazon might as well use the opposite, “Do Be Evil!”
So there was a 50 pack of Irish Breakfast tea for $5.49, which is about what you would pay anywhere. So I added it to my cart and I went to check out. And I found that in fact the $5.49 was subtracted from my bill, but unlike my regular Prime purchases, I was charged $5.99 for shipping and handling.
And this is tea! It weighs almost nothing. Amazon could doubtless ship it for less than a dollar. And here they were charging me $6 to ship it to me. (Okay, it was only $5.99.) Yes I got $5.49 off the price of my tea but the shipping cost was even more.
But Maybe There’s Hope!
But I got an idea. I had $12 of Amazon Pantry Prime dollars — or whatever the hell it is they call it. So if I ordered two boxes of tea then they would get both boxes of tea for free and the shipping cost would be the same. So I would get the tea at half price. Well that wasn’t so bad. So I did it. But — try not to be too shocked — that’s not the way it works.
No, It’s Just Another Amazon Scam
Instead of both my boxes of tea being free because I had $12 on account only my first $6 was applied. So I still had to pay for one box of tea (less 51¢) and they’re ridiculous price for shipping. Note that if I bought Amazon tea just normally the shipping cost would be $4 not $6, of course the total cost would have been $10. So Prime Pantry is better than the usual “Amazon: great prices and then unreasonable shipping prices that make their prices irrelevant.
So now I was still stuck with paying basically the same amount of money. I can just walk over to Raley’s, get the tea for the same price, and have it. I don’t have to wait.
Amazon Prime Pantry Offers Nothing
I don’t care. Really I don’t. I would rather do my grocery shopping in a grocery store. What really bugs me is that when Amazon offer me this deal it was not at all clear that they were going to do this. And even when I figured out what the con was it was worse than I had even thought. I don’t see any way for Amazon Prime to be worth anything at all. If my total Amazon Prime Pantry can’t be used together, it is never worth using except for saving four bits. That’s it.
So Amazon is offering me nothing for my delaying the shipment of my products. And what they ended up doing was shipping both products which were very light in one envelope. So I suspect that they were able to ship both of my items for about a dollar. And in exchange for that they gave me nothing.
What About Amazone Prime Itself?
Thus far, I have to say I’m happy with Amazon Prime. I do like the free shipping. But whether it is worth it will all depend upon how much I spend. And I have a feeling that I won’t spend enough money with Amazon to make it worth my while.
And ultimately I would rather buy these DVDs from an actual DVD retailer. Not Amazon. As I said I hate Amazon. They are evil. I don’t actually think they should be broken up. I think they should be forced out of business.
Better Would Be to Find a Video Store
So I’m going to have to find some nice online DVD retailer. That would have many advantages. For one thing the description of the item would probably be accurate. Amazon’s descriptions are terrible. I usually have to rely upon user comments to figure out what I am buying. They are like Netflix in that way; they cater to people who don’t care that much about film.
And if I can do that then $99 can be the last amount of money that Amazon ever gets to scam out of me.
Why (Stupid) People Love Amazon Prime
I know that a lot of people think that Amazon Prime is just the greatest thing in the world. But it’s not. It treats its customers poorly it treats its employees like they are thieves. And it pays them so badly that they should be forgiven for becoming thieves.
If Jeff Bezos got a very bad and painful form of cancer, I would not feel the least bit bad. But the bottom line is this. I don’t see why a company that makes so much money needs to manipulate its customers and make them think they are getting things that they are not.
I want to do everything I can to avoid doing business with this extremely unethical company. And if I have to buy things through distributors and hope that I can sell a large enough number to make my investment back, well, that’s what I’ll have to do.
It’s the Rich, Stupid!
But I doubt that if you’re reading this you are a big Amazon fan. I find that the people who are the biggest Amazon fans are people who have a lot of money. They’re the kind of people who just would have clicked and wouldn’t have noticed that Amazon Prime Pantry was screwing them. (Note that in a very real way, Amazon acts like a street beggar.)
Not that I’m alone. Amazon’s business model seems to be to screw people over. As the study I quoted above showed, Amazon is doing worse in states where they now have to collect sales tax. If you haven’t been screwed over it just means you haven’t dealt with them long enough.
Amazon: Do Be Evil!