The Detroit Post
Sunday, 17 October, 2021

Do Amazon Workers Know What You Buy

Ava Flores
• Saturday, 24 October, 2020
• 12 min read

Depending on the quality of Amazon ’s version, that knockoff could be good for consumers and bad for the merchant. Sadly for Amazon, the ambiguous definition of its customer means it can’t wipe out Shopify unless it stops using its market power to raise the fees it charges merchants while knocking off the products of its most successful third-party sellers.

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According to the Journal, around 2010 Pirate’s owner Dale Thomas said that his company sold over $3.5 million worth of its Ravelli-brand camera tripods on Amazon. He ordered one of the Amazon tripods and found that it employed Pirate Trading’s design, had the same components, and used the same manufacturer, according to the Journal.

Amazon set its price for the tripod clone below what Thomas paid his manufacturer to make Pirate’s version. He decided to exit the business when he calculated that it would be less profitable for Pirate to pay its manufacturer to make its tripod than to buy Amazon ’s clone, repackage and resell it, according to the Journal.

Amazon cited authenticity issues as the reason it stopped selling the Pirate Trading tripods that competed with Amazonas’s clones. Stories like this create an opening for services aimed at merchants that don’t want to suffer Pirate Trading’s fate.

If a merchant sells a product for $10 on a Shopify store, they pay 59 cents for payment processing and “maybe a few dollars more for storage and fulfillment,” according to the Times. If a merchant is good at designing a product that customers want and marketing it effectively, Shopify is a better platform.

The Times reported that 86% of these generations would gladly post content for money and 54% would be social media influencers. A case in point is Kylie Jenner who has turned her existing social media audiences into a “billion-dollar e-commerce businesses seemingly overnight.” Consumers are eager to pay for such brands as long as they confer the magic feeling of being linked to a celebrity.

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As the Times noted, in the recent past, a merchant operating on Shopify could pocket a $50 profit on a sweater it sold to consumers for $80. Facebook also wiped out the profits for brands that could keep their customer acquisition costs under control.

Joey Dillinger, All birds’s co-founder and co-CEO, told the Times that the company will not sell on Amazon or Foot Locker FL-0.1% because that would damage “its brand and pricing power.” They would love to devolve us into a feature-and-benefit set and then put every knockoff in the world next to us, and then just drive everybody down to the lowest price, even if you ’re sacrificing quality,” he told the Times.

An Amazon spokesman told the Journal that its Galen shoe “didn’t infringe on All birds’ design” and that “offering products inspired by the trends to which customers are responding is a common practice across the retail industry.” What Amazon did to All birds makes it clear that it is not keen on allowing its most successful third-party merchants to survive.

Depending on how much you shop, watch and read with Amazon, the e-commerce behemoth may know more about you than any other company on earth. They know even more thanks to their ownership of Whole Foods, Ring, Hero, Twitch, Goo dreads, IMDB and Audible.

Recordings for those who don't subscribe to a plan are deleted automatically unless a customer posts a video to the publicly available Neighbors app. To do its job, like any home router, Hero's device knows every Website you go to, but the company says it doesn't collect or store this information.

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Whole Foods already offers deals to Prime members, linking the purchases of its best online customers with those buying offline. Alexa Amazon's virtual assistant is worthy of its own section as its implications are so broad.

But there are instances where Alexa gets activated inadvertently and collects audio you had no intention of sending Amazon's way. One recent controversy arose over just who at Amazon is listening to these audio snippets and for what purpose.

What else Key by Amazon : An optional delivery service for Prime members that literally invites the Store into your home, car or garage to deliver goods ordered online. Amazon stresses that no one enters your premises without explicit permission, that delivery personnel don't themselves get access codes, and all of them undergo background checks.

But, as is the norm in the cloud industry, Amazon doesn't access any of the data stored on its services by businesses, with limited exceptions for court orders or security investigations. Amazon's Alexa-powered Echo devices have a physical microphone-off button that can be pressed to ensure no recording takes place.

No other store offers quite as broad a selection as Amazon, but there are other mega-stores, such as Target and Walmart, as well as other options for digital media, smart home gear and physical retail outlets. As the novel coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe, an otherwise marginalized class of workers is suddenly in the spotlight.

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WIRED spoke with nine people working for Amazon during the Covid-19 crisis over the past two weeks and is publishing their accounts of being on the job, in their own words. Each of them say they are terrified for their health and that of their families, and many believe Amazon isn’t doing enough to ensure their safety.

While the company has often framed its frontline workers as heroes, the people WIRED spoke with say they didn’t sign up for this level of risk. Covid-19 has now spread to at least 50 Amazon facilities in the US, out of a total of more than 500, according to The New York Times.

Amazon says it has 110 fulfillment centers and 150 delivery stations in North America. The outbreaks have led to employee protests in Detroit, New York City, and Chicago, where workers said Amazon was slow to notify them about infections and failed to conduct adequate cleaning.

At Amazon -owned Whole Foods, staff staged a nationwide demonstration citing similar safety concerns and calling for free coronavirus testing for all employees. And more than 5,000 Amazon workers have signed a petition asking for additional benefits given the health crisis, including hazard pay and for the company to shut down any facility where a worker tests positive so it can be properly cleaned.

Amazon ’s practices have attracted the attention of lawmakers including senators Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Robert Menéndez, and Sherwood Brown, who sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos last month demanding answers about the company’s workplace safety measures. Workers at a warehouse in California filed similar complaints with state and county regulators the same day.

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“Our employees are heroes fighting for their communities and helping people get critical items they need in this crisis. Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.

“We have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available, and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances.” Amazon says it has made over 150 changes to help protect its workforce, including distributing face masks to all staff, instituting social-distancing protocols, staggering shift start times, and adding more space between workstations.

The company is also checking whether employees have a fever when they show up for their shifts, though the practice won’t detect the significant number of Covid-19 cases that are asymptomatic. In recent weeks, Amazon has raised wages for hourly workers and said it would let anyone concerned about coming into work to take unpaid time off through the end of April.

After receiving criticism from lawmakers, it will also now allow anyone suspected of having Covid-19 or placed into quarantine to take two weeks of emergency paid sick leave. Prior to March 27, the company required that workers obtain a positive test result to use the benefit, but a nationwide testing shortage made that extremely difficult.

This is what kills me: When we walk through the main front doors, we hit these turnstiles to enter. I know that in my fulfillment center, we’ve got over 900 people who work there, and we have three entrances to choose from.


If you ’re saying our job is so damn important, and that everybody else should stay home, yet we have to show up like soldiers, why not protect us? The day this interview was conducted, Amazon notified the worker about a confirmed case of Covid-19 at their workplace.

We run open air markets within the warehouse, where employees can go and purchase things for lunch, your typical chips, soda. We have a couple of different sandwiches and stuff in coolers, that sort of thing.

But it’s starting to be more like that now, as Amazon is hiring more and more people to keep up with demand for essential items. My employer never gave us any specific guidelines as far as social distancing goes.

It’s kind of impossible to socially distance with our jobs, because our storage room is so small. They had us take out at least 70 percent of the microwaves, in the hopes that things would be more spaced out in the break rooms.

I’m scared of bringing something home to him with his diabetes, because I know that’s a much higher risk factor. I tell him, “Hey man, I would, but I’m such a high-risk person to be around right now working at Amazon.” It makes it rough for everybody.

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Things started shutting down around here, and I was like, Why the hell can’t I stay at home? After this interview was conducted, multiple confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported at their workplace.

When you pull up in front of a little kid’s house and give him a box, and he smiles and says thank you, it makes you feel like you ’re doing something.

Today, after someone already contracted the virus, was the first time I’ve seen wipes and gloves available. I’m trying to do my part in staying 6 feet away from people, but you still have customers coming out to the van, expecting us to give them their packages in hand.

It’s very scary, because I may not be in the most vulnerable age range, but it’s still possible I could get sick. I’m a writer, and I started writing about the automotive industry about a decade ago.

A few years back, I became fascinated with the potential for local delivery to help reduce carbon emissions. In 2018, I started doing delivery work for Roadie first, and then Whole Foods, to learn more about the industry from the inside.

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When one of my primary writing gigs evaporated, I was like Oh my god, I have to pay the bills. When you pull up in front of a little kid’s house and give him a box, and he smiles and says thank you, it makes you feel like you ’re doing something.

This first mask is duct taped together and it’s made from an old Nike golf shirt. After this interview was conducted, the driver reported that Whole Foods has instituted more protections for workers, including social distancing measures, temperature screenings, and providing gloves.

When I first started there, it was a great job, because it’s only part-time, it’s fairly flexible, and it gave me the opportunity to look for other things. I have been going to work through the pandemic, but I am starting to contemplate staying home because of some issues at Amazon.

I was thinking ahead, planning for quarantine and stuff, buying food. He said “Yeah, especially with the announcement.” I said, “What announcement?” He told me there was a confirmed case of the coronavirus at our warehouse, but I hadn’t heard anything.

While they are taking basic precautions, the fact of the matter is there are over 200, maybe 300 people that come in and out of this warehouse every day. Amazon has these big puffy bodysuits that you put on over your whole body, including your mouth, which you need to keep you insulated.

You find one that fits you, you do your time in the freezer, then you come out and you take it off, and some other poor bastard uses it.

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