Amazon, Walmart, Etc.

gibby2015January 29, 2012

As I was pondering whether to buy a Nook or a Kindle I was thinking:

Isn't Amazon putting - or on the verge of putting - local businesses out of business kind of like Walmart? I never hear anyone bashing Amazon for this but maybe I've just missed it.

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Well, I don't know. But it seems to me that a lot of things I've bought through Amazon's website have been from small-sounding companies that are "partners", not directly from Amazon itself. I don't know how the business relationship works, but I guess they must pay some kind of fees and/or commissions to have their products sold through the Amazon website. I would guess that this could be lucrative for small businesses in terms of vast exposure, assuming that the fees and commissions are fair. But I also have read many complaints from "brick and mortar" stores about business lost to websites, where customers often aren't charged state and local sales tax, and where a virtual presence doesn't bring any of the other costs of a physical storefront such as rent, property taxes, maintenance, etc.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 2:59PM
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There is plenty of Amazon-bashing around. Especially from local book sellers. They and others are upset over Amazon's promotional to give a discount over the lowest price found (using their comparison application).

Here is a link that might be useful: info here

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 9:11PM
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Do you think it would be a loss if there were no more bricks and mortar book stores?

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 11:29PM
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bill_vincent(Central Maine)


    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 11:33PM
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The convenience of downloading music ended tower records & many other music stores.
The benefit of being able to download e-books potentially makes available endless online libraries to anyone with a fairly inexpensive gadget. The printed book will return to being a luxury item as it once was.
My apartment has a lot less paper mold as a result of EDD's kindle. We shipped out about 5 boxes of old books to a thrift store.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 11:37PM
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bill_vincent(Central Maine)

It's the whole reason why there's such a big hullaballou about the big box stores. There's something to be said for shopping from locally owned smaller stores that brings a sense of community. It's about more than just buying. it's about socializing and knowing your neighbors. If I go to the store, my wife knows I'll be gone for a while, even just to get a gallon of milk, because you can bet I'll run into someone (or some people) I know and we'll get to talking for a bit.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 11:48PM
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Amazon has been criticized for use of temp workers, working conditions, tough disciplinary system and tough engineered labor/safety standards.

In its recruiting efforts, ISS' ads read: "Looking for a new direction? Are you interested in working in a fun, fast-paced atmosphere earning up to $12.25 per hour? Let Integrity be your guide to a rewarding career with Amazon, the Internet superstore." ( Minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.)

The ads say applicants should be able to lift and move up to 49 pounds. They also say warehouse temperatures range between 60 and 95 degrees and "occasionally exceed 95 degrees."

The use of temporary workers to minimize the costs and liabilities associated with a permanent workforce is not unique to Amazon. And the warehouse and shipping industry is known for its fast-pace expectations and physical demands.

But one staffing-industry recruiter whose company serves the Lehigh Valley shipping industry said he has interviewed roughly 40 job applicants who complained of difficult working conditions at the Amazon warehouse.

Ordinarily, if someone lasted only a few months in a warehouse job, it would raise questions about his or her abilities, he said. But he has placed former Amazon warehouse workers in other warehouse jobs and they were able to meet expectations, he said.

"A lot of places spend time and money to make something ergonomically designed so that the average person can do the work. They don't have to be a professional athlete to do the work," he said.

The situation highlights how companies like Amazon can wield their significant leverage over workers in the bleak job market, labor experts say.

"They can get away with it because most workers will take whatever they can get with jobs few and far between," said Catherine Ruckelshaus, legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for low-wage workers.

"The temp worker is less likely to complain about it and less likely to push for their labor rights because they feel like they don't have much pull or sway with the work-site employer."

Disciplinary system

Both (blue badge) permanent and (white badge) temporary employees are subject to a point-based disciplinary system. Employees accumulate points for such infractions as missing work, not working fast enough or breaking a safety rule. If they get too many points, they can be fired.

In the event of illness, employees have to bring in a doctor's note and request a medical waiver to have their disciplinary points removed, those interviewed said.

Workers are expected to maintain a rate, measured in units per hour, which varies depending on the job and the size of inventory being handled.

Products moving through the warehouse range broadly in size, from compact discs and iPods to chain saws. Workers use handheld scanners to track inventory as it moves through the warehouse, which enables managers to monitor productivity minute by minute, employees said.

Productivity rate jumps

Mark Zweifel, 22, of Coopersburg, Pa., worked in the warehouse as a permanent Amazon employee for more than a year until he was fired Sept. 9, he said. His primary job was on the receiving line, unloading inventory from boxes, scanning bar codes and loading products into totes so stowers could store them in bins.

He had previous shipping-industry experience and liked the job for the first six months, but then he said the productivity rate abruptly doubled one day from 250 units per hour for smaller items to 500 units per hour.

"I'm a young guy. I could keep up with it. But I saw the older people working there; they were getting written up a lot. I didn't think it was fair," he said.

Kutztown, Pa., resident Stephen Dallal said he worked at the warehouse for about six months as a picker before he lost his job for not meeting productivity requirements. He left a job as a meat cutter to get full-time hours with Amazon, hoping the temporary assignment would lead to a permanent position.

"It just got harder and harder," Dallal said. "It started with 75 pieces an hour. Then 100 pieces an hour. Then 125 pieces an hour. They just got faster and faster and faster."

Dallal said he felt relieved when he lost the job.

"I didn't want to quit," he said. "I tried the best I could. But that job was really getting to me."

Here is a link that might be useful: Workers complain about Amazon warehouse jobs

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 7:50AM
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There is nothing like taking your kids to a bookstore and telling them they can pick out a book. How much longer will that exist?

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 10:03AM
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I expect used book stores will always be around.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 10:05AM
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"It's the whole reason why there's such a big hullaballou about the big box stores. There's something to be said for shopping from locally owned smaller stores that brings a sense of community. It's about more than just buying. it's about socializing and knowing your neighbors."

Good morning, Bill! Good to see you again.


    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 11:32AM
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We are indeed in a world that is changing. The internet has added a whole new element to our lives in the way of shopping, among many other things. When it comes to books, I prefer to sit in my easy chair and read, and not from an electronic device. I'll always be a fan of the regular old book, from the regular old book store. However, with the vast array of other items that Amazon sells that I have bought, I feel that Amazon has found products, from other buisinesses, that I want, thus helping them and me, so they aren't all that bad.

Also, I am a believer in the free market, so whatever happens happens, and there is absolutely no way anyone should be getting involved. It is detrimental to our economy when our government applies regulations to the private market to "make it fair". If the small book stores can't stay afloat, then that's how the cookie crumbles. It would be a shame, but that's how the free market works.


    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 9:30PM
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