I should have mentioned in my original post that I do buy from Amazon, but I have not found them consistently less expensive at all. Most of my purchases there are from third party sellers like myself, not out of loyalty, but because of low prices. I mostly get books, DVD’s and CD’s on Amazon, and mostly used books, usually for $.01 plus $3.99 shipping. (But often enough the lowest price is at abebooks.com or betterworldbooks.com. If a book is expensive, I try to find it at the library first to see if it’s worth owning.) I get electronics more often at Newegg or Micro Center. Or Craigslist. Or even Freecycle. (Unlike many of you here, I have more time than money, so I’m OK with driving around to get something, especially if it’s near something else interesting, even if it’s a 30 mile round trip.)
I usually get the older toner cartridges I need cheapest on eBay, though sometimes on Amazon.
I’m very low on the “food chain”. I have a very un-smart cell phone that I got at a thrift store several years ago. I shop fairly often at thrift stores and places like TJ Maxx. I use a Windows 7 computer I bought through Craigslist for about $50.
I also forgot to mention another troublesome thing about Amazon for third party sellers AND for buyers. This is the mess I see when I search for my toner cartridge (HP 96A for the Laserjet 2200):
30 pages of listings! Many of them virtually identical, but created separately by a different third-party seller. I can only imagine what kind of expense Amazon would incur if it tried to clean up all these listings. As a buyer, it takes a while to wade through all of this and find one that’s inexpensive and likely to be reliable.
As a seller, I would try to hedge my bets and list my item on as many relevant listings as possible, so that a buyer doesn’t miss me. I’ve gone through this ordeal for quite a few items I’ve sold, especially modems and routers. With a router, the model number is usually not enough information for an informed buyer; the version number can indicate a change as fundamental as a different chipset, and some versions are much more desirable. So here we would expect a bunch of listings for a specific model, and indeed we get a bunch of listings. BUT - they are not differentiated by version. They differ because different sellers made different listings, almost always without specifying the version. I found out about version differences by reading the reviews (and Amazon reviews are one of the best things to me about Amazon), and so now I have to scour the listings and see if the version number is mentioned in the fine print connected with a seller’s sub-listing.
This kind of “inside baseball” information isn’t all that helpful in evaluating Amazon as a stock, though it does add to the information we also hear about often sub-par working conditions, especially at the lower levels. (By contrast, almost everyone working at Costco seems happy to be working there, and there is very little turnover.)
Overall, I am very ambivalent about Amazon. And, to go off on a bit of a tangent, same with Google. Both companies want to do everything, be involved in more of our lives, want to take over the world, and in some ways, ARE taking over the world. (I’m less ambivalent about Facebook, another take-over-the-world company that I don’t get as much benefit from.)
I’m ambivalent about Amazon stock. I should re-read Saul’s thinking where he switches from “they don’t even care if they make a profit” to “they are growing revenue so much”.
I’ll also add a link to Gottlieb’s comment on revenue from AWS (their profitable cloud service), in case Saul hasn’t seen it: