Another reason Amazon is hard on its sellers…

I didn’t have a counterfeit problem when I sold things through Amazon’s website, but I did feel that they favored the customer in a complaint even when he was being exceptionally nit-picky, and even bragged later how he got his item from me for free (thanks to Amazon, who did not compensate me for the loss), and that it worked fine and did everything it was supposed to. And don’t get me started about their seller support staff when I would need help.

Amazon online retail, which I would call its flagship division, is weird. It must be bringing in huge revenues, but there’s practically no profit. (Apparently almost all the profit Amazon generates is from Prime memberships and from their cloud services.) It’s very disruptive to most other kinds of selling (e.g., look at KSS/M/TGT/WMT etc.), but it doesn’t benefit their own bottom line.

If you could take Amazon to its logical extreme, they would sell everything to everybody and almost nobody else would be in a similar business. And maybe their drones would be thick in the air everywhere, flying about willy-nilly, infringing on people’s personal freedoms like the soiled budgies in that Monty Python sketch.

When I look at Amazon’s chart, I scratch my head. I don’t know what to make of it, of Bezos, of what may happen with it eventually. Is there even an historical precedent? The Mongol invasions [half joking]?

To me, there is something dystopian about Amazon.


To me, there is something dystopian about Amazon.

But Ed, have you been a customer of Amazon’s? Anything you don’t need right away, from printer cartridges to underwear and socks, or room deodorant to Skechers’ shoes, you no longer have to traipse all over the city trying to find them. Order them on Amazon and they are there in a couple of days. For a customer it’s the opposite of dystopian, it’s perhaps died-and-gone-to-heaven utopian. Just saying… Different points of view.


Also, AMZN is often so much cheaper. Being in my 6th. decade, I sometimes just automatically go and buy something wanted from a ‘store’ or ‘shop’. (These are physical retail buildings found in towns, formerly - with ‘mail order’ - the only retail outlets available.) On my way home, I remember and kick myself, guessing that I have just paid a ridiculous price (plus fuel, time) and checking, find it to be so .

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Just saying… Different points of view.

Yes, indeed. On the old Hollywood Squares question and answer game show, wise-cracking Paul Lynde was once asked, “What is a dual purpose cow?”

His response: “It’s a cow that gives both milk and cookies…but I wouldn’t recommend the cookies.”

I find myself in agreement with both Ed and Saul on this one. I love the way you can get almost anything on Amazon both fast and usually cheaper than elsewhere and with no fuss. I think about where the business is heading and wonder, at some point, how good the cookies will taste.



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 or 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:…


Amazon online retail, which I would call its flagship division, is weird. It must be bringing in huge revenues, but there’s practically no profit. (Apparently almost all the profit Amazon generates is from Prime memberships and from their cloud services.) It’s very disruptive to most other kinds of selling (e.g., look at KSS/M/TGT/WMT etc.), but it doesn’t benefit their own bottom line.

Costco sells billions of dollars worth of stuff, but their profit is barely what they charge in membership fees. Put another way, everything in the store is sold at cost, but in order to buy it, you must pay them $100 or so a year. This is also “disruptive”, but the customers love it.

The rap on Walmart for many years was that they sold things at cost or below when they moved into a new location, and once the competition was driven out of business they would raise their prices back to what the other Walmarts were charging. I have no proof that’s true, just that it was a frequent complaint, especially by people trying to sell things in the face of the Walmart onslaught.

For the record, the same thing was true when the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea company rolled across America (A&P), and Sears had its share of “cry foul” from competitors who couldn’t source all the cool stuff that Sears could (Kenmore, Craftsman, etc.)

Amazon is huge. And their shareholders have been patient Lo these twenty years waiting for a profit - and they don’t seem to mind at all, otherwise people would be running away from, instead of to, the AMZN stock. Not many companies have gotten away with this for so long; a few Internet wannabes did in the 90’s, but were taken down in the Nasdaq crumble of 2000. Amazon? Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

BTW, I’m a Prime member. It’s not for the price, it’s for the “long tail” of merchandise I can get in one-stop, and don’t have to walk any further than my mailbox (usually my front porch!) Special brand of coffee, microfiber for stove cleaning, passive iPhone amplifier, windshield cleaner thingie, stove splash guard in just the right pattern - all just this week. I saved more in gasoline running around than I spent in the Prime membership.

The stock is overpriced, I would never buy it. The service is underpriced, and I consume mass quantities. The reason there is no other “Amazon” is that there is no other Bezos. He’s goofy, but he’s on top of the world.


there is no other Bezos. He’s goofy . . .

Ok, he is goofy, but is he . . . hoofy?


There is one aspect of Amazon’s success I infer from my own behaviour and which therefore may be common among older people: unlike younger types (who often seem surprisingly dismissive about security) I am reluctant to give out my credit card details more than I really have to. Amazon is, with rare exceptions, the only online retail outlet I buy from.


Amazon is, with rare exceptions, the only online retail outlet I buy from.

Then you might not want to read these:……

or this:…


I don’t think many people are aware of how widespread these security threats are, or how little the FBI and other law enforcement agencies are doing about it. I called the FBI once to complain about attempted phone scams from people claiming to be from Microsoft or “Windows Service” or whatever. They old me to call my local police, which were clueless.

My method of stringing the scammers along and wasting their time (as well as putting them on hold while playing strange things on my speakers and holding up the phone to it) seems to have been effective, at least for the last few weeks, when the number of calls went down from several per week to zero.

Sorry for going OT, but this isn’t even all that OT, since a company known for being especially good about protecting customer security should do better than companies that aren’t. But I also scratch my head at how difficult it seems to be to make money in computer security, even with a very good product.

Another “Amazon hard on its sellers” sob story…

I just got a refund on duplicate postage for a package I mailed in early May.