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Jeff Bezos, Amazon, Nero, SPQR.

The Decline and Fall of Amazon



By Duane Thresher, Ph.D.          June 2, 2019

Amazon is the quintessential IT company. It rose when the Internet (actually the Web) rose, in the early 1990's. It's one of the most visited websites in the world. And it's the biggest seller of IT itself.

According to Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder/chairman/CEO/president, "Amazon is not too big to fail ... In fact, I predict one day Amazon will fail. Amazon will go bankrupt. If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not a hundred-plus years." Jeff Bezos incorporated Amazon in 1994, so Amazon will fall in 2024, in just a few years. You can already see the decline.

In a self-fulfilling prophecy, Bezos is spending Amazon money on his hobbies -- rockets, Hollywood, The Washington Post -- and extramarital affairs like there is indeed no tomorrow and doing little but paying lip service to "Building Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company". Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

I have a lot of experience with Amazon since I buy a lot of IT books and hardware and have been a customer since the early 1990's, when Amazon began. I experienced Amazon's rise, which wasn't exactly meteoric -- it wasn't profitable for years -- so can compare it to its current decline, and soon-to-be fall.

Amazon customer service is now all outsourced to India, to Indians pretending to speak English. It's better to just throw away the junk -- most of it is Chinese-made anyway -- that Amazon sent you and accept the money loss than to also waste your time complaining about the junk to a broken-English foreigner in order to get a refund, particularly if a return is required for the refund. That situation is by design. It's a double win for Amazon -- cheap labor and thwarted refunds.

Amazon item reviews are now widely manipulated. There are many services where an item manufacturer, publisher, author, or other seller can pay to get 5-star reviews, an average-increasing amount of them. You've seen these, they're the short 5-star reviews -- the paid reviewers can't spend too much time on individual reviews and they are often foreign and long reviews make the atrocious English more obvious. This manipulation is common knowledge, so Amazon reviews are now also widely mistrusted.

Most other Amazon reviews are meaningless drivel clearly written by idiots. You've seen these too. Reviews like, "I didn't actually ever buy, use, or know anything about the item but I'm writing a review because I just want to see myself in print."

This review drivel includes the Amazon Vine program, whereby item manufacturers, publishers, authors, and other sellers give their products free to known-friendly Amazon customers, as payment, and get a customer review in return. Yeah right, those reviews are going to be unbiased. Moreover, Vine reviews are usually the earliest reviews, which gives them time to accumulate the most number of "helpful" votes. And reviews with the most number of helpful votes are shown first to customers by Amazon.

I recently bought a pair of AmazonBasics in-ear headphones with microphone. I was looking in the reviews for some mention of how good the electronics were. Most of the first-seen most-helpful reviews were Vine reviews like "They come in pretty colors! -- Buffy". With no other information available I bought these headphones and they turned out to be garbage, like most AmazonBasics stuff, which is Chinese-made junk that you would never dream of buying if it was sold under its real brand name, like Ful Yu. Amazon did refund my money but I had to argue for half an hour with a broken-English Indian over whether I had to return the defective $12 item via driving to a UPS store or I could just toss it in the garbage. That's another way Amazon thwarts refunds. They send items to you via readily-accessible USPS but require returns via much-less-accessible UPS.

There are rarely expert reviews on Amazon because, given the junk sold, these are usually negative and Amazon forbids negative expert reviews. (Negative reviews from idiots are acceptable.) This is so as not to unprofitably alienate item manufacturers, publishers, authors, and other sellers. I know this from experience. Most recently, I purchased SEO For Dummies, 6th edition, by Peter Kent from Amazon. Reading through it, I quickly realized the book was just a self-promoting self-glorifying piece about Kent personally and his SEO (Search Engine Optimization) consulting business -- the SEO theory in it was complete nonsense. Kent was, as he himself put it, a "snake oil salesman". I wrote a review to this effect and it was immediately rejected by Amazon, who just flat out admitted it was rejected because we "don't allow reviews that criticize authors". Amazon was trying to make the distinction between a book and its author but no one else makes this distinction (if you criticize any author's book, he rightfully takes it personally) and does this mean an autobiography can't be criticized? After that stupidity I'd had enough and deleted all my other Amazon reviews and will never write another.

I once purchased a book from Amazon, soon after its publication, and quickly discovered it was completely plagiarized from Wikipedia: Wireless Crash Course, 3rd edition, by Paul Bedell. I reported it to Amazon, with detailed proof of its plagiarism: book passages versus Wikipedia passages, a lot of them. Amazon did nothing, just left it for sale on its website. It was an easy choice for Amazon: make money on the plagiarized book's sale or do the right thing. I didn't even bother writing a review pointing out this plagiarism since I knew it would be rejected by Amazon.

(I also reported the book as plagiarized to its publisher, McGraw-Hill's Steve Chapman, and he took only the paper edition, not the digital, off the market. But only eventually, after a lot of pressure from me ... or after they had sold all they had printed. Paul Bedell then self-published the plagiarized book and sold it on -- wait for it -- Amazon, where it is still available to this day as Cellular Networks: Design and Operation - A Real World Perspective. Bedell is a professor at DePaul University and used the plagiarized book in his courses. I was able to get the plagiarized book removed from the DePaul University bookstore, a Barnes & Noble who, still playing by the rules, unlike Amazon, didn't want legal trouble. However, the DePaul University administration -- particularly the President, Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, and the Dean, Dr. David Miller, of Bedell's College, Computing and Digital Media -- was not at all interested in the plagiarism of one of its professors and did nothing. They were too busy paying lip service -- warnings are printed everywhere -- to their zero tolerance for plagiarism among their students. DePaul is a Catholic university. The DePaul University Library was similarly not interested.)

Seeking total market domination, Amazon took over eBay's niche of having numerous "third party" sellers. The result has been the permanent ruin of Amazon's reputation. Amazon has become a haven/sanctuary for crooked sellers. Item descriptions are pure fiction; they are whatever the sellers think will make you buy the item. For example, used books, no matter how trashed, are sold as "like new". The total of refunds due to complaints is trivial compared to the total from those quietly accepting being ripped off so this is a very profitable, if corrupt, business plan. (Although even Amazon itself has enthusiastically adopted this scam; I often get "new" items directly from Amazon that have clearly been used.)

I once bought a "brand new sealed" laptop hard drive from a third-party seller on Amazon, Storite. Most people don't know this, probably including Storite, but a hard drive keeps an internal record (SMART) of how many times and how long it has been turned on, i.e. you can tell if it is new or not. When I received the supposedly-new hard drive I immediately accessed this record and found that the hard drive had been turned on 892 times and been on for a total of 1,742 hours! Storite refunded my money, let me keep the drive, and paid me an extra $10 to not tell Amazon or write a review exposing it as a crooked seller. I took the deal because I knew Amazon would do nothing and would reject any such review and I wanted to get something for my troubles.

More recently, I purchased a "brand new sealed" boxed set of video DVDs from a third-party seller on Amazon, CDWarehouseOnline. (OK, I admit it, it was Mister Ed: The Complete Series, for my daughter.) When I received it, the cardboard box was clearly old, just resealed in plastic, which is a common scam . When I tried to play the DVDs, they didn't work at all or only worked sporadically, like pirated DVDs. The seller refused to refund my money so I complained to Amazon about one of its sellers selling pirated DVDs and threatened a very public lawsuit. Amazon not only refunded my money and gave me $50 for my trouble but I also got a phone call from Gabor Kiss in Jeff Bezos's office. Amazon was clearly concerned that its crooked third-party sellers not be made public. Gabor and I discussed crooked third-party sellers on Amazon at length, but of course Amazon never actually did anything about them. Why should they when they can pay a very few customers off for a lot less than they make from the crooked third party sellers?

In summary, Amazon won't do anything about its crooked third-party sellers and they won't let you write a review to do something about its crooked third-party sellers.

Finally, everyone now assumes that everything is cheaper on Amazon. Not even close to true. Amazon and its crooked third-party sellers take advantage of this false belief they perpetuate and charge outrageous prices for items you can get much cheaper in any local store or from other sellers on the Internet, if only you would look. Do everyone a favor, and look.