Let's dive in. Some of the problems I'll lay out have popped up in the media. Others, to the best of my knowledge, are a product of my conversations with people I know who are well-informed on the matter.
First, there's the whole controversy of Amazon's process for picking the city for their next HQ. Many of us know what happened when they chose New York and then got boycotted out of there because the opposition didn't understand that the tax cuts the city promised Amazon were going to be nothing compared to what the city would gain- more money for pubic transit and infrastructure, more jobs, real estate value other than in Manhattan going up, and so on. While there are two sides to that story, one thing is clear. Amazon made the announcement they want to build another HQ, they had cities parade in front of them making all sorts of offers, and then just because of pushback in New York they suddenly said they don't need a new HQ any more. All of that is bad press. Do you need another HQ or not? Also, if you really want to help the one country you do most of your business in- USA- wouldn't you just pick the city best for you based on objective data analysis and forget about tax cuts? Wouldn't that have been the perfect positive PR and a show of corporate social responsibility? Wouldn't that affect the stock price positively in the long run? Look, Microsoft has done this thing in the past. When the government was scrutinizing Microsoft and pushing for its breakup, fines and more, Bill Gates bailed out Apple, a fierce competitor, and afterwards Bill Gates became a bi time philanthropist as well. When the government eases up on your business and the press starts talking nice about you, that improves investor confidence and leads to increase in stock price. Amazon missed its chance to pull a Microsoft type of move and I hope they never make the same mistake again, because it may not end well at all.
Another big problem I see- at least on USA and Canada Amazon sites, is the inclusion of many goods that are shipped directly from China. I have heard from multiple people and read from multiple sources that Amazon has relaxed shipping standards and other benefits for item listings that ship from China. Therefore, there is a whole section of Amazon that brings to the less informed shoppers the same problems that sites like Aliexpress typically bring. We are talking about long shipping times (up to a month), almost non existent return policies, poor quality control, items not as described and more. This is highly problematic as Amazon sellers based in USA or Canada have to follow strict shipping time limits, provide tracking numbers very fast, and are generally held to a much higher standard. Here's a scenario. Imagine you're a seller with a decent amount of cash and you're into high fashion sunglasses. You find a good distributor or a manufacturer in China and you order thousands of glasses. You pony up lots of cash, you take on the risks associated with it, you get the shipment here and you do the shipping, quality control, you handle all the customer service. Then, after a while, you get undercut by someone selling the same sunglasses for cheaper from China. They offer terrible customer service, no return policy they would ever honor, they bully you for a review and a positive one at that, and you don't know when you're going to even get the sunglasses, if at all. Buying an item has many implicit factors and systems involved when it comes to 21st century shopping, and Amazon will drive people away by allowing those who ignore those implicit factors to sell on their marketplace. There's a reason why many people I know say "Oh, yeah I know about Aliexpress. I shopped on it a few times, but never again." Amazon should not become Aliexpress.
Another problem with Amazon is that it made things difficult for creative people to sell their products by introducing way too complicated requirements, aka Private Label. Initially, this was done to protect brands' designs, intellectual and creative properties, and to discourage knockoffs. However, what ended up happening was that people who design their own shirts, leggings, bikinis, backpacks and more have found Amazon is no longer welcoming them like it used to. Say you are a designer and you have amazing leggings to offer, you live in Canada or USA, you're not doing knockoffs and you just want people to be able to buy your creations on the greatest online marketplace in North America. Oh, and you want your own logo and a brand name on it that you thought up, simple as that. Amazon makes it difficult. Why is this a problem and why should Amazon care? It's because of a lesser known implicit alliance between Shopify and Facebook or Shopify and Google. Shopify is an ecommerce platform making it beyond easy for people to create their own online stores with tons of plugins, design options and more available to them. They have different tiered plans and a free option as well. As of 1 day ago, its stock price has been soaring. For doing just that one thing, its revenue has crossed 1 billion dollars in 2018! As such, its dual though separate implicit alliances with Google and Facebook create a power block for everyone who doesn't fit in with Amazon's rules, requirements, and anyone who rejects the marketplace model and all the limitations it puts on the creators and sellers, while slowly stripping away or tightly controlling their brand and individuality. As a clothing designer and brand, for example, you can have your own site, set your own prices, determine your own shipping and return policies as you see fair and fit, choose your own payment processors, and use paid ads to target who you think is the most likely buyer for what you offer. No Amazon SEO, no missing out on sales because you're ranked low or don't have enough reviews, no other sellers seeing your creations and trying to rip them off and then undercut you as you fade into oblivion. Amazon may become a good choice once you're already established, but if you are able to create something unique in a new or existing space and offer it to the consumers, it is truly a horrible place to start. This, dearest readers, is another major problem for Amazon that it will not be able to fix any time soon, but should certainly try if it wants to dominate the e-commerce world even in the future.
Finally, let's talk about excess. Dearest readers, this may be the largest problem of them all, and is endemic among tech companies. There is something fundamentally wrong when a company that's basically an online marketplace with value-added bells and whistles is able to make so much money that it plays around with expensive cashless stores, buys up grocery chains, starts spaceship companies and so on. Tesla is doing some of the same stuff. How are these companies able to do that? How can (currently) small time car maker and an online marketplace work on space travel? How is there such a huge upside to what they do, and are we getting enough in return for financing them? Amazon is playing with space ships, instead of warehouse workers having robots perform tasks alongside them or have exoskeletons to augment their abilities e.g. lifting heavier packages all by themselves or doing repetitive motions with less fatigue and injury. What about Alexa? If Amazon wasn't playing with spaceships, maybe they could have used more money and sourced more talent to give us a fully conversational Alexa that learns based on its experience with us on an individual level. They could have also financially motivated many more people to get in on the business of creating Alexa skills, thereby improving its versatility and quality lightning fast. Bottom line, the consumers won't tolerate forever and ever that the money they spend with Amazon is being used, quite heavily, in way that don't benefit those same consumers here and now. Some future generation may benefit from Amazon's investment in space travel, but they'll benefit off of the money we are spending right now! We have no choice in the matter, at all. How long that will sit well with us is a billion dollar question.
There you have it, dearest readers- something to ponder and ultimately accept somewhere on your agree or disagree spectrum. I hope that these and other problems become actively discussed topics in North America not just because many people's financial security is intertwined with Amazon, not just because talking about problems helps us solve them and make things better, but also because we apply this scrutiny every day when we talk about our governments, so we should equally do so for companies like Amazon. Dearest readers, you have the floor now. :)