Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Evil We All Do

By David Nemeth

Prior to 2004, Google brought forth the idea of "don't be evil". Some held hope that this would come true, but alas, it did not. Facebook is the easy target for evilness. If they had access to your soul, Zuckerberg would sell it in a cyborg heartbeat. In fact, some of you have left the time suck that is Facebook and moved on, all while turning a blind eye to Amazon.

Most of us look the other way when it comes to Amazon. I know I do. Hell, over at Unlawful Acts, I have purchase links to Amazon. I'm a Prime subscriber and I even subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. And that's something I need to address, something I think we all need to address.

But let's forget about Facebook knowing your every move for one second and look hard at what Amazon is doing to its warehouse workers.
Timed toilet breaks, impossible targets and exhausting, “intolerable” working conditions are frequent complaints. Staff have been paid less than the living wage, and it even emerged drivers had faced fines for “early” deliveries. (The Daily Mirror)
Even when Amazon gives raises, its workers fume.
But in Amazon warehouses across the country, many longtime workers are fuming that — based on the information they have received so far — they may end up making thousands of dollars less a year. 
Yes, Amazon is increasing wages, which will benefit most employees. But it will no longer give out new stock grants and monthly bonuses. Some workers believe that means their total compensation will shrink.
Hell, even the white collar workers have got it bad.
At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)
So while you think it's great that you left Facebook 'cause you need to protect your privacy––that you're making a stand against the man––I ain't too fond that you're out there shilling for Amazon reviews to try and beat that algorithm. Fuck the guy standing 12-hours a day at the printing press shipping your $17.99 print-on-demand book out. Am I right? But at least you're off Facebook.

Not cool, bro, not cool at all.


Sandra Ruttan said...

Ugh. here's NOTHING fresh, revolutionary or insightful about picking on Amazon.

I mean, I get why people do it. It's like picking on Jonathan Franzen - an almost universal outpouring of support for your rejection of them will follow because they are the bad apples that have been agreed upon by authors. Hell, even Trump hates Amazon.

However, if you want to get on a moral high horse about the book industry then you should actively rally against it. You should be fighting for an end to publishing. You should never read or endorse a book again.

How outrageous, you might think. Perhaps I've already been called an idiot, bitch or worse.

But consider some facts:
Amazon accounted for 41% of book sales as of 2014, per the Atlantic. This means 59% of sales occured through other vendors. Idealog reported higher numbers for Amazon in 2018, but they still account for less than 46% of all book sales.

Walmart sells books. They've gotten into the ebook business and a few years ago they took advantage of the Amazon-Hachette spat to bolster their own book sales.

Yet more than half of Walmart's staff are limited to part-time hours, denying then access to benefits (Reuters, 2018) and pays part-time employees $11 an hour.

Compare that to Amazon's $15 per hour.

The Commercial Appeal reported: "Programs funded by American taxpayers. No matter the town or city, if you have a Walmart in your community, you are paying a Walmart Tax. In fact, a single Walmart Supercenter is estimated to cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.74 million per year in public assistance money."

Forbes reported in 2014 that Walmart costs taxpayers over $6 billion annually through food stamps and other social assistance programs that their employees rely on to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, as of 2015 the 6 Waltons behind Walmart were worth a whopping $136.1 billion, representing the wealthiest family in the country.

But damn Amazon. It's trendy to hate them, not Walmart.

And what of Barnes and Noble and their culling of full-time employees? Last February they ushered out 1800 committed, experienced staff members to save money. Indeed reports "Average Barnes & Noble hourly pay ranges from approximately $8.14 per hour for Customer Assistants".

But what do they pay their big wigs? reported, "As Chief Executive Officer at BARNES & NOBLE INC, Demos Parneros made $5,809,790 in total compensation".

Evils abound. The little guy is screwed over while someone at the top takes a bigger slice than they'll ever need. What are we left with? Independent booksellers, if you're lucky.

The closest bookstores to us? Used, mall outlet chain store, mall outlet chain store. Those two mall outlets carry the same bestsellers and popular authors, with hardly any small press books in sight.

The closest Barnes & Noble is 31 miles away, putting several Walmart outlets nearer to our location.

And both are evil.

There's also an outlet shop that sells remaindered copies of books.

The nearest independent? Several towns away. With factors in our lives that shape our outings that's a rare trip, not a common one. We simply can't afford to order without abandon and pay high shipping costs, either.

But if we claim our victory by not ordering from Amazon? Thrn we will not be buying books anymore.

That'll teach 'em.

And all the authors who hurt over lost sales.

Such a moral victory.

And I love Facebook. Like, hell, who isn't monitoring us online and stealing our data? Google. Hell, newsletters are a goldmine for those who get valued contact info.


Started a fucking fantastic book the other day. Contender for top reads of the year. Don't know the author, either, so nobody kissed my ass for the opinion. Going to go read that now and enjoy the happiness that comes from a good book.

Thomas Pluck said...

WHATABOUTISM rules. Amazon deserves to be boycotted. Just because there are corps just as bad doesn't make them any better. Ooh, this poop doesn't have corn in it! It must be pate'!

Bookstores ship. Some give big discounts on pre-orders. But you don't get free shipping! Oh noes
I get it, we all like to save money. I won't judge you if you use Amazon, but don't try to defend it. At least you're not pirating books and claiming moral high ground (we see that bullshit a lot on Twitter as well).
Amazon has actively hurt writers, especially the small press authors we supposedly champion. They advertise their own imprints in large ads on the page, they let used booksellers "buy" your buy button so you don't make a dime, they suddenly make books take 1-2 weeks to ship on launch day. There's Powell's, Book Deposoitory (free shipping worldwide!) and so many others. I don't say B&N because I don't like them either, but don't act like Amazon is your only choice.

Liam Sweeny said...

"Yeah, but it's the only game in town!" - notorious card cheat and con artist Canada Bill Jones, on being told by George Devol that a Faro game in Cairo, Illinois was crooked.

I don't defend Amazon at all. But I'm poor as hell, and I think sometimes consumer morality has a steep cover charge.

David Nemeth said...

As consumers we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. I've watched WalMart destroy small towns for the last 25 years. I think I've only been in a WalMart once, maybe twice. The whole thing with Amazon is that they are convenient, absolutely fucking convenient. The wife and I are looking at ways to wean ourselves off of Amazon and I'm sure it'll be a slow process. If I can buy a book directly from an author I try to do so. As far as independent stores near me, yeah that's not a thing. All I can do is keep on trying. All this article was meant to be is a reminder that we need to fight the good fight.

John McFetridge said...

I guess the idea of a boycott is so that a company will voluntarily change its ways. Why have we given up on the idea of regulations?

EJ Parker said...

Regulations are bad for business, John.