How Amazon Wins: By Steamrolling Rivals and Partners

To keep customers happy, which Mr. Bezos has long said is Amazon’s fixation and growth strategy, executives behind the scenes have methodically waged targeted campaigns against rivals and partners alike—an approach that has changed little through the years, from diapers to footwear.

No competitor is too small to draw Amazon’s sights. It cloned a line of camera tripods that a small outside company sold on Amazon’s site, hurting the vendor’s sales so badly it is now a fraction of its original size, the little firm’s owner said. Amazon said it didn’t violate the company’s intellectual-property rights.

When Amazon decided to compete with furniture retailer Wayfair Inc., Mr. Bezos’s deputies created what they called the Wayfair Parity Team, which studied how Wayfair procured, sold and delivered bulky furniture, eventually replicating a majority of its offerings, said people who worked on the team. Amazon and Wayfair declined to comment on the matter.

Amazon set its sights on Allbirds Inc., the maker of popular shoes using natural and recycled materials, and last year launched a shoe called Galen that looks nearly identical to Allbirds’ bestseller—without the environmentally friendly materials and selling for less than half the price.

“You can’t help but look at a trillion-dollar company putting their muscle and their pockets and their machinations of their algorithms and reviewers and private-label machine all behind something that you’ve put your career against,” said Allbirds Co-CEO Joey Zwillinger. “You have this giant machine creating all these headwinds for us.”

. . .

Some rivals and partners say Amazon’s competitive zeal looks like unfair practices. The Journal this year reported that Amazon employees used data about independent sellers on its platform to develop competing products and that it has used the investment and deal-making process in ways that entrepreneurs and others said helped it develop products that competed with its would-be partners. Journal reporting showed how Amazon has limited some competitors’ ability to promote rival streaming devices and other gadgets on its dominant e-commerce platform.

. . .

Shoe seller Allbirds, too, refused persistent Amazon efforts to get it to sell on the tech giant’s site, said Mr. Zwillinger, the co-CEO. The San Francisco startup launched its first shoe, “Wool Runner,” in 2016. It was the product of three years of research and development, using fabric from an Italian mill and a sole that was “carbon neutral,” produced with a Brazilian chemical company.

The lightweight shoe became an instant success. Amazon consistently contacted Allbirds between 2017 and 2019 to sell on its site, said Mr. Zwillinger. Allbirds always declined.

Allbirds’ team in mid-2017 began noticing that, on Google’s search engine, the top results for “Wool Runner” were knockoffs from outside vendors on Amazon, Mr. Zwillinger said. Allbirds believed Amazon was buying advertisements on Google to siphon demand for the shoes to itself, he said.

Mr. Zwillinger said it isn’t possible to track the damage to his company, but that “to see a company with the deep pockets of Amazon try to siphon off demand and give it to copycats is really frustrating.”

Then came the Galen shoe. Mr. Zwillinger said he believes search data guided Amazon’s decision to clone his hit product, which he said looks “eerily similar” to his shoe.

“I’m not saying whether they did or didn’t infringe. We didn’t get a lawyer involved,” he said. Because of Amazon’s size, he said, “it seems like that’s going to be an uphill battle that’s not worth fighting.”

. . .

At roundtables with its sellers, the people said, Amazon has learned that many had been defecting to Shopify because of increasing fees from Amazon, which on average collects 30% of each sale on its platform from outside vendors, up from 19% five years ago, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Shopify collects 2.9% plus 30 cents a transaction.

How Amazon Wins: By Steamrolling Rivals and Partners

Shopify

Many alternatives to Amazon, including BandH Photo, WalMart, Sam’s Club, Costco, Home Depot, Lowes, HayNeedle, WayFair, Fry’s Electronics, Etsy, NewEgg, Your local hardware store, etc., etc. Use product name, SKU, ISBN, model number to search for alternatives.

PopSockets CEO calls out Amazon’s ‘bullying with a smile’ tactics

Amazon has a “bullying” problem.

So insisted PopSockets CEO and inventor David Barnett today while describing his company’s relationship with the e-commerce and logistics giant. Barnett was addressing members of the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law and, over the course of the hearing, laid out how the Jeff Bezos-helmed corporate behemoth had pressured his smartphone accessory company in a manner best described as incredibly shady.

Barnett was joined by executives from Sonos, Basecamp, and Tile, who all took turns airing a list of grievances against major tech players such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. They all recounted, in manners specific to their respective companies, how the major tech players have used their market dominance to squeeze smaller competitors in allegedly anticompetitive ways.

The CEO of PopSockets, however, appeared to have a personal beef with Jeff Bezos (which he pronounced “Bey-zoo”).

“Multiple times we discovered that Amazon itself had sourced counterfeit product and was selling it alongside our own product,” he noted.

Barnett, under oath, told the gathered members of the House that Amazon initially played nice only to drop the hammer when it believed no one was watching. After agreeing to a written contract stipulating a price at which PopSockets would be sold on Amazon, the e-commerce giant would then allegedly unilaterally lower the price and demand that PopSockets make up the difference.

Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter asked Barnett how Amazon could “ignore the contract that [PopSockets] entered into and just say, ‘Sorry, that was our contract, but you got to lower your price.'”

Barnett didn’t mince words.

“With coercive tactics, basically,” he replied. “And these are tactics that are mainly executed by phone. It’s one of the strangest relationships I’ve ever had with a retailer.”

Barnett emphasized that, on paper, the contract “appears to be negotiated in good faith.”

However, he claimed, this is followed by “… frequent phone calls. And on the phone calls we get what I might call bullying with a smile. Very friendly people that we deal with who say, ‘By the way, we dropped the price of X product last week. We need you to pay for it.'”

Barnett said he would push back and that’s when “the threats come.”

PopSockets CEO calls out Amazon’s ‘bullying with a smile’ tactics

Amazon is a den of thieves

Chinese and Russian Propaganda

If you ever spend any time in the Washington D.C. area, there’s a good chance you’ll come across a publication known as China Daily. In appearance, it’s a newspaper. In reality, it is official propaganda from the Chinese government that Communist Party officials deem appropriate for influencing those inside the Beltway. You can find it all over downtown D.C. in newspaper boxes. Large stacks of free copies are also dropped off directly at offices all over the city.

Even better, if you subscribe to the Washington Post, you can get communist propaganda delivered straight to your doorstep for a fee. A few times a year, the Post comes wrapped in a special advertising supplement called China Watch that, again, does its best to approximate a legitimate newspaper. But underneath the masthead in fine print, it reads: “This supplement, prepared by China Daily, People’s Republic of China, did not involve the news or editorial departments of the Washington Post.”

. . .

Certainly, the media are struggling these days and can be awfully defensive about accusations they are dishonest and grind partisan axes. So here’s a free tip to help them begin to recover their credibility: If you don’t want to be treated like propagandists, stop publishing actual propaganda on behalf of the worst people on earth.

If Media Don’t Want To Be Called Propagandists, They Need To Stop Publishing Chinese and Russian Propaganda,” by Mark Hemingway

Also see “During all the Russia hacking hype, China is rising in influence

“If you’re never put to the test, you won’t learn.”

“If you’re never put to the test, you won’t learn.”

Adoption makes Mother’s Day special for McAllen couple

Had I asked people in my hometown why they were still there, I would have received the answer I heard in neighborhoods from Cairo to Amarillo to rural Ohio. They would have looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Because it is my home.”

When communities and towns are destroyed, partly because of the front row’s policies of globalization, the front row solution is, “Well, just move.” What matters is growth at all costs—even if it is brutal—and that requires everyone, always, to be economic migrants. The front row likes to say that the U.S. is a country of migrants, where people have always moved for jobs. It has been done before—the Dust Bowl, the northern migration of African Americans. But those migrations were responses to failure, not signs of success.

Back Row America, by Chris Arnade

 




America’s forgotten communities — interview with Chris Arnade | VIEWPOINT

 

I’m a sinner. I’m the worst sinner I know because I’m the sinner I know best.

Humility in DC

“Those who travel the high road of humility in Washington, D.C., are not bothered by heavy traffic.”

Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson commenting on George H.W. Bush at Bush’s funeral, December 5, 2018.

There is so much opportunity in this world.