On Oct. 13 and 14, Amazon celebrated its fifth ‘Prime Day,’ an annual sale which promotes the company’s products and services. If you’re looking for a great discount on a Fire Tablet or an Alexa, Prime Day is going to be your best bet. The discounts themselves are decent, but there’s a dark cloud presiding over each purchase.
In the time between clicking “Add to cart” and opening your front door, your package will be witness to unsafe working conditions, contribute to an increase in carbon emissions, and play a part in creating the world’s first trillionaire—all in an effort to deliver your order in two days or less.
Prime Day is an obvious tactic from Amazon to garner publicity—dozens of articles are published detailing the best deals and finds from the yearly sale. Amazon’s looking to be talked about, but with each passing year, it becomes more and more difficult to discuss the company without serious apprehensions.
What started as a small online bookstore in 1994 has evolved into a superpower of online shopping. In just 26 years, Amazon has risen to the 22nd spot on Forbes Global 2000, marking it as one of the largest public companies in the world. Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, has seen unprecedented success, becoming the richest person in the world in 2017. As of August 2020, Bezos was worth over $200 billion.
This year, many Canadian small businesses are at a high risk of shutting down permanently due to coronavirus lockdown measures. In contrast, Amazon doubled its profits from March to July.
However, Amazon’s impressive financial success is sullied by the more sinister aspects of its operations.
Despite making $11 billion, Amazon paid $0 in Canadian taxes in 2019. And it doesn’t seem like much of those profits are winding up in worker’s pockets—in 2017, the median pay of an Amazon worker was reported to be less than $30,000 a year.
Amazon workers worldwide have become vocal about the horrible conditions they face at their jobs. Last year, a story about Amazon warehouse workers went viral when workers recounted peeing in plastic bottles on the job because of the strict time limits they had to pack orders. The company has since taken very little action to assuage complaints.
In April, workers who publicly raised issue with the lack of safety and sanitary measures for Amazon warehouse workers were fired almost immediately. While negative publicity from employees could be a valid cause for concern, it’s difficult to find the morality of punishing your workers instead of listening to them and changing for the better.
The concerns with the company don’t end with its treatment of its employees—Amazon’s practices also present a threat to our environment.
Amazon Prime delivery is an industry innovation, promising that online purchases will be on your doorstep within a matter of days. The quick shipping is convenient, but comes at a price beyond the membership fee.
Quick purchase to drop-off times means that delivery vehicles are grouping fewer orders, which puts more vehicles on the road at a time to fill orders. Transporting deliveries on trucks that aren’t full can raise the emissions of an order by up to 35 per cent. With only years left before scientists believe the effects of the climate crisis will become irreversible, two-day delivery certainly isn’t worth the destruction of our planet.
At the end of the day, it’s clear Amazon has ruthlessly soared to success for a reason: as a corporation, they’ve prioritized profit over their own workers’ wellbeing and the future of our planet.
When I see Prime Day deals, I’m no longer thinking about how happy I would be to get an Alexa for a discounted price. Instead, I’d much rather see Amazon make a commitment to put their billions of dollars back into the world and using that money to help people. The day Amazon treats their workers fairly, invests in helping the climate, and pays their fair share of taxes will be the day I want to celebrate the company.
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