- Amazon is under fire after refusing to cut the NRA’s TV show from its streaming service.
- The e-commerce giant’s behaviour is under the microscope, as cities offer up millions of dollars in tax incentives as they compete over HQ2.
- Walmart was once portrayed as the biggest villain in American capitalism. Now, Amazon is becoming the new symbol of everything that’s wrong with big business.
As Americans demand that companies take a stand on gun control, Walmart is stepping up – and Amazon is falling short.
Gun-control activists are calling for Amazon to cut ties with the NRA and stop offering the guns-rights group’s TV channel as part of its streaming service. So far, the e-commerce giant has stayed silent, despite boycott threats.
While Amazon continues to stream NRATV, more than a dozen companies have cut ties with the NRA following the shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people.
Amazon’s silence is especially notable in contrast to the reaction of another industry giant: Walmart.
On Wednesday, Walmart announced it will raise age restrictions for the purchase of firearms and ammunition to 21.
It was a move that Walmart didn’t have to make. The retailer stopped carrying assault-style rifles in 2015. Unlike Amazon, there were no boycott efforts being organised against the retailer.
The reactions to NRA boycotts reveals how Walmart has become more attuned to customers’ perceptions – and how Amazon is turning into one of the biggest villains in retail.
HQ2 puts Amazon under the microscope
The search for HQ2 has helped put a microscope on Amazon’s lobbying efforts and its impact on cities – and not everything that is coming into focus is pretty.
While Amazon’s explosive growth has transformed Seattle, many residents say that changes aren’t all for the best.
Skyrocketing housing prices, unrelenting traffic, overcrowding has inspired residents to dub Amazon’s impact “Amageddon.” Local businesses have been forced out, as prices increase and Amazon headquarters expand into “Amazonia.”
“There are a lot of people in Seattle who are at the losing end of the prosperity that Amazon brings,” Knute Berger, a journalist, historian, and Seattle native, told Business Insider. “There has been a lot of displacement. Minority communities have largely been driven out of the city for less expensive suburbs, and competition for homes and rents has dramatically increased, contributing to the rising homeless population.”
As Amazon prepares to pick the site for its second headquarters, some residents of the potential cities have concerns that they will face similar consequences.
Rents are expected to increase, which could drive out long-time residents in favour of Amazon employees. Traffic is also predicted to explode. And, experts warn that hosting HQ2 may not be provide the payoff that local business need.
Amazon’s methods of picking its next headquarters is also raising some eyebrows.
The company has explicitly said financial incentives will be one of the biggest factors it considers in making its decision for where to place its new headquarters. Cities’ proposals include hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives for Amazon if picked to the site of HQ2.
Providing enormous tax breaks to one of the most successful companies in the world rubs some people the wrong way. A petition started by a group of elite economists argued that cities should band together against such incentives, as they “divert funds that could be put to better use underwriting public services such as schools, housing programs, job training, and transportation”
In response to criticism, Amazon has touted its investments in Seattle and how the deal could pay off for the city that becomes home to its second headquarters.
“Amazon has invested over $US4 billion in its urban campus in Seattle and paid more than $US25 billion in compensation to its employees over the last seven years,” the company said in a statement. “We estimate these investments resulted in an additional $US38 billion to the city’s economy from 2010 to 2016 and created more than 50,000 additional jobs on top of our direct hires.”
Americans are turning on Amazon
For a long time, Amazon’s progressive, tech-y reputation has shielded it from criticism of industry giants like Walmart.
Now, that’s changing, with a series of incidents denting how Americans perceive the chain.
Grab Your Wallet, an online anti-Trump campaign, has been encouraging people to boycott Amazon until the e-commerce giant stops selling Trump-related products and running ads on the far-right website Breitbart News. The group redoubled calls to boycott Amazon with the company’s recent refusal to cut ties with the NRA.
In July, Birkenstock CEO David Kahan sent sellers of the brand’s shoes a brutal five-page email that accused Amazon of launching an “assault on decency.” Birkenstock had encountered issues with the ecommerce giant selling counterfeit shoes, The Washington Post reported.
Then there’s the question of Amazon’s treatment of its employees.
While Amazon has been applauded for its impressive benefits, the company has been criticised following reports of long hours and poor working conditions in warehouses. Some white-collar workers have described a brutal working environment where people cry at their desks after being pushed to their breaking point.
Basically, Amazon’s reputation is taking a hit from all sides.
Walmart was seen as the biggest villain in American capitalism in the second half of the 20th century. Now, as e-commerce explodes, Amazon is becoming the new symbol for everything that’s wrong with big business in the US in the 21st century.
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