Is Amazon Evil?

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Is Amazon Evil?

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By Mike Byrne

Amazon is trying to win us back. The massive online retailer received harsh criticism over the summer pertaining to its treatment of employees and lack of benefits.

A New York Times article, published in August, started the firestorm by accusing the company of “conducting a little-known experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers, redrawing the boundaries of what is acceptable” and included several anecdotes of mistreated workers.

Amazon recently announced that they would now offer employees maternity leave for up to 20 weeks and paternity leave for six weeks.

On Tuesday, it also opened the doors of a new physical location, called Amazon Books, in Seattle.

Yes, that is right, the company whose entire platform is allowing people to order almost any product — from books to electronics to “Canned Unicorn Meat” — without leaving your couch is now selling books from an actual store. Amazon Books will only carry about 5,000 titles, a relatively small number for a bookstore.

In 2011, the satirical news source, The Onion, published an article titled “Netflix Switches Over To Convenient New Physical Locations.”

Amazon has apparently taken the comedic piece as sound business advice.

Why would Amazon go against its entire business model by opening a brick-and-mortar store? It might not be a dumb move for them. A single, small retail location, especially in a city where smaller physical locations thrive presents little risk for such a large corporation. If it is an image-building project in response to the backlash they recently faced, it might work.

Or it might not.

It is a complete insult to small book retailers for Amazon to pull this move. The corporation built its foundation on the graveyards of independent booksellers, and now for it to turn around and create its own physical location is borderline egotistical.

Not only do Seattle bookstores have to compete against the behemoth retailer in its online manifestation, but they also have to fight for customers against Amazon’s physical location.

Do not get me wrong, the benefits Amazon has introduced after being publicly censured are a real improvement in the company’s culture.

The United States is in the minority of countries that do not provide maternity leave, and it is good to see Amazon moving forward, even if it did take some prodding.

But it all just seems like a Machiavellian improvement where they are doing the right thing for the wrong reason. The whole event seems like a facade to restore a public image.