The Amazon Diaries

Amazon Marketplace Seller: ‘One Mistake is Enough to Kill Your Career’

Selling on the Marketplace can leave vendors feeling like ‘indentured servants.’

Brendan O'Connor
OneZero
Published in
9 min readApr 1, 2019

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Illustration: Glenn Harvey

Valued at nearly $1 trillion, Amazon is one of the most powerful companies in the world. The Seattle-based retail giant employs over 600,000 people and operates 100 sortation and fulfillment centers in North America, sometimes sending out as many as 1 million items per day. But Amazon does more than retail. Much more. Amazon publishes its own books and comics, finances TV shows and movies, operates a Texas wind farm, builds robots, streams music, delivers prescription meds, and operates web services for everyone from Medium to the CIA. And that’s not even counting its high-profile acquisitions, which include Twitch, IMDB, Zappos.com, and Whole Foods.

What’s it like working from inside the beast? OneZero has been talking to workers at every level of the Amazon empire to find out. Welcome to The Amazon Diaries.

InIn September, Democratic presidential candidate and senator Elizabeth Warren criticized Amazon’s position as both a marketplace and a retailer, which she said grants it a “special information advantage” that it could use to wipe out other businesses. The implication is that Amazon’s access to vast amounts of sales data gives it a distinct (and unfair) edge over others — especially small and medium-sized retailers that are already struggling with Amazon’s scale. In March, Warren promised to use antitrust laws to “break up” Amazon, along with other tech giants like Facebook and Google, if elected president. As the senator put it last year: “You got to pick one business or the other, baby.”

Few retailers feel the sheer might of Amazon’s power like the estimated 2.5 million Amazon Marketplace sellers. These vendors do most of the actual fulfilling of the purchases on what is now the largest online retailer in the United States. According to one analysis, the $175 billion in sales on the Amazon Marketplace accounted for 68 percent of Amazon’s total sales and 31.3 percent of e-commerce sales industry-wide in 2018. (Walmart and eBay also have third-party seller platforms.)

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