The Pandemic Has Ended the Amazon Debate
It’s clearer than ever that supporting Amazon is a tacit endorsement of abusive work policies and more
Most corporate slogans do not double as the actual key to a company’s success, but Amazon’s does — the online retailer’s dedication to being “Earth’s most customer-centric company” has been the main driver of its explosive growth. Between Alexa, predictive shopping, one-click ordering, and two-day shipping, Amazon has engineered a user experience so intuitive that it has transcended “convenience” and sent us onto whatever plane — cyborg consumption? — we’re on now. In the process, it has entirely overridden our standard-issue moral compass.
Amazon has treated its workers brutally, bullied competitors, dodged taxes, and generally been a bad civic actor. Unlike its fellow tech giants, Amazon has never been very interested in casting itself as a benevolent, doing-no-evil, world-connecting, different-thinking force for good. Its gambit has always seemed to be to lodge its user-friendly services into the middle of our lives so totally that we shoppers would tolerate or ignore its obvious failings, or at least convince ourselves that its transgressions amounted to a gray area. It has thus fed an endless debate about whether it’s ethical to patronize such a large and complicated and ubiquitous platform. So far, that gambit has paid off. We’ve kept loading items into our carts as warehouse worker deaths, abuses of monopoly power, and climate-heating deals with the oil industry have continued to mount. Amazon’s seamless fusion of e-commerce into our lives has helped obscure its long list of serious ethical lapses that has grown steadily over the decades.
As such, Amazon’s actions during the coronavirus crisis should be a wake-up call. Crises are good at laying bare the values of our institutions, after all — they not only offer a fresh test of the intent and moral strength of the companies and services that populate our lives, they give us a blank slate on which we can measure their conduct. And Amazon has failed this test more dramatically than any other company has since the pandemic began.
Amazon has tried to maximize profit at the expense of its own workers’ safety…