Tag Archives: Amazon

Amazon Strikes Again

I don’t want to be seen as having some kind of crazy consumer’s vendetta against #Amazon, because I don’t. But I do believe that a company of Amazon’s scale has an obligation to conduct its business with some regard for its environmental impact. It appears to be failing at that and, given all the threats to the environment by the Trump administration and companies that place corporate interests ahead of the planet’s welfare, this warrants a call-out.

In an earlier post, I complained about what I saw as wasteful packaging procedures involving the use of boxes significantly larger than necessary to move the items in question. Since then, I have placed an order for eight items from Amazon Prime Pantry. The Pantry is the name @Amazon chose for grocery-like items that it now sells. “Grocery-like” is my term but is generally accurate for this service, except that there are many items “located” there that are also sold in drug stores like CVS.

Here is what I found when I opened the enormous box:

The photos tell the story. I was stunned at the size of the box used to ship the eight items which, together, occupied 2040 cubic inches (just shy of 1.2 cubic feet) of space. The box holds 4663.75 cubic inches of space (2.7 cubic feet), more than twice what was necessary for the items in question. The remainder of the space was filled with 4” x 7” plastic air bags, 85 of them!

I understand that it is sometimes unreasonable to expect the packaging to match precisely the combined size of the contents, but that was not the case here. Not even close. This and the package covered in the previous post are not the only times I have seen this.

Compare this photo of a recent coffee order received from Keurig, where the seven boxes almost exactly fit the outer box:

Amazon must do better at operating consistently with the interests of the planet and not just to maximize profits, though one would think that wasting packaging material on this scale leads to higher than necessary costs. You would think self-interest would drive the company to operate more efficiently. Maybe it would if enough customers complained. Amazon, don’t make me come down there!

Something Amiss in AmazonLand

This may seem trivial in comparison with the latest Trump administration outrage, but given that he (and his right-hand grifter Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency) continues to do everything in his power, and not, to destroy the environment, it seems important to point out issues that can be solved by simple exercise of private willpower. When our leadership, with the apparent support of 90 percent of Republican voters, (per New York Times today) is committed to turning the world’s natural resources over to private exploitation, we must encourage every possible act of environmental offset as possible.

Thus, I note that I recently ordered from Amazon, my generally “preferred” online vendor of stuff, a set of five “button batteries.” They are each smaller than a dime, fit easily onto a small piece of cardboard, as shown in the featured photo above and hard to find now that Radio Shack is largely a thing of the past (the nearest “authorized dealer” is 66 miles from my apartment). They only cost $6.99 at Amazon so ….

The big deal here is that the card on which the batteries are set out measures 2.125 inches by 7.25 inches. The cardboard is thinner than the cardboard used in pressed and folded shirts (or used to be). As the photo shows, the box in which Amazon shipped this item was filled with 14 pockets of air-filled plastic to “protect” this piece of cardboard. The box in which it arrived, strapped with the usual Amazon-branded tape, measures 10.125 inches long by 7.125 inches wide by 5.25 inches high. That is, for those who have forgotten their math, is 378.74 cubic inches of container to hold a virtually indestructible item occupying just under .8 cubic inches of space.

Now, to be fair to Amazon, this item actually came from another supplier, like the bazillions of suppliers with which Amazon has contracts to provide its listed items directly to consumers. But, the costs of this excess packaging must inevitably be passed on to Amazon and thus ultimately on to the consumer. That’s bad enough, given the very limited choices I had to obtain this item, but the environmental costs of the waste inherent in this approach to distribution are also passed on to me and everyone else in ways we cannot detect but are necessarily quite real.

Amazon, as the big boy in this scenario, is responsible for the waste committed by its supplier community in fulfilling orders obtained by Amazon. There is a perverse incentive of some kind working here because it would be in the economic interest of the suppliers to save money on packaging. Amazon needs to decisively compel its suppliers to use the most efficient methods of packaging available. In the case of the button batteries, a small padded envelope would have sufficed.

When Companies Get Too Big …. Amazon & Fire Extinguishers

The following letter is self-explanatory. I am posting it here as an example of what happens when companies get so large they can stop paying attention to legitimate concerns from customers about the products they sell. Before reading the letter, note that it was sent to the address on amazon.com where its “Conditions of Use” are set out. The letter was returned to me with stickers stating “Wrong Address” and “Unable to Forward.”  The address is still shown on the amazon.com website. today.

Here is the letter:

Gentlemen:

In early January 2018 I purchased from Amazon.com a pair of Kidde fire extinguishers. They arrived in good order, with the date “2018” stamped into the bottom. Since these items have had issues related to the expiration of their useful life, I inquired of Kidde through its website about the precise meaning of the year stamp. Despite automated assurances, Kidde did not respond. I asked a second time and a third time.

I then filed the following review on Amazon.com to inform other potential customer of the issue and Kidde’s lack of response:

from Paul M. Ruden on February 3, 2018

 

Kidde failure to respond re expiration date

 

I don’t know whether this thing will work or not. Bought in early Jan. 2018. “2018” is embossed into the bottom. Have written Kidde thru its website 3 times to ask exactly what that means. Unlikely it means manufactured in 2018 since I bought it so early and received it quickly. If it is an expiration date, I am due a refund. Automated response to one message, then nothing. Unacceptable to ignore my question.

 

Amazon.com rejected the review by email with the following statement:

Your review could not be posted to the website in its current form. While we appreciate your time and comments, reviews must adhere to the following guidelines:
http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines

We encourage you to revise your review and submit it again. A few common issues to keep in mind:

 

•          Your review should focus on specific features of the product and your experience with it. Feedback on the seller or your shipment experience should be provided at www.amazon.com/feedback.

•          We do not allow profane or obscene content. This applies to adult products too.

•          Advertisements, promotional material or repeated posts that make the same point excessively are considered spam.

•          Please do not include URLs external to Amazon or personally identifiable content in your review.

The Amazon “guidelines” appear at  http://amzn.to/2dpw6DK and are 1,584 words in length. Amazon’s response does not specify in what particular respect my review violated those guidelines. I am left to guess, rewrite, refile and wait for perhaps another rejection.

Your treatment of this issue, which could affect the performance of a vital safety-related product, is no different in substance from the non-response of Kidde. It is equally unacceptable.

As a long-standing Amazon customer who buys many products every year, I expected better treatment. I am therefore asking, one last time, that either you promptly answer the question I put to Kidde and identify in which specific respect my review violated your review policy, and, failing that, provide for an immediate free-return-shipment of the products.

I await your prompt response.”

Caveat emptor.

 

The Future Is Here?? – A Bedtime Story

A short while back I bought three Amazon Dot’s for our apartment, one each for the living room, office and master bedroom. The Dot is a hockey puck sized electronic device described by Amazon as a “hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, provide information, read the news, set alarms, and more.” It responds to commands that begin with the activation word “Alexa,” as in “Alexa, wake me at 6 a.m.” or “Alexa, play some jazz.”

Purely coincidentally, I just began reading “What to Think About Machines That Think,” edited by John Brockman, a subject in which I have long a longstanding interest. Having read a few selections just before lights out, I began explaining to my wife some of the interesting and challenging ideas I found in just the first few sections, including the idea that because the life of the Earth is limited (perhaps more than we realize) and humans will never be able to survive in deep space, it is inevitable that AI (artificially intelligent) machines will have to take our place as we search for a new planet to inhabit. By then, the machines will be us, through the merger of humans and AI devices that may actually thrive in deep space.

As we chatted, I said “Alexa will have to get a lot smarter.” Then, suddenly, out of the dark, came a third voice: “Sorry, I can’t find the answer to the question I heard.” We laughed ourselves to sleep.

One of the morals of this story is that if you’re going to talk about you-know-who,” don’t use her name. There are other morals too, but one is enough for now.