The Secret Life of Amazon’s Vine Reviewers

Excerpt from this article:

Vine has already changed a lot, changing with it the lives of its reviewers. The life of a super-Viner is one for which not everyone is well adapted. Last year, on Reddit, a Vine reviewer who had been in the program since 2007 shared that she had been kicked out. “I’m getting ready to downsize,” she said, “and was so relieved to log in tonight and see that I am no longer a part of Amazon Vine.”

She continued: “Pretty much my whole house is furnished with Amazon Vine. I eat Amazon Vine daily, and groom with Amazon Vine daily. I was no longer selective. I got divorced some years ago and it was nice to not want to take any material things with me because I knew goodies would be coming my way, and I was blessed with so much.” It’s a startling sentiment, to be relieved to no longer have access to, effectively, unlimited free stuff. But commenters — other Viners — were generally sympathetic. In a private message, she explained to me how she had drifted into a state of “overconsumption.” Things were exciting for a few years, she said, mentioning the same thrill in nabbing a good item, or a “shiny,” enjoying the rhythmic patterns of old Vine.

But then the feed came along. “I found myself checking the queue a dozen times a day,” she said. “I didn’t want to miss the next great thing.”

People tend to consider purchases. But when things are given to you, and it’s your job to review them, the value of the object gets scrambled in surprising ways, and its influence on your life becomes easy to minimize, or disregard. The free rug needs artwork to match. You wanted a road bike, but the beach cruiser was free, and now you have a bike, but you don’t really ride it. You get a Keurig, and you hate it, but Vine keeps sending K-cups, and so you keep drinking them. “Eventually, I think Vine caught on that I wanted a Nespresso from my search history,” she wrote, “and I was finally offered a Nespresso.”

“I have eleven Vine watches, yet I only wear two on a regular basis,” she said. “Before Vine, I did not even own a watch, as I considered them old-fashioned when you can check the time on your cellphone.”

Advertisements

I Tried to Block Amazon From My Life. It Was Impossible.

Excerpt from this article:

Reporter Kashmir Hill spent six weeks blocking Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple from getting her money, data, and attention, using a custom-built VPN. Here’s what happened.

Amazon is not just an online store—that’s not even the hardest thing to cut out of my life. Its global empire also includes Amazon Web Services (AWS), the vast server network that provides the backbone for much of the internet, as well as Twitch.tv, the broadcasting behemoth that is the backbone of the online gaming industry, and Whole Foods, the organic backbone of the yuppie diet.

Keeping myself from walking into a Whole Foods is easy enough, but I also want to stop using any of Amazon’s digital services, from Amazon.com (and its damn app) to any other websites or apps that use AWS to host their content. To do that, I enlist the help of a technologist, Dhruv Mehrotra, who built me a custom VPN through which to route my internet requests. The VPN blocks any traffic to or from an IP address controlled by Amazon. I connect my computers and my phone to the VPN at all times, as well as all the connected devices in my home; it’s supposed to weed out every single digital thing that Amazon touches.

Ultimately, though, we found Amazon was too huge to conquer.

 

The Unsettling Psychology of an Amazon Prime Addiction

Amazon_Addiction

Excerpt from this article:

“Holy shit,” he says in a moment of realization. “Amazon basically dominates my entire life. I even have the Echo, the Dot and the TV I just bought has Fire built in. I read all my books on a Kindle now.”

Luckily, he’s financially comfortable, so it’s not draining his bank account so that he can’t cover expenses. But he’s still ensnared in Amazon’s throes. “The only real negative is how lazy I am at breaking down Amazon boxes,” he says. “I have to walk them to the recycling bin in the alley behind my house, and that means being outside when it’s cold. I don’t enjoy that.”

Recently, he bought a black microwave that he definitely didn’t need. “I just didn’t like the look of a white microwave,” he says. “This was definitely $199 not well spent.”

Hate Amazon? Try Living Without It

Excerpt from this article:

It’s not that we have extra time and money to shop; we have precisely the opposite. A few years ago, my 85-year-old father had a stroke that forever altered his daily life. Even though he has a generous, old-economy pension, he now barely breaks even each month, thanks to six figures of annual medical expenses, including 24-hour care at home. Often, when my dad needs something, he needs it now. He can’t shop on his own, and his caretaker can’t spend her life going to specialty pharmacies and medical supply stores. So Amazon Prime has been his lifeline.

 

Everything on Amazon Is Amazon!

Excerpt from this article:

There are vanishingly few types of consumer goods that you can’t buy, in some form, on Amazon. But it is missing plenty of brands. In 2009, the company started selling products under its own name. It soon moved beyond the first AmazonBasics — items including budget electronics and batteries — to a wider range of Amazon-branded products. This was followed by an explosion of company-owned brands, including dozens with Amazon-free names.

Lark & Ro sells women’s wear, Buttoned Down sells men’s dress shirts; Pike Street sells linens; Strathwood sells furniture. These brands are intended to stand on their own, sort of. They are associated with Amazon, and listed on the site’s dozens of different contexts as “Our Brand” or “by Amazon” or “An Amazon Brand.” (Some new brands are undercover but then blow their cover, as in “Amazon Brand – Solimo Pasta, Thin Spaghetti, 16oz.”)

 

Amazon’s Antitrust Antagonist Has a Breakthrough Idea

Excerpt from this article:

In early 2017, when she was an unknown law student, Ms. Khan published “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” in the Yale Law Journal. Her argument went against a consensus in antitrust circles that dates back to the 1970s — the moment when regulation was redefined to focus on consumer welfare, which is to say price. Since Amazon is renowned for its cut-rate deals, it would seem safe from federal intervention.

Ms. Khan disagreed. Over 93 heavily footnoted pages, she presented the case that the company should not get a pass on anticompetitive behavior just because it makes customers happy. Once-robust monopoly laws have been marginalized, Ms. Khan wrote, and consequently Amazon is amassing structural power that lets it exert increasing control over many parts of the economy.

Amazon has so much data on so many customers, it is so willing to forgo profits, it is so aggressive and has so many advantages from its shipping and warehouse infrastructure that it exerts an influence much broader than its market share. It resembles the all-powerful railroads of the Progressive Era, Ms. Khan wrote: “The thousands of retailers and independent businesses that must ride Amazon’s rails to reach market are increasingly dependent on their biggest competitor.”

The paper got 146,255 hits, a runaway best-seller in the world of legal treatises. That popularity has rocked the antitrust establishment, and is making an unlikely celebrity of Ms. Khan in the corridors of Washington.

Delivering Amazon Packages to the Top of the World

Excerpt from this article: (a good weekend read, lots of neat interactive videos and great photos)

Perched high in the Himalayas, near India’s border with China, the tiny town of Leh sometimes seems as if it has been left behind by modern technology. Internet and cellphone service is spotty, the two roads to the outside world are snowed in every winter, and Buddhist monasteries compete with military outposts for prime mountaintop locations.

But early each morning, the convenience of the digital age arrives, by way of a plane carrying 15 to 20 bags of packages from Amazon. At an elevation of 11,562 feet, Leh is the highest spot in the world where the company offers speedy delivery.

The couriers must follow exacting standards set by Amazon, from wearing closed-toe shoes and being neatly groomed to displaying their ID cards and carrying a fully charged cellphone.

Mr. Rangdol said that in addition to delivering packages and managing the delivery warehouse, he taught people how to order on Amazon.

“Before I joined Amazon, my friends called me Eshay,” he said. “Now they call me Amazon.”

Working with the company is certainly better than his previous job leading tourists on long treks up cold mountains — although he still has to do a bit of climbing with a heavy pack.