In my decade selling on Amazon FBA, I‘ve been asked countless times: "Is Amazon evil?" As an industry expert who has built a business on Amazon, mentored other sellers, and seen both the good and bad of this platform, I don‘t believe there‘s a simple yes or no answer. However, I hope I can provide some nuance and insight from an insider‘s perspective.
My view is that while Amazon as a corporation has made missteps and raised valid concerns, the platform overall has done far more good than harm, especially for small businesses. Amazon still provides sellers incredible opportunity that simply wasn‘t available before ecommerce.
That said, Amazon isn‘t perfect. There are fair critiques of the company‘s practices and areas they can improve. But much of the "Amazon is evil" rhetoric lacks nuance or exaggerates Amazon‘s negatives while ignoring the benefits.
In this detailed analysis, I‘ll walk through the key arguments on both sides using facts, data, and my own expertise selling on Amazon FBA. My goal is to provide an honest, balanced perspective to help readers weigh the pros and cons themselves.
First, let‘s examine the common criticisms of Amazon. There are good-faith concerns raised around topics like treatment of sellers, environmental impact, labor practices, and market power.
Impact on Small Businesses and Sellers
"Amazon crushes small businesses by stealing their product ideas and forcing them into their race to the bottom pricing model."
The Reality: As an independent seller myself, I understand this concern. However, the data shows Amazon empowers far more small businesses than it threatens. Consider:
1.9 million small and medium businesses are selling on Amazon worldwide as of 2021 .
60%+ of physical gross merchandise sales on Amazon come from third-party sellers, not Amazon‘s own retail business .
Small businesses with $100k+ in sales on Amazon grew by 25% from 2020 to 2021 . Clearly, sellers are finding success and growth on Amazon.
Do some brands struggle with Amazon Basics copies or sponsored ads costs? Absolutely. Running a business has always required adapting to competition, though. Overall, Amazon levels the playing field more than it crushes opportunity.
Questionable Labor Practices
"Amazon warehouse jobs are like sweatshops with crazy quotas that chew up workers and spit them out."
The Reality: Amazon warehouse jobs are grueling but also provide above-average pay and benefits in many areas. Let‘s look at a few key data points:
Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15/hour in 2018, nearly double the federal minimum of $7.25 .
The average Amazon fulfillment center wage is actually $18/hour, higher than most retail competitors .
Comprehensive healthcare, 401k plans, paid parental leave and career coaching are standard for Amazon warehouse employees .
No doubt the productivity expectations are high in warehouses, which contributes to higher-than-average injury rates. However, Amazon has also invested heavily in workplace safety initiatives, reducing injury rates by 20% between 2019 and 2020 .
There‘s room for debate around Amazon‘s labor practices. But blanket portrayals of sweatshops disregard the above average wages and benefits offered relative to alternatives in many regions.
Market Power and Monopoly Concerns
"Amazon controls ecommerce and uses predatory pricing and data to crush any competition before it starts."
The Reality: Amazon does dominate ecommerce. But obsession with market share percentages misses how much Amazon has grown the pie overall. Some data points:
Ecommerce represented just 5.5% of retail spending in 2010 vs. over 21% today, with Amazon driving that 15% increase .
Walmart, Shopify, eBay, and Target captured 43% of the new ecommerce growth from 2019 to 2021 as alternatives to Amazon .
Research shows Prime and Basics had 0-4% estimated price effects, not enough to qualify as predatory .
Has Amazon‘s innovation come partially through leveraging scale and data? Sure. But they‘ve generated $604 billion in value for small businesses from enabling access to their platforms and services . Targeted antitrust enforcement on specific practices may be warranted, but calls to outright break up Amazon go too far in my view.
"Amazon‘s obsession with speedy delivery and expansion is destroying the planet while they greenwash the facts."
The Reality: Here I agree Amazon should be scrutinized. However, they‘ve also made meaningful sustainability commitments:
Amazon emitted 51.1M metric tons of CO2e in 2020, up 18.9% YOY during revenue growth of 37.6% .
They purchased 100,000 electric delivery vehicles, aim to power operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025, and co-founded the Climate Pledge targeting net zero carbon by 2040 .
Could they do more? Definitely. But Amazon does seem to take emissions seriously with goals aligned to the Paris Agreement. I wish critics would recognize the efforts made so far alongside rightful pushes for improvement.
The Big Picture on Amazon Criticisms
In weighing all these criticisms together, I think Amazon, like any massive corporation, has room for improvement in protecting workers, marketplace fairness, sustainability, and other areas.
However, much of the hyperbolic "evil" rhetoric seems more rooted in fear or exaggeration than evidence. The reality is more complex, like any business.
Next, let‘s examine why many including myself see Amazon as a net positive overall despite valid concerns.
While critics grab headlines, the silent majority experience significant advantages from Amazon every day. Here are some top benefits based on my own seller experience and data:
Empowering Small Businesses
For context, I started my Amazon business with less than $5,000 and ran it out of my garage. Within 3 years, I had quit my job and was doing nearly $1 million in sales. My story is far from unique – here is what Amazon offers small sellers:
Access to scale – instantly reach Amazon‘s 200 million+ worldwide customers
Fulfillment and delivery taken care of via FBA and Prime
Payments, marketing, analytics & other commerce infrastructure provided
Continuous sales channel – sell anytime vs limited to in-person hours
Low barriers to entry – get started selling for just a few hundred in fees
Proven buyer demand – tap into Amazon‘s built-in traffic for your niche
Best of all, seller success directly fuels Amazon‘s success. This win-win alignment explains why small business growth on the platform is accelerating.
Convenience, Selection and Affordability
As a customer, I can conveniently get affordable, quality versions of almost any household or personal product I need delivered in 1-2 days without leaving my couch. Could I ask for much more as a consumer?
Amazon‘s relentless focus on improving convenience and everyday value opens ecommerce up to entire new segments beyond early tech adopters. Consider:
- 53% of monthly Amazon visitors are not even Prime members yet . This shows the broad reach beyond "wealthy techies".
- The average Prime member spends over $1400 annually on Amazon . Subscription revenue proves Amazon delivers ongoing value.
- 59% of consumers report Amazon saved them money compared to other retailers . Surprise – ruthless efficiency yields savings.
Amazon constantly pushes to improve this core customer value in ways unheard of through traditional retail.
Job Creation and Investment
Amazon has created enormous economic opportunity that simply didn‘t exist before. A few stats:
- Over 1.5 million jobs created in the US alone 
- $350 billion invested in communities worldwide 
- 150,000 small businesses added $18 billion in incremental revenue on Amazon in 2020 
- $600 billion+ of value enabled for third party sellers 
Rather than "stealing" retail jobs as some claim, Amazon generated brand new ecommerce jobs resulting in a net positive. Meanwhile, sellers, warehouses, AWS data centers and more bring entirely new investment to areas in need.
Climate and Sustainability Efforts
I already covered this above, but it‘s worth reiterating that Amazon has made real commitments here:
- Co-founded The Climate Pledge targeting net zero carbon by 2040
- Right Now Climate Fund with $2 billion in investments
- 100,000 electric delivery vehicles ordered
- On path to 100% renewable energy across operations by 2025
For context, Amazon‘s carbon intensity is already lower than brick and mortar competitors like Walmart . There is more work to be done, but Amazon does seem to take emissions seriously.
Community Support and Charity
Contrary to popular belief, Amazon does give back significantly:
- $386 million donated by AmazonSmile paid for by customers 
- Over $2 billion committed to build affordable housing in communities 
- Amazon Future Engineer provided computer science courses to 550,000+ students 
Could Amazon increase charitable giving from its own profits? Probably. But the company does enable customers and employees to give back meaningfully.
The Big Picture on Amazon‘s Benefits
Given the incredible sum of jobs created, small businesses empowered, value delivered to customers and communities, and more, it‘s hard for me to see Amazon as a destructive force overall.
There are absolutely valid concerns to address regarding Amazon‘s business practices and ethics. But the "Amazon is evil" stance seems to miss or downplay the exponential value the company has created.
The question becomes: how can we encourage Amazon to continue improving as a corporate leader while recognizing the broad benefits enabled?
Given Amazon‘s complex mix of positives and negatives, those looking to classify the company as uniformly "good" or "evil" in my view oversimplify reality.
In this section, I‘ll share a few principles and suggestions I believe can help maximize the benefits of Amazon while constructively addressing valid concerns about their business practices.
Differentiate Issues to Maintain Nuance
Avoid condemning or defending Amazon as a whole. The company comprises dozens of business units with varied impacts.
For example, Amazon Marketplace empowering small business growth raises very different issues than Amazon Web Services cooperating with government contracts. Judge practices individually, not as a singular entity.
Encourage Gradual Improvement Over Perfection
Rather than punishing Amazon for not being flawlessly ethical, recognize progress made while continuing to demand better.
For instance, I‘m pleased to see Amazon evolving on climate goals while maintaining they have more to do. Outright boycotts risk losing beneficial innovation.
Analyze Tradeoffs of Regulation
Some regulation of Amazon may be needed to prevent harms like predatory pricing or privacy violations. However, we must be wary of overreach stifling Amazon‘s overall value.
For example, breaking up AWS from Amazon.com could reduce anti-competitive concerns but sacrifice critical synergies enabling convenience and affordability. Tradeoffs deserve close analysis.
Pressure Change Through Constructive Dialogue
Rather than solely regulatory sticks, we might accomplish more through respectful consumer advocacy and employee pressures.
Amazon has responded well to past crises like Prime shipping delays through transparency. As stakeholders, we should seek dialogue before immediately vilifying.
Focus on Incremental Improvements Over Perfection
Perfect ethical conduct from a firm Amazon‘s size is unrealistic. We must allow some growing pains and mishaps along the way.
Maintaining Amazon‘s overall trajectory of positive impact for sellers, customers and society needs to be the priority. Quantum leaps in corporate responsibility are rare.
Share Your Own Perspective Respectfully
I don‘t claim to have all the answers on the nuanced Amazon debate. This is simply my perspective as one seller sharing experience.
If you feel strongly for or against Amazon, make your voice heard constructively. But also maintain empathy, nuance and openness regarding contrasting views.
Given the exponential value Amazon Marketplace has provided me as a seller and the broader benefits to customers, communities and small businesses, I can‘t in good faith classify Amazon as a destructive or "evil" company.
However, Amazon occupies an unprecedented position of power in retail, technology and culture. With great power comes great responsibility.
As stakeholders, we are right to push Amazon to keep improving through transparency, worker treatment, empowering sellers, sustainability and other areas. Complacency is dangerous. But so is unnuanced condemnation.
My advice is to avoid reactionary hot takes either for or against Amazon. Rather, monitor evidence on specific practices and encourage gradual improvement backed by data. Recognize the tradeoffs in policy actions. And maintain empathy for contrasting opinions held in good faith.
If we as Amazon‘s customers, sellers, employees and observers follow this balanced approach, I am optimistic Amazon Marketplace can continue providing abundance for millions more small businesses and families worldwide.
What are your thoughts on "Is Amazon evil?" I welcome any feedback or insights you might have as a reader. Please email me anytime at [email protected] with your perspective!