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Amazon discontinues Prime Pantry

The company still offers Fresh and Whole Foods delivery

As part of its effort to streamline its grocery delivery offerings, Amazon has announced that it’s discontinuing Prime Pantry. 

Prime Pantry was Amazon’s first grocery delivery offering. When it first launched in 2014, customers could use the service to get a box of up to 45 pounds worth of household items and non-perishable goods delivered for a $6 delivery fee. Amazon later began offering Pantry to subscribers willing to pay $5 per month (on top of regular Prime fees) for unlimited deliveries. 

On Wednesday, the company announced that it’s shutting down the service as part of an effort to consolidate its grocery delivery offerings. 

“As part of our commitment to delivering the best possible customer experience, we have decided to transfer Amazon Pantry selection to the main Amazon.com store so customers can get everyday household products faster, without an extra subscription or purchase requirement,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. 

Amazon ramps up grocery delivery

The spokesperson told Bloomberg that the products previously available through Pantry have been integrated into its main retail site. The customers who were paying $5 a month for Pantry were notified last month about the impending service shutdown. 

Amazon has ramped up its grocery delivery offerings significantly over the past few years. In 2017, the company purchased Whole Foods and made it possible for Amazon Prime members to get groceries delivered from the store in as little as an hour. 

The company also still offers Fresh, a free service that allows customers to get fresh food delivered in two hours or less. 

As part of its effort to streamline its grocery delivery offerings, Amazon has announced that it’s discontinuing Prime Pantry. Prime Pantry was Amazon’...
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Amazon buys 11 aircraft to expand the efficiency of its delivery service

The company is one step closer to its goal of being fully independent when it comes to delivery

If you’ve got a spare Boeing 767 sitting around, Amazon may be willing to take it off your hands. The online retail giant announced that it bought 11 Boeing 767-300 aircraft from Delta Air Lines and WestJet -- carriers that had to ground some planes due to COVID-19 -- to expand its fleet and advance its delivery to customers. 

“Our goal is to continue delivering for customers across the U.S. in the way that they expect from Amazon, and purchasing our own aircraft is a natural next step toward that goal,” said Sarah Rhoads, Vice President of Amazon Global Air. “Having a mix of both leased and owned aircraft in our growing fleet allows us to better manage our operations, which in turn helps us to keep pace in meeting our customer promises.”

Rhoads said the newly acquired planes are being retrofitted for cargo and should be back in the air in the next 12-24 months.

Longer distances quicker

The company says that Amazon Air is an important delivery component because it allows it to transport items across longer distances in shorter time frames. That alone would be a welcome relief to Amazon Prime members who have experienced delays in getting their packages because of slowdowns caused by the pandemic. 

Since its 2016 launch, Amazon Air has methodically added regional air hubs to, presumably, end its reliance on third-party services like FedEx and UPS. Last year, Amazon launched its first-ever air hub at Leipzig/Halle Airport in Germany and new regional air operations centers in Lakeland, New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Richmond, San Juan PR, Maui, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. 

If you’ve got a spare Boeing 767 sitting around, Amazon may be willing to take it off your hands. The online retail giant announced that it bought 11 Boein...
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Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama to vote on whether to join a union

The online retailer says those who petitioned to form a union don’t represent the majority of its workers

Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama will be allowed to vote soon on whether to unionize. If workers at the facility vote to form a union, it would be the first one at any of the company’s warehouses in the U.S. 

The National Labor Relations Board recently ruled that workers at the Bessemer, Alabama Amazon warehouse could move forward with their intent to hold an election that could unionize around 1,500 full and part-time warehouse workers.

“We are administratively satisfied that the [union] has a sufficient showing of interest to move forward,” Terry D. Combs, assistant to the regional director of the NLRB’s Atlanta region.

The NLRB is set to hold a hearing on Friday to determine how and when to hold the unionization vote. 

Amazon pushing back

Amazon previously expressed opposition to unionization efforts, and it has largely been successful in other cases. In a statement about the current effort, the company said those who petitioned to hold the vote didn’t represent "the majority of our employees' views.” It also touted its competitive wages and benefits.

“On top of Amazon’s industry-leading minimum $15 per hour wage, the company offers full-time employees comprehensive benefits including full medical, vision, and dental insurance as well as a 401(k) with 50 percent match starting on day one,” the company said. 

“Amazon prioritizes the safety and health of its employees and has invested millions of dollars to provide a safe workplace. The company also offers up to 20 weeks of maternal and parental paid leave and innovative benefits such as Leave Share and Ramp Back, which give new parents flexibility to support their growing families.”

Workers cite problematic conditions

The last time Amazon workers were close to joining a union happened in 2014, when a small group of workers voted 21 to 6 against having the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers represent them.

The Alabama workers have said the company’s safety measures are insufficient and workers are often saddled with work quotas that are difficult to meet. 

"Nineteen workers have died at Amazon facilities. We face outrageous work quotas that have left many with illnesses and lifetime injuries," the group says. "With a union contract, we can form a worker safety committee, and negotiate the highest safety standards and protocols for our workplace."

Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama will be allowed to vote soon on whether to unionize. If workers at the facility vote to form a union, it would be the f...
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Amazon sellers fined for price gouging hand sanitizer during the pandemic

Three sellers have been ordered to reimburse New Yorkers

A trio of Amazon sellers have been hit with a fine from New York Attorney General Letitia James for price gouging hand sanitizer during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On Tuesday, James’ office said three third-party sellers -- Mobile Rush, EMC Group, and Northwest-Lux -- sold upwards of 1,000 units of hand sanitizer on Amazon’s marketplace “at prices that grossly exceeded the price at which the same or similar products were readily obtainable” elsewhere.

During February and March, Northwest-Lux was charging Amazon customers $79.99 to $129.99 for 2-liter bottles of Purell. Mobile Rush was charging $19.99 to $29.99 for single, 8-ounce bottles of Germ-X hand sanitizer. EMC was charging consumers $35.98 to $52.99 for 8-packs of 1-ounce Purell bottles. 

James said she has stopped the merchants from selling hand sanitizer at expensive rates. She also said she will reimburse New Yorkers that bought the high-priced hand sanitizer.

Consumer reimbursement ordered

The sellers have been ordered to pay a fine of $52,000 to the state of New York. Defrauded consumers will collectively be reimbursed almost $23,000. 

“Price gouging on necessary consumer supplies during an unprecedented public health emergency is absolutely unconscionable and will not be tolerated,” said Attorney General James in a press release. 

“Instead of ensuring individuals could protect themselves from the coronavirus, these businesses operated with dirty hands by charging exorbitant prices on hand sanitizer and other cleansing products. My office will continue to clean up this unlawful practice by using all of the tools at our disposal to prevent price gouging during this pandemic.”

Consumers who purchased overpriced hand sanitizer products from any of the three sellers don’t need to do anything to receive restitution. James said the companies are required to automatically issue partial refunds to the credit card, debit card, or bank account that consumers used to make their original purchases. 

A trio of Amazon sellers have been hit with a fine from New York Attorney General Letitia James for price gouging hand sanitizer during the early months of...
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Amazon CEO announces first beneficiaries of Earth Fund

The fund will provide millions to those seeking to ‘preserve and protect the natural world’

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has announced the first recipients of his “Earth Fund,” a $10 billion fund established earlier this year to help address the climate crisis. 

In his announcement of the fund back in February, Bezo said grants from it would go to scientists, activists, and other environmental advocacy groups that have set out to combat climate change. The Amazon executive said the goal of the fund is to financially support individuals and groups that are seeking to “preserve and protect the natural world.”

On Monday, Bezos named the first 16 beneficiaries of the fund. Grants will be going out to the following groups: The Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund, ClimateWorks Foundation, Dream Corps Green For All, Eden Reforestation Projects, Energy Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, The Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, NDN Collective, Rocky Mountain Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, The Solutions Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, World Resources Institute, and World Wildlife Fund.

These initial recipients will get a collective $791 million. The amount allocated to each organization varies, but it ranges from between $5 million to $100 million. 

Taking action

In an Instagram post, Bezos said the first round of grants was “just the beginning” of his multi-billion dollar commitment to fighting climate change. 

“I’ve spent the past several months learning from a group of incredibly smart people who’ve made it their life’s work to fight climate change and its impact on communities around the world,” Bezos said. “I’m inspired by what they’re doing, and excited to help them scale.” 

“We can all protect Earth’s future by taking bold action now,” he added.

The Nature Conservancy said it will be putting some of its grant money towards supporting programs that benefit temperate rainforests.

“These vast forests are globally critical for carbon capture, and our conservation strategy prioritizes Indigenous and local communities,” said Eric Delvin, a program director for The Nature Conservancy. “In direct collaboration with Indigenous peoples across the rainforest’s diverse regions, we support sovereign authority and supporting sustainable economies.”

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has announced the first recipients of his “Earth Fund,” a $10 billion fund established earlier this year to help address the climate...
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Amazon launches Amazon Pharmacy

The online drug store offers drug discounts for Prime members

In one of its most ambitious expansions to date, Amazon has launched an online pharmacy that allows consumers to order prescription medication at the same place they order household products and groceries and have them delivered to their homes.

Amazon Pharmacy, accessible through Amazon’s website and app, will allow customers in most of the U.S. to have prescription medication delivered to their homes. Prime members will get free delivery.

At the same time, the online retailer is launching a prescription discount program for Prime members who don’t have prescription drug coverage. The benefit applies not only at Amazon Pharmacy but also at 50,000 other participating drug stores in the U.S.

Amazon says the two services together make it easier for customers to shop around for the best prices and to conveniently order medications for home delivery.

Builds on Amazon’s PillPack acquisition

Amazon’s move into health and medicine doesn’t exactly come as a surprise since it’s been inching in that direction for years. In 2018, it acquired PillPack, a mail-order prescription service. Analysts say Amazon Pharmacy is using much of the PillPack infrastructure and experience to build out its new online pharmacy business.

“As more and more people look to complete everyday errands from home, pharmacy is an important and needed addition to the Amazon online store,” said Doug Herrington, senior vice president of North American Consumer at Amazon. “PillPack has provided exceptional pharmacy service for individuals with chronic health conditions for over six years. Now, we’re expanding our pharmacy offering to Amazon.com, which will help more customers save time, save money, simplify their lives, and feel healthier.”

Amazon says the Amazon Prime prescription savings benefit will cut the price of generic medication by up to 80 percent and reduce brand name medication prices by up to 40 percent. The company explains how it works here.

Integrated into the site and app

Amazon Pharmacy is fully integrated into the Amazon site and app. After clicking on “Amazon Pharmacy,” consumers enter the state in which they live and then complete a three-step registration process that ends with the placing of an order.

To start, five states --  Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Minnesota -- are not served by the new service, although Amazon said it expects to serve consumers in those states in the future. In cases where medication is needed in the immediate future, Amazon recommends using a local pharmacy. 

T.J. Parker, founder of PillPack and Amazon’s vice president in charge of Amazon Pharmacy, says one of the goals of the new service is to take a complex business and make it simple for the consumer.

“We work hard behind the scenes to handle complications seamlessly so anyone who needs a prescription can understand their options, place their order for the lowest available price, and have their medication delivered quickly,” he said.

In one of its most ambitious expansions to date, Amazon has launched an online pharmacy that allows consumers to order prescription medication at the same...
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EU charges Amazon with antitrust violations over use of Marketplace data

At issue is how Amazon chooses who’s included in its ‘Buy Box’

Bad news landed on the doorstep at Amazon’s headquarters early Tuesday. The European Commission has informed the online retailer that it feels the company has breached European Union (EU) antitrust rules by “distorting competition in online retail markets.” 

The Commission’s biggest problem with Amazon is that it supposedly gleans non-public business data about independent sellers on its marketplace and uses that information to the benefit of its own retail business, which directly competes with those third-party sellers. 

The value of that information could easily catapult Amazon’s own version of a product to the front of the line. The Commission said that Amazon’s insider information on third-party sellers included the number of ordered and shipped units of products, the sellers' revenues on the marketplace, the number of visits to sellers' offers, shipping data, data related to sellers' past performance, and other consumer claims on products.

“We must ensure that dual role platforms with market power, such as Amazon, do not distort competition. Data on the activity of third-party sellers should not be used to the benefit of Amazon when it acts as a competitor to these sellers,” said Margrethe Vestager, the executive vice president in charge of competition policy.

The almighty “Buy Box”

The Commission didn’t let Amazon off the hook with just one indiscretion. It also opened a second antitrust investigation into the possible partisan treatment of Amazon's own retail offers and those of marketplace sellers that use Amazon's logistics and delivery services.

In particular, the Commission will take a deep look into the criteria that Amazon sets to select who’s included in its “Buy Box.” The Buy Box is the white box on the right side of an Amazon product’s detail page where customers can click and add items to their cart.

The rub for the Commission is that only businesses with exceptional seller metrics get a chance to be included in the Buy Box -- and guess what decides who qualifies as “exceptional?” Amazon’s own algorithms.

Eyal Lanxner at BigBusiness said that 82 percent of Amazon sales go through the Buy Box, and the percentage is even higher for mobile purchases. Lanxner says that in mobile, the Buy Box takes on heightened importance because, unlike on a desktop or laptop, the mobile site features the Buy Box directly under the product image.

“If you’re that one lucky seller who gets the ‘Buy Box,’ you make all the sales,” says Christo Wilson, lead researcher of a Northeastern University study of Amazon's algorithmic pricing practices.

“This is very much a winner-take-all system. If you’re that one lucky seller who gets the ‘buy box,’ you make all the sales. So if you want to be competitive for the top-selling products, you pretty much have no choice: You have to be an algorithmic seller.”

The Commission and Amazon’s end game

The two sides now enter the fray hoping for a judgment in their favor. The Commission is going to be leaning heavily on an EU law that prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position. And in the other corner, Amazon will be battling to prove that it plays fair and square with third-party vendors.

“The conditions of competition on the Amazon platform must also be fair. Its rules should not artificially favour Amazon's own retail offers or advantage the offers of retailers using Amazon's logistics and delivery services,” Vestager said.

“With e-commerce booming, and Amazon being the leading e-commerce platform, a fair and undistorted access to consumers online is important for all sellers.”

Bad news landed on the doorstep at Amazon’s headquarters early Tuesday. The European Commission has informed the online retailer that it feels the company...
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Amazon launches points-based rewards program for Flex drivers

Perks for delivery drivers include debit card access and preferred scheduling

Amazon has launched a new rewards program for its Flex drivers -- independent contractors who make Amazon and Whole Foods deliveries with their own cars and cover their own expenses. 

On its website, the company has added a section called Amazon Flex Rewards. Amazon said the program gives drivers a chance to earn perks through the accrual of points. 

Perks include access to a Flex Debit Card and the ability to reserve preferred delivery shifts. Flex drivers can earn different perks depending on how much work they do for Amazon and how well they do it. 

“Amazon Flex Rewards is a program exclusively for Amazon Flex delivery partners to thank you for all the work you do,” the website states. “With Amazon Flex Rewards, you can earn cash back with the Amazon Flex Debit Card, enjoy Preferred Scheduling and access thousands of discounts as well as tools to navigate things like insurance and taxes.”

More points, different perks

The rewards program gives drivers the opportunity to earn points for each completed delivery. Additional points may be earned based on metrics like on-time delivery rates and overall standing in the app. 

CNBC points out that it can be difficult for Flex drivers to find work. Drivers usually only have a few seconds to “accept” a shift before someone else claims it. The rewards program has a perk to help alleviate some of the pressure to act fast.

Drivers who have earned 650 points can reserve shifts aligned with their preferences, such as their preferred delivery station and time of the day. They will have up to 30 minutes to accept a reserved shift. 

Amazon says it will reset drivers’ points after each three-month earnings period, but drivers will still have access to the perks they earned from the previous period. 

The company told CNBC that it’s in the early stages of launching the program. Eventually, all Flex drivers in the U.S. will have access to it. 

Amazon has launched a new rewards program for its Flex drivers -- independent contractors who make Amazon and Whole Foods deliveries with their own cars an...
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Amazon launches new data collection program to gain insight into consumer spending habits

The company is inviting customers to submit receipts and take surveys

Heads up, personal data protectors! Amazon is inviting its customers to take part in a “shopper panel” -- a program where they can earn rewards simply by taking part in surveys and by sharing receipts on purchases they've made outside of Amazon’s platform. 

In other words, Amazon wants to dive deeper into how you’re shopping, where you’re shopping, and the kinds of things you’re shopping for. 

The Amazon Shopper Panel is purely an opt-in, invitation-only program. It’s up to the consumer to decide if they want to share their personal shopping data. 

How it works

According to its website, the Shopper Panel plays out like this:

Rewards: To earn rewards, participants need to upload 10 eligible receipts per month via the Amazon Shopper Panel app, either by taking photos of paper receipts or by forwarding email receipts to the panel. Amazon says the participants who do will earn $10 towards their choice of either an Amazon available funds balance or as a donation to a specific charity. Customers will continue to earn rewards each month they participate and every survey they complete.

To get the hang of things, according to MobileMarketer, Amazon will use “machine learning” to process the receipts, overseen by human reviewers for "a small sample of submissions" to help train the system.

Surveys: The surveys are supposedly your standard fare stuff like opinions on brands and products. The number of surveys and earnings per survey will change month to month. 

How Amazon will use the data

Before anyone signs up for the program, they should know exactly how Amazon intends to use what it tracks. According to the company, its uses “may” include the following:

Advertising measurement: “We may use your purchase information to measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns to help advertisers understand the relationship between ads and product purchases at an aggregate level. We will never share any personal information collected via the Amazon Shopper Panel with third parties.”

Inform models used for advertising: “We may use the information you provide to help us build models about which groups of customers are likely to be interested in certain products.”

Research: “We may use survey responses to help brands get feedback on new or existing products and help advertisers understand how customers respond to ads. We will never share any of your individual survey responses with third parties.”

Product and content selection: “We may use your purchase information and survey responses to improve the product selection on Amazon.com and affiliate stores such as Whole Foods Market and to improve the content offered through Amazon services such as Prime Video.”

Privacy issues?

Of course, given its record and past data breaches, the big question is how much will Amazon glean from following its customers’ purchases?

“Participation in the Amazon Shopper Panel is voluntary and panelists can stop using the app, sharing receipts, or answering survey questions at any time,” the company said. “Amazon only receives information that panelists explicitly choose to share via the Shopper Panel, such as the information extracted from any uploaded receipts (including product or retailer names) or survey responses.”

Amazon says it will delete any sensitive information -- using as an example, prescription information from drug store receipts -- and, according to MobileMarketer’s research, all information will be deleted after one year. 

Panelists also have the option to delete previously uploaded receipts at any time. 

“Amazon securely stores panelists’ personal information and handles it in accordance with Amazon’s Privacy Notice,” the company said.

Heads up, personal data protectors! Amazon is inviting its customers to take part in a “shopper panel” -- a program where they can earn rewards simply by t...
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Amazon expands Whole Foods one-hour pickup to all stores

The service is free for Prime members who spend $35 or more

Amazon has expanded its one-hour pickup to all 487 Whole Foods Market stores in the U.S. The service is free for Amazon Prime members who submit orders of $35 or more.

The company says there’s little doubt that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has increased the popularity of online grocery ordering and curbside pickup. Company executives say they expect this mode of shopping to become a permanent solution for many customers.

“In fact, more than 40 percent of Whole Foods Market pickup orders each month are from customers trying the service for the first time, the company wrote on its blog. “And, according to recent data from Global Data Research, almost 68 percent of consumers say they will continue to use curbside pickup even when the pandemic has subsided.”

Here’s how it works

Prime members can submit an order using the Amazon app or by visiting www.amazon.com, clicking the Whole Foods Market tab, selecting a pickup store, and selecting items.

When they’re ready to checkout, they can select a one-hour pickup window that works for them and place their order. 

When they’re ready to pick up their order, they check-in using the Amazon app to let store employees know they’re on their way. Amazon says the majority of customers who check-in using the Amazon App before arriving at the store wait just one minute to receive their orders after arriving. 

Becoming an industry norm

Curbside grocery pickup is fast becoming an industry norm. In June, Target announced an expansion of its pickup service, adding fresh and frozen grocery items that can be picked up at over 400 target stores.

The new additions include 750 items across produce, dairy, bakery, meat, and frozen products -- items like milk, bread, eggs, and ice cream, along with previously available staples.

Walmart also offers curbside grocery pickup, allowing customers to shop online and select the time they want to pick up their items. 

Amazon has expanded its one-hour pickup to all 487 Whole Foods Market stores in the U.S. The service is free for Amazon Prime members who submit orders of...
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Amazon kicks off ‘Holiday Dash’ online sales event

The company wants to help shoppers ‘beat the holiday hustle’ by offering deals earlier than usual

Fresh on the heels of the end of its annual Prime Day sale, Amazon has launched its Holiday Dash sales event. On Friday, Amazon touted the sale as a way for consumers to “beat the holiday hustle” this year. 

Amazon will drop new deals every day between now and Black Friday. The deals will go live at 3 a.m. ET and will be good for 24 hours. 

Shoppers can get deals on items in a range of categories, including toys, fashion, electronics and home goods. Amazon will also offer discounts on services including Amazon Music, Audible Kindle, and Prime Video.

The e-commerce giant has also extended its returns window. Most items shipped now through December 31 can be returned through January 31, 2021.

Early start to holiday shopping season

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many brick-and-mortar retailers are giving consumers an early start by offering online deals earlier in the season. Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are expected to be mainly offered online since crowds are still best avoided amid the pandemic.

Walmart said in September that it would start offering Black Friday sales earlier on a wider variety of merchandise. Target also announced early holiday deals and said customers can expect to find nearly one million more deals than last year. 

A survey conducted recently by analysts at RetailMeNot.com showed that 41 percent of consumers plan to start shopping in October. Some respondents said they hope to do all of their shopping this month. 

Fresh on the heels of the end of its annual Prime Day sale, Amazon has launched its Holiday Dash sales event. On Friday, Amazon touted the sale as a way fo...
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Amazon’s third-party sellers enjoyed record-high sales this Prime Day

Prime Day ‘delivered the two biggest days ever for third-party sellers,’ Amazon said

Amazon said its Prime Day sales event led to its third-party sellers earning more than $3.5 billion this year. The company said that figure represents an increase of 60 percent compared to last year.  

“This Prime Day delivered the two biggest days ever for third-party sellers, nearly all of which are small and medium-sized businesses,” the company said in a release published Thursday. “Sellers saw record-breaking sales, surpassing $3.5 billion in total across 19 countries.” 

Third-party sellers’ Prime Day earnings have grown at a level that even Amazon’s own retail business hasn’t seen, the retailer said. 

Third-party seller success

Amazon said third-party sellers are an important part of its operation and that it’s committed to fostering the success of small and medium-sized businesses. 

"Amazon is on track to invest $18 billion this year to help small and medium-sized businesses succeed in its store, and designed this Prime Day to support small businesses even more—including funding a promotion that helped drive over $900 million in sales for small businesses in the two weeks leading up to Prime Day," the company said.

Amazon has more than 2.3 million small and medium-size businesses selling products on its marketplace. Products sold by these businesses account for around 60 percent of Amazon sales, according to the company.

Last year, third-party merchants made more than $2 billion in sales during Prime Day. 

Antitrust scrutiny

Amazon’s framing of Prime Day 2020 as a successful event for third-party sellers comes amid scrutiny over its treatment of those same merchants. Amazon was recently accused of releasing products through its private-label brand that are nearly identical to some sold by third-party sellers. 

Lawmakers concluded that Amazon uses third-party seller data to find out which items are popular, which raises concerns over how it uses its power to stifle competition.

“Amazon’s pattern of exploiting sellers, enabled by its market dominance, raises serious competition concerns,” the U.S. House Judiciary Committee antitrust subcommittee said in a report released earlier this month.

Amazon said its Prime Day sales event led to its third-party sellers earning more than $3.5 billion this year. The company said that figure represents an i...
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Amazon to use eco-friendly shipping boxes that come with augmented reality experience

During October, consumers can customize their package’s appearance and use a company app for a new virtual experience

Consumers who take advantage of Amazon’s Prime Day sales this year can expect to find slightly different looking packages on their doorstep. 

Between now and Halloween, Amazon will be shipping out packages with a new eco-friendly design and a picture of a large white pumpkin on the side. Drawing on the pumpkin and scanning the QR code will initiate an augmented reality experience on an accompanying app. 

After pulling up Amazon’s free AR app, “Amazon Augmented Reality,” consumers can scan the QR code near the pumpkin they customized. Doing so will activate an “interactive, shareable, augmented reality experience,” Amazon said. 

The new boxes are meant to draw attention to the company’s eco-friendly initiatives. 

More sustainable packaging

Aware of the impact its cardboard boxes have on the environment, Amazon has established an 85-person team that focuses on improving package design with the aim of reducing its environmental impact. 

The boxes are made using less material as part of Amazon’s “Less Packaging, More Smiles” campaign. The addition of the white pumpkin is meant to give consumers a fun experience before they recycle the box. 

"The new experience is a low-cost way for customers to celebrate and a fun way to reuse boxes before dropping them in the recycling bin," Amazon said in a statement. 

Amazon’s new AR app is currently available as a free download on iOS and Android.

Consumers who take advantage of Amazon’s Prime Day sales this year can expect to find slightly different looking packages on their doorstep. Between no...
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Amazon says almost 20,000 of its workers have contracted COVID-19

The company has been criticised for keeping its warehouses open during the pandemic

In a blog post on Friday, Amazon disclosed that nearly 20,000 of its U.S. workers have tested positive or been presumed positive for COVID-19. However, the company said its analysis suggested that the rate of infection among its 1.4 million workers was 42 percent lower than the “expected number” when compared to rates among the general population during the same period. 

Amazon, which saw its business increase significantly at the onset of the pandemic, has maintained that its fulfillment center and Whole Foods employees are safe under its enhanced COVID-19 health and safety measures. 

Despite its assurances, the company has faced criticism for keeping its warehouses open and not sharing data with the public and its workers about the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at its warehouses. 

Athena, a group of activists pushing for greater regulatory oversight of Amazon, said “Amazon is, in no uncertain terms, a threat to public health.” Athena argues that Amazon allowed the virus to “spread like wildfire” in its facilities and needs to be investigated by public health officials. 

Sharing case rates

Amazon said it hoped that sharing the case rates would encourage other corporations to follow suit. 

"We hope sharing this data and our learnings will encourage others to follow and will prove useful as states make decisions about reopening public facilities and employers consider whether and how to bring people back to work," Amazon said.

The company noted that it’s put millions of dollars toward testing, new cleaning regimes, and in the purchase of protective gear. Officials say social distancing protocols have helped drive down the number of employees that need to quarantine after an employee tests positive.

The e-commerce giant also stressed that its facilities aren’t the only places individuals who have contracted COVID-19 could have picked it up. 

"These individuals can be exposed in many ways outside of work," Amazon said.

In a blog post on Friday, Amazon disclosed that nearly 20,000 of its U.S. workers have tested positive or been presumed positive for COVID-19. However, the...
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Amazon introduces contactless payments with Amazon One

The company says it’s got the security angle well in hand

With the wave of its hand, Amazon is raising the bar on contactless payments. On Tuesday, the online retailer announced Amazon One, a service add-on for events, gyms, office buildings, etc. that allows people to simply hold their hand over a scanner for a couple of seconds and gain admission or pay for items. 

At present, the technology is available only at two Amazon Go stores, but the world can expect a more robust rollout if the pilot phase proves to be successful.

Working backwards

You might think that Amazon One came out of surface contact health safety issues related to COVID-19, but the idea’s genesis is the time drag that it takes consumers to slide a credit card in, approve a purchase, enter in PIN numbers, and the like.

“As with everything Amazon does, we started with the customer experience and worked backwards. We solved for things that are durable and have stood the test of time but often cause friction or wasted time for customers,” wrote Amazon’s Vice President of Amazon Physical Retail, Dilip Kumar in a blog post. 

“We wondered whether we could help improve experiences like paying at checkout, presenting a loyalty card, entering a location like a stadium, or even badging into work. So, we built Amazon One to offer just that—a quick, reliable, and secure way for people to identify themselves or authorize a transaction while moving seamlessly through their day.”

How it works

Interested consumers have the option to enroll at stores and venues using Amazon One; all it takes is scanning one palm or both. Simple as that. For customers to actually use the service, Kumar says that the technology requires an “intentional gesture” -- one where a person holds their hand over the device with the palm of the hand working as a biometric identifier. 

Privacy advocates will be watching Amazon like a hawk given the earlier concerns its foray into facial-recognition software raised with shareholders, employees, and the ACLU, but the company is ready to face the fire.

Kumar says that the palm images will be encrypted on a “highly secure area in the cloud” and not on a scanner at the location. To add a little more security, anyone can delete their personal Amazon One-related data any time at one.amazon.com. Interested consumers can also sign up for the service at that same website.

With the wave of its hand, Amazon is raising the bar on contactless payments. On Tuesday, the online retailer announced Amazon One, a service add-on for ev...
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Amazon confirms Prime Day event to begin October 13

The online retailer is offering deals on millions of products and supporting businesses impacted by the pandemic

As rumored, Amazon’s Prime Day 2020 returns October 13 and 14. And, not unlike any of the previous Prime Days, this one is loaded with consumer temptations in categories like toys, TVs, electronics, fashion, home, and, of course, Amazon devices.

Amazon says it’s collected more than a million deals to offer shoppers, including brand-specific items from adidas, Coleman, Under Armour, Keurig, Lacoste, and Panasonic.

Get a head start on the bargains

Prime Day has become more like Prime 15 Days because of the carrots the retailer started dangling on Tuesday. Below is a list of some deals shoppers can expect to see. (*All deals are accurate at the time of publishing but are subject to change.)

  • Amazon Devices: Shoppers can buy two Echo Dot devices for $39.98 and Fire TV Recast for $129.99 so people can store up to 75 hours of programming. There’s also a deal on smart home security with Amazon’s Blink Mini indoor cameras, which will be discounted to $24.99 per unit.

  • Amazon Music: Amazon is still woefully behind Spotify in the number of paid subscribers, but it’s not giving up yet. For just 99 cents, Prime members who haven’t yet tried Amazon Music Unlimited (being a new subscriber is key, apparently) can get four free months of the premium, ad-free streaming tier.

  • Audible: Book lovers who like taking their books on the go in audio form can save $50 on a year of Audible Premium Plus.

  • Kindle Unlimited: New customers to Kindle Unlimited save 50 percent off a 6-month subscription.

  • Amazon Fashion: The newest niche Amazon is shooting for is high fashion, so it’s no surprise that it’s rolling out some larger deals here. Fashion lovers can save up to 30 percent on select Vineyard Vines clothing for men, up to 15 percent on select fall fashion from Shopbop, and up to 30 percent on select styles from Calvin Klein.

  • Home: Deals include up to 20 percent or more off on furniture brands like Lane Home Furnishings, Walker Edison Furniture Company, and Nathan James. 

  • Tools: If Dad likes playing handyman, Mrs. Claus can get a head start on Christmas by saving up to 20 percent on select DEWALT saws and drills and up to 15 percent on select DEWALT impact driver and drill combo Kits.

  • Toys: Parents who like the “green” approach to life can save up to 30 percent on select toys from Green Toys.

Alexa, how do I pay for all of this?

Being the crafty retailer that it is, Amazon knows that a little extra grease won’t hurt; it’s offering a $100 gift card for consumers who sign up and are approved for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card.. 

Prime member Echo Dot users can find daily deals by asking “Alexa, what are my Prime Day deals?” As a bonus, effectively immediately and lasting a limited time, new Prime members who sign up using the Echo Dot can get a $5 Amazon credit simply by saying, “Alexa, sign me up for Prime.”

Amazon is also taking a QVC-ish angle with Amazon Live. Pitching everything from kitchen appliances to fashion wear, the hosted Amazon Live stream will show off products and take advantage of special deals the instant they go live. To watch, visit Amazon’s site here and via the Amazon Shopping app on Fire TV.

Prime Day 2020 also has a kind gesture to all the small businesses who pushed forward through COVID-19. In support of those efforts, Amazon is investing an additional $100 million in special Prime Day and holiday promotional programs by offering a $10 credit to use on Prime Day to members who spend $10 on items sold by select small businesses in Amazon’s store.

As rumored, Amazon’s Prime Day 2020 returns October 13 and 14. And, not unlike any of the previous Prime Days, this one is loaded with consumer temptations...
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Amazon Prime Day 2020 will likely kick off on October 13

Shoppers can expect deals on everything from the Apple Watch to Amazon Alexa-based products

It’s Prime time, Amazon shoppers. Reports are circulating that the online retailer has marked Tuesday, October 13 as the kickoff for Prime Day 2020. This year’s date comes a little later than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

CNET cites people with knowledge of Amazon’s plans as saying that the company has blocked off October 13-20 as an all-hands-on-deck week for its warehouse workers.

When asked for confirmation, an Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on the specific date. “Stay tuned for more details on Prime Day. Customers can also say, 'Alexa, keep me posted on Prime Day,” they said.

Best guesses on what consumers can expect

Amazon has always used Prime Day as a launch pad for things like gadgets, and this year should be no different. To whet consumer appetites, the odds are that Amazon will roll out those items this Thursday, September 24, the date for its annual fall product launch. 

If Prime Day 2019 is any indication, tech lovers can expect even more Alexa-equipped products. There's currently no indication of what exactly to expect, but it's safe to assume that Alexa-equipped gear will take center stage. 

The New York Times tech savants’ best guesses were for heavy discounts on Amazon-owned Ring and Eero, kitchen appliances from OXO and Instant Pot, home appliances like robot-vacuums, and devices like the Apple Watch Series 5.

One thing almost sure to get some time in this year’s Prime spotlight is Amazon’s new foray into the high fashion game. Just last week, the global retailer announced that it has teamed up with fashion and beauty brands to launch Luxury Stores, a new shopping experience offering both established and emerging fashion and beauty lines. Oscar de la Renta was tapped as the first brand to be featured in the rollout. 

It’s Prime time, Amazon shoppers. Reports are circulating that the online retailer has marked Tuesday, October 13 as the kickoff for Prime Day 2020. This y...
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Amazon looks for gig workers to pick up and deliver orders at Whole Foods

One industry watcher is questioning how well gig drivers know their way around a store

With the gig economy continuing to grow but the COVID-19 pandemic cutting into wages, gig workers looking for work might want to pay Whole Foods a visit. Amazon is now recruiting contract workers to both shop for and deliver groceries for Whole Foods Market customers who order their groceries online.

According to a Bloomberg report, drivers can easily sign up for the Shop and Deliver program by simply reviewing an online tutorial about how Whole Foods products are picked, packed, and handled, as well as scoring a passing grade on a quiz.

Until now, Whole Foods relied on its own employees to assemble online orders, but the program model is akin to Amazon Flex, an initiative the company rolled out several years ago that relies on independent contractors to deliver packages. 

Inherent issues

From its catbird seat, various grocery industry watchers raised questions about Amazon’s move. 

“By entrusting gig workers to put orders together for Whole Foods customers, Amazon is potentially increasing the risk that items could be damaged, spoiled or delivered late that is inherent in grocery e-commerce,” GroceryDive’s Sam Silverstein wrote.

Another question raised was that while delivery service is an easy thing to learn, in-store tasks like picking aren’t.

“Delivery from A to B is a beautiful on-demand task because it’s very straightforward, very repeatable and you don’t need a lot of training, [but] tasks in stores are often much more complicated,” Jordan Berke, a former Walmart executive and e-commerce expert who runs Tomorrow Retail Consulting, told GroceryDive.

“A person that comes to your store once a day or once every two days to pick two orders is always learning, while a person that picks 50 orders five days a week” has a better opportunity to become familiar with the lay of the land inside a grocery store, and is more likely to know where items are located and how they should be handled.

Potential good news for consumers

Online grocery shopping is growing in leaps and bounds. The segment is expected to grow from about $38 million in 2018 to nearly $60 billion by 2023. Amazon and Walmart are in a pretty secure place for the moment -- and keep upping the ante -- but more and more companies are trying to elbow their way in like Uber and DoorDash. The upside for consumers is that companies are constantly trying to find ways to keep prices as low as possible. 

“They’re always going to look for ways to keep their cost of service as low as possible, and always look for ways to be super responsive in fulfilling customer demand,” Tom Furphy, former Amazon vice president of consumables and Amazon Fresh, told GroceryDive. 

“Those are three constants that will always exist as long as Amazon’s around, and they will absolutely look to deliver on that in the grocery environment.

With the gig economy continuing to grow but the COVID-19 pandemic cutting into wages, gig workers looking for work might want to pay Whole Foods a visit. A...
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Amazon moves into the high-fashion game with Luxury Stores

The online giant may smell opportunity with many high-end retailers closing because of the pandemic

Amazon has raised bar after bar in the online shopping world, but now it’s raising the bar in the fashion industry. 

On Tuesday, the global retailer announced that it has teamed up with fashion and beauty brands to launch Luxury Stores, a new shopping experience offering both established and emerging fashion and beauty lines viewable in 360-degree detail.

Oscar de la Renta has been tapped as the first brand to be featured. The eponymous fashion house will show off its Pre-Fall and Fall/Winter 2020 collections, inclusive of ready-to-wear, handbags, jewelry, accessories, and a new perfume, with children's wear to follow.

Upping the game with new technology

The Luxury Stores app debuts with a technology innovation that will certainly benefit clothing sellers. “View in 360” allows customers to explore styles in 360-degree detail to better visualize fit, which Amazon hopes will make shopping for luxury more alluring and as close to an in-store experience as possible. 

“With collections sold directly from the participating brands as a ‘store within a store’ experience, brands independently make decisions regarding their inventory, selection, and pricing – and Amazon offers the merchandising tools for brands to create and personalize content in each of their unique brand voices,” the company said in a news release. 

Amazon sensed change in the fashion world

Seeing a raft of high-end retailers -- Ann Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, et al -- go out of business in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon has to be smelling an opportunity, particularly in the realm of distribution.

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette recently spoke with CNBC about the opportunity he saw in the luxury apparel space, given the spate of high-end stores going belly-up and leaving customers waiting to be had. 

“Bloomingdale’s is having a moment,” he said about Macy’s higher-end department store banner. “We have brands in our arsenal that we didn’t have before that are looking for additional distribution.” 

For the time being, Luxury Stores is available in the Amazon app by invitation only. Eligible U.S. Prime members have been the first to be invited to experience Luxury Stores. Prime members who have not yet received an invitation via email can request one by visiting the company’s website here.

Amazon has raised bar after bar in the online shopping world, but now it’s raising the bar in the fashion industry. On Tuesday, the global retailer ann...
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Amazon to hire 100,000 workers to handle increased e-commerce demand

The company wants to be prepared for the coming holiday season

To help deal with steeper-than-normal e-commerce demand stemming from the pandemic, Amazon is bringing on even more workers. 

The company announced Monday that it will hire 100,000 more workers -- its fourth hiring spree this year. The positions are for both full and part-time work in the U.S. and Canada. Amazon said the positions that are available are also at 100 package sorting centers and other facilities it is opening in September.

“We are opening 100 buildings this month alone across new fulfillment and sortation centers, delivery stations, and other sites,” Dave Clark, senior vice president of worldwide operations at Amazon, said in a statement.

The positions have a starting wage of at least $15 per hour. In select cities, Amazon will give new hires sign-on bonuses of up to $1,000. 

Increasing hiring

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon has struggled to keep up with the surge in demand. With the busy holiday season just ahead, Amazon is bracing for yet another spike in online orders. 

In addition to hiring more workers, Amazon said it will also be adding automation at its new buildings to speed up operations.  

“We will continue to deploy technology where appropriate, starting from a safety perspective” and “where we can improve our overall operation,” Alicia Boler Davis, Amazon’s vice president of global customer fulfillment, told CNBC. 

In announcing its latest recruitment drive, Amazon reiterated its commitment to keeping its workers safe during the pandemic. 

“Collectively, our new team members have already completed more than 1,200,000 hours of safety training, with over 500,000 more hours expected, to ensure that in addition to fast and efficient delivery for our customers, we’re providing a safe and modern environment for our employees and partners,” Clark said

To help deal with steeper-than-normal e-commerce demand stemming from the pandemic, Amazon is bringing on even more workers. The company announced Mond...
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Customer reviews suggest dozens of AmazonBasics products are hazardous

An investigation found reviews that described fires, electrical malfunctions, and other safety risks

At least 70 products sold under Amazon’s “AmazonBasics” brand could pose a safety risk, according to a report from CNN. 

During an investigation, CNN found more than a thousand customer reviews in which customers described startling events while using certain products. Customers said products were often associated with fires and other safety issues. 

“Since 2016, at least 1,500 reviews, covering more than 70 items, have described products exploding, catching on fire, smoking, melting, causing electrical malfunctions or otherwise posing risks,” CNN said.

Some products remain up for sale

The affected products, many of which are still for sale on Amazon, include USB charging cables, a microwave, battery chargers, and office equipment. 

In one case involving a microwave, a customer review said that the voice-activated appliance caught fire after a child heated up a macaroni and cheese cup. CNN investigated the product on its own and found that the microwave “began sparking and smoking” as soon as it was turned on. 

In another review, a customer said an AmazonBasics USB cable melted on an office chair, ignited the upholstery, and started a house fire. 

Amazon has discontinued some of the products CNN identified as problematic. However, the publication noted that around 30 items with three or more reviews include words like “hazard” or “fire” or suggest that the product should be recalled. 

In a statement, Amazon said its AmazonBasics microwave is safe to use and that it thoroughly vets its products for safety. 

“We take the safety of our products seriously, and are confident that the AmazonBasics Microwave is safe to use,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “We take several steps to ensure our products are safe including rigorous testing by our safety teams and third-party labs. The appliance continues to meet or exceed all certification requirements established by the FDA, UL, FCC, Prop 65, and others for safety and functionality.”

At least 70 products sold under Amazon’s “AmazonBasics” brand could pose a safety risk, according to a report from CNN. During an investigation, CNN fo...
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Consumer groups claim Amazon is still inflating prices of essential products

Amazon says it has removed thousands of merchants for price violations

In separate reports this week, two consumer watchdog groups said Amazon and third-party sellers on its platform are still inflating prices of essential products.

In the early days of the pandemic, many consumers complained that some Amazon merchants were selling hand sanitizer and paper towels at more than 10 times the prices they were charging in January. Researchers for Public Citizen and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) say six months later the practice continues. They say consumers shopping for these items need to consult more than one online platform to find the best price.

“There is no place for price gouging on Amazon and that’s why our teams are monitoring our store 24/7 and have already removed over a million offers for attempted price gouging,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.

Face masks, toilet paper, and soap

Amazon has published its pricing policy online and previously pointed out that it has suspended approximately 4,000 third-party merchants for violating its pricing policies, suggesting that the issue is being resolved.

But the two groups insist they have found evidence to the contrary. Public Citizen reports finding inflated prices for the last six months on things like face masks, toilet paper, and antibacterial soap that have been marked up as much as 1000 percent. It says the overpriced items included those labeled as “sold by Amazon,” as well as items sold by third-party merchants.

“Amazon has fundamentally misled the public, law enforcement and policymakers about price increases during the pandemic,” said Alex Harman, competition policy advocate for Public Citizen and author of the report. “Amazon has publicly blamed third-party sellers for price increases while continuing to raise prices on its own products and allowing those sellers to increase their prices.”

Harman said the report underscores the need for a federal price-gouging law and for Amazon to “implement major reforms to its pricing and product listing practices.” Amazon, itself, voiced support for federal price-gouging legislation earlier this year.

Examples

Public Citizen listed these items, marketed over the last six months, as examples of price gouging:

  • A pack of 50 disposable face masks increased by 1,000 percent

  • Dial liquid antibacterial hand soap increased by 470 percent

  • A pack of 100 disposable hand gloves increased by 336 percent

  • A pack of eight 1000-sheet toilet paper rolls increased by 528 percent

  • A pack of eight Brawny paper towels increased by 303 percent

  • A five-pound eight-pack of Pillsbury unbleached flour increased by 425 percent

  • A one-pound box of Domino powdered sugar increased by 520 percent

  • A 6.5-ounce pack of Clabber Girl corn starch increased by 1,010 percent

The USPIRG report looked at 10 staple products found on many shopping lists during the COVID-19 pandemic. The list specifically included hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, and digital thermometers. 

“Of these items, options from Amazon were two to fourteen times more expensive than the identical products sold at other retailers,” the authors wrote. 

In separate reports this week, two consumer watchdog groups said Amazon and third-party sellers on its platform are still inflating prices of essential pro...
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Amazon bans sale of foreign seeds to U.S. customers

The move was prompted by this summer’s mystery seed deliveries

Amazon has banned the sale of foreign seeds to customers in the U.S. after packets of unordered seeds, many postmarked from China, began showing up on U.S. consumers’ doorsteps over the summer.

The Wall Street Journal reports an email sent by Amazon to foreign sellers last week informed them of the decision. The online retailer reportedly began removing some seed and plant offers on September 3.

Amazon’s action is seen as a precautionary move. U.S. officials have expressed concern that invasive foreign plants introduced to the United States could threaten U.S. agriculture. The seeds in question are seen as suspicious since no one ordered them and no one seems to know where they came from.

The email cited by The Journal said the step is part of the company’s efforts to protect customers and improve the customer experience. An Amazon spokesperson essentially confirmed the ban over the weekend.

Limited to U.S. seed sellers

“Moving forward, we are only permitting the sale of seeds by sellers who are based in the U.S.,” the spokesperson said in a statement issued to The Journal. 

Various investigators for the U.S. government, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) have spent the last few weeks trying to determine the source of the mystery seed shipments. A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry has maintained from the start that the mailing labels indicating the seeds were shipped from China were forged. 

Investigators who spoke to The Journal suggest the mystery seed shipments are simply a tactic some online sellers use to raise their profile on Amazon. By sending an inexpensive item like seeds to thousands of consumers, the seller may rank higher on Amazon’s platform.

The battle against invasive plants

USDA’s Forest Service fights an ongoing battle against invasive plants that thrive once they take root in the U.S. and overtake other native plants. According to USDA, invasive species have contributed to the decline of 42 percent of U.S. endangered and threatened species.

As a result, overall plant diversity can be decreased because invasive species compete with native plants for moisture, sunlight, nutrients, and space.

When you think of a non-native, invasive plant in the U.S. you need only think of the kudzu plant that has taken over large areas of southern states. Nature magazine reports an established kudzu plant grows at a rate of one foot per day with mature vines as long as 100 feet.

Amazon has banned the sale of foreign seeds to customers in the U.S. after packets of unordered seeds, many postmarked from China, began showing up on U.S....
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Amazon opens first online-only Whole Foods

The company is striving to meet growing demand for online grocery delivery

On Tuesday, Amazon opened a new online-only Whole Foods store in Brooklyn. 

The company said it started working on the store a year ago, but grocery delivery has now become even more important due to the pandemic. 

“Grocery delivery continues to be one of the fastest-growing businesses at Amazon,” the company said in a blog post announcing the store. “We’re thrilled to increase access to grocery delivery. It’s never been more important.”

Hundreds of employees have been hired to facilitate grocery delivery at the new store, which is located in Brooklyn’s Industry City complex. 

Filling online demand

The interior of the new online-only facility features long aisles of shelving where team members can shop for products and prepare orders. Produce will be stored in a refrigerated cooler. 

Going forward, Amazon says it will be continuing to evaluate ways to increase grocery delivery since there’s clear demand for it. Compared to this time last year, online grocery sales have tripled. Amazon said it increased grocery delivery capacity by more than 160 percent to meet a spike in demand. That surge was fueled largely by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Delivery is here to stay. People like options and this is an option that they really love,” a company spokesperson told USA Today. 

Amazon is also endeavoring to expand its footprint in the brick-and-mortar grocery industry. In August, The company opened the first location of its new chain of Fresh grocery stores. The e-commerce giant already operates more than 500 Whole Foods stores. 

In addition to those stores, Amazon has also opened a number of cashless convenience stores called Amazon Go. The stores rely on technology that enables consumers to skip the checkout process. 

On Tuesday, Amazon opened a new online-only Whole Foods store in Brooklyn. The company said it started working on the store a year ago, but grocery del...
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Amazon gets FAA approval for Prime Air

The company says the approval brings it closer to 30-minute drone deliveries to customers

Amazon has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow it to begin using drones for commercial package delivery. 

The FAA said it decided to issue a "Part 135 air carrier certificate” to Amazon Prime Air because drone delivery will be beneficial to the public. The agency said it’s confident in Amazon’s drone operating and safety procedures. 

"Amazon Prime Air's concept uses autonomous [unmanned aircraft systems] to safely and efficiently deliver packages to customers," said a spokesperson for the FAA on Monday. "The FAA supports innovation that is beneficial to the public, especially during a health or weather-related crisis."

Drone deliveries

The FAA approval brings Amazon closer to delivering packages to everyday consumers by drone. 

“This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air,” said David Carbon, Amazon’s vice president in charge of Prime Air, in a statement. He also added that the decision “indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world.”

The e-commerce giant announced its plans for Prime Air back in 2013. The company said at the time that it was working toward creating drones that can deliver packages weighing up to five pounds to customers’ houses in less than half an hour.

Amazon says the FAA’s approval will pave the way for its Prime Air 30-minute drone delivery plan to become a reality. It also says the approval will allow it to start testing customer deliveries through the program.

Amazon has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow it to begin using drones for commercial package delivery. The FAA...
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Amazon launches supermarket chain built around technology

The first Amazon Fresh store is opening in the Los Angeles market

Amazon has taken the wraps off of its concept for the supermarket of the future. Amazon Fresh stores will be like just about any other grocery store except that it will be built around technology.

The first Amazon Fresh store, named for Amazon’s grocery delivery service, is in the process of opening its doors in Woodland Hills, in the Los Angeles metro.

Amazon is already firmly planted in the grocery business, owning Whole Foods Market. That chain is designed to appeal to consumers who prefer natural and organic products. Shoppers won’t find Coca-Cola or some other mainstream products in its aisles.

Help from Alexa

Amazon Fresh is targeted at the average grocery shopper who values convenience. Amazon says it’s using technology to make the shopping experience easier and faster.

For example, how many times have you wandered the aisles of a large supermarket trying to find a particular item? At Amazon Fresh, shoppers will find Amazon Echo Show smart displays throughout the store, guiding them to the proper aisle for whatever they might be looking for.

The shopping carts are also packed with technology. The stores will feature the Amazon Dash Cart that scans items as you put them in the basket, links to online shopping lists, and provides checkout services.

Shoppers will use their Amazon app to “log in” to their cart. As they pick up items and put them in the cart, onboard scanners record the items using bar codes. For produce, the cart weighs the item and calculates the price.

"Grocery is a very large consumer sector; by most measures, it's $800 billion in the U.S.," Jeff Helbling, vice president of Amazon Fresh stores, told CNN. "And collectively, we're relatively small in the space."

Similar to Amazon Go

But Amazon has plans to get bigger. In addition to its Whole Foods chain, the company has pioneered a number of cashless convenience stores called Amazon Go that are also heavily dependent on technology.

Amazon opened its first Amazon Go store in Seattle in early 2018. Shoppers are able to move down the aisles, pick up items, and then go on their way without having to pass through a checkout line.

Cameras and sensors placed on items and around the store will carefully track what consumers take, then charge their credit cards. That requires consumers who want to shop at the futuristic store to have a smartphone and to download the Amazon Go app.

The new Amazon Fresh stores will employ a similar concept. After the Los Angeles area store opens, Amazon has plans to open six more -- three more in California and three in Illinois.

Amazon has taken the wraps off of its concept for the supermarket of the future. Amazon Fresh stores will be like just about any other grocery store except...
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Appeals court says Amazon can be held liable for third-party sellers’ defective products

The decision could have great consequences for the online retailer going forward

An appeals court has ruled that Amazon can be held liable for any defective product sold on its Marketplace, at least in California. 

The backstory behind the decision is rather simple: an Amazon customer purchased a laptop battery from a third-party seller on Amazon. Amazon charged the customer for the purchase and then retrieved and shipped the laptop battery to the customer in Amazon-branded packaging. However, the customer alleges that the battery exploded several months later, causing third-degree burns. 

The customer sued everyone related to the product, including Amazon and the third-party seller. The suit claimed causes of action for strict products liability, negligent products liability, breach of implied warranty, breach of express warranty, and “negligence/negligent undertaking.” 

The third-party seller was served a summons to appear but never showed up, leaving a wrinkle that Amazon used to move for summary judgment, arguing that the product liability didn’t apply to it because it had nothing to do with distributing, manufacturing, or selling the defective battery. It claimed its website was nothing more than an “online marketplace” and that it was the third-party seller that should be held responsible instead. 

The trial court agreed, granted Amazon’s motion, and entered judgment accordingly in 2019. But the decision reached Thursday by the appeals court reverses that ruling and brings into question whether Amazon will be held liable for other defective products in the future.

The shape of things to come

Unless the appeals court’s ruling is undone by another court, the fact that Amazon -- or any online consumer goods platform -- is responsible in a situation like the one detailed above could carry a grim outlook.

For years, Amazon has maintained that it only serves as a go-between in a sale between a buyer and a third-party seller that operates on the Amazon Marketplace. Taking that posture has protected the company from other legal actions, but now that could all change. 

Appeals court says Amazon can be liable for third-party sellers’ defective productsThe decision could have great consequences for online retailers goin...
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Amazon could convert mall spaces into fulfillment centers

The company has been in talks with mall owner Simon Property Group

Amazon is reportedly in talks with mall owner Simon Property Group to convert some of its department store spaces into Amazon fulfillment centers.

Sources familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal that Amazon is interested in filling voids left by J.C.Penney and Sears, or even buying locations that are still in use. The sources didn’t say how many stores Amazon is considering purchasing or where they are.  

The discussion began before the pandemic, according to the sources. Amazon reportedly wants to put its low-cost grocery stores in former J.C. Penney spaces. The Journal noted that having fulfillment centers located close to residential areas would help Amazon make deliveries more quickly.

The news comes at a time when many retailers are struggling to stay afloat. Amazon’s business has improved significantly over the last few months because more people are working from home and buying online. During the second quarter, Amazon said its earnings were double that of the year prior at $5.2 billion. 

Amazon is reportedly in talks with mall owner Simon Property Group to convert some of its department store spaces into Amazon fulfillment centers.Sourc...
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Amazon reports huge surge in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic

The company said its online grocery sales tripled in the second quarter

In its second quarter earnings report, Amazon said a pandemic-related surge in consumer demand resulted in a tripling of its online grocery sales compared to the same quarter last year. 

The company said it had to increase grocery delivery capacity by more than 160 percent to meet demand during the unexpected health crisis.

“This was another highly unusual quarter, and I couldn’t be more proud of and grateful to our employees around the globe,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. 

Surge in business

While buying was initially focused on consumables and groceries, consumers eventually shifted to buying a more normal mix of products as the pandemic continued. Amazon said third-party sales increased by 52 percent year-over-year during the quarter, while first-party sales increased 48 percent year-over-year. 

Shipping times were significantly slower at the start of the pandemic. Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky said on a call with analysts that shipping rates have returned to a somewhat normal rate but are still “probably considerably behind the going rate before any of this happened.” 

Amazon said it ramped up spending on equipment and services to keep its employees safe. 

“As expected, we spent over $4 billion on incremental COVID-19-related costs in the quarter to help keep employees safe and deliver products to customers in this time of high demand—purchasing personal protective equipment, increasing cleaning of our facilities, following new safety process paths, adding new backup family care benefits, and paying a special thank you bonus of over $500 million to front-line employees and delivery partners.” 

Amazon expects its overall sales in the third quarter to amount to between $87 billion and $93 billion, which would represent an increase of around 24 to 33 percent compared to the third quarter of 2019. 

The company also confirmed on Thursday that its Prime Day sales event, which typically takes place in July, will now be held in the fourth quarter due to the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon said it's working closely with its selling partners to ensure the event goes smoothly. 

In its second quarter earnings report, Amazon said a pandemic-related surge in consumer demand resulted in a tripling of its online grocery sales compared...
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Amazon rolls out redesigned Alexa app with personalized suggestions

The new Alexa app will focus on how and when consumers use Alexa

Amazon announced on Monday that it’s starting to roll out a revamped version of its Alexa app. The app will be available for iPhones, tablets, and smartphones running Google's Android platform, as well as for Amazon’s Fire tablets.

The redesigned app will have a new home screen featuring a more personalized experience. Instead of emphasizing third-party skills, the new homepage will focus on “how consumers are actually using Alexa.”

The new home screen will be updated with personalized recommendations based on how each individual utilizes their Alexa device. For example, users who play music frequently will see music commands featured on their home screen. Previously, users may have seen irrelevant prompts on the home screen. The redesign de-prioritizes third-party voice apps or skills. 

Meanwhile, first-time users will see suggestions on how to get started with Alexa, how to add to their Amazon shopping list, or how to use other services like Amazon Music. Amazon said it’s also moving the Alexa button from the bottom of the app to the top in the interest of making it easier to find.  

Amazon expects all users to be granted access to its updated digital assistant by late August. 

Amazon announced on Monday that it’s starting to roll out a revamped version of its Alexa app. The app will be available for iPhones, tablets, and smartpho...
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Amazon expands field test of delivery robot

Trials are now taking place in Atlanta, Georgia and Franklin, Tennessee

Amazon is expanding trials of its delivery robot, Scout, to additional states. The delivery robot started operating in a neighborhood in Snohomish County, Washington in early 2019 and later started delivering packages at a larger test site in Irvine, California. 

The company announced Tuesday that it has now launched a “small number of Amazon Scout devices” in Atlanta, Georgia and Franklin, Tennessee. The delivery robots will operate Monday through Friday, during daylight hours only. 

Amazon said customers in the test areas will order “just as they normally would,” but their packages could be delivered by Amazon Scout. All Scout devices will be accompanied by a human minder called an Amazon Scout Ambassador, at least “initially,” says Amazon.

Meeting increased demand

The e-commerce giant said it’s been working hard on ensuring that the cooler-sized autonomous devices can safely navigate around a number of objects. 

“Amazon Scout delivery devices are built to be inherently safe. They’re the size of a small cooler and move at a walking pace. Each delivery device can navigate around pets, pedestrians, and other objects (including surfboards!) in its path,” the company said in a press release.

Amazon added that its trials of Scout have continued during the pandemic. The robots are intended to help bolster the company’s mission of meeting increased customer demand during the health crisis and beyond. 

“Amazon has been providing an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic and working hard to get customers the products they need so they can continue to stay safe. Amazon Scout is quietly playing its part in this effort, too.” 

Amazon is expanding trials of its delivery robot, Scout, to additional states. The delivery robot started operating in a neighborhood in Snohomish County,...
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Amazon to require third-party sellers to publicly disclose names and addresses

Consumers will be able to easily track down sellers who may have sold a counterfeit or unsafe item

Amazon has informed its third-party sellers in the United States that they will soon have to display their business name and address on their public seller profiles. 

Amazon said the change is intended to give consumers more insight into who they’re buying from. Sellers are already required to disclose this information to Amazon, but the policy change will make it so that the information is available for everyone to see. 

“We are making this change to ensure there is a consistent baseline of seller information to help customers make informed shopping decisions,” the company said Wednesday in a notice to sellers.

The change will take effect starting September 1. 

Expanding information available to consumers

By enacting the new policy, Amazon is aiming to provide greater transparency to U.S. consumers and crack down on issues like counterfeit items and unsafe or expired products. Listing seller information will make it easier for customers to get in contact with the seller or take legal action in the event that they purchased an item that caused harm. 

Amazon has already implemented a similar policy across its stores in Europe, Japan, and Mexico in accordance with local laws. In its announcement Wednesday, Amazon said it’s striving for consistency in its marketplace policies. 

“Over the years, we have developed many ways for sellers to share more about their business, including through features like the seller profile pages, ‘Store’ pages for brand owners, and Handmade ‘Maker Profile’ pages,” an Amazon spokesperson said. 

“These features help customers learn more about sellers’ businesses and their products. Beginning September 1, we will also display sellers’ business name and address on their Amazon.com seller profile page to ensure there is a consistent baseline of seller information to help customers make informed shopping decisions.” 

Amazon’s U.S. marketplace is its largest, with 461,000 active sellers based in the U.S. 

Amazon has informed its third-party sellers in the United States that they will soon have to display their business name and address on their public seller...
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Amazon hands out $500 million in thank you checks to front-line workers

The one-time bonuses range from $150 to $3,000

In the midst of all the coronavirus-related push-and-pull between Amazon and its employees, there’s a new one to add to the positive side of the equation.

Late Monday, a memo was sent to the company’s front-line employees and partners with the promise of a sizeable monetary bonus as thanks for all the workers have done during the COVID-19 pandemic -- including getting orders in and out the door, helping customers in stores, and anything that’s part of the Amazon-to-customer relationship.

“Our front-line operations teams have been on an incredible journey over the last few months, and we want to show our appreciation with a special one-time Thank You bonus totaling over $500 million,” wrote Dave Clark, Amazon’s Senior Vice-President of Worldwide Operations.

Rewards for employees and partners

Amazon stated that all front-line employees and partners who were with the company throughout the month of June (June 1 – June 30, 2020) will receive a bonus of:

  • $500 for full-time Amazon employees, Whole Foods Market employees, and Delivery Service Partner drivers

  • $250 for part-time Amazon employees, Whole Foods Market employees, and Delivery Service Partner drivers

  • $1,000 for all front-line Amazon and Whole Foods Market leaders

  • $3,000 for our Delivery Service Partner owners

  • $150 for each Amazon Flex driver with more than 10 hours in June

“Again, my thanks and gratitude for the truly remarkable commitment to customers you have shown throughout this journey. I have never been more proud of our teams,” Clark concluded.

Amazon employees took to Reddit to express their gratitude, although there were a few who grumbled about supposedly having to wait until the end of July to see the money in their account. There was also some dissatisfaction coming from Amazon employees who work from home and appear to be cut out of the bonuses.

In the midst of all the coronavirus-related push-and-pull between Amazon and its employees, there’s a new one to add to the positive side of the equation....
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Amazon’s brand value jumps amid the coronavirus shutdown

The online retailer sits atop a ranking of the most valuable brand

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) began to shut down large parts of the U.S. economy in March, some companies struggled while others did quite well. Amazon is a prime example.

In their annual ranking -- BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Brands -- WPP and Kantar keep Amazon at number one, reporting that the last few months have only served to enhance its position atop the retail food chain.

Amazon has moved up the rankings since 2006. In this year’s evaluation of businesses, the Amazon brand increased in value by nearly $100 billion, growing 32 percent. Amazon’s brand value of $415 billion accounts for a third of the Top 100's total growth.

The ranking is based on a number of factors, including its stock price performance from April 2020 to reflect the impact of COVID-19. A handful of companies, most of which are highly valued by consumers, were able to consistently invest in longer-term marketing and make their brands even stronger during the health and economic crisis.

A strong showing by tech companies

In addition to Amazon, other technology brands are clustered at the top of this year’s ranking.  Apple maintained its position as the second most valuable global brand, growing 14 percent to $352.2 billion. 

Microsoft moved back up to the number three position, turning in a 30 percent gain in value to $326.5 billion. Google slipped to fourth place, growing its brand by 5 percent to a value of $323.6 billion.

Microsoft benefited from the shift to a work-from-home environment, enjoying strong growth in its cloud-enabled workplace ecosystem that incorporates Office365 and Microsoft Teams to allow people to maintain 'business as usual' during the lockdown.

Other technology companies improving their brand standing this year include Netflix, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Xbox.

"The continued growth in value of the BrandZ Top 100 shows that strong brands are in a much better place than they were in the global economic crisis of 2008-2009,” said David Roth, chairman of BrandZ. “While the impact of COVID-19 has impacted every business regardless of size or geography, consistent investment in marketing can and will help carry you through a crisis."

With most consumers ordering everything from dinner to household supplies from home, payment systems also improved their brand values during the shutdown. Visa held onto 5th place with 5 percent growth and Mastercard moved from 12th to 10th place in the rankings.

In the top 10, Facebook and McDonald’s were the only brands to lose ground this year. Facebook saw the value of its brand decline by 7 percent while McDonald’s lost only 1 percent.

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) began to shut down large parts of the U.S. economy in March, some companies struggled while others did quite well. Amazon is...
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Amazon creates new Counterfeit Crimes Unit to wipe out fake products

The company says it will go to the ends of the earth to track down the fakers and bring them to justice

Amazon has been fighting counterfeit goods for years, but now it’s going after the fakers hard and heavy. 

On Wednesday, it announced that it has established a new Counterfeit Crimes Unit -- an initiative with a dual purpose: to keep the fake products off their platform and bring the hoodwinkers to justice.

As shopping moves online, consumers need more protection

Any consumer who’s sought out the “deal of a lifetime” has probably come across fake, counterfeit products. As consumer habits move from brick and mortar retailers to online ones, the problem has gotten worse. 

Especially hard hit is the clothing product sector. As of 2020, annual sales losses from counterfeiting in the clothing sector alone amounted to nearly $27 billion -- an amount nearly equal to the $30 billion in sales that Amazon rings up in that category.

Another concern is consumer safety. Rarely thought of as a side-effect of a counterfeit product, just last year, an investigation indicated that thousands of items on Amazon’s site were either banned or declared unsafe by federal agencies.

Attack mode

Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit is a far cry from the typical Amazon warehouse jobs we read about. Rather, it’s a brigade of former federal prosecutors, veteran investigators, and data analysts.

Amazon says its first order of business is to prevent a counterfeit from ever being listed on its platform. The company says its current anti-counterfeit programs have ensured that 99.9 percent of all Amazon products viewed by customers did not have a valid counterfeit complaint. Still, that tiny tenth of a percent that makes it through without getting caught is a problem. 

The new unit will have a cocked eye aimed at any bad actor who has tried to get past Amazon’s gatekeepers before. Those fraudsters may have gotten off with no more than a slap on the wrist when they first tried to get a counterfeit good listed, but Amazon says it’s going to more effectively pursue civil litigation against bad actors this time around.

Getting as close to the source as possible

Finding the counterfeiters won’t be easy. Since China came down on its infamous counterfeit industry, many of its fakers have taken to promoting their knock-offs on social messaging networks like WeChat, Instagram, and Tik Tok. Buyers then order and pay through private messaging apps.

Amazon realizes that it must go everywhere, not just underground, to catch these bad actors. Just last month, Amazon identified counterfeiters based in Canada, China, the Dominican Republic, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

To get to square one, the new unit is enhancing its engagement with authorities like the National Intellectual Property Rights Center (U.S.), Europol (EU), and relevant enforcement authorities in China and around the world. And while it doesn’t have jurisdiction in all those places, it says it will turn over each and every fake to relevant national authorities.

“Every counterfeiter is on notice that they will be held accountable to the maximum extent possible under the law, regardless of where they attempt to sell their counterfeits or where they’re located,” said Dharmesh Mehta, Vice President, Customer Trust and Partner Support, Amazon. 

“We are working hard to disrupt and dismantle these criminal networks, and we applaud the law enforcement authorities who are already part of this fight. We urge governments to give these authorities the investigative tools, funding, and resources they need to bring criminal counterfeiters to justice because criminal enforcement – through prosecution and other disruption measures such as freezing assets – is one of the most effective ways to stop them.”

Amazon has been fighting counterfeit goods for years, but now it’s going after the fakers hard and heavy. On Wednesday, it announced that it has establ...
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Amazon announces new climate change investment

An initial $2 billion will go to companies developing technology to combat climate change

Amazon on Tuesday announced that it’s pledging $2 billion to invest in startups working on “sustainable and decarbonizing technologies.” 

The Climate Pledge Fund will funnel $2 billion into companies developing technologies that will help Amazon reach its goal of becoming net carbon neutral by 2040. Amazon said the $2 billion is just a starting point; more could be added to the fund at a later date. 

“This dedicated investment program—with an initial $2 billion in funding—will invest in visionary companies whose products and solutions will facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy,” the company said in a statement. 

CEO Jeff Bezos added that companies of “all sizes and stages will be considered, from pre-product start-ups to well-established enterprises.” 

“Each prospective investment will be judged on its potential to accelerate the path to zero carbon and help protect the planet for future generations,” Bezos said. 

Investing in clean energy

Last fall, Amazon announced that it would be committing to dramatically reducing its impact on the environment. Under its “Climate Pledge,” the e-commerce giant vowed to go carbon neutral within the next two decades. In a sustainability report on Tuesday, the company said it now expects to operate exclusively on clean energy by 2025.

Amazon also pledged to meet the standards established under the Paris climate agreement by 2040, a full ten years ahead of the Paris accord’s timeline. The company has also agreed to purchase 100,000 electric delivery vans from EV startup Rivian. Bezos said he expects the vans to be on the road by 2024. 

Earlier this year, Amazon announced that it launched a new “Bezos Earth Fund” which aimed to fight climate change. Bezos pledged $10 billion to start the fund, through which climate-focused scientists and activists would receive grants. 

“We can save Earth,” Bezos wrote on Instagram. “It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals.”

Amazon on Tuesday announced that it’s pledging $2 billion to invest in startups working on “sustainable and decarbonizing technologies.” The Climate Pl...
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Amazon enacts one-year ban on police use of its facial recognition technology

The company says tougher and more ethical rules need to be put in place

Amazon announced on Thursday that it’s banning police use of its facial recognition technology, Rekognition, for one year. The company said it’s halting the use of technology until officials establish tougher rules regarding its use. 

“We’ve advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology,” Amazon said in a blog post

The e-commerce giant didn’t exactly say why it was suspending use of the technology, but it noted that Congress “appears ready” to create more stringent regulations pertaining to the use of facial recognition. 

Establishing rules

Amazon’s statement comes just two days after IBM announced that it would be exiting the general-purpose facial recognition game, mainly due to its potential to be used for racial profiling and mass surveillance. IBM said Thursday that facial recognition or analysis software could be used by police to violate "basic human rights and freedoms, which would violate its values. 

“We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested,” Amazon said in a blog post. 

In its brief announcement, Amazon didn’t specifically mention the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. However, the company’s announcement comes less than two weeks after the incident. Floyd’s death set off numerous protests against police brutality and racism and sparked a nationwide push for change. 

Amazon will still allow facial recognition to be used for commercial purposes and organizations like the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help find victims of human trafficking. 

Amazon announced on Thursday that it’s banning police use of its facial recognition technology, Rekognition, for one year. The company said it’s halting th...
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Amazon may soon face antitrust charges over its treatment of third-party sellers

An EU investigation has reportedly revealed that the company uses data from third-party sellers to compete against them

Following a lengthy investigation into Amazon’s treatment of third-party sellers, the European Commission (EC) plans to lodge formal antitrust charges against Amazon, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

Citing sources familiar with the matter, the Journal said the charges will likely come sometime within the next two weeks. The watchdog group reportedly intends to accuse Amazon of using data from third-party sellers to compete against them.

EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager said last year that Amazon “appears to use competitively sensitive information – about marketplace sellers, their products and transactions on the marketplace.” 

"Amazon appears to use competitively sensitive information about marketplace sellers, their products and transactions on the marketplace," the EU said in July 2019, when it first launched the investigation. 

Scrutiny over business practices

During the course of the probe, Vestager said the EU would "take a very close look at Amazon's business practices and its dual role as marketplace and retailer, to assess its compliance with EU competition rules."

In April, more than 20 former Amazon employees told the Journal that Amazon had used seller data to help design and price its in-house products. Amazon maintained that it "strictly prohibt[s]" its employees from using that data and said it had launched an internal investigation into the matter. 

A decision on whether the company violated competition laws is "expected to take at least another year," according to the report. If Amazon is ultimately found to have violated competition laws, it could face a fine of 10 percent of its annual revenue, the report says. 

Following a lengthy investigation into Amazon’s treatment of third-party sellers, the European Commission (EC) plans to lodge formal antitrust charges agai...
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Amazon to hold invitation-only sale to boost the economy

The intention is for everyone to win -- sellers, consumers, and the economy

With Prime Day being pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon has decided there’s another way to make some hay -- hold an invitation-only sale!

On Tuesday, the online retailer sent word to sellers that it’s hosting a “Fashion Summer Sale Event” -- with the working title of “Biggest Sale in the Sky” -- on Monday, June 22. However, Amazon is only offering participation in the event to sellers it chooses.

According to a document seen by CNBC, Amazon is leaving the length of the sale open-ended, but the expected length is seven to 10 days. 

Everybody wins

Amazon styled the event as a boost to the economy as the pandemic fades and a new normal emerges. “We are having the Biggest Summer Sale event to drive excitement and jump-start sales,” the notice states. “To drive customer engagement, we are asking for your participation.”

To make sure everyone -- the economy, the consumer, and the seller -- all win, the company is asking sellers to come up with deals that have discounts of at least 30 percent off by the end of the day Wednesday (June 3).

Things are still iffy at Amazon

With the pandemic continuing to play havoc with both warehouses and employees, Amazon is trying to find some new footing. Things are so unsettled at Amazon that it pushed its mammoth Prime Day back indefinitely. Company CFO Brian Olsavsky also told analysts recently that he couldn't predict when the platform's oft-flaunted one-day Prime shipping feature would resume. 

Since Amazon employees started kicking up dust about working conditions related to COVID-19, the company has tried to reverse that narrative. To that end, the company also announced on Tuesday that it is offering a new family care benefit to 650,000+ U.S. employees.

The new benefit will provide each employee a host of options ranging from 10 days of subsidized emergency backup child or adult care and a $25 per day co-pay for in-center childcare.

With Prime Day being pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon has decided there’s another way to make some hay -- hold an invitation-only sale!...
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Amazon asks Congress to enact anti-price gouging legislation

The online giant feels it can’t fight this consumer rip-off alone no matter how hard it tries

When the pandemic started to hit its stride, Amazon found itself in a swamp of carpetbaggers who were holding consumers hostage on essentials like toilet paper and face masks. The company subsequently booted thousands of sellers from its platform. 

Nonetheless, there's still plenty who are trying to profit on pandemic-related necessities, albeit at a lower ransom. As an example, ConsumerAffairs found a five-pack of 2 oz. hand sanitizer on Amazon for $22.99 (plus $7.99 s/h) where at CVS, you can buy five of its store-branded products for $7.95.

Fast forward to Thursday, and it looks like Amazon has had its fill of price gougers. The online retail giant is asking Congress to pass a law to help stop the consumer stick-up once and for all.

No surprise

It's nothing new to see entrepreneurs trying to capitalize on a large event. However, profiting off a pandemic is not the same as hawking World Series t-shirts to the winning team's fans.

"This isn't a surprise. Whenever the demand for basic necessities increases, there are bad actors who try to exploit circumstances by marking up goods in a way that goes far beyond the laws of supply and demand," Amazon's Brian Huseman -- who oversees public policy for the Americas at Amazon and is a former consumer protection attorney at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission -- wrote in a blog post.

Huseman says the company has done everything in its power to stop the overcharging. It removed more than 500,000 rip-offs and turned over a volume of suspected sellers to federal prosecutors and state attorneys general. However, the company feels this is a battle that it can't fight by itself.

Officials say it’s difficult to go state-to-state to try to stop gougers on their home turf. That state-to-state element is particularly challenging to wrestle because some states define gouging as a price ranging from 10 percent to 25 percent above average sales prices, and some states have no price-gouging laws at all.

"Our collaborative efforts to hold price gougers accountable have clarified one thing: to keep pace with bad actors and protect consumers, we need a strong federal anti-price gouging law," Huseman said. “The disparate standards among states present a significant challenge for retailers working to assist law enforcement, protect consumers, and comply with the law.”

Amazon offers a solution

To help grease the skids for federal regulators, Amazon has crafted a blueprint that it thinks could do the trick. When the federal government declares a public health crisis or national emergency, the law kicks in immediately. 

Amazon suggests that pricing prohibitions be defined as "unconscionable or grossly excessive or unconscionably excessive." 

"Put simply, we want to avoid the $400 bottle of Purell for sale right after an emergency goes into effect, while not punishing unavoidable price increases that emergencies can cause, especially as supply chains are disrupted," Huseman said.

Protecting consumers is the important thing

The bottom line is that Amazon can't afford to tick off its customers. When a price-gouger fleeces a consumer, it's usually Amazon who catches grief, not the gouger. And while this move may be a few months too late, it could bode well for both the company and consumers.

"A federal price-gouging law would ensure that there are no gaps in protection for consumers. This would also help retailers like Amazon more effectively prevent bad actors and ensure fair prices," Huseman said. 

Huseman feels that having the U.S. government driving this enforcement can make everyone happy. "We believe any new legislative proposal should provide the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to go after scammers," he concluded. 

"This would complement the great work being done by state attorneys general nationwide and allow for more expeditious enforcement, while also sending a warning shot to price gougers and enabling honest sellers to operate without disruption."

When the pandemic started to hit its stride, Amazon found itself in a swamp of carpetbaggers who were holding consumers hostage on essentials like toilet p...
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Amazon shows signs of resuming normal service

The company told sellers that it will no longer restrict new product shipments by quantity

Amazon has made moves to suggest that it is easing COVID-19 shipping restrictions, such as delaying shipments of nonessential items. 

Over the weekend, the company began informing third-party sellers that it would no longer limit the number of units that sellers could send per order to its warehouses. Amazon previously placed a cap on nonessential inventory restocks as it dealt with the sudden surge in consumer demand for products on its marketplace.  

Now, sellers have been informed that they can send in an unrestricted quantity of inventory. 

“We removed quantity limits on products our suppliers can send to our fulfillment centers,” Kristen Kish, an Amazon spokeswoman told CNBC. “We continue to adhere to extensive health and safety measures to protect our associates as they pick, pack and ship products to customers, and are improving delivery speeds across our store.” 

Amazon has also brought back the “Featured deals” and “Frequently bought together” sections on its website, indicating that the company isn’t as crushed by demand as it was in the initial stages of the pandemic. 

The e-commerce giant hasn’t yet restored its one- and two-day delivery options, but next-day delivery is now starting to come back online for select cities in the U.S.

Hazard pay for workers

In addition to loosening some shipping restrictions, Amazon will be extending hazard pay to warehouse workers through the end of May. The company will stop offering the extra pay in June, according to a Recode report.  

Amazon has faced criticism over its treatment of front-line workers during the pandemic. Lawmakers and activist groups have argued that the company isn’t doing enough to protect warehouse workers who have continued to work during the health crisis and have been forced to work in facilities where other employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

Amazon is currently being investigated by The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over its recent firing of at least four workers who spoke out about the company’s allegedly unsafe working conditions during the coronavirus crisis. 

In mid-March, the company increased warehouse and delivery employee pay by $2 per hour and instated double overtime pay. After extending the pay hike several times, the increases will now end on May 31.

“We continue to see incredible demand from customers right now and … our team’s response in coming back to work has been really great as well,” Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, told Recode. “We think it’s the right thing for employees and the right thing for customers to keep it on for a couple of weeks.”

Amazon has made moves to suggest that it is easing COVID-19 shipping restrictions, such as delaying shipments of nonessential items. Over the weekend,...
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Senators question Amazon over termination of COVID-19 whistleblowers

Democratic senators want to know why the company fired people who spoke publicly about concerns

Amazon has fired at least four employees who publicly expressed concern about the company’s COVID-19 health and safety measures, and now a group of senators want to know why.  

On Wednesday, senators including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker sent a letter to Amazon asking about its “policies for discipline and termination regarding workers who raise health and safety concerns.” 

The group of senators noted that more than 100 Amazon workers have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least three fulfillment center employees have died. In light of these numbers, the senators asserted that Amazon’s efforts to boost worker safety during the health crisis have been insufficient. 

Employees have the right to speak up 

The letter stated that employers have a duty to ensure that workplaces are “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.” Additionally, employees should have the right to speak up about concerns “without fear of retaliation.”

“Given the clear public history of these four workers’ advocacy on behalf of health and safety conditions for workers in Amazon warehouses preceding their terminations, and Amazon’s vague public statements regarding violations of ‘internal policies,’ we are seeking additional information to understand exactly what those internal policies are,” the senators wrote.

Amazon has until May 20 to provide answers to nine questions raised by the group of senators. The company has maintained that it terminated the employees in question for repeatedly violating policies such as physical distancing, not for talking publicly about working conditions or safety. 

“We support every employees’ right to criticize or protest their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies,” the company said in a statement. “We look forward to explaining in more detail in our response to the Senators’ letter.”

Amazon has fired at least four employees who publicly expressed concern about the company’s COVID-19 health and safety measures, and now a group of senator...
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Amazon’s Bezos called to testify before Congress over competition concerns

Is it ‘standard operating procedure,’ or does Amazon have prying eyes where it shouldn’t?

Just last week, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked the Justice Department to open a criminal antitrust investigation into Amazon’s business practices. On Friday, that request moved up a notch when Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos received word that the House Judiciary Committee would like him to fly to Capitol Hill and testify before the group regarding competition concerns. 

The pieces of the puzzle started back on April 23, when the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon had utilized confidential information from the company’s third-party sellers in order to develop competing products under the Amazon private label banner. The Journal’s investigation ran counter to the sworn testimony that Amazon's associate general counsel, Nate Sutton, gave to the committee last July. 

Adding validation to the claim, the Journal based its report on interviews with over 20 former or current Amazon employees and the company’s internal documents. The outlet’s claims are also supported by findings of the European Commission, which has opened an antitrust investigation into Amazon for similar conduct.

Claims of exploiting third-party sellers

It’s important to note that it’s not that Amazon copies other products; all told, the company has more than 450 private labels and exclusive brands. Rather, the allegations claim that the company has gone too far by allowing its Amazon employees’ conduct to violate formal policy against the use of non-public, individual seller data. The Committee opened its letter to Bezos by getting right to that point. 

“If these allegations are true, then Amazon exploited its role as the largest online marketplace in the U.S. to appropriate the sensitive commercial data of individual marketplace sellers and then used that data to compete directly with those sellers,” the Committee wrote.

The letter continued by urging Bezos to respond to claims that employees violated the company’s policy against the use of non-public, individual seller data; reports that Amazon employees described pulling competitors’ data as “‘standard operating procedure’ when making products such as electronics, suitcases, sporting goods or other lines;” and reports that employees said that management set highly aggressive targets for Amazon’s private label business.

First congressional hearing for Bezos

Going in front of Congress will be something new for Bezos. Of the Big Tech stalwarts -- Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon -- Bezos is the only CEO that’s never gone before a Congressional committee.

The committee left the date for Bezos to appear open-ended, but it did say that it expects Bezos, as Amazon’s chief executive, to testify voluntarily and help sort this matter out. If not, it reserves “the right to compulsory process if necessary.” 

“It is vital to the Committee, as part of its critical work investigating and understanding competition issues in the digital market, that Amazon respond to these and other critical questions concerning competition issues in digital markets.”

Just last week, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked the Justice Department to open a criminal antitrust investigation into Amazon’s business practices. On Frida...
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Senator asks for criminal antitrust investigation of Amazon

The lawmaker claims Amazon accesses third-party vendor data to launch competing products

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is asking the Justice Department to open a criminal antitrust investigation into Amazon’s business practices. Hawley made the request in a letter to Attorney General William Barr.

Hawley’s action follows a report in The Wall Street Journal which claimed that Amazon had used sales data from its third party sellers to develop competing Amazon-branded products. 

The Journal said it interviewed more than 20 former employees of Amazon’s private-label business and reviewed documents showing the online retailer used proprietary data it got from its third-party vendors to develop competing products. Previously, the company told Congress that it does not do that.

Amazon’s response

In a statement, Amazon said that it looks at sales data to provide consumers with “the best possible experience” but insisted Amazon employees are barred from accessing non-public data to decide which private label products to develop and sell.

But the newspaper article cited an example of Amazon employees obtaining data about a popular car-trunk organizer offered on its site by a third-party vendor and analyzing the information to decide whether to launch a competing product.

In his letter to Barr, Hawley cited The Journal’s interviews with former Amazon employees and internal company documents obtained by the newspaper as strong evidence of antitrust violations.

“Amazon abuses its position as an online platform and collects detailed data about merchandise so Amazon can create copycat products under an Amazon brand,” Hawley wrote.

Amazon said it is conducting its own internal investigation of the issue, reiterating that company policy prohibits employees from accessing sales data from third-party vendors on the site in order to develop competing products.

Big Tech critic

Hawley, who was Missouri’s attorney general before being elected to the Senate in 2018, has been a frequent critic of Amazon, as well as other large technology firms. A week ago, he fired off letters to Alphabet (Google) CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook, raising concerns about their contact tracing projects during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

"If you seek to assure the public, make your stake in this project personal,” Hawley told the executives. “Make a commitment that you and other executives will be personally liable if you stop protecting privacy.”

Hawley said he is concerned that the tech firms will sell the data it collects during contact tracing to advertising firms to target products to consumers.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is asking the Justice Department to open a criminal antitrust investigation into Amazon’s business practices. Hawley made the requ...
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Amazon ramps up authentication procedure for third-party sellers with video calls

With 58 percent of its sales coming from third-parties, the company can’t risk having fraudsters rip off customers

On paper, anyone can be a Tom, Dick, or Harry, but on-screen, the chances are slimmer that someone can pull off an impersonation. At least that’s what Amazon is hoping for in a new test designed to authenticate third-party sellers and minimize its chances of getting bitten by a fraudster.

When the company started its campaign to validate candidates, its preference was meet potential applicants in person, but when COVID-19 looked like it wasn’t going anywhere for a while, the company turned to video calls.  

Third-party business is Amazon’s wellspring. A whopping 58 percent of its gross sales come from third-party sellers. In late 2019, the company made dramatic changes to its policies to try to curry these sellers’ favor by making things fairer. 

“As we practice social distancing, we are testing a process that allows us to validate prospective sellers’ identification via video conferencing,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement, “This pilot allows us to connect one-on-one with prospective sellers while making it even more difficult for fraudsters to hide.”

Hoping this change will do the trick

Amazon’s caught the ire of a Wall Street Journal investigation in 2019 for its substandard scrutiny of third-party sellers.

“In practice, Amazon has increasingly evolved like a flea market. It exercises limited oversight over items listed by millions of third-party sellers, many of them anonymous, many in China, some offering scant information,” the Journal wrote.

The result of Amazon’s lax attitude toward that seller group was a scourge of mislabeled or banned products, counterfeit goods, and even some items that had been declared “unsafe” by federal agencies.

Amazon’s new video authentication procedure is in beta in the U.S., U.K., China, and Japan. The natural, modern-day inclination would be to think that the process uses facial recognition. However, Amazon has decided to take a more personable route in trying to make the process as non-Big Brother-like as possible.

According to GeekWire’s confirmation of the process, Amazon will use its Chime video-conferencing technology -- similar to Zoom or Skype -- to make the calls to applicants. Once online, an Amazon representative double-checks the prospective seller’s ID to make sure it matches the person they’re talking to on-screen, as well as the documents the seller has provided in the application. Amazon says that, so far, more than 1,000 prospective sellers have gone through the screening process.

On paper, anyone can be a Tom, Dick, or Harry, but on-screen, the chances are slimmer that someone can pull off an impersonation. At least that’s what Amaz...
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Amazon same-day delivery can now take as little as 5 hours in some areas

The company’s investment in infrastructure is making consumer advantages like this happen

It’s not quite to the “as quick as you can say Jack Robinson” stage, but some Amazon customers will soon be able to get their deliveries in less than five hours.

The online shopping mecca is accelerating its same-day delivery for customers in Dallas, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Phoenix thanks to a $1.5 billion investment in its fulfillment centers in those areas.

How quick and what’s available

The time an order is delivered depends greatly on when it’s placed in these areas: 

  • Orders placed between Midnight and 8am, local time, will be delivered by 1pm; 

  • Orders placed between 8am and 1pm will be delivered by 6pm; 

  • Orders placed between 1pm and 5pm will arrive by 10pm; and 

  • Orders placed between 5pm and Midnight will arrive by 8am the next day.

Customers shouldn't expect anything and everything to make it to their doorstep at lightning speed, but Amazon says its list of available items is in the 3 million range and includes lots of I-need-it-quick items like diapers, dog food, and device chargers. Eligible items are products marked with “Prime FREE Same-Day Delivery”.

“Making so many daily deliveries across such a large selection of products isn’t an easy job,” Amazon’s Jon Alexander wrote in a blog post explaining the investment Amazon made in its warehouses to facilitate improvements like this. “We’re able to do so by storing need-it-today items in brand new facilities we built even closer to customers. These are first-of-their-kind buildings and serve as mini-fulfillment centers optimized for faster click-to-delivery speeds.”

“And while it may seem counterintuitive, the faster delivery speeds enabled by these facilities actually help us lower carbon emissions in line with our Climate Pledge to be net zero carbon by 2040 -- 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement. This is because these new facilities are in close proximity to customers, reducing the need for aircraft transport and generally decreasing the distance drivers have to travel to deliver packages to our customers,” Alexander said.

It’ll cost you

You may have thought that this bump-up in service is a total freebie, but that’s not quite the case. Prime members who spend over $35 will get the service gratis, but for any total order under $35, the sped-up delivery will cost an extra $2.99. 

Amazon will no doubt be adding new markets for the faster delivery service. The best thing consumers can do to stay on top of when the service will become available for them is by entering their zip code on Amazon’s same-day delivery page.

It’s not quite to the “as quick as you can say Jack Robinson” stage, but some Amazon customers will soon be able to get their deliveries in less than five...
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Amazon opens the doors to its first Go supermarket

The cashless, checkout-free concept starts in Seattle with 5,000 items on the shelves

You: “Alexa, take me to that new Amazon Go supermarket.”

Alexa: “Pack your bags -- we’re off to Seattle!”

Never at a loss for trying something new, Amazon has just launched its first Amazon Go Grocery, with Seattle getting the nod as the idea’s geo launchpad.

Nearly 5,000 items will be on shelves laid out over a 10,400-square-foot space (about half the size of the smallest Wal-Mart). The initiative is essentially a heftier version of its app-driven, checkout-free Amazon Go convenience store, with a wider range of products like wine and organic vegetables. 

The other major difference is that the updated idea will be closer to residential areas, most likely as a test to see how it fares versus traditional grocers like Publix, Kroger, and Safeway.

Thinking ahead

As is the case with anything digital, cashless, or app-driven, there’s always the possibility of bumps in the road, but Amazon has done its best to predict those. 

One example would be how a shopper tends to pick up produce like avocados or tomatoes and compare size and freshness. To get over that hurdle, Amazon is keeping track of moments when consumers physically pick up items by using in-store cameras. When the item is put back, the store’s systems register what the product is so it can be checked later on. 

“Most of the things at Amazon Go are packaged, or they’re single items like a can of Coke,” Dilip Kumar, vice president of Amazon’s Physical Retail and Technology department, told GeekWire. “But here, people are shopping for potatoes or they’re shopping for onions — there’s a lot more browsing and rummaging that tends to happen. That’s what makes this problem a lot more complicated.”

Anything missing?

Amazon has thought everything out pretty well. Staying competitive with typical grocery chains, it has prepared “Meals Made Easy” selections, cat litter, toiletries, baked goods, and even alcohol like wine and beer. 

However, if you’re a meat lover and like to talk to the butcher, the supersized version of Amazon Go might not be for you. Yes, there is beef, seafood, and poultry, but all of that is pre-cut and pre-wrapped. 

Go big or go home

Amazon appears ready to expand this concept if all goes well. In comments to The Wall Street Journal, Kumar said that there is “no real upper bound” to the store concept. “It could be five times as big, it could be 10 times as big." 

One question that came up as ConsumerAffairs was doing the legwork on this story was what happens to Whole Foods. While some marketing brains might think Amazon is cannibalizing itself by having two grocery brands, the company feels it can satisfy two distinct and different groups of grocery shoppers without hurting either one. 

One of those differentiators is home delivery, an add-on that Whole Foods keeps expanding on and one that Go will likely avoid.

You: “Alexa, take me to that new Amazon Go supermarket.”Alexa: “Pack your bags -- we’re off to Seattle!”Never at a loss for trying something new, A...
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Amazon seeks to depose President Trump and other officials over Pentagon contract

The company alleges that the decision was politically biased

Back in November, Amazon filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s decision to choose Microsoft for a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the Pentagon. Now, the company is going a step further by seeking depositions from several federal officials -- including Defense Secretary Mark Esper, former Defense Secretary James Mattis, and President Donald Trump. 

The company has already alleged that the government's decision was based on political considerations. In a statement, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) spokesperson pointed to President Trump’s supposed penchant for using political position to his advantage. 

“President Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to use his position as President and Commander in Chief to interfere with government functions -- including federal procurements -- to advance his personal agenda,” a spokesperson said. 

“The preservation of public confidence in the nation’s procurement process requires discovery and supplementation of the administrative record, particularly in light of President Trump’s order to ‘screw Amazon.’ The question is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of the [Department of Defense] to pursue his own personal and political ends.”

“Unmistakable bias”

The $10 billion cloud computing contract -- otherwise known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract -- is meant to provide the military with better access to technology and information when working in remote areas of the world. 

In a legal motion filed last month, Amazon requested that the current contract set up between the federal government and Microsoft not be allowed to take effect until after its lawsuit has been dealt with. 

“It’s critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence. Numerous aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias -- and it’s important that these matters be examined and rectified,” said Amazon spokesperson Drew Herdener. 

Back in November, Amazon filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s decision to choose Microsoft for a $10 billion cloud computing contract with...
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Amazon files motion to stop Microsoft/Pentagon contract

The company says the agreement shouldn’t go into effect until after its legal challenge is dealt with

Being passed over for a big contract can be frustrating for any company, but Amazon isn’t going to take a recent government decision lying down. 

Reuters reports that the online retailing giant filed a motion earlier this week to stop a contract between Microsoft and Pentagon from taking effect until after its legal challenge to the deal has been dealt with. 

Amazon alleged back in November that the Pentagon awarded Microsoft a massive cloud contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Project -- known as JEDI -- based on political considerations. The company said it lost out on $10 billion in potential revenue by being passed over. 

“It’s critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence,” Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said in a statement back in November. “Numerous aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias -- and it’s important that these matters be examined and rectified.”

Protesting the contract

The JEDI contract is meant to provide the military with better access to the technology and information it needs when working in remote locations around the world. In challenging the government’s decision to work with Microsoft, Amazon said that it wouldn’t be proper for the contract to proceed while its legal challenge is still being considered.

“It is common practice to stay contract performance while a protest is pending, and it’s important that the numerous evaluation errors and blatant political interference that impacted the JEDI award decision be reviewed,” Amazon Web Services said in a statement. 

Officials at the Pentagon have rejected the notion that its choice to work with Microsoft was made with political considerations. 

Being passed over for a big contract can be frustrating for any company, but Amazon isn’t going to take a recent government decision lying down. Reuter...
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Amazon wins big over holiday season

The online retailer sold billions of products and had millions of Prime sign-ups

If you were to take stock following the holiday shopping season, it would be hard to find an area in which Amazon didn’t see growth. 

Despite a shorter holiday shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the online retailer reports that it sold billions of items through its network and signed up millions of consumers for its Prime membership. The company cited special deals on some of the busiest shopping days throughout November and December as being a big driver for its success.

“Throughout the season, Amazon offered customers incredible deals every day and deeper discounts and more Deals of the Day than ever before during shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” the company said. 

Amazon devices and Prime memberships

While independent and third-party companies that use Amazon’s network produced over a billion sales over the holiday period, the online retailer says that some of its own products and services were big hits with consumers this year. 

The company says it sold “tens of millions” of Amazon devices, including the Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, and Echo Show 5. It also experienced an 80 percent year-over-year increase in the number of people who used its grocery delivery service through Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh.

Perhaps the biggest highlight may have been the number of consumers who signed up for Amazon’s Prime membership. The company reports that over five million consumers signed up for the program over the holidays, though it remains to be seen if those memberships will hold as we move into 2020. 

“This holiday season has been better than ever thanks to our customers and employees all around the world,” added Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “On behalf of all Amazonians, we wish everyone the happiest of holidays and a fantastic 2020.”

If you were to take stock following the holiday shopping season, it would be hard to find an area in which Amazon didn’t see growth. Despite a shorter...
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Amazon prohibits sellers from using FedEx ground delivery shipping for Prime orders

The shipping company argues that the move may prevent holiday packages from being delivered on time

Competition between Amazon and FedEx may be heating up, but it could come at a bad time for consumers who are depending on the services for holiday deliveries. 

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports that Amazon has blocked third-party sellers on its site from using FedEx’s ground delivery service for consumers’ Prime orders. While sellers can still use FedEx’s ground delivery for standard orders or its Express delivery for Prime orders, the move will likely have an impact on package delivery during a busy holiday season. 

“While this decision affects a very small number of shippers, it limits the options for those small businesses on some of the highest demand shipping days in history, and may compromise their ability to meet customer demands and manage their businesses,” a FedEx spokesperson told CNBC, adding that the company will still try to support its customers to the best of its ability.

Amazon reportedly told third-party sellers that it based its decision to limit shipping options through FedEx to ensure that customers could receive their packages on time during a period of high package traffic.

Growing competition

FedEx and Amazon may continue to butt heads as each company tries to take more control of the ecommerce space. Earlier this year, FedEx announced that it would be severing ties with the online retailer by ending its ground delivery contract and no longer shipping packages by air via FedEx Express.

However, Amazon has been making moves of its own to become more self-reliant from a shipping standpoint. It has been working to expand its own ground delivery fleet so that it can deliver customers’ packages on its own.

“We are constantly innovating to improve the carrier experience and sometimes that means reevaluating our carrier relationships. FedEx has been a great partner over the years and we appreciate all their work delivering packages to our customers,” the company said following the termination of its contract with the company.

Competition between Amazon and FedEx may be heating up, but it could come at a bad time for consumers who are depending on the services for holiday deliver...
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Amazon removes Christmas ornaments bearing images of Nazi death camp

The Auschwitz Memorial discovered the listing and alerted the online retailer

Amazon has removed a series of products from its site after the operators of Poland’s Auschwitz Memorial said the products bore the images of the Nazi death camp.

The images were found on Christmas ornaments, bottle openers, key rings, and mouse mats.

“Selling ‘Christmas ornaments’ with images of Auschwitz does not seem appropriate,” the Auschwitz Memorial posted on its Twitter feed. “Auschwitz on a bottle opener is rather disturbing and disrespectful. We ask @amazon to remove the items of those suppliers.”

Amazon did so almost immediately. In a statement to the media, the online retailer said sellers that don’t follow Amazon’s selling guidelines are “subject to action,” including the closing of their selling account. The guidelines prohibit the sale of “products related to human tragedies and natural disasters.” 

Auschwitz is perhaps the most notorious of the Nazis’ concentration camps. An estimated 1 million people died there during World War II.

Third-party seller

The items were offered for sale by an unidentified third-party seller, not by Amazon itself. The Auschwitz Memorial posted screenshots of the online product descriptions. Each product depicted old, institutional-type buildings that were not identified with a location. One product carried a description that said: “The ideal city souvenir to commemorate and share the cities you have visited.” 

Neither Amazon nor the Auschwitz Memorial speculated about the motive for the product offerings -- whether they were intended to promote a neo-Nazi ideology or were simply the result of tone-deaf marketing.

However, this isn’t the first time that something like this has happened. CNBC reported last year that Amazon had removed some products from its site -- including infant clothing -- that carried Ku Klux Klan and Nazi symbols.

Amazon has removed a series of products from its site after the operators of Poland’s Auschwitz Memorial said the products bore the images of the Nazi deat...
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Amazon challenges the awarding of the Pentagon’s JEDI project to Microsoft

The company has filed a lawsuit saying it should have gotten the contract

It’s often said, “You can’t fight City Hall” -- but when you’re as big as Amazon, maybe you can. At least it’s going to try.

Amazon, which also operates one of the world’s largest cloud services companies -- AWS -- has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, claiming politics played a role in its loss of a huge Pentagon contract to rival Microsoft.

The company has taken its complaint to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims after expressing its displeasure at losing the $10 billion cloud contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure project, known as JEDI.

It’s unusual but not unprecedented for a losing bidder on a government contract to go to court. In this case, Amazon believed it would land the deal because it is the biggest player in the industry and it has a track record with the national security establishment, having provided similar services for the CIA.

But there may be another factor at work here -- at least Amazon thinks there is. Amazon’s CEO is Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, which is not one of President Trump’s favorite publications. In its filing, the company suggests that its loss of the contract has political overtones.

‘Free from political influence’

“It’s critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence,” Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said in a statement to the media. “Numerous aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias -- and it’s important that these matters be examined and rectified.”

Amazon hasn’t commented beyond that initial statement and Microsoft hasn’t commented either, apparently preferring to stay out of it. Even Trump hasn’t mentioned it in a tweet -- at least not yet.

Earlier this year, Trump did comment on the contract process, asking whether the Defense Department was fairly judging the bids. He pointed to complaints from Microsoft, as well as Oracle and IBM.

Oracle has also gone to court to appeal a ruling from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims that rejected its legal challenge to the contract process.

The Jedi contract was awarded to Microsoft in late October.

It’s often said, “You can’t fight City Hall” -- but when you’re as big as Amazon, maybe you can. At least it’s going to try.Amazon, which also operates...
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Amazon reportedly plans to open a chain of cashless supermarkets early next year

The move would be a major expansion of the Go Store concept

Amazon reportedly plans to expand its cashless Go Store concept to supermarkets next year and could even license the technology to other chains, changing grocery shopping the same way it has altered the retail landscape.

Bloomberg quotes sources with knowledge of the project as saying the first cashless supermarkets could open in the first quarter of next year.

After years of planning, Amazon opened the first Amazon Go convenience store in early 2018 in Seattle. The company’s Just Walk Out Technology allows shoppers to scan their phones when they enter the store, grab what they want, and walk out without having to stop at a cash register to pay.

Artificial intelligence charges the customer’s credit card every time an item is picked up. If you change your mind and put it back on the shelf, the software removes it from your account.

There have been rumblings that Amazon is moving to enlarge the scale of its cashless stores. A report in September suggested the company could open as many as 3,000 cashless stores by the end of 2021.

Ambitions beyond convenience stores

But Amazon apparently has ambitions beyond the small convenience store concept. Bloomberg reports that the company is testing the technology in a 10,000 square foot supermarket in Seattle.

Amazon owns the Whole Foods Market supermarket chain, but it isn’t clear if or when the Go technology might be deployed there. Amazon said last week that it intends to launch an entirely new supermarket brand with the first stores opening in upscale Los Angeles neighborhoods in 2020.

Consumers generally have a favorable reaction to the Go technology, praising it for its ease of use and allowing consumers to skip the checkout lines. But not everyone is a fan.

Earlier this year, city officials in San Francisco discussed banning cashless stores, claiming they discriminate against low-income consumers. To use a cashless store, a consumer would need both a credit or debit card and a mobile device. Low-income consumers, the officials argued, usually have neither.

Shortly afterward, Amazon announced its Go Store in New York would be the first to accept cash. According to an Amazon official, a consumer who wants to pay with cash will be able to get the help of a store employee who will scan their purchases for them.

Amazon reportedly plans to expand its cashless Go Store concept to supermarkets next year and could even license the technology to other chains, changing g...
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Amazon to open a new grocery store in 2020

Job listings for ‘Amazon's first grocery store’ were posted on Monday

Amazon will continue to expand its brick-and-mortar footprint through the addition of a grocery store that will exist as an alternative to Whole Foods and Amazon Go, CNET reports. 

Four job listings for the grocery store were posted on Monday for “Amazon’s first grocery store,” which is set to open in Woodland Hills, California in 2020. The company has leased a 35,000 square-foot location that was previously a Toys ‘R’ Us. 

Amazon was rumored to be working towards the opening of a new grocery back in March, when a Wall Street Journal report cited sources as saying Amazon would be opening grocery stores smaller than traditional supermarkets but larger than a typical convenience store. 

The company has now confirmed that the new grocery store format is on the way, but it hasn’t provided details on what the store will be called or what pricing consumers can expect. 

Won’t compete with Whole Foods

Last month, the Journal reported that Amazon’s new stores will sell prepared foods and "mainstream groceries such as soda and Oreos." Amazon told CNET that its new stores won’t compete against Whole Foods, which it acquired in 2017. 

"When it comes to grocery shopping, we know customers love choice, and this new store offers another grocery option that's distinct from Whole Foods Market, which continues to grow and remain the leader in quality natural and organic food," a company spokesperson told the publication. 

The e-commerce giant has taken other steps toward expanding its presence in the grocery sector. In late October, Amazon announced that it would start giving Prime members free grocery delivery through its Amazon Fresh service, which previously cost $14.99 per month.

Amazon will continue to expand its brick-and-mortar footprint through the addition of a grocery store that will exist as an alternative to Whole Foods and...
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Amazon Fresh now free for Prime members

Consumers who use the service can have groceries delivered within two hours

Amazon announced on Tuesday that it’s giving Prime members free grocery delivery through its Amazon Fresh service, which previously cost $14.99 per month. 

The food delivery service is currently offered in 2,000 cities, and Amazon says “even more cities” will get the service in the near future. Prime members who use it get fresh groceries -- including produce, meat, snacks, and household essentials -- delivered within a two-hour window. 

Going forward, the service will be free for those who pay $119/year for Amazon Prime. Initially, Amazon will be launching the free program on an invite-only basis, beginning with Prime members who already use Amazon Fresh or who have previously ordered deliveries from Whole Foods. Other Prime members can gain access by requesting an invitation.  

“Prime members love the convenience of free grocery delivery on Amazon, which is why we’ve made Amazon Fresh a free benefit of Prime, saving customers $14.99 per month,” said Stephenie Landry, VP of Grocery Delivery. “Grocery delivery is one of the fastest growing businesses at Amazon, and we think this will be one of the most-loved Prime benefits.”

Amazon, which acquired Whole Foods in 2017, has been striving to grow its network of grocery stores in the U.S. through the launch of a new line of grocery stores separate from Whole Foods. The company has also been speeding up its delivery times, which has prompted competitors like Walmart and Target to follow suit. 

Amazon announced on Tuesday that it’s giving Prime members free grocery delivery through its Amazon Fresh service, which previously cost $14.99 per month....
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Amazon expands availability of Counter pickup option

Thousands of additional pickup locations have been added

Amazon has expanded the availability of its Counter pickup option, which it first debuted back in June as a way to facilitate “quick and easy pickup of packages.” 

Earlier this year, the company announced that the service had become available at more than a hundred Rite Aid stores in the U.S. In its announcement, the company promised that more locations would be added in the coming months.

“Over time, the Counter network will expand to thousands of other locations through additional partnerships with retailers, convenience stores and small businesses across the U.S,” the e-commerce giant said. 

This week, Amazon announced that Counter pickup is now available at thousands of additional locations thanks to recent partnerships with Stage Stores, GNC, and Health Mart. 

“With this expansion, customers now have access to thousands more Amazon Hub Counter locations with Amazon’s new store partners GNC, Health Mart and Stage Stores,” the company said in a press release. “Delivery to a Counter location is available for the tens of millions of items sold on Amazon.com, and works with Same-Day, One-Day, Two-Day and Standard Shipping.” 

Show barcode to store staff

Amazon is reminding consumers that there’s no extra cost to use the service. Customers who choose to have their package sent to a Counter location will get an email containing a barcode that will need to be shown to a store employee. 

“Simply visit your selected store and provide the store assistant with your barcode to receive your package. You'll have 14 days to collect your package,” Amazon said. 

Customer response to the new Counter pickup option “has been tremendous,” said Patrick Supanc, Worldwide Director of Amazon Hub. “This new network of pickup points gives customers a pickup experience that is fast, flexible and convenient, and partners are thrilled with the strong engagement and additional foot traffic Counter is driving for their stores.”

The expansion of Amazon’s parcel pickup option comes as retailers speed up their delivery times in an effort to compete with Amazon’s delivery times. Earlier this week, Best Buy announced that it will be offering its customers free next-day delivery over the holiday season. Walmart and Target have also announced efforts to speed up their shipping times.

Amazon has expanded the availability of its Counter pickup option, which it first debuted back in June as a way to facilitate “quick and easy pickup of pac...
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Amazon reportedly in talks to bring Go tech to airports, movie theaters, and other merchants

The company sees these partnerships as a way to expand its retail presence

Amazon is in talks to license its Go store technology to movie theaters, airport stores, sports stadiums, and other merchants across the U.S., according to CNBC. 

Sources familiar with the matter told the outlet that Amazon has proposed potential partnerships with several companies, including OTG's CIBO Express and Cineworld's Regal Theatres. Amazon’s grab-and-go cashierless technology could also be added to concession stands at MLB stadiums. 

“The idea is to start installing the technology working for customers in the first quarter of 2020 and have hundreds of these stores working by the end of 2020, two of the people said,” CNBC reported. “One person said Amazon hopes to have the upgrade process take just two weeks.”

Growing its retail presence 

Amazon currently has 16 of its cashierless Go stores in operation. At the stores, customers can pick up items such as ready-made snacks, lunches, drinks, frozen dinners, and basic groceries and walk out of the store without stopping to pay a cashier. 

The company is able to fulfill its “no lines, no checkouts, no registers” promise by relying on sensors and cameras placed throughout the store. These allow Amazon to track what customers take out of the store and charge customers’ credit cards accordingly.

Late last year, it was reported that the e-commerce giant had spoken to officials at several major U.S. airports regarding the possibility of putting Go stores in terminals. Few additional details were reported at the time. 

Now, CNBC’s sources say Amazon has approached several other companies about the possibility of using its cashierless technology. The company reportedly views partnerships with other merchants as a way to expand its retail presence rapidly. 

Amazon already owns Whole Foods, physical bookstores, and Amazon 4-star stores, where it sells items with positive customer reviews. 

While Amazon is eager to establish Go technology partnerships, opposition to the idea could come from those who argue that cashless operations are discriminatory to certain groups of people. Lawmakers in multiple cities have already pushed to ban cashless stores on the basis that they don’t provide equitable access to groups such as young people, victims of identity theft, immigrants, and the homeless.

Amazon is in talks to license its Go store technology to movie theaters, airport stores, sports stadiums, and other merchants across the U.S., according to...
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Amazon launches cash payment option for online purchases

Customers can pay for purchases in cash by visiting a participating Western Union location

Amazon has announced that it’s giving customers the ability to pay for online purchases with cash. 

Amazon PayCode will let online shoppers pay for purchases on Amazon’s digital marketplace at one of 15,000 Western Union locations. 

“Customers have told us they love the convenience of paying in cash,” Ben Volk, Director, Payments at Amazon, said in a statement. “Together with Western Union, we’re able to offer customers more shopping choices, enabling them to pay for their online purchases in a way that is convenient for them.”

At checkout, customers who want to use the cash payment option can simply select “pay with Amazon PayCode.” Customers will then receive a QR code, which they can take to a participating Western Union location within the next 24 hours to pay for their purchase.

“We ship your order directly to your delivery address,” Amazon explained on its website

Adding cash payment options

The e-commerce giant has also announced that its Amazon Cash option, a separate service that enables customers to load cash into an Amazon account, is now offered at over 100,000 cash-loading locations across the U.S.

Earlier this year, Amazon was criticized for not allowing customers to pay with cash at its autonomous grab-and-go convenience stores. Lawmakers pointed out that not offering a cash payment at Amazon Go stores alienated a subset of potential customers, including those in low-income brackets. 

"For many City residents (for example, those who are denied access to credit, or who are unable to obtain bank accounts), the ability to purchase goods and services depends on the ability to pay for those goods and services in cash," San Francisco District Five Supervisor Vallie Brown explained in an April memo. "This is especially true of the very poor."

Amazon later announced that a cash payment option would soon be added to the stores, starting at a location in New York.  

Amazon has announced that it’s giving customers the ability to pay for online purchases with cash. Amazon PayCode will let online shoppers pay for purc...
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Amazon reportedly changed its search algorithm to promote profitable products

The allegations are surfacing in the midst of an antitrust investigation

Amazon, which is currently facing antitrust investigations, is now being accused of changing its algorithms to promote products that would deliver high profit margins. 

The Wall Street Journal, citing sources familiar with the matter, reported Monday that Amazon tweaked its product-search algorithm late last year to elevate its own products over those from other sellers, despite internal objections to the idea.

In a statement to the Journal, the e-commerce giant said it has not "changed the criteria we use to rank search results to include profitability."

“Amazon designs its shopping and discovery experience to feature the products customers will want, regardless of whether they are our own brands or products offered by our selling partners,” Amazon spokeswoman Angie Newman said.

At this point, it’s not clear if the company’s changes resulted in higher profits.

Antitrust scrutiny

Amazon’s market dominance has landed it at the center of antitrust investigations in the U.S. and Europe. 

Towards the end of July, U.S. regulators announced that they would begin a broad antitrust probe of big tech companies. The Justice Department said the investigation would focus on how large tech companies achieved their market power and if they engaged in practices that “have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.” 

Last week, bipartisan leaders of the House Judiciary Committee requested documents from the company related to how its own products factor into its algorithm. 

“Today’s document requests are an important milestone in this investigation as we work to obtain the information that our Members need to make this determination,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), leader of the antitrust investigation, in a statement.

Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.), the ranking Republican on the full Judiciary Committee, added that “this information is key in helping determine whether anticompetitive behavior is occurring, whether our antitrust enforcement agencies should investigate specific issues and whether or not our antitrust laws need improvement to better promote competition in the digital markets.” 

Amazon, which is currently facing antitrust investigations, is now being accused of changing its algorithms to promote products that would deliver high pro...
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Senators request more information on Amazon’s safety efforts

A group of senators are calling on Jeff Bezos to launch a ‘sweeping internal investigation’ into the issue of unsafe listings

On the heels of a recent Wall Street Journal investigation which found that Amazon had more than 4,000 listings for items that had been declared unsafe by federal regulators, three U.S. senators are calling on Jeff Bezos to launch an internal investigation into the issue. 

“Unquestionably, Amazon is falling short of its commitment to keeping safe those consumers who use its massive platform,” wrote Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Bob Menendez, (D-N.J.), and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass) in a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezo.

“We call on you to immediately remove from the platform all the problematic products examined in the recent WSJ report; explain how you are going about this process; conduct a sweeping internal investigation of your enforcement and consumer safety policies; and institute changes that will continue to keep unsafe products off your platform.”

Senators want answers from Amazon

Last week, the Journal found that thousands of items listed on Amazon’s marketplace had either been “declared unsafe” or outright banned by federal agencies. About half of these items were toys or medications without proper risk warnings; at least 157 items were items Amazon had said it banned; and some items were even labeled as “Amazon’s choice.” 

Earlier this month, Menendez and Blumenthal sent a separate letter to Bezos asking for more information about the “Amazon’s Choice” program. Specifically, the senators wanted to find out if consumers are being duped into buying “products of inferior quality.” 

“We are concerned the badge is assigned in an arbitrary manner, or worse, based on fraudulent product reviews,” Menendez and Blumenthal said in the letter.

In their most recent letter, the two senators -- joined by Ed Markey -- asked Amazon to shed light on why its current safety protocols allowed numerous unsafe products to slip through the cracks and end up for sale on the site. Additionally, the senators want to know what Amazon plans to do to keep problematic listings from infiltrating the marketplace in the future.

Amazon says ‘safety is a top priority’

Following the WSJ report, Amazon quickly removed or changed the wording of more than half of the listings in question. 

“Safety is a top priority at Amazon,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “When a concern arises, we move quickly to protect customers and work directly with sellers, brands and government agencies.”

"Amazon offers customers hundreds of millions of items, and we have developed, and continuously refine and improve our tools that prevent suspicious, unsafe, or noncompliant products from being listed in our store," the company said in a blog post

In the post, the e-commerce giant didn’t mention anything about changing its existing safety policies to address the problem. The senators have given Bezos a deadline of September 29 to respond to their inquiries. 

On the heels of a recent Wall Street Journal investigation which found that Amazon had more than 4,000 listings for items that had been declared unsafe by...
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Numerous Amazon items declared unsafe by federal regulators

An investigation indicates that thousands of items on the site were either banned or declared unsafe by federal agencies

Thousands of items allowed to be listed on Amazon’s marketplace did not receive passing safety marks from federal regulators, according to an investigation from The Wall Street Journal

The Journal found that about 4,100 items on Amazon’s site had been “declared unsafe” or outright banned by federal agencies. About half of these items were toys or medications without proper risk warnings, at least 157 items were items Amazon had said it banned, and some items were even labeled as “Amazon’s choice.” 

In response to the investigation, Amazon removed or altered the wording of more than half of the listings in question. 

“Safety is a top priority at Amazon,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “When a concern arises, we move quickly to protect customers and work directly with sellers, brands and government agencies.”

In a blog post on Friday, Amazon highlighted its use of tools and programs to make sure products are "safe, compliant and authentic."

"Amazon offers customers hundreds of millions of items, and we have developed, and continuously refine and improve our tools that prevent suspicious, unsafe, or noncompliant products from being listed in our store," the company said. "In 2018, our teams and technologies proactively blocked more than 3 billion suspect listings for various forms of abuse, including noncompliance, before they were published to our store."

Difficulty policing large number of third-party sellers 

As Amazon has grown in scale, the site has faced challenges in policing its third-party sellers. 

Earlier this year, an investigation by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson found that school supplies and children’s jewelry sold on the digital marketplace had unsafe levels of toxic metals. On the heels of the discovery, Amazon quickly changed its quality control standards for these categories of products. 

Counterfeit listings have also been a problem for Amazon. Just last month, the e-commerce giant warned customers who previously purchased Align Probiotic nutritional supplements on its site that the supplements were most likely fake and should be tossed. 

Thousands of items allowed to be listed on Amazon’s marketplace did not receive passing safety marks from federal regulators, according to an investigation...
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Amazon wins tax showdown with IRS

Appeals court ruling saves retailer as much as $1.5 billion

Politicians are sometimes quick to criticize Amazon, claiming the retail giant pays little in the way of federal taxes.

Thanks to a federal court ruling, the company just avoided a very big tax bullet.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with Amazon in its dispute with the IRS over the way some of the company’s intangible assets, transferred to one of its European subsidiaries more than a decade ago, should be taxed.

Thanks to the court’s ruling, Amazon says it won’t have to pay a significantly higher tax, said to be in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion. It all came down to how these assets, such as customer lists, software, and intellectual property, are classified. The IRS insisted on a broader definition which would have meant Amazon had to pay more tax.

The assets are held by Amazon Europe Holding Technologies SCS, based in Luxembourg. Amazon said it chose that location for its European headquarters in part because of its favorable corporate tax rate.

Fought a local tax

Amazon has worked hard to keep its taxes low. Last year, when it appeared Seattle was about to impose a surtax on local large corporations the retailer teamed with Starbucks to fund a signature-gathering campaign to defeat it.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been a fierce critic of Amazon’s pay and working conditions. Last year he took note of Amazon’s rock-bottom tax bill, contrasting it with the plight of the homeless population.

But tax experts say Amazon has historically plowed all or most of its profits back into the company to expand operations. Now that it is earning profits, they say Amazon’s tax bill will go up.

In Amazon’s dispute with the IRS, the court ruled that the law allows companies to transfer taxable assets to foreign subsidiaries without incurring a penalty, so long as the subsidiaries actually paid a portion of the development costs.

Politicians are sometimes quick to criticize Amazon, claiming the retail giant pays little in the way of federal taxes.Thanks to a federal court ruling...
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Amazon to start sending unsold inventory to charities

The company is aiming to ‘reduce the number of products sent to landfills’

Amazon has announced that it will soon launch a program that will send unsold products from third-party sellers to charities instead of the dump. 

Under the new Fulfilled by Amazon Donations program, hundreds of thousands of unwanted products in Amazon’s warehouses in the U.S. and U.K. will go to nonprofits and charities, CNBC reported.

“We know getting products into the hands of those who need them transforms lives and strengthens local communities,” said Alice Shobe, director of Amazon’s charitable donations branch, Amazon in the Community, in a statement. “We are delighted to extend this program to sellers who use our fulfillment services.”

Starts next month

The program is set to begin September 1. At that time, it will become the default method of handling unsold inventory. Sellers will have the option of opting out of the program. 

Items in the U.S. will be funneled through Good360, which will distribute them to a network of nonprofits. In the U.K., charities like Barnardo’s, Newlife, and the Salvation Army will receive the unsold products. 

Amazon says the new program is intended to reduce waste and ensure that products go directly to reputable nonprofits and charities. 

“This program will reduce the number of products sent to landfills and instead help those in need,” the company said.

Amazon has set out to mitigate its environmental impact in other ways as well, such as by introducing new fines for sellers who ship products in oversized boxes and pledging to make half its shipments carbon neutral by 2030. 

Amazon has announced that it will soon launch a program that will send unsold products from third-party sellers to charities instead of the dump. Under...
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Senators ask Amazon CEO for answers about Amazon’s Choice

Mystery surrounds the ways some products earn that designation

Two U.S. Senators have called on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to shed more light on the company’s “Amazon’s Choice” badge program. In particular, the lawmakers want to know if  consumers are deceived into purchasing “products of inferior quality.”

“We are concerned the badge is assigned in an arbitrary manner, or worse, based on fraudulent product reviews,” Sen. Bob Menendez ()D-N.J.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in the letter to Bezos.

The lawmakers have asked Amazon for an explanation of the process used to select Amazon products for the promotion, pressing to see how reliant Amazon is on artificial intelligence. The senators also want to know if human beings personally review the products.

The public query appears to be the latest pressure Washington is directing at large technology companies. Last month, the Justice Department announced it is investigating some tech companies on antitrust grounds to make sure they haven’t squashed competitors.

Questions

The Amazon’s Choice designation has produced questions long before now, with several articles in the last year by various publications seeking to explain it. A year ago, CNET reported that Amazon has been reluctant to discuss it.

In a nutshell, the Amazon’s Choice badge pops up on items that a number of consumers have purchased and been pleased enough to post positive reviews. Amazon has said they are products that are “highly rated, well-priced products available to ship immediately." But that leads to more questions.

“Is it a designation for which manufacturers can apply -- or maybe even pay?” CNET asked in a March 2018 article. “And who, exactly, is making the ‘Choice’: Is it bestowed from a bunch of in-house Amazon experts, or -- like fellow technology behemoths Google and Facebook -- does Amazon just deploy yet another algorithm, wherein a "good deal" is something that's in stock that you have a higher chance of buying, based on your purchase history?”

Now more than a year later, the two lawmakers are asking many of the same questions. According to AMZ Advisors, the badge is based in part on products that are only available through Amazon Echo. But the site says it’s not clear how sellers get the Amazon’s Choice badge.

“Amazon is keeping mum about how it selects products for inclusion in Amazon’s Choice list,” the site’s editors write. “We don’t know very much about which products Echo is likely to recommend or which brand it will tend to offer.”

What remains to be seen is whether pressure from Congress provides some answers.

Two U.S. Senators have called on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to shed more light on the company’s “Amazon’s Choice” badge program. In particular, the lawmakers wa...
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FedEx ends ground-shipping contract with Amazon

The online retail giant will need to rely more on its own infrastructure to get packages to consumers

FedEx has announced that it is severing ties with Amazon and will no longer be using its fleet of delivery trucks to ship the company’s packages to consumers. 

The move follows a separate action taken in June that ended a contract between the two companies when it came to shipping packages by air with FedEx Express. The latest news creates a new rivalry between Amazon and FedEx, which will both be vying for consumers attention to fulfill their shipping needs. 

“This change is consistent with our strategy to focus on the broader e-commerce market, which the recent announcements related to our FedEx ground network have us positioned extraordinarily well to do,” FedEx said in a statement. 

Amazon becomes more self-reliant

The change indicates that Amazon may have to rely more on its own network to deliver packages to consumers. However, that network isn’t starting off at ground zero; the company has been working for some time to create its own delivery fleet

An Amazon representative said that the move is a natural development as the company continues to grow. 

“We are constantly innovating to improve the carrier experience and sometimes that means reevaluating our carrier relationshipos. FedEx has been a great partner over the years and we appreciate all their work delivering packages to our customers,” they said. 

FedEx has announced that it is severing ties with Amazon and will no longer be using its fleet of delivery trucks to ship the company’s packages to consume...
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Amazon announces deadline for sellers to make packaging smaller

The company is aiming to cut down on cardboard waste

Amazon will soon introduce new package guidelines for sellers as part of a larger effort to curb its environmental impact and maximize efficiency. 

Starting September 3, sellers who ship items in oversized packages will be fined $1.99, the Wall Street Journal reports. As further incentive to stick to the standards, Amazon will give sellers a $1 credit for each package that meets its guidelines. 

Amazon says it created its package guidelines with the goal of giving customers "minimal, protective and functional packaging.” The company hopes to reduce waste as well as shipping costs through the implementation of the standards. 

However, the Journal notes that the cost element of making packaging smaller means Amazon increases its profitability while sellers’ businesses take a hit. But Amazon says vendors that adhere to the guidelines will benefit from lower shipping costs.

“It does cause some pain, but I think the benefit is there,” Mike Kuebler, technical director and packaging specialist at Smithers Pira, told the Journal.

Amazon will soon introduce new package guidelines for sellers as part of a larger effort to curb its environmental impact and maximize efficiency. Star...
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Amazon announces home buying program with buyer benefits

The e-commerce giant has teamed up with Realogy for a service that gives buyers home services and devices at closing

Amazon has launched a new real estate venture in partnership with Realogy, which owns Century 21 and Coldwell Banker. 

Home buyers who use the new service, dubbed TurnKey, will be connected with a real-estate agent from one of the two firms. In exchange for using the service, buyers will get up to $5,000 in Amazon services and devices when they close on their new home. 

The devices Amazon will throw in include the Echo voice assistant, Ring video doorbell, and smart light bulbs. Installation will be taken care of by Amazon-vetted professionals. Examples of home services that Amazon is offering buyers include deep cleaning, repairs, or furniture assembly. 

Amazon says the value of home services and devices it will offer depends on the value of the newly purchased home. The full $5,000 would be given to buyers who purchased a home that cost $700,000 or more. 

Experienced realtors

Realogy says it has set a high bar for agents to qualify to participate in the TurnKey program; just 11 percent of its eligible agents have met its criteria for working with clients referred by Amazon. 

"Realogy and our brands are always looking for ways to give consumers an awesome homebuying experience with a terrific real estate agent, and today's launch of TurnKey is a big part of that continued strategy," Ryan M. Schneider, Realogy's chief executive officer and president, said in a statement. 

"Realogy's great affiliated agents serve their clients during one of the most important moments in their lives, and Amazon's services and products can transform that moment to make it rewarding in a way no one ever has before.”

The service is available in 15 major markets, including San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Amazon has launched a new real estate venture in partnership with Realogy, which owns Century 21 and Coldwell Banker. Home buyers who use the new servi...
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Amazon Key now compatible with select Honda vehicles

Prime members can have their delivery deposited in their vehicle wherever it’s parked

Amazon has expanded its in-car delivery option, dubbed Amazon Key. The e-commerce giant is now offering Honda owners the option of having a package delivered to the trunk of their vehicle. 

Those who want to use the service will need to be a Prime member located in one of the 50 cities and surrounding areas eligible for Key by Amazon delivery. Customers will also need to have a compatible Honda vehicle. Honda models eligible to participate in the service include Accord, Accord Hybrid, Insight, Passport, Pilot, and Odyssey trims. 

Prime members who meet those criteria can download the Amazon Key app, select the year, make, and model of their vehicle, and then enter their HondaLink credentials. 

In-car delivery

When making a purchase on Amazon, select the “in-car” option and enter a delivery address.  Customers can park within two blocks of the specified delivery address and Amazon will still be able to find the car using GPS data.

Amazon will send a notification when the delivery is close to give customers time to remotely unlock their vehicle using the HondaLink app. After the package has been dropped off, customers can lock the vehicle using the same app. 

Amazon’s HondaLink Remote subscription package costs $110 per year after a three-month trial. 

Amazon launched its Key service in 2017 as a way of increasing customer convenience and preventing package theft. At launch, the company offered the option of in-home delivery for customers who have installed a compatible smart lock on their front door. 

Amazon later made its Key option available to customers who own Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, and Volvo vehicles.

Amazon has expanded its in-car delivery option, dubbed Amazon Key. The e-commerce giant is now offering Honda owners the option of having a package deliver...
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Amazon’s recent Prime Day beats Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined

Smart tech is starting to show its value in the tech food chain

To borrow a baseball metaphor, Amazon’s Prime Day was an out-of-the-park home run, with sales surpassing the previous combined total of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

As you might expect, Amazon is overjoyed.

“We want to thank Prime members all around the world,” Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, said in a statement. “Members purchased millions of Alexa-enabled devices, received tens of millions of dollars in savings by shopping from Whole Foods Market and bought more than $2 billion of products from independent small and medium-sized businesses. Huge thank you to Amazonians everywhere who made this day possible for customers.”

Cha-ching

All told, Prime members bought 175 million items. Topping that list in the U.S. were products such as the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, Instant Pot DUO60, and 23andMe ancestry kit.

Prime Day could have easily been named Tech Day given what was sold. All told, Amazon saw more than 100,000 laptops and 200,000 TVs go out the door, but the surprise winner were smart devices, which continue to improve their place in the tech food chain.

Customers purchased twice as many Fire TV Edition Smart TVs and twice as many Ring and Blink devices as last year. Also showing some sales muscle were the MyQ Smart Garage Door Opener Chamberlain MYQ-G0301 and the Amazon Smart Plug.

Kid tech was also a big hit. Amazon reported that customers purchased hundreds of thousands of Amazon kids’ devices such as Echo Dot Kids Edition, Fire 7 Kids Edition tablet, and Fire HD 8 Kids Edition tablet.

Outside of tech, Prime members loaded up on more than 100,000 lunchboxes, 350,000 luxury beauty products, 400,000 pet products, 650,000 household cleaning supplies, and 150,000 Crest 3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips Kits.

To borrow a baseball metaphor, Amazon’s Prime Day was an out-of-the-park home run, with sales surpassing the previous combined total of Black Friday and Cy...
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Amazon agrees to change its terms of service for third-party merchants

The changes are slated to go into effect within 30 days

In response to an action from Germany’s Federal Cartel Office (FCO), Amazon has agreed to change its terms of service for third-party sellers on its European sites, as well as other marketplaces around the world, including in North America and Asia.

Under the deal, Amazon will modify its Business Services Agreement to comply with European standards pertaining to liability towards sellers. The company will also change its account termination and blocking policy to make things more fair for sellers. The changes will strip Amazon of its ability to terminate sellers’ accounts unexpectedly or without justification.

“We are making several changes to the Amazon Services Business Solutions Agreement to clarify selling partner rights and responsibilities,” Amazon said in a statement. “The changes will become effective August 16th.” 

The e-commerce giant said 58 percent of its gross sales are from third-party sellers, and it will “continue working hard, investing heavily, and inventing new tools and services to help our selling partners around the world reach new customers and grow their business.” 

‘Far-reaching improvements’

In exchange for making the changes, Germany’s antitrust authority has agreed to drop its investigation into Amazon’s third-party merchant terms, which it opened back in November. 

“The amendments address the numerous complaints about Amazon that the [FCO] received from sellers,” said FCO president, Andreas Mundt, in a statement. “They concern the unilateral exclusion of liability to Amazon’s benefit, the termination and blocking of sellers’ accounts, the court of jurisdiction in case of a dispute, the handling of product information and many other issues.

“With our proceedings we have obtained far-reaching improvements for sellers active on Amazon marketplaces worldwide,” Mundt added. “The proceedings are now terminated.”

Amazon’s deal with the FCO was announced the same day the European Union’s competition division said it planned to launch a formal antitrust probe into Amazon within days. EU regulators say they are seeking to ensure Amazon’s use of data from third-party sellers doesn’t violate its competition rules. 

In response to an action from Germany’s Federal Cartel Office (FCO), Amazon has agreed to change its terms of service for third-party sellers on its Europe...
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Amazon antitrust investigation poised to escalate within days

The EU’s competition division is preparing to ramp up its probe into Amazon’s business practices

Margrethe Vestager, head of the European Union’s competition division, is gearing up to launch a formal antitrust investigation into Amazon, according to Bloomberg

Vestager, who announced last year that her team had begun looking into how Amazon uses the data from sales of its third-party sellers, is reportedly set to launch a “full-blown” antitrust probe in the coming days. 

In September, when the investigation was still in its preliminary stages, Vestager explained that she wanted to make sure that Amazon wasn’t undercutting sellers. She added that EU regulators are primarily focused on protecting consumers by making sure competition and innovation aren’t being stifled. 

“They host a lot of little guys, and at the same time, they’re a big guy in the same market,” Vestager said in an interview with CNBC. “So how do they treat the data that they get from the little guy? Does that give them an advantage that cannot be matched?”

Ensuring competition

During her term, Vestager has hit major tech corporations with steep fines for business practices that were ultimately deemed to be unfair. 

In 2016, Vestager’s office forced Apple to pay $16 billion in back taxes to Ireland. Google has been fined more than $9 billion for alleged violations since 2017. Qualcomm is also reportedly facing a fine of more than $1 billion for allegedly trying to stop other chipmakers from doing business with Apple. 

“If powerful platforms are found to use data they amass to get an edge over their competitors, both consumers and the market bear the cost,” Johannes Kleis of BEUC, the European consumer organization in Brussels, told Bloomberg.

Margrethe Vestager, head of the European Union’s competition division, is gearing up to launch a formal antitrust investigation into Amazon, according to B...
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Amazon workers strike during Prime Day to demand better working conditions

The company says its workers are treated just fine

As Amazon’s amply hyped Prime Day sale kicked off, employees at one of its fulfillment centers in Minnesota stopped working for a total of six hours during the morning and evening shifts. 

Those participating in the strike were seeking better working conditions -- namely, less-stringent productivity quotas and the conversion of more temporary workers to full-time Amazon employees. Employees at the Shakopee warehouse alleged that the productivity quotas they are forced to meet make the jobs unsafe and unreliable. 

More than 2,000 Amazon employees in Germany also walked out yesterday seeking to turn the focus toward issues they want fixed, including the lack of livable wages and the need for bargaining power for employees. German workers shouted the motto, "No more discount on our incomes,” during the walk-out, Reuters reported. 

‘Conjuring misinformation’

Amazon has refuted all claims that its employees deal with harsh or dangerous working conditions. The company said it is "working smarter, not harder, based on decades of process improvement and innovation" at fulfillment centers, delivery stations, and air hubs.

"Events like Prime Day have become an opportunity for our critics, including unions, to raise awareness for their cause, in this case, increased membership dues," a company spokesperson said in a statement. "These groups are conjuring misinformation to work in their favor, when in fact we already offer the things they purport to be their cause — industry leading pay, benefits, and a safe workplace for our employees.” 

Amazon added that it could only conclude that people who planned to participate in any of the rallies focusing on the need for better working conditions “are simply not informed.” 

"We encourage anyone to book a tour of our fulfillment centers and compare our overall pay, benefits, and workplace environment to other retailers and major employers in the community and across the country,” the company said. 

Senator and Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, who has proposed breaking up big tech corporations, tweeted that she supported the Minnesota strike and the reasons for it. 

“I fully support Amazon workers' Prime Day strike,” she said. “Their fight for safe and reliable jobs is another reminder that we must come together to hold big corporations accountable.” 

As Amazon’s amply hyped Prime Day sale kicked off, employees at one of its fulfillment centers in Minnesota stopped working for a total of six hours during...
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Amazon announces Prime Day device deals

The company says it will mark down prices on its gadgets, in-house brands, and more than a million other items

In a sneak preview released Friday, Amazon revealed what will be on sale during its 48-hour Prime Day sales extravaganza. The e-commerce giant said it will be slashing prices on many of its own devices and in-house brands during the event, which is set to kick off Monday. 

An Amazon Echo will cost $49.99, which is half off its normal price of $99.99. Consumers who don’t want to wait until Monday to purchase an Echo will find that the device is already selling for $69.99 ahead of Prime Day.

A Fire TV Stick 4K will cost $25 starting Monday, and the Fire TV Cube will drop to $69.99 -- $50 less than its current price of $119.99. Amazon is also cutting the price of its Fire tablets. The Fire HD 10 will cost $99.99, which is $50 less than its current price of $149.99. 

Prime members will also be able to save on Amazon’s Fire and Kindle tablets. Fire tablets will start at $30, the new Kindle Paperwhite will be listed for up to $50 off, and the latest Kindle will go for $50 -- $30 less than its normal price of $80.

Big savings on electronics

In addition to reducing prices on its own gadgets, Amazon is rolling out deals on electronics from other companies. In a press release, Amazon said consumers can save on the following electronics during Prime Day: 

  • Save up to 50% on Select Sony LED Smart TVs.

  • Save big on Samsung QLED 65-inch TV. 

  • Save up to 50% on select PC gaming laptops, desktops, monitors, components, and accessories. 

  • Save $120 on Portal from Facebook with Alexa Built-in, just $79. 

  • Save on select productivity monitors, accessories and networking products. 

  • Save on select Chromebooks. 

  • Save up to 50% on select PC streaming equipment. 

  • Save $50 on the all-new ecobee Smart Thermostat with Alexa built-in, just $199. 

  • Save 30% on connected home devices. 

  • Save big on select SanDisk and WD storage and memory products. 

  • Save 30% on select Phone Cases and Accessories. 

  • Save up to 40% on headphones from top brands.

Amazon announced last week that Prime members who spend $10 at Whole Foods will get a $10 Amazon credit that can be used during Prime Day. Beginning Saturday, those with an Alexa-equipped device can ask “What are my deals” to find top deals and get early discounts on “select” deals.  

Amazon says prices on more than a million items will be reduced during its fifth annual Prime Day event.

In a sneak preview released Friday, Amazon revealed what will be on sale during its 48-hour Prime Day sales extravaganza. The e-commerce giant said it will...
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Whole Foods grocery prices haven’t notably decreased since Amazon acquisition, study finds

​Prime members don’t pay much less for groceries than they did before

In the two years since Amazon acquired Whole Foods, the average cost of groceries for Prime members who shop at chain has dropped a mere ten dollars, according to a study released Wednesday by Gordon Haskett Research Advisors. 

After purchasing Whole Foods in 2017 for $13.7 billion, Amazon set out to help the notoriously pricey grocery chain shake off its “whole paycheck” image. However, a new analysis finds that price cuts for Prime members have been limited in scope and haven’t led to a significant drop in the total cost of customers’ groceries.

Most of Amazon’s price cuts have been found in the produce and dairy categories. Meanwhile, “other items have largely stayed the same or, in the case of bread and snacks, even increased,” Bloomberg noted. 

‘More bark than bite’

The Gordon Haskett study found that 106 commonly purchased items at Whole Foods cost $404.08 prior to the Amazon acquisition. Now, the total cost for the same assortment of items is $394.10 for Prime members. 

A study conducted last year by Gordon Haskett also concluded that Amazon hasn’t unveiled widespread or significant decreases in prices at Whole Foods.

“While deeper promotional pricing on key items, incremental savings… and increased convenience for Prime Members in the first year under Amazon ownership have caught our eye as consumers, the reality is that Whole Foods pricing on a broad basket has remained largely unchanged,” the firm said of its 2018 analysis.

The latest study found that Whole Foods shoppers who aren’t Prime members now pay an average of $8 less than they would have before Amazon purchased the retailer. Gordon Haskett analyst Charles Grom concludes that his team’s annual checks suggest that, in terms of price actions, “Amazon’s bark may be greater than its bite.” 

In the two years since Amazon acquired Whole Foods, the average cost of groceries for Prime members who shop at chain has dropped a mere ten dollars, accor...
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Amazon moves ahead with plans to become a global ISP

The online retailer is seeking permission to launch thousands of internet satellites

While most wireless carriers are focused on deploying 5G technology, Amazon has taken a different path. It’s asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to launch 3,236 internet satellites.

In a filing with the agency, Amazon said its collection of earth-orbiting satellites would connect tens of millions of people around the world. One area it wouldn’t cover, the company admitted, would be parts of Alaska.

It would be yet another enterprise for the company that began its life as an online book store in the 1990s. The filing didn’t say when it expected to begin launching the satellites or when the network would be operational.

It’s been known for quite some time that Amazon was planning this move into broadband internet service that analysts say could become a substantial revenue source while opening up new markets for Amazon’s retail services.

“Project Kuiper is a new initiative to launch a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world,” an Amazon spokesperson told GeekWire back in April. “This is a long-term project that envisions serving tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet. We look forward to partnering on this initiative with companies that share this common vision.”

Similar to U.S. satellite providers

The service would be similar to that offered by U.S. providers ViaSat and Hughes Network, that currently provide service to mostly rural areas in the U.S. that lack service through fiber optic cable. Some analysts suggest the system Amazon envisions would take advantage of a lower earth orbit and provide service with less latency.

Meanwhile, the FCC continues to focus its attention on the evolution of 5G wireless technology. In a speech in Argentina last week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai compared the development of the next generation of wireless technology to the Apollo moon landing 50 years ago.

“In my view, 5G could be one of the great moonshots of this generation,” Pai said at an international telecom conference. “Think about a world in which speed, capacity, and lag times are effectively no longer constraints on wireless innovation. This could enable new services and applications that could revolutionize healthcare, transportation, agriculture, education, and many other facets of our economy and society.”

The FCC will vote next week on opening up spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band for 5G, Pai said. He notes the spectrum was originally set aside for educational television but has been “dramatically underused.”

While most wireless carriers are focused on deploying 5G technology, Amazon has taken a different path. It’s asking the Federal Communications Commission (...
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Amazon announces early Prime Day discounts

The retailer has also announced a special deal for Prime members who shop at Whole Foods

​Amazon has launched a number of early Prime Days promotions ahead of its 48-hour summer sales event, which is set to take place July 15 and July 16

On Monday, the company announced that it had rolled out early deals across a variety of categories. In the devices category, Amazon dropped the price of its Fire TV Recast by $100 (bringing it down to $129.99) and various Echo speakers are on sale from $25. 

Amazon has also slashed the price of services like Amazon Music, Prime Video, Kindle Unlimited, Audible, and more. 

Deals in the fashion category include: 

  • Up to 30 percent off select Tommy Hilfiger clothing and shoes;

  • Up to 70 percent off Seafolly Australia Swimwear;

  • Up to 50 percent off athletic shoes from Reebok, Puma and others;

  • Up to 30 percent savings on kids and baby styles from Gerber, The Children’s Place, and Amazon Brands;

  • Up to 50 percent off women’s activewear from Amazon Essentials, Core 10 and Starter;

  • Up to 40 percent off men’s shirts from Goodthreads, Buttoned Down and Amazon Essentials; 

  • Up to 30 percent off women’s styles from Daily Ritual.

Prime members can also get up to 20 percent off furniture and décor from Rivet, Stone & Beam and Ravenna Home, up to 20 percent off AmazonBasics, and up to 30 percent off “everyday essentials” from brands including Solimo, Presto!, and Happy Belly.

From July 3 through Prime Day, customers who spend $10 at Whole Foods will get a $10 credit to use on Prime Day purchases. 

Amazon announced last week that its annual Prime Day sales event will last two full days this year. The retailer’s longest-ever annual sales event will kick off at midnight Pacific Time on July 15. Prices on more than a million items will be reduced during Amazon’s fifth annual Prime Day event.

​Amazon has launched a number of early Prime Days promotions ahead of its 48-hour summer sales event, which is set to take place July 15 and July 16. O...
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Amazon launches in-store pickup option at Rite Aid

The company wants to build an ‘extensive network’ of alternative delivery locations

Amazon is now offering its customers the option to pick up an Amazon package at a nearby retailer. The new service, called Counter, will launch first at 100 Rite Aid stores. 

By the end of the year, Amazon plans to launch the free in-store pickup option at 1,500 brick-and-mortar stores.

The e-commerce giant has already expanded its package pickup options to include lockers inside stores and apartment complexes. The company has also started offering its customers the option to have their delivery dropped off inside their home or in the trunk of their car

“Amazon is always looking for innovative and convenient ways for customers to ship and receive their orders,” Patrick Supanc, world director of Amazon Hub, said in a statement. “With Counter, we’ve leveraged our growing logistics network and invested in new, easy to use technology to give customers yet another delivery option rooted in flexibility and control. We are excited to partner with national businesses like Rite Aid, and local businesses in the future, to create an outstanding experience for our shared customers.”

Amazon will email a barcode

Amazon’s Counter service won’t cost extra to use, and it won’t extend the time it takes for a package to arrive. Once a customer’s package has been delivered to the store, they will receive an email from Amazon containing a barcode that will need to be shown to a store employee. 

“Simply visit your selected store and provide the store assistant with your barcode to receive your package,” Amazon said. “You'll have 14 days to collect your package.”

Items that won’t be eligible for delivery via Counter include items sold by third-party sellers, age restricted and hazardous material items, and items too large to be accommodated by the selected retailer. 

“If the combined size, weight or dimensions of your package exceeds the size restrictions of your selected pickup location, you'll need to remove items or select a different delivery address to proceed with your order,” the company noted.

Amazon is now offering its customers the option to pick up an Amazon package at a nearby retailer. The new service, called Counter, will launch first at 10...
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Amazon opens second Go store in New York City

The newest location will accept cash payments

Amazon has opened its second Go store in New York City, CNBC reports. The newest location, located on Park Avenue, brings the total number of Amazon Go stores in the U.S. to 13.

The company’s Go stores offer a cashier-less convenience store experience, where shoppers can simply grab what they want and walk out. Sensors placed throughout the store ensure that each customer’s credit card is charged accordingly as they walk out of the store.

The first Go store opened at the beginning of last year in Seattle, near Amazon’s headquarters. Reports have suggested the company could open as many as 3,000 Go stores across the country by 2021.

Cash payments accepted

In recent months, Amazon has faced criticism over the cashless model of its Go stores. Critics have pointed out that cashless businesses aren't accessible to consumers who don’t have debit and credit cards and could therefore be considered discriminatory towards those in low income brackets.

Amazon said in April that it planned to add “additional payment mechanisms” at its Go stores. Last month, the company started accepting cash at its first New York City location at Brookfield Place, and it will also accept cash at the new Park Avenue location.

Amazon said it now plans to accept cash at all future locations, according to CNBC. Store employees will assist customers who would like to make a cash payment.

Amazon has opened its second Go store in New York City, CNBC reports. The newest location, located on Park Avenue, brings the total number of Amazon Go sto...
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Amazon agrees to halt sales of toxic children’s school supplies

An investigation found that the site had sold dozens of products with high levels of heavy metals

Amazon has promised to discontinue sales of children’s school supplies and jewelry that contain high levels of toxic metals -- specifically, cadmium and lead.

The move follows an investigation by the Washington Attorney General's Office, which revealed that Amazon had listings for dozens of products marketed for children that exceeded the legal limits of these heavy metals.

The investigation also determined that Amazon sold more than 15,000 items that contained high levels of toxic metals. After being alerted to the issue by the Attorney General’s office, Amazon contacted users that had purchased the items earlier this year and encouraged them to toss the products. Those consumers also received refunds amounting to a collective $200,000.

Cracking down on items with toxins

The e-commerce giant also paid the Washington Attorney General $700,000, which will be used to “fund future environmental protection efforts, including future investigations into toxic children’s products.”

"As a parent, when I buy products for my kids, I expect them to be safe," Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement announcing the agreement. "All retailers must ensure that their products do not pose a threat to Washington children. If they don't, they will hear from my office."

From now on, Amazon said it will no longer allow third-party sellers to list school supplies and jewelry geared towards children without providing lab reports or documents from an accredited lab showing that the products meet safety standards. Additionally, the company must remove listings for products found to have high levels of toxic metals within two days of being advised to do so by either the Washington Attorney General or the Department of Ecology.

The issue of toxins in school supplies isn’t new. In 2018, a study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), a consumer advocacy group, found traces of lead, asbestos, and other harmful chemicals in several popular school supplies, including Playskool crayons and one brand of dry-erase markers.  

Amazon has promised to discontinue sales of children’s school supplies and jewelry that contain high levels of toxic metals -- specifically, cadmium and le...
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Amazon Go store in New York will be first to accept cash

The move comes after critics said the stores’ format discriminates against some consumers

A new Amazon Go store opening in downtown New York City will become the first location to accept cash.

The new functionality comes as no surprise after statements that the company made last month about the state of its cashierless stores. While having a store that allows consumers to quickly shop for their items and depart without having to slog through a checkout line may be appealing to many consumers, critics were quick to point out that the system does not work for consumers without a credit or debit card.

As a result, Amazon said that they would address the issue moving forward. While no timeline was given for when a solution would arrive, it seems it didn’t take long for company officials to figure out a workaround. In a statement to Gizmodo, one Amazon official explained how the cash option would be implemented.

“Customers who want to pay with cash can let our entry associate know, and the associate will scan them into the store. The customer will be able to shop the store and then will go to our checkout cart to pay with cash and get a receipt before leaving with their purchased items,” the spokesperson said.

Addressing the critics

The decision to accept cash at its new Amazon Go stores may save the company some headaches in the long run. After announcing plans to launch thousands of the stores late last year, U.S. officials became wary at the prospect of a cashless business.

San Francisco regulators even floated the idea of banning Amazon Go stores from the city because of lack of accessibility for all consumers. Previously, states such as Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Philadelphia had banned cashless retailers over similar concerns.

A new Amazon Go store opening in downtown New York City will become the first location to accept cash.The new functionality comes as no surprise after...
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Amazon planning to accept cash at Go stores

Lawmakers have argued that cashless stores are discriminatory towards low-income consumers and the unbanked

Amazon has revealed that it plans to add cash as a payment option at its Go stores. The decision comes amid pushback from several cities and states over the company’s lack of a cash payment option at its physical convenience stores.

Lawmakers have noted that cashless businesses pose an issue in terms of ensuring equitable access since they aren’t accessible to consumers who don’t have debit and credit cards.

San Francisco District Five Supervisor Vallie Brown, who in February introduced legislation to ban cashless stores, highlighted the fact that not offering consumers the option of purchasing goods with cash is discriminatory towards those in low income brackets.

"For many City residents (for example, those who are denied access to credit, or who are unable to obtain bank accounts), the ability to purchase goods and services depends on the ability to pay for those goods and services in cash," Brown explained in a memo. "This is especially true of the very poor."

Adding a cash payment option

According to a report from CNBC, Amazon plans to add “additional payment mechanisms” at its Go stores. A spokesperson for Amazon confirmed the news but left a few lingering questions unanswered for the time being.

The retailer didn’t provide a time frame for when cash would be added as a payment option at existing Go stores, nor did it say how it plans to implement cash payments at Go stores, which previously centered around the “cashierless” element.

However, Steve Kessel, Amazon’s senior vice president of physical stores, reportedly told employees during a meeting that adding new payment methods is “an important focus for us.”

Kessel noted that Amazon has added new payment methods to its online marketplace, including a pilot that accepts subsidized SNAP benefits and a new program called Amazon Cash which lets shoppers add cash to a digital account by bringing money to a nearby convenience store.

“We’ll continue to extend those methods with our stores,” he added. The spokesperson who confirmed the plans said Go store customers would be able to check out, pay with cash, and receive change.

Amazon currently has 10 Amazon Go stores, and reports have suggested that the company could open up to 3,000 cashierless stores by 2021.

Amazon has revealed that it plans to add cash as a payment option at its Go stores. The decision comes amid pushback from several cities and states over th...
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Amazon plans to launch over 3,000 satellites to provide internet across the globe

The satellites would be launched into low-earth orbit to provide underserved areas with broadband

Amazon confirmed on Thursday that it plans to build over 3,000 small satellites and launch them into low-earth orbit to provide high speed broadband connectivity to underserved areas of the world.

The satellites would provide "low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world," a spokesperson told CNBC.

In federal filings reviewed by GeekWire, Amazon said the satellites, which will be launched as part of “Project Kuiper,” will provide data coverage for areas ranging in latitude from 56 degrees north to 56 degrees south, where about 95 percent of the global population lives.

“Project Kuiper is a new initiative to launch a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.

“This is a long-term project that envisions serving tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet. We look forward to partnering on this initiative with companies that share this common vision.”

Last November, Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX obtained clearance from the FCC to build out its global, high-speed, satellite-driven wireless network called "Starlink." When complete, SpaceX’s Starlink network will be comprised of nearly 12,000 satellites.

OneWeb, an initiative backed by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Group, launched its first 5G satellites in February.

Amazon confirmed on Thursday that it plans to build over 3,000 small satellites and launch them into low-earth orbit to provide high speed broadband connec...
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Amazon announces new round of price cuts at Whole Foods

The cuts will mostly apply to produce

Amazon is slashing prices on more than 500 items at Whole Foods, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. The price reductions will go into effect Wednesday.

The cuts will mostly be focused on produce, specifically on “high quality, peak-of-season produce, including greens, tomatoes, tropical fruits and more.” Customers will save an average of 20 percent off select items under the company’s latest round of price cuts.

Amazon is also expanding its Prime member benefits. The company said it’s doubling the number of exclusive deals for Prime members and giving customers who try Prime $10 off their $20 purchase for signing up for a membership.

The company announced last year that shoppers who are Prime members get an additional 10 percent off “hundreds of sale items” throughout the store.

Lowering prices to compete with rivals

Amazon acquired Whole Foods in 2017 and has since slashed prices three times in an effort to shake off the grocer’s “Whole Paycheck” image. Immediately after purchasing the upscale grocery chain, Amazon announced its first wave of price cuts on a “selection of best-selling grocery staples.”

“When Whole Foods Market joined the Amazon family, we set out to make healthy and organic food more accessible. Over the last year, we’ve been working together tirelessly to pass on savings to customers,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer, in a statement announcing the new price cuts.

“Every time a customer walks into a Whole Foods Market, they expect and trust industry-leading quality standards across aisles. And now they will experience that same Whole Foods Market quality with even more savings across departments.”

The latest price reductions come as Amazon aims to compete with rival grocers Walmart, Costco, and Kroger, which have all lowered their prices. Amazon is also heading off competition from discount grocers Aldi and Lidl, which have each grown their overall number of stores and expanded their organic product selections.

Amazon is also reportedly looking to launch its own U.S. grocery chain separate from Whole Foods in an effort to expand its physical store footprint. Amazon also currently operates several cashierless Amazon Go stores.

Amazon is slashing prices on more than 500 items at Whole Foods, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. The price reductions will go into effe...
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Amazon to close all of its pop-up kiosks across the U.S.

The company said it will be adding more 4-star and Amazon Books locations

Amazon has announced that it will close all 87 of its pop-up kiosk locations, currently found in stores like Whole Foods, Kohl’s, and in shopping malls, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

The move comes as the company is trying to figure out the best route toward expanding its brick-and-mortar footprint. Though Amazon’s pop-up locations are set to close by the end of April, the tech giant currently has several other physical store concepts in the works.

Earlier this week, sources familiar with the company’s plans told the Journal that Amazon is preparing to launch dozens of its own grocery stores. The stores will have separate branding from its Whole Foods stores, which Amazon acquired in 2017.

Amazon is also considering opening as many as 3,000 cashless Amazon Go convenience stores by 2021.

Adding more 4-star locations

Amazon’s pop-up locations let customers try out Amazon products such as Echo smart speakers, Fire tablets, and Kindle e-readers. Customers could also try out Amazon services like Audible, Prime Video, and Kindle Unlimited.

“After much review, we came to the decision to discontinue our pop-up kiosk program,” an Amazon spokeswoman confirmed to the Journal. The e-commerce giant said it will instead be focusing on opening additional Amazon Books and Amazon 4-star locations.

The first Amazon 4-star store was introduced last year in New York. The stores let customers browse and try some of the products that are sold on its marketplace that have earned a customer rating of four stars or more.

Amazon says it will open more 4-star locations and additional Amazon Books stores in 2019.

Amazon has announced that it will close all 87 of its pop-up kiosk locations, currently found in stores like Whole Foods, Kohl’s, and in shopping malls, th...
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Amazon reportedly planning to open dozens of grocery stores in major cities

The new stores will be separate from its Whole Foods stores

Amazon is planning to open new grocery stores in urban areas of the U.S., according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Unnamed sources told the publication that the company is trying to expand its grocery footprint beyond its Whole Foods Market chain.

The new stores will be smaller than most traditional supermarkets but larger than a typical convenience store. The stores will reportedly make customer service a top priority and have a wider selection of items than Whole Foods. Online shopping and delivery options will also be available.

Amazon has plans to open one of the new stores in Los Angeles as early as the end of this year, sources said. Leases have also been signed for locations including San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.

Possible threat to traditional grocers

The Journal noted that the launch of the new grocery stores coincides with a rocky period for the traditional grocery market.

"The timing of Amazon’s store development comes during a difficult period for the roughly $1 trillion food and consumer-product retail sector, which already deals with low margins and extreme competition," warns the publication.

In a statement on Friday, Amazon said it “doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation.”

Amazon, which acquired Whole Foods in 2017 for $13.7 billion, has been expanding the availability of its Prime Now online grocery delivery and pickup program since early last year. Prime Now is currently available at Whole Foods stores in 63 cities for delivery and 22 markets for pickup.

The e-commerce giant has also expressed an interest in growing its lineup of cashierless Amazon Go convenience stores. Amazon now runs 10 Go stores in Seattle, San Francisco, and Chicago. Media reports have suggested that Amazon plans to open as many as 3,000 Go stores over the next several years, which could also take a toll on brick-and-mortar food retailers.

The Journal’s report didn’t say whether or not the company’s upcoming grocery stores will rely on the technology that enables shoppers to skip the checkout line at its Go stores.

Amazon is planning to open new grocery stores in urban areas of the U.S., according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Unnamed sources told the publ...
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Amazon launches weekly delivery day program

The ‘Amazon Day’ option is intended to cut down on deliveries and packaging

Amazon has announced that it’s giving Prime members the ability to schedule a day of the week to have all of their packages arrive under a new feature dubbed Amazon Day.

On Amazon Days of a customer’s choosing, the e-commerce giant will deliver a week’s worth of Amazon orders. The company says there are several reasons to get excited about the new feature:

  • Added predictability. “Rest easy knowing your packages will arrive the same day each week,” Amazon said.

  • Less waste. “With all of your items arriving on the same day, we will combine your orders when possible.”

  • Convenience. “Keep adding items throughout the week and we’ll deliver everything on your Amazon Day.”

“Amazon Day makes shopping throughout the week so easy,” said Susan T. from Wilmington, DE, one of the Prime members who received early access to the service. “Whenever I think of something I need, I just buy it with Amazon Day and know it’s going to arrive on the day I work from home.”

Reducing waste

To use the new feature, simply select the Amazon Day option at checkout and pick a designated day for all of your orders to arrive. Amazon will hold off on shipping products individually as orders are submitted and will instead round up a week’s worth of orders to deliver all at once.

The feature is intended to reduce deliveries, cut down on packaging, and help further the company’s goal of becoming more environmentally friendly.

Orders can still be shipped via normal delivery if a customer needs a particular item to arrive sooner than a week later. Amazon says customers can choose the Amazon Day feature as often as they’d like, “or if there’s another option that’s better for a certain order, choose that instead.”

Amazon’s rollout of the new feature comes amid its ongoing effort to slash its carbon footprint. Last week, the company announced that it intends to make half of its deliveries carbon neutral by 2030 under a sustainability initiative called “Shipment Zero.”

Amazon has announced that it’s giving Prime members the ability to schedule a day of the week to have all of their packages arrive under a new feature dubb...
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Amazon launches new program to reduce counterfeit listings

‘Project Zero’ enables invited brands to remove fake listings themselves

Amazon has launched a program designed to combat the surge in counterfeit products on the site by allowing brands to flag and remove counterfeit listings of their products from the platform on their own.

The e-commerce giant said its new program relies on machine learning technology to offer what it calls “automated protections.” The company says the technology scans listings and will automatically remove products that it determines are counterfeit.

Brands that are invited to participate in the program can remove listings off the site as well.

“With Project Zero, brands no longer need to contact us to remove a counterfeit listing,” Amazon said in a statement. “Instead, they can do so, quickly and easily, using our new self-service tool.”

Amazon said it will be monitoring this “self-service” ability closely.

"Brands must maintain a high bar of accuracy in order to maintain their Project Zero privileges," Amazon notes in its FAQ section about the service. "We have a number of processes in place to promote accuracy, including required training as part of Project Zero enrollment and ongoing monitoring to prevent misuse of our tools."

Working towards the goal of zero counterfeits

Due to the sheer size of Amazon’s marketplace, the company has had a hard time contending with the issue of counterfeit products on its site. Amazon has been taking steps to drive down counterfeit sales for the past several years.

The company’s latest counterfeit-spotting initiative has already been tested by a number of brands, including Vera Bradley, Thunderworks (a maker of pet calming solutions), Kenu, and Chom Chom Roller.

Under the Project Zero program, Amazon said it was able to stop 100 times more suspected counterfeit products than what it’s usually able to take down in response to brands’ reports.

“Project Zero, with its automated protections and the self-service removal of counterfeit products, is a significant development that will help ensure our customers receive authentic Vera Bradley products from Amazon,” said Mark Dely, chief legal and administrator officer at Vera Bradley.

“Amazon’s product serialization service has been a game-changer for us. We are excited to have this self-service counterfeit removal tool for the U.S. Marketplace and consider this to be an insurance policy,” said Ken Minn, CEO, Kenu.

Amazon has launched a program designed to combat the surge in counterfeit products on the site by allowing brands to flag and remove counterfeit listings o...
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Amazon vows to reduce its carbon footprint

The company is aiming to make half of its shipments carbon-neutral by 2030 under a new sustainability initiative

Amazon announced on Monday that it’s striving to reduce its carbon footprint through a new environmental initiative called “Shipment Zero.” The company is aiming to make 50 percent of all Amazon shipments carbon-free by 2030.

In a blog post, Dave Clark, the company’s senior vice president of world operations, said that with improvements in electric vehicles, aviation biofuels, reusable packaging, and renewable energy, the company can now “see a path to net zero carbon delivery of shipments to customers.”

“It won’t be easy to achieve this goal, but it’s worth being focused and stubborn on this vision and we’re committed to seeing it through,” Clark said.

Going green

Amazon said it will share its company-wide carbon footprint “along with related goals and programs” later this year. The data will be obtained from an advanced scientific model capable of accurately mapping Amazon’s carbon footprint, which will also help the company identify ways to reduce carbon use in its operations, Clark added.

The e-commerce giant’s “Shipment Zero” initiative complements other sustainability programs currently being run by Amazon, including Frustration-Free Packaging and Ship in Own Container.

Amazon also noted that it has a network of solar and wind farms, solar installations on its fulfillment center rooftops, and investments in the circular economy. The company said it employs more than 200 scientists, engineers, and product designers who are dedicated to developing new ways to leverage Amazon’s scale for the “good of the customers and the planet.”

Amazon announced on Monday that it’s striving to reduce its carbon footprint through a new environmental initiative called “Shipment Zero.” The company is...
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NYC mayor disappointed in Amazon’s decision to cancel HQ2 plans

Bill de Blasio called Amazon’s decision ‘an abuse of corporate power’

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio did not hold back when it came to venting his frustrations about Amazon canceling its plans to build a second headquarters in Queens.

"This is an example of an abuse of corporate power," de Blasio told NBC's Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press” on Sunday. "Amazon just took their ball and went home. And what they did was confirm people's worst fears about corporate America."

Last week, de Blasio said Amazon “threw away” an opportunity by backing out of the deal.

"You have to be tough to make it in New York City," he said in a statement. "We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world. Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity."

Amazon reneges on the deal

De Blasio, a Democrat, had been a huge supporter of the plan to have Amazon’s second headquarters in New York. Last November, he claimed that it would be a boon to locals, including residents of a large public-housing development located near the proposed site.

But Amazon ultimately decided not to carry out its plan to build HQ2 in New York.

"After much thought and deliberation, we've decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens," the company wrote in a blog post last week.

The company said it will not look to replace New York with another city, but it “will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville” and will “continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada,” according to CNN.

Democrats split

Although some Democrats are disappointed in Amazon’s decision, others have declared it a victory. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), whose district is near the site where Amazon would have been located, gave her take to NBC.

“I think it’s incredible. It shows that everyday Americans still have the power to organize and fight for their communities.”

De Blasio acknowledged the division among progressives on Sunday, but argued that it’s possible for progressives to govern effectively while also creating jobs.

"I am representing 8.6 million people, and a clear majority of those people believe we need more fairness in our economy. But of course, we need jobs, we need growth, we need revenue,” he said. “Progressives can do both.”

In an op-ed for the New York Times published Saturday, de Blasio wrote that the deal would have created up to 25,000 jobs. He expressed his dismay that Amazon couldn’t handle even a small amount of public criticism about income inequality.

“The lesson here is that corporations can’t ignore rising anger over economic inequality anymore,” de Blasio wrote. “We see that anger roiling Silicon Valley, in the rocks hurled at buses carrying tech workers from San Francisco and Oakland to office parks in the suburbs.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio did not hold back when it came to venting his frustrations about Amazon canceling its plans to build a second headquarte...
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Amazon pulls its plans for a second headquarters in New York

The question of where next looms for the digital empire

“Start spreading the news, we’re leaving today. We want no part of it -- New York, New York!”

Amazon is deep-sixing its plans to build a new headquarters (HQ2) in Sinatra’s old New York. The company says it’s had enough of the Big Apple’s pushback.

"After much thought and deliberation, we've decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens," Amazon said in a statement. “For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term.”

A road paved with good intentions?

The short version is that, despite its best efforts to make New York one of its two new East Coast HQs and create 25,000 new in-city jobs, Amazon wasn’t feeling any love from New York politicians or workers.

As an example, Amazon’s New York’s Long Island warehouse workers moved to unionize in late 2018 amid complaints of being overworked and underpaid.

“Ever since they opened, management has forced everyone at the warehouse to work 12-hour shifts for five or six days a week,” said warehouse employee Rashad Long in a press conference employees held to voice their dissatisfaction.

As you can imagine, Amazon took an opposite stance, claiming its “pioneering spirit,” wages as high as $23 an hour, and “world class benefits” was an employment package workers would have a tough time finding just anywhere.

New York calls out Amazon

New York’s City Hall thinks Amazon might be calling foul on the wrong team. Some have suggested that the online retail giant has been somewhat unappreciative of the $3 billion tax incentive New York gave it as part of its relocation incentives package.

"You have to be tough to make it in New York City. We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world," New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted out on Thursday. "Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity."

Carolyn Maloney, a New York congresswoman, was skeptical from the start, and her spin took a decidedly sour turn upon hearing Amazon’s announcement.

“Disappointed that NYC won’t be home to 25K+ new jobs from HQ2 & that LIC (Long Island City) will lose out on infrastructure improvements that would have accompanied this project. This is not the Valentine that NY needed,” Maloney tweeted.

“The deal could have been improved. There were legitimate concerns raised and aspects that I wanted changed. I was ready to work for those changes. But now, we won’t have a chance to do that and we are out 25K+ new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new investments.”

Where next?

Amazon says it has no plans to "reopen the HQ2 search at this time." Rather than roll the dice before the dust on the New York brush-off settles, the company says it “will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada.”

However, the company isn’t completely bailing out of New York -- simply out of its new Long Island City headquarters.

“We love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture -- and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents. There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and we plan to continue growing these teams.”

“Start spreading the news, we’re leaving today. We want no part of it -- New York, New York!”Amazon is deep-sixing its plans to build a new headquarter...
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Amazon’s earnings suggest the consumer is doing just fine

The online retailer posted fourth quarter profits of $3 billion

The consumer appears to be doing well if earnings from online retailer Amazon are any indication. The company reported fourth quarter earnings of $3 billion, or $6.04 a share, on revenue of $72.4 billion.

That’s up from a profit of $3.75 a share on sales of $60.5 billion in the holiday shopping season of 2017, and better than analysts expected.

An Amazon earnings beat suggests consumers remained confident throughout the fourth quarter of 2018, spending heavily during the holiday season. Since Amazon is one of the nation’s major retailers its strong sales suggest consumers were spending freely during the last three months of the year.

Amazon said its net sales increased 20 percent to $72.4 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with $60.5 billion in fourth quarter 2017. Excluding the $801 million unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, net sales increased 21 percent compared with fourth quarter 2017.

The company reported an increase in operating income of $3.8 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with operating income of $2.1 billion in fourth quarter 2017.

Favorable economic position

While that’s pretty good news for Amazon shareholders, it is also another indicator that consumers remain in a pretty favorable economic position, even as corporations temper their outlook for 2019. Consumers are still spending and they’re spending a sizable portion of their disposable income with Amazon.

“Alexa was very busy during her holiday season,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “Echo Dot was the best-selling item across all products on Amazon globally, and customers purchased millions more devices from the Echo family compared to last year.”

Amazon points out its profits rose despite the fact that it implemented an across-the-board minimum wage of $15 an hour during the quarter. The company says the new Amazon minimum wage benefited more than 250,000 employees in the U.S. and 17,000 employees in the U.K., as well as over 200,000 seasonal employees who were hired during the holiday period.

Using Amazon as a consumer barometer, the first half of 2019 might not live up to the last quarter of 2018. In a conference call following its earnings release, Amazon executives lowered their sales expectations for the current quarter.

The consumer appears to be doing well if earnings from online retailer Amazon are any indication. The company reported fourth quarter earnings of $3 billio...
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Amazon testing delivery robots

Cooler-sized, self-driving delivery robots are currently being tested in Washington

On Wednesday, Amazon deployed six of its self-driving package delivery robots in a neighborhood of Snohomish County, Washington.

The e-commerce giant said the six-wheeled device, dubbed Amazon Scout, was developed at its research and development lab in Seattle. The autonomous package delivery vehicles are roughly “the size of a small cooler, and roll along sidewalks at a walking pace,” Sean Scott, an Amazon executive in charge of Scout, said in a blog post.

The Seattle-based online retailer said each Scout device has the ability to “safely and efficiently navigate around pets, pedestrians and anything else in their path.”

During the trial, however, each device will be accompanied by an Amazon employee, even though Scouts have the ability to navigate by themselves. Scouts will also only run Monday through Friday during daylight hours during the trial.

“Customers in Snohomish County order just as they normally would and their Amazon packages will be delivered either by one of our trusted partner carriers or by Amazon Scout,” Scott said.

Wired pointed out that the autonomous package delivery devices could face certain challenges.

“A delivery robot can’t open gates without hands, and it can’t climb steps to get right to your door,” Wired noted. “And if the robot requires the customer to enter a PIN to get the package out, how can the robot leave the package if you’re not home?”

The trial in Washington will determine whether Amazon Scouts will be deployed in other areas.

On Wednesday, Amazon deployed six of its self-driving package delivery robots in a neighborhood of Snohomish County, Washington. The e-commerce giant s...
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Amazon Prime users say free two-day shipping is still the main drawing point of the service

However, other retailers are catching up to the online behemoth

Media researchers at The Diffusion Group (TDG) have uncorked a new study that finds 79 percent of Amazon Prime consumers love its unlimited two-day free shipping more than any of the other Prime perks -- Prime Music, Prime Pantry, Prime Book Box, etc. -- with Prime Video lagging far behind at a meager 11 percent.

Two-day shipping is an easy task for Amazon given its warehouse empire of more than 75 fulfillment centers and 25 sortation centers dotted across North America. And Amazon’s treasure trove of anything and everything provides an endless loop for the online shopper.

However, the other big players in the online shopping world are putting Amazon on notice. WalMart stood up to Amazon by extending free shipping to third-party sellers' products and simplifying the return process, and Target upped the ante with the launch of its same-day shipping service and its curbside pickup service, “Drive Up.”

Kroger and CVS are all-in for the delivery game as well and looking for their own piece of Amazon’s action, not to mention some of its 100 million members.

“Amazon Prime has become synonymous with free shipping,” Michael Greeson, President of TDG, told ConsumerAffairs “and this has been critical to its rapid growth. Competitors have long been aware of this fact, but have failed to match Amazon or, when they have adopted the free-shipping model, to effectively communicate its availability, thus allowing Amazon to dominate the messaging. Wal-Mart, Target, and others need to put free shipping front in center in their branding efforts, versus positioning it as value-add.”

The long tail

How this dance for online shipping supremacy will shake out will be interesting to watch.

“While Amazon Prime is building robust audiences in video, music, and gaming, Prime is first and foremost about developing more and broader retail relationships, and free shipping is key to that mission. That is where the real value of Prime lies,” noted Greeson.

And the long tail of Amazon Prime -- lumping in video, music, books, and food into the Prime-available family -- is a bonus.

From Greeson’s purview, Amazon has made the right moves to draw in new subscribers by focusing on providing the right high-quality digital assets.

“Once they begin to buy more merchandise, however, service value appears to shift from media to free shipping. This is not to diminish the value that digital media services add to the Prime equation, but it puts it into perspective relative to retail,” he added.

Media researchers at The Diffusion Group (TDG) have uncorked a new study that finds 79 percent of Amazon Prime consumers love its unlimited two-day free sh...
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Amazon may tap empty Sears stores for possible Whole Foods expansion

The company has plenty of things to weigh, including competition, market need, and affordability of space

Sears is as close as a company can be to teetering on the brink of liquidating its assets, and if it doesn’t make it past its 11th-hour reprieve, it’s possible that its empty stores may become expansion space for Whole Foods.

In a report by Yahoo! Finance, sources said that the Amazon-owned food chain has already taken a look-see at a former K-Mart site in Utah. K-Mart is one of Sears’ sister acts, and it was caught in Sears' massive closing of stores when it filed for bankruptcy last year.

Whole Foods’ marching orders

At a recent market forecast event, Jim Sud, Whole Foods’ executive VP of growth and business development, said that Amazon wants him to put the pedal to the metal.

“In the two years prior to the merger, because of competitive pressures and because of a slowdown in our comparable store sales, we slowed our growth,” Sud said.

“At one time, I think we had 93 stores in development, and we stopped signing leases and stopped opening stores. But when Amazon acquired us, they sort of said: ‘You’re on. Start growing again.’”

The conundrum

One thing Sud’s team has to look closely at is the competition and what niches are still open. Competition in the grocery market can be brutal. Sud went as far as saying it’s retail’s most competitive sector.

Kroger, for one, is quickly establishing new benchmarks by moving to a “scan-and-go” approach, partnering with Walgreens for space inside the pharmacy’s stores, and launching a fleet of driverless delivery vehicles.

Then, there’s the question of how to best expand into Sears’ leave-behinds, or potentially take over the entire space of a Sears’ shell. Both would be a herculean task for Whole Foods.

How many of the 300 Sears and K-Mart stores that have been shuttered does Whole Foods really need and can make profitable? Except for the eight states where it doesn’t have a store, Whole Foods has every major market covered.

If Whole Foods did move into a vacant Sears store, it would also face the daunting task of filling out a lot of empty space. On average, a Whole Foods store has about 38,000 square feet, whereas many Sears’ stores were quadruple that.

Let’s make a deal

Still, malls love food stores, and mall landlords might be open to cutting a deal with Whole Foods just for the foot traffic alone.

“There are lots of vacant retail space that they can take advantage of, and that gives them access to reasonable retail locations, but I also think they want to secure good real estate deals by filling voids, and getting good rental levels from landlords,” Neil Saunders, managing director of retail at GlobalData, told Yahoo Finance.

“If that’s an existing center -- second generation space -- that meets all of our criteria…we’ll jump all over it,” Sud commented.

Sears is as close as a company can be to teetering on the brink of liquidating its assets, and if it doesn’t make it past its 11th-hour reprieve, it’s poss...
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Amazon lures customers with freebies

Privacy concerns have been raised, but the charges have yet to be proven

Amazon threw down another gauntlet to its competitors on Tuesday when it announced that it’s now going to be sending free product samples to customers.

Consumers don’t have to pay for a single thing -- no buy one/get one, no tax, no shipping charge. Amazon customers will just open their mailbox one day and find samples that Amazon thinks will be enjoyable and thoughtful.

To work that “enjoyable and thoughtful” angle, Amazon will use users’ order history and profile information.

The samples you can expect to get

In laying out the blueprint of Amazon’s new initiative, the company pointed to food samples for pet lovers, personal care products, health and wellness samples, household products that say, a brand like OxiClean might be rolling out, and healthy food products for grocery shoppers -- possibly to bolster its stake in Whole Foods

This is not a one-and-done deal, either. The company says that there’s no limit to the number of samples a consumer might receive. A recipient does not necessarily have to be a Prime member either.

“Anyone with an active Amazon.com account is eligible to receive free samples. If you are selected to receive a sample, the sample will be sent to your default address. If you’d like to receive samples at a different address, you need to change the default address in Your Account > Your Addresses,” the company wrote in the promotion’s FAQs.

Does that mean Amazon will be mining my data?

Consumers might be leery about whether Amazon will be delving into their private data in order to send out samples.

Given the amount of private data users have unknowingly given or had pilfered from their profile across the digital landscape, they may have a right to be concerned. The recent announcement that an app was masquerading as an Amazon Echo app only raises the privacy eyebrow higher.

Even though Amazon is upfront about using a customer’s order history and profile information as it relates to this idea, critics are quick to raise a flag.

Axios opined that “Customers are getting items that Amazon’s vast trove of customer data predicts they'll want to buy. But some customers could feel violated when something they haven't ordered shows up unexpectedly on their doorstep.” CNBC also pulled the curtain back on the promotion and agreed that it sounds like a good deal, “but below the surface it raises some privacy concerns in the age of data mining and detailed digital user profiles.”

Only time will tell if Axios’ or CNBC’s crystal balls are correct. Until then, Amazon wants consumers to know that “If you would like to opt out of receiving samples from this program, you may do so” by going to the program’s preferences page.

Amazon threw down another gauntlet to its competitors on Tuesday when it announced that it’s now going to be sending free product samples to customers....
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Amazon rumored to be planning a Whole Foods expansion

The company wants to put more customers within range of its two-hour Prime Now delivery service

Amazon is reportedly planning to expand Whole Foods stores across the U.S as part of an effort to bring its two-hour delivery offering to more consumers, particularly those in rural areas, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

Amazon is said to be interested in moving into more suburban areas and utilizing spaces that are “slightly larger” than its existing locations, the Journal said, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.

The e-commerce giant, which acquired Whole Foods in June 2017 for $13.7 billion, will be “using extra space in its stores to accommodate Amazon delivery and pickup from online orders.”

“Amazon offers Prime Now, a two-hour delivery option to members of its Prime subscription service in more than 60 cities, and online grocery pickup from Whole Foods stores in as little as 30 minutes from nearly 30 cities,” the Journal said.

“Amazon plans to expand those services to nearly all of its roughly 475 Whole Foods stores in the U.S., according to another person familiar with the plans. Amazon also wants to use benefits for Prime members to attract new customers to Whole Foods and draw them back more often.”

The report said Whole Foods employees have scouted regions of Western North America for potential retail spaces in parts of Idaho, southern Utah, and Wyoming. At the present time, there are no Whole Foods stores in these areas.

Amazon is reportedly planning to expand Whole Foods stores across the U.S as part of an effort to bring its two-hour delivery offering to more consumers, p...
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Amazon set a record for holiday sales in 2018

The company said more items were ordered worldwide than ever before

In a post on its website published the day after Christmas, Amazon said broke holiday sales records once again.

This year, customers across the globe ordered more items on its site than ever before. The e-commerce giant had the same news to report about its holiday sales last year.

In this year’s announcement, Amazon said its Alexa-enabled Echo smart speakers were among its top sellers this holiday season. Other best-sellers included the Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote.

The company said consumers used Alexa to listen to “hundreds of millions more hours of music this holiday season compared to last holiday season.” Amazon’s digital assistant was also instructed to turn on holiday lights “tens of millions of times.”

Customers also used Alexa to help them create cocktails. Amazon said Alexa helped make “hundreds of thousands of cocktails this holiday season — with eggnog and Moscow Mule being the most requested drinks.”

In the toy category, some of Amazon’s best-sellers included LOL Surprise! dolls in the Glam Glitter series and Nerf N-Strike Elite Strongarm Blaster. Carhartt clothing and accessories were top-sellers in the fashion category, and Bose QuietComfort Wireless Headphones were popular purchases in the electronics category.

Record-breaking sales

Amazon didn’t share any specific numbers on its holiday sales, but dubbed this season its “best yet.” The company said it added “tens of millions” of people who signed up for Prime memberships, both for paid memberships and free trials.

More than a billion items shipped for free during the holiday period, Amazon said. The company also noted that the online stores of smaller and medium-sized businesses made up more than 50 percent of Amazon’s sales leading up to Christmas.

“We look forward to continuing to bring our customers what they want, in ways most convenient for them in 2019. We are thrilled that in the U.S. alone, more than one billion items shipped for free this holiday with Prime,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO Worldwide Consumer.

The news of Amazon’s record-breaking holiday sales comes the same week Mastercard put out a report showing an increase in e-commerce sales this year.

Online sales rose 19.1 percent over last year, according to the credit company. Holiday sales in general rose 5.1 percent this year to $850 billion -- the biggest increase since 2012.

In a post on its website published the day after Christmas, Amazon said broke holiday sales records once again. This year, customers across the globe o...
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Amazon reportedly evaluating airports as potential Go store locations

The company could open its grab-and-go stores at major U.S. airports

Amazon is eyeing airports as locations for its cashier-less Go stores, according to Reuters.

The e-commerce giant -- which has opened seven Go stores since January and has plans to open as many as 3,000 by 2021 -- reportedly spoke to officials at several major U.S. airports regarding the possibility of putting Go stores in terminals.

“The lead for Amazon Go requested a meeting,” said a June 27 email from a technology adviser who supports Los Angeles International, according to Reuters. “Interested?” To which the representative replied, “Yes. Thanks!”

A representative for Amazon's cloud unit also asked San Jose International Airport for a meeting and referenced Amazon Go as "one of many possibilities we can discuss.”

However, since these initial exchanges with airport contacts, no additional information has been provided by Amazon about whether its Go stores are headed to the nation’s busiest airports.

Considering airports

Amazon’s Go stores allow shoppers to move through aisles and pick up items such as ready-made snacks, lunches, drinks, frozen dinners, and basic groceries. When shoppers are ready to leave, they can simply walk out of the store without having to pay a cashier first.

The company is able to fulfill its “no lines, no checkouts, no registers” promise by relying on sensors and cameras placed throughout the store. These allow Amazon to track what customers take out of the store and charge customers’ credit cards accordingly.

The company hasn’t offered any further details on whether its automated stores will be built into airports, but that may be because it’s taking time to consider how to navigate the challenges of operating in airports. For example, workers would need a security clearance to staff concessions after security checkpoints.

Financial constraints may also be under consideration. Previous reports suggested that just one Amazon Go store required more than $1 million in hardware to build. Additionally, leasing retail space at airports can be costly.

Amazon is eyeing airports as locations for its cashier-less Go stores, according to Reuters. The e-commerce giant -- which has opened seven Go stores s...
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Amazon reportedly testing its cashierless technology in bigger stores

Sources say a Whole Foods application of the technology is most likely

Amazon is testing its cashierless shopping technology in larger stores, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The e-commerce giant -- which has been taking steps to expand its presence in the brick-and-mortar sector -- is currently operating a larger checkout-free space in Seattle that is “formatted like a big store,” insiders told the Journal.

If early tests prove successful, Amazon will “most likely” launch its cashierless technology at Whole Foods, which it acquired in June 2017. The company said previously that it didn’t plan to implement the technology at its grocery chain’s stores, but it didn’t rule out the move entirely.

Whole Foods application most likely

The Journal’s sources said the technology still has trouble in “bigger spaces with higher ceilings and more products,” so no time frame was given for a larger-scale launch of the cashierless tech.

Amazon’s existing automated stores allow shoppers to move through aisles and pick up items such as ready-made snacks, lunches, drinks, frozen dinners, and basic groceries. Sensors and cameras placed throughout each store track what consumers pick up from shelves and charge their credit cards accordingly, allowing them to simply walk out of the store after they’re done shopping instead of waiting in a line or paying a cashier.

In September, Bloomberg reported that Amazon planned to have about 10 of its Go stores open by the end of this year and about 50 locations in major metro areas by 2019. Amazon reportedly plans to have have as many as 3,000 of its cashierless stores open by 2021.

To implement its tech in larger grocery stores, the company will have to navigate challenges such as tracking frozen foods hidden behind glass. Whole Foods typically sells around 34,000 items in each store, which is far more than Amazon sells at its existing convenience store-like Go stores.

Amazon is testing its cashierless shopping technology in larger stores, according to the Wall Street Journal.The e-commerce giant -- which has been tak...
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Amazon now selling live Christmas trees

The company will deliver full-size trees right to customers’ doorsteps

Through a partnership with Hallmark, Amazon is now giving consumers the ability to purchase a live, full-size Christmas tree on its site.

The online retailer is selling a variety of evergreen tree options ranging in size between 6 feet and 7 feet. Once ordered, consumers can expect to receive their freshly cut tree within 4 to 7 days. The tree will arrive in a box on a pre-selected delivery date.

"This is our first entry into fresh-cut trees," Ann Ramsey, Hallmark licensing manager for Hallmark Flowers, told the Kansas City Business Journal. "When consumers think about holidays, they think about Hallmark, so Christmas trees are a perfect extension of the Hallmark brand."

The trees cost between $99 to $110 and, like millions of other items on Amazon this holiday season, will be shipped for free.

Expanding tree selection

Last year, the company offered smaller, three-foot live trees. “Given the popularity among customers, we increased the assortment,” the company told Today.  

Available trees include two types of Spruce trees, a Fraser Fir tree, and a Balsam Fir tree. Amazon is also selling holiday plants and wreaths for around $25 to $50.

This year’s live trees will start shipping on Wednesday, November 21. Each tree will come in a box packed with a biodegradable tree removal bag and tree preservative.

“Bringing this time honored tradition right to your front door is amazing,” Hallmark said in a statement. “We're making it easier than ever to experience a fresh-cut Christmas tree in homes all across the country."

Through a partnership with Hallmark, Amazon is now giving consumers the ability to purchase a live, full-size Christmas tree on its site. The online re...
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Amazon chooses New York, DC for new headquarters

Both metros expect to see 25,000 new jobs

After months of putting American cities through an elaborate selection process, Amazon has chosen metro New York and metro Washington to share its second corporate headquarters.

In the end, the decision seemed to make perfect sense. New York is the financial capital of the world while Washington is the seat of government, which is doing an increasing amount of business with the tech giant.

The Washington location is Crystal City, Virginia, wedged between Reagan National Airport and the Pentagon. The New York location is in Long Island City, a neighborhood in Queens.

Both metro areas stand to reap significant economic rewards since Amazon plans to hire roughly 50,000 workers between the two locations. At the same time, the company will situate its East Coast operations hub in Nashville, hiring 5,000 workers there.

“We are excited to build new headquarters in New York City and Northern Virginia,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon. “These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come. The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities.”

Amazon will be in the center of things

While Amazon will maintain its current corporate headquarters in Seattle, the new East Coast locations put it close to the source of economic and political power. The New York location is just across the East River from Midtown Manhattan and the Upper East Side. Long Island City is currently a mixed-use community with an industrial base and a Bohemian vibe. It has easy access to Manhattan as well as LaGuardia and JFK airports.

Crystal City, renamed National Landing, is on the Potomac River in Northern Virginia, just across from the nation's capital. It's a neighborhood of high rise office buildings and condos, whose prices just went up.

In fact, property values in both New York and Washington, already among the highest in the nation, can be expected to go even higher. Both are high-density population centers with little room for new construction to accommodate the thousands of new people who will be working there.

Meanwhile, political leaders in both New York and Virginia are celebrating Amazon's decision. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it “a giant step on our path to building an economy in New York City that leaves no one behind.”

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam called it “a big win for Virginia.” Both states offered Amazon generous tax breaks in their bids to secure the winning locations.

After months of putting American cities through an elaborate selection process, Amazon has chosen metro New York and metro Washington to share its second c...
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Amazon will be a bigger marketplace for Apple products

Apple is warming up to its big tech rival

Amazon and Apple may be competitors in some areas, but the online retailer says it has reached an agreement with the tech giant to increase the amount and range of Apple products it sells on its site.

Under the agreement, Amazon will sell a wider variety of iPhones, iPads, and other devices with the increase taking place in time for the holidays. In the past, Apple has been slow to embrace Amazon, preferring to sell most of its products through limited channels.

Undoubtedly a contributing factor to the new alliance is Amazon's decision to stop its third-party merchants not authorized by Apple from offering the companies products on the Amazon site. The change doesn't take place until after the holiday shopping period -- Jan. 4.

In addition to iPhones and iPads, Amazon shoppers will be able to purchase the Apple Watch, but not the HomePod, a smart speaker that competes head-to-head with the Amazon Echo.

More ways for consumers to buy

“We’re working with Amazon to improve the experience for Apple customers on their site and we look forward to those customers having another great way to buy iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac and more,” Apple said in a statement to media outlets.

An Amazon spokesman said the company is working to enhance the customer experience, and stocking its virtual shelves with products it knows consumers want is a way to do that.

The deal comes at a good time for Amazon, which is looking for ways to bolster customer experience to stay abreast of developments by two of its chief brick-and-mortar rivals, Walmart and Target.

Both retailers have recently announced that stock clerks will be able to check out customers' purchases without customers having to stand in line. Both have also shortened delivery times for online orders.

While industry analysts expect both Amazon and Apple to benefit from the deal, an analysis by CNET suggests some of the little guys may get hurt. It says small operators who buy Apple products right after they go on sale and sell them on Amazon will face new barriers.

Amazon and Apple may be competitors in some areas, but the online retailer says it has reached an agreement with the tech giant to increase the amount and...
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Ebay suing Amazon for allegedly poaching ‘high-value’ sellers

The lawsuit follows a cease and desist letter sent to Amazon earlier this month

Ebay has filed a lawsuit against Amazon accusing the e-commerce giant of illegally poaching its third-party sellers, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The lawsuit, filed in California on Wednesday, seeks to block Amazon sales representatives from using eBay’s messaging system to hire sellers for its Marketplace. Ebay is also seeking unspecified damages as monetary relief for sales lost due to the alleged seller-poaching.

The lawsuit follows a cease and desist letter that eBay sent to Amazon on October 1.

“We can confirm that we have uncovered an unlawful and troubling scheme on the part of Amazon to solicit eBay sellers to move to Amazon’s platform,” eBay told the WSJ earlier this month. “We have demanded that Amazon end its unlawful activity and will take the appropriate steps, as needed, to protect eBay.”

Amazon said at the time that it was conducting a thorough investigation of the allegations.

‘Startling in breadth’

In an earlier report, the WSJ said eBay had discovered that roughly 50 Amazon employees in various parts of the world had sent more than 1,000 messages to sellers on its platform. The company said it became aware of the issue after being alerted by a seller.

The suit alleges that Amazon employees, "perpetrated a scheme to infiltrate and exploit eBay's internal member email system.” Ebay accuses its competitor of using special tactics to avoid being detected, such as putting dashes in between each letter of the word “Amazon” and spelling out email addresses when trying to lure “high-value” eBay sellers away from Amazon.

"The scheme is startling in breadth - involving large numbers of Amazon representatives ("Amazon reps"), targeting many hundreds of eBay sellers, and spanning several countries overseas and many states in the United States (including California)," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit alleges that these practices violated a California computer crime law, as well as its own user agreement.

Ebay has filed a lawsuit against Amazon accusing the e-commerce giant of illegally poaching its third-party sellers, The Wall Street Journal reports.Th...
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Amazon to raise minimum wage to $15 per hour next month

The move follows criticism of the company’s wage and employment practices

On Tuesday, Amazon announced that it will be raising its minimum wage for U.S. workers to $15 per hour beginning November 1.

The e-commerce giant said in a statement that the new minimum wage will benefit more than 250,000 full-time and part-time Amazon employees across the country, as well over 100,000 seasonal workers who will be hired to work at the company’s fulfillment centers this holiday.

The announcement follows harsh criticism of online retailer’s working conditions and pay. At the end of August, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Ver.) engaged in a public feud with the company over its pay and work environment at warehouses and fulfillment centers.

The Vermont Senator said at the time that Amazon had been “less than forthcoming with information about their employment practices.”

“What we do know is that Amazon’s median employee pay is only $28,446 — 9 percent less than the industry average and well below what constitutes a living wage in the United States,” he said. “Further, we believe that many of Amazon’s workers are employed by temporary staffing agencies and contractors and make even less than the median Amazon employee.”

Public pressure to raise minimum wage

“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.”

Senator Sanders praised the company’s minimum wage hike, calling it “enormously important.”

"Today I want to give credit where credit is due," Sanders said in response to the new hourly wage. "What Mr. Bezos has done today is not only enormously important for Amazon's hundreds of thousands of employees, it could well be, and I think it will be, a shot heard around the world."

Amazon also announced that it will be lobbying for an increase in the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour. Sanders said he hopes that other executives and firms around the country will follow Amazon’s lead.

Target announced earlier this year that it would raise its minimum hourly wage to $15 by 2020. In January, Walmart said it planned to raise its starting wage to $11 per hour.

On Tuesday, Amazon announced that it will be raising its minimum wage for U.S. workers to $15 per hour beginning November 1. The e-commerce giant said...
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Amazon makes investment in prefabricated housing startup

The e-commerce giant has invested in Plant Prefab, a company known for sustainable construction and smart home technology

On Tuesday, Amazon announced that it made its first investment in Plant Prefab, a startup that creates and builds prefabricated single- and multifamily homes using sustainable materials. 

On its website, Plant Prefab claims it can build homes faster and with less waste than traditional construction methods.

To date, the Rialto, California-based firm -- which raised $6.7 million in funding from Amazon’s Alexa Fund and Obvious Ventures -- has installed 26 units in California and Utah and undertaken a multifamily project in Berkeley.

Paul Bernard, director of the Alexa Fund, said in a statement that Amazon is “thrilled to support” Plant Prefab because the company makes “connected homes more accessible to customers and developers.”

Using automation

Plant Prefab is aiming to speed up the process of building a house, as well as drive down costs for consumers, through the use of automation, according to the company’s founder and CEO Steve Glenn.

“In the housing-crunched major cities like Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, along with areas like Silicon Valley, it takes too much time to build a home from groundbreaking to occupancy, and labor shortages, construction delays and increased construction costs are exacerbating this trend even further -- and making homes increasingly less affordable,” Glenn said in a statement.

“Building homes in factories addresses these challenges, particularly as we’re able integrate online technology, new building systems, and automation to dramatically reduce the time and cost necessary to design and build high-quality, custom homes.”

Possibility of integrating Alexa

Alexa now powers 20,000 voice-activated, smart-home devices made by 3,500 different companies, Bernard noted. Investing in a homebuilding startup could be a way for Amazon to integrate Alexa in the construction of smart homes.

Earlier this year, Lennar -- the nation’s largest homebuilder -- announced that it had reached a deal with Amazon to pre-install Alexa in all of its new homes.

“This will be the hallmark of why we buy a new home,” said David Kaiserman, president of Lennar Ventures, said in a statement announcing the partnership. “It’s an important step in the mass adoption of all these technologies.”

Amazon’s investment in Plant Prefab comes less than a week after it unveiled more than a dozen Alexa-powered smart home devices, including a voice-operated microwave oven and an amplifier that can be controlled by the Alexa voice assistant.

On Tuesday, Amazon announced that it made its first investment in Plant Prefab, a start-up that creates and builds prefabricated single- and multifamily ho...
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Amazon may open 3,000 cashierless stores by 2021

The company is reportedly considering expanding its footprint of physical stores

In the next three years, Amazon could open thousands more cashierless Amazon Go stores, according to a report from Bloomberg.

The online retailer currently has two of its automated grocery stores in Seattle, where the company is headquartered. Earlier this week, the company opened another location in Chicago. Amazon is also planning to open one in New York.

Sources with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg the e-commerce giant is considering opening as many as 3,000 locations by 2021. Launching this many grab-and-go stores would put Amazon in competition with the likes of leading convenience stores such as 7-Eleven, Walgreens, and CVS.

No lines, no checkouts

Amazon’s cashier-free stores allow shoppers to move through aisles picking up items such as ready-made snacks, lunches, drinks, frozen dinners, and basic groceries. When shoppers are ready to leave, they can simply walk out without having to wait in a checkout line or pay a cashier.

The company is able to fulfill its “no lines, no checkouts, no registers” promise by relying on sensors and cameras placed throughout the store. These allow Amazon to track what customers take out of the store and charge customers’ credit cards accordingly.

Amazon is reportedly planning to have about 10 of its Go stores open by the end of this year and about 50 locations in major metro areas by 2019, according to the report.

However, the cost of setting up these physical stores is said to be a major hurdle in the company’s aggressive expansion plans. The first Amazon Go in downtown Seattle required more than $1 million in hardware to build.

Launching thousands of additional locations would help Amazon expand its physical store footprint. The company already has more than more than 350 Whole Foods stores across the country.

In June, Amazon agreed to buy online drugstore PillPack, which could also help it become a larger force in the pharmacy and healthcare sector.

In the next three years, Amazon could open thousands more cashierless Amazon Go stores, according to a report from Bloomberg.The online retailer curren...
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Amazon opens its first cashierless store outside of Seattle

Chicago is home to the new Amazon Go store

Amazon’s first cashierless store outside of Seattle has officially opened: in Chicago. The store is located at 113 S Franklin St., and unlike two of the other locations, the store will be closed over the weekend.

Amazon’s other three Amazon Go stores are all in Seattle, and like those, the Chicago store is also open long hours -- 7AM through 8PM -- and has no checkout lines.

Amazon first announced Amazon Go in 2016, and each store is smaller than a traditional U.S. grocery store; it’s more similar to a convenience store in size. The stores focus on selling products that fit into customers’ busy lifestyles, such as ready-made snacks, lunches, drinks, frozen dinners, and basic groceries.

Amazon has reportedly been interested in opening another Go store in San Francisco. Not long after the first store opened its doors in January, the company was reportedly looking to expand to six additional storefronts that were expected to open this year.  

Amazon Go technology

Amazon’s first Go store opened in Seattle in the beginning of this year, allowing shoppers to freely move through the aisles and pick up items as needed. They then can leave the store when they’re done -- no checkout line and no cashier.

Amazon places sensors and cameras throughout the store to track what customers are picking up and taking home with them. Their credit cards are then charged accordingly. Customers are required to download the Amazon Go app to their phones and then scan the QR code from the app before leaving the store.

Similar stores popping up

Cashier-less stores have become popular in China -- where Amazon isn’t as popular -- though the technology isn’t as advanced as Amazon’s Go stores. Where Amazon relies on image recognition and machine learning, stores in China have been up and running with customers using products’ RFID tags for self-checkout.

Similarly, tech companies like JD, Tencent, and Alibaba have entered the cashierless store market. In fact, JD has plans for stores to utilize facial recognition, RFID tags, and QR codes in order to eliminate the need for cashiers. JD currently has over 20 stores across China -- and one in Indonesia.

Amazon’s first cashierless store outside of Seattle has officially opened: in Chicago. The store is located at 113 S Franklin St., and unlike two of the ot...
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Amazon unfurls its new Storefronts online store

Featured are products come from more than 20,000 U.S. businesses

Amazon is debuting a new online store called “Amazon Storefronts” which directs the spotlight toward products from businesses based in the United States.

Amazon Storefronts will have everything you’d expect from the online shopping mecca. All told, there will be more nearly 20,000 businesses in all 50 U.S. states offering more than a million products from 27 product categories.

“We’ve created a custom, one-stop shopping experience for customers looking for interesting, innovative and high quality products from American businesses from all across the country,” said Nicholas Denissen, Vice President for Amazon.

“Amazon first invited businesses to sell on Amazon nearly two decades ago, and today, small and medium-sized businesses are a vital part of Amazon’s large selection and commitment to customers. We’re championing their success with this new store and a national advertising campaign featuring a successful Michigan business selling on Amazon to customers across the U.S. and worldwide.”

What the consumer will find

Once inside Amazon Storefronts, customers will find curated American collections from artisans and start-ups, plus a “Storefront of the Week” highlighting the faces and businesses behind the products.

“Since we started selling on Amazon in October 2016, our sales have nearly doubled. Due to our success, we have been able to hire new team members from our community, including full and part time jobs,” said Holly Rutt, co-founder of Little Flower Soap Co., the U.S. business owner featured in Amazon’s national TV ad pitching Storefronts.

“We believe that customers like to know the story behind what they’re buying. When there is worry about creating jobs, it’s reassuring for customers to know their purchases are helping sustain jobs in the U.S.”

American-based, not American-made

On its face, the initiative might be a tad misleading as to where the products are actually made. While the products need to be sold from a company based in the U.S., Amazon clarified in an email to ConsumerAffairs that “the products do not have to be made in the U.S.”

The word “fear” doesn’t seem to be in Amazon’s dictionary. From taking on the grocery world with its purchase of Whole Foods to taking on Etsy with Amazon Handmade and the pharmaceutical world with its acquisition of PillPack, the company has displayed incredible moxie, and this move is no different.

Given that half of everything sold on its main portal comes from small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs), piggybacking on that metric and the pride of buying American-driven products is a definite plus -- not only for Amazon’s bank account but its persona and its place in the job-creation world, too.

Amazon estimates that SMBs selling on Amazon have created more than 900,000 jobs globally.

Amazon is debuting a new online store called “Amazon Storefronts” which directs the spotlight toward products from businesses based in the United States....
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Amazon launches Whole Foods delivery in 10 more cities

​Prime delivery is now available in 38 cities

On Wednesday, Amazon announced that it is expanding its Whole Foods grocery delivery service to 10 more cities.

Prime Now is now available in Charlotte, North Carolina; Las Vegas; Memphis, Tennessee; Nashville, Tennessee; New Orleans; Oklahoma City; Phoenix; Raleigh, North Carolina; Seattle and Tucson, Arizona.

The addition of ten new cities brings the total number of cities with the service to 38.

Amazon has also expanded its Whole Foods grocery delivery option to more neighborhoods in three existing markets: New York, L.A. and Dallas/Fort Worth.

“Prime Now delivery continues to be a hit with our customers and we’re excited to introduce the service in ten new cities plus more areas of New York, Los Angeles and Dallas/Ft. Worth,” said Christina Minardi, Whole Foods Market executive vice president of operations.

“It’s just another way we’re making it even easier for more customers to enjoy Whole Foods Market’s healthy and organic food,” Minardi said in a statement.

Shoppers can use www.primenow.com or the Amazon Prime Now App on any smartphone to order groceries. Customers can also use their Echo device to order groceries using the command, “Alexa, shop Whole Foods.”

The free two-hour delivery service is available every day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for Prime members.

On Wednesday, Amazon announced that it is expanding its Whole Foods grocery delivery service to 10 more cities. Prime Now is now available in Charlotte...
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Amazon orders 20,000 Mercedes vans as part of plan to expand its delivery network

The online retailer wants to reduce its reliance on delivery companies

Amazon announced on Wednesday that it is ordering 20,000 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans as part of a plan to expand its delivery fleet. The company’s new program is designed to reduce its reliance on major parcel delivery companies like FedEx, UPS, and the U.S. Postal Service.  

The e-commerce giant first announced that it would help entrepreneurs launch delivery companies that will lease Amazon-branded vans back in June.

An Amazon spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal the company received "tens of thousands" of applications for the new program. However, Amazon is likely to select about 500 to start. In response to the overwhelming number of applications, Amazon said it had to increase its van order from 4,500.

Expanding delivery network

Amazon’s past efforts to reduce its reliance on delivery companies have included leasing a fleet of cargo jets and paying people to make deliveries with their personal vehicles through a program called Amazon Flex.

The 20,000 new Mercedes vans will be built at a new facility in North Charleston, South Carolina, which opened on Wednesday. The German automaker has invested $500 million in expanding its operations in the area.

The new vans will not be owned and managed by Amazon, but rather by a fleet management company that will lease to the upstart delivery companies. The vans will, however, feature Amazon’s smile logo, according to the Journal.

"We're proud to partner with Mercedes-Benz Vans to contribute to local economies through the order of Amazon branded Sprinter vans produced at their new plant in North Charleston," said Dave Clark, Amazon's senior vice president of worldwide operations, in a statement.

"Thanks to the tremendous response to Amazon's new Delivery Service Partner program, we are excited to increase our original order of branded Sprinter vans to 20,000 vehicles so new small businesses will have access to a customized fleet to power deliveries of Amazon packages."

Mercedes says its new Sprinter plant employs 900 people and that it plans to have 1,300 workers by 2020.

Amazon announced on Wednesday that it is ordering 20,000 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans as part of a plan to expand its delivery fleet. The company’s new prog...
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Amazon reaches $1 trillion at stock market despite PR battle over warehouse conditions

Amazon’s press team is in damage control mode over labor conditions, but market value is another story

One of the most valuable corporations in the United States just got even richer. Amazon reached $1 trillion at the stock market on Tuesday, nearly making history in the process.

Amazon was beat to the $1 trillion mark in July by Apple, the first publicly-traded company ever to be valued so highly. But when it comes to CEO pay, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos can run circles around his competitors. The richest man in modern history, Bezos in July was estimated to be worth $150 billion. He has said that he wants to use his earnings to invest in “space travel.”

The record valuation just after Labor Day may come across as ironic timing to current and former warehouse workers who have been working to expose what they describe as slavery-like conditions at Amazon’s warehouses.  

In the United States and elsewhere, workers have described working 10-hour shifts with two breaks less than 15 minutes long. That combined with high production targets has left workers peeing in water bottles and trash cans or wearing diapers to work in order to meet their quotas, they say.

Worker strikes and company response

Thousands of workers in Europe launched a strike during Prime Day to protest conditions at the warehouses. More recently, Senator Bernie Sanders accused the company of paying workers in the United States wages so low that many are forced to rely on food stamps and other public benefits.

Amazon’s public relations office released statements in April denying that workers peed in water bottles and has described the senator’s claims as misleading. Amazon also pays some warehouse workers to work as  “ambassadors” or paid spokespeople on social media. Those workers describe receiving generous benefits and lengthy bathroom breaks.

“Just like Jeff I can use the restroom anytime I want!,” an Amazon Ambassador named Jeremy recently posted on Twitter.  “No bottle needed. That's especially good news for me being that I drink water like a camel.”

One of the most valuable corporations in the United States just got even richer. Amazon reached $1 trillion at the stock market on Tuesday, nearly making h...
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Amazon launches Prime Book Box subscription service

The children’s book subscription service is now available to all Prime members in the U.S.

Today, Amazon publicly launched its children’s book subscription service “Prime Book Box.” The service was initially introduced in May, but at the time it was only available to customers with an invitation.

For $22.99 per box, Prime members can receive either four board books for children two years old and younger or two picture books or novels for older children every one, two, or three months (with the option to skip a box at any time).

The selection of books that Prime members receive are curated by Amazon Books editors, who handpick books for the selected age range. The books range from classics to “hidden gems,” and are tailored to the reader’s age range of “Baby-2,” “3-5,” “6-8,” or “9-12.”

Amazon says it even makes sure not to send titles that the subscriber already has at home that were purchased through Amazon. Parents can also preview the selection of books and swap out certain books for others by logging on to the Book Box site.

Up to 35 percent off list price

“As a mom who’s spent over 20 years reading and reviewing children’s books, the best part of my job is sharing a love of reading with kids and their families,” said Seira Wilson, Senior Editor, Amazon Books, in a statement.

“Over the past few months, it’s been both exciting and rewarding to hear that Prime Book Box is encouraging kids to spend more time reading. Now that Prime Book Box is available to all U.S. Prime members, I hope we can inspire even more children to discover a love of reading that will last a lifetime.”

The $23 price tag for the service is about 35 percent less than the price of buying children’s books at normal price, says Amazon.

The service is available to all Prime members in the U.S. starting today.

Today, Amazon publicly launched its children’s book subscription service “Prime Book Box.” The service was initially introduced in May, but at the time it...
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Amazon opens its second Amazon Go convenience store

The second cashier-less store will only be open on weekdays

In January, Amazon opened its first cashier-less convenience store -- Amazon Go -- in the company’s hometown of Seattle, Washington. Today, the second Amazon Go store opened its doors.

Seattle residents can now visit the store -- located downtown at 5th and Marion, near the Seattle Central Library -- Monday through Friday from 7AM - 7PM, as Amazon is looking to cater to the office worker crowd. The new store is 1,450 square feet, which is slightly smaller than the original store’s 1,800 square feet. Despite the size difference, customers are expected to gain almost an identical experience at both stores.

The store will feature a variety of ready-to-eat meal and snack options, as well as Amazon’s Meal Kits. Amazon chefs and local eateries and bakeries will be making all the food options, and customers can expect locally made chocolates, chips, granola bars, and candy, as well as lunch options like wraps, sandwiches, and salads. Amazon’s Meal Kits offer customers all of the ingredients needed to prepare a meal for two in 30 minutes.

This second Amazon Go store does stock less than the flagship store, which offers customers beer, wine, grocery items, and Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value brand products.

According to the Seattle Times -- which toured the facility prior to its grand opening -- there is no kitchen on premises. All of the prepared food will come from Amazon’s kitchen, which is also located in Seattle.

Amazon Go technology

The second Amazon Go store is set up in a nearly identical fashion as the original store.

In an effort to continually advance technology, Amazon’s Go stores have no lines and no cashiers -- and customers don’t have to wait to checkout. Consumers go through the aisles picking up what they need, and simply leave the store when they’re done.

Amazon has cameras and sensors strategically placed throughout the store to track what customers are taking home with them, and their credit cards -- which are stored on file through the Amazon Go app -- are charged accordingly. Customers must have the app downloaded to their smartphones, as they are required to scan a unique QR code at the store’s exit before leaving.

“Our Just Walk Out technology automatically detects when products are taken from or return to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart,” Amazon said. “When you’re done shopping, you can just leave the store. Shortly after, we’ll charge your card and send you a receipt.”

The future of Amazon Go

Not long after Amazon opened its first Amazon Go store back in January, reports indicated that the company was preparing to open an additional six storefronts expected this year. At the time, many expected the second store to open in Los Angeles.

Since those early reports, Amazon has yet to publicly discuss its plans for the future. Back in May, Amazon posted job listings that led many to believe the next stores would be opening in Chicago and San Francisco, but Amazon only confirmed that plans were in the works -- not what the plans are.

In January, Amazon opened its first cashier-less convenience store -- Amazon Go -- in the company’s hometown of Seattle, Washington. Today, the second Amaz...
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Amazon says it will stop selling white supremacist and Nazi-themed products

The company had apparently allowed vendors to sell a baby onesie featuring a burning cross, among other products

Amazon says it has pulled neo-Nazi and white supremacist products off its site, several weeks after a member of Congress questioned the retail giant about why the products were available in the first place.

The Action Center on Race and the Economy issued a report last month describing items on the site that appeared to be marketed to hate groups, such as a baby onesie featuring a burning cross and a noose costume that makes the wearer look as though they have been lynched.  

Confederate flag imagery also found

Amazon and other retailers announced that they would top selling Confederate flag imagery in the wake of the 2015 massacre in Charleston in which nine people were murdered at a Black church. Shooter Dylann Roof had reportedly collected confederate flag memorabilia.

But the Action Center found products featuring the confederate flag that were still available on Amazon.  

“Amazon enables the celebration of ideologies that promote hate and violence by allowing the sale of hate symbols and imagery on its site, including Confederate and anti-Black imagery, Nazi and fascist imagery,” the Action Center’s report says, “and the newly adopted imagery of the modern white nationalist movement.”

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn) followed up on the information with a letter directly to Jeff Bezos, demanding that he cease selling the products. Ellison argued that Amazon has a special responsibility to keep hateful products offline due to its wide reach; it currently has 300 million active users and recently hit record profits of $2 billion.

“Since the election of Donald Trump, hate groups have been on the rise, and racist violence has swelled in this country,” Ellison said in the letter.

Removing items

Amazon last week responded to Ellison that it had already removed the items or was in the process of removing them.

“The items referenced by Rep. Ellison were previously reviewed, and we removed those that violated our policies well before we received his letter,” an Amazon spokesman recently claimed in a statement to BuzzFeed news.

However, Amazon refused to provide the exact dates confirming when the products were taken offline, according to BuzzFeed, which reported that Nazi-themed products remained for sale on Amazon as of Thursday.

Amazon says it has pulled neo-Nazi and white supremacist products off its site, several weeks after a member of Congress questioned the retail giant about...
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Amazon Prime Now from Whole Foods launches in more cities

The grocery delivery service is now available in select areas of New York City and Florida

Amazon announced on Tuesday that it’s expanding its Whole Foods grocery delivery service to consumers in parts of New York City, as well as three cities in Florida.

The service is now available to Prime members in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Palm Beach, Long Island, lower Manhattan, and Brooklyn. Additional New York City neighborhoods and cities across the U.S. will be added throughout 2018, Amazon said.

The service was initially launched in February of this year. In June, the service was rolled out to major cities including Boston, Chicago, Baltimore, San Antonio, Houston, and Minneapolis. It’s now available to shoppers in two dozen cities. You can find out if the service is available in your city here.

Amazon’s Prime Now program lets shoppers order items from Whole Foods -- including fresh produce, bakery items, dairy, meat and seafood, flowers, everyday staples, and select alcohol -- and have them delivered within two hours. Each two-hour delivery is free with a minimum order of $35, and a one-hour delivery costs an additional $7.99. Prime Now delivery is available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

This delivery option is a result of Amazon’s $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods in June of last year. As part of its integration with Whole Foods, Amazon has started offering discounts to Prime members who shop at the grocery chain.

Last month, the company announced that Prime members across the country can receive 10 percent off certain sale items, as well as other discounts, at Whole Foods stores.

Amazon announced on Tuesday that it’s expanding its Whole Foods grocery delivery service to consumers in parts of New York City, as well as three cities in...
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Prime Day continues to set records for Amazon

The 2018 installation of Prime Day set a new sales record for the company

Amazon’s Prime Day continues to grow each year, and the 2018 event was no different.

The company is hailing it as the “biggest global shopping event,” with customers purchasing over 100 million products. Sales surpassed Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and 2017’s Prime Day -- even when adjusted for the 36-hour period of the sale.

“The first ten hours of Prime Day grew even faster, year-over-year, than the first ten hours last year,” the company said in a press release.

This year’s Prime Day had extended hours, was featured in four new markets, and internet traffic so heavy it overwhelmed the company’s servers. Though many users had connectivity issues over the course of Prime Day, analysts say it was nothing more than a hiccup.

“Amazon Prime Day’s ‘early jitters’ with website glitches had minimal impact on the sales success of the annual event, with our view that given Amazon’s prodigious spending, it is safe to say that any day compared to the prior year should be much better from a sales perspective, with the continuing challenge for the company driving margin and profitability in its retail business,” said Charlie O’Shea, Moody’s Lead Retail Analyst.

Prime Day stats

According to Amazon, the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote and the Echo Dot were the two best selling items of the sale. Also of note was the surge in Prime membership, as Amazon reported more new subscriptions to the Prime service on July 16th than it has on any other day in its history. The company has nearly doubled its Prime members since 2016, with over 100 million paid Prime members -- a figure that’s 20 million more than just last year.

Amazon sold over 300,000 six-quart Instant Pots and 150,000 LifeStraw personal water filters. Additionally, the 23andMe DNA test was another best seller in the United States. The Instant Pot was the highest-selling non-Amazon device in the United States.

Prime Day was celebrated in 17 countries, and the top-selling items in different countries were just as varied as here in the U.S. In Japan, customers favored Whey Protein and “Super Nanox Liquid Laundry Detergent,” while U.K. customers stocked up on Bosch Cordless Drills and the Philips Hue Personal Wireless Lighting Light Strip.

Prime Day was just as lucrative for small- and medium-sized businesses that sell their products on Amazon, as they grossed over $1 billion in sales.

“Prime Day has always been our biggest day ever,” said Jurgen Nebelung, vice-president of e-commerce and digital at Tea Forte. “During our peak hour, customers were purchasing one Tea Forte product every two seconds.”

Chris Guiher owns Vintage Book Art Co. and said his company sold ten times as many items as they do on a regular, marking Prime Day as “the biggest sales day of the year.”

The sales event also benefited other retailers like Target, as the company said it experienced “the highest single day of traffic and sales of 2018” on its website.

Amazon’s Prime Day continues to grow each year, and the 2018 event was no different. The company is hailing it as the “biggest global shopping event,”...
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Shopping experts offer Prime Day tips

Amazon's big shopping day kicks off on Monday

Millions of Amazon Prime members are preparing for the retailer’s annual Prime Day, which has turned into one of the major shopping days of the year.

Things get started on Monday, July 16 at noon PT, running through July 17. In addition to the deals from Amazon, Prime members can also find savings on food products at Whole Foods.

Kimberly Palmer, NerdWallet's personal finance expert, says Amazon counts on the shopping day to build Prime membership as much as it does to sell things. For that reason, she says savvy shoppers may find some loss-leaders among the items being offered. But she says there are a few things consumers should keep in mind.

"Shoppers must have Amazon Prime, which costs $119 a year and is also available as a 30-day free trial, to get the deals," Palmer said in an email. "Returns to Amazon often require you to pay shipping, so be aware of this cost when ordering items you aren’t sure about."

Better deals than Black Friday

BestBlackFriday.com mostly focuses on the holiday shopping season, but company principal Phil Dengler says it also pays close attention to Prime Day, since there are so many deals available.

Dengler says the company's analysis shows that last year, 76 percent of Prime Day prices were better than those on Black Friday. In 2016, 77 percent of Prime Day offerings had lower prices than on the official kickoff to the holiday shopping season.

Dengler also says Amazon will use Prime Day 2018 to heavily promote its own line of electronic devices and smart speakers. In particular, he points to the Echo Show, Amazon's video smart speaker, which regularly sells for $229.99 but is on sale now through Prime Day at $129.99.

Predictions

Dengler also predicts shoppers will be able to purchase the second generation of the Echo for $69.99, instead of $99.99; and the Fire 10 tablet for $89.99, down from $149.99.

"In addition to the above-predicted prices, Amazon is likely to package many of these items together for further discounts," Dengler writes in a company blog. "You are also likely to see bulk discounts when purchasing two or more of select items."

To take advantage of Prime Day, Dengler advises members to make sure their account is in good standing. Also, make sure the account has accurate personal information and current payment information.

"Every second counts on Prime Day, and running around the house looking for your credit card could cause you to miss a deal," he said.

Palmer, meanwhile, says consumers should not overlook Amazon's competitors next week.

"As in previous years, we expect to see other big retailers, including Target, Walmart, and Best Buy, offer similar 'Black Friday in July' sales to compete with Prime Day," she said. "Consumers will be able to score deals on items ranging from electronics to clothing."

Millions of Amazon Prime members are preparing for the retailer’s annual Prime Day, which has turned into one of the major shopping days of the year.Th...
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Whole Foods announces Prime Day deal

Prime members will get extra savings leading up to one of the biggest sales days of the year

Whole Foods, the Amazon-owned grocery store, announced today that it will be offering customers a $10 credit to use during Prime Day. Customers will receive the credit after spending $10 or more at Whole Foods from July 11 through July 17.

Whole Foods will also be offering additional deals to customers. From July 14 through July 17, Amazon Prime Rewards Visa cardholders will see their cash back bonus double from five percent to 10 percent. First-time Amazon Prime Now delivery customers will not only receive $10 off their first orders, but an additional $10 off for a future order.

Prime members will also see discounts on frequently purchased grocery items leading up to Prime Day. From July 11 through July 17, boneless chicken and self-serve cookies are 40 percent off and Honey Nut Cheerios and Allegro bagged coffee will be buy-one get-one free.

Customer benefits

Since Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods last June, customers have been reaping the benefits of the merger. What started as a slow progression has now led to a nationwide rollout of Amazon Prime members receiving Whole Foods discounts in stores.

Since the merger, Amazon has been looking for ways to attract loyal Whole Foods customers to its Prime membership. Incorporating these deals in advance of Prime Day is one such way of doing that. Amazon is hoping the discounts and special offers on delivery will entice Whole Foods customers to purchase the $119/year Prime membership.

“Amazon has a relationship with [about 60 million households] in the U.S., and [these people] are definitely big consumers,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush. “Why not drive that traffic into Whole Foods?”

Prime Day 2018

Amazon accidentally leaked the date of this year’s Prime Day in late June after a banner was found on Amazon’s U.K. site.

Amazon started Prime Day back in 2015, and the event offers customers the biggest selection of discounted items -- going above and beyond what’s offered on Black Friday.

This year, Prime Day 2018 will start midday on July 16th and run through midnight on July 17th. This will be the first Prime Day that Amazon incorporates Whole Foods into its day of discounts.

Whole Foods, the Amazon-owned grocery store, announced today that it will be offering customers a $10 credit to use during Prime Day. Customers will receiv...
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Amazon to open a second cashier-less Go store this fall

The store is coming to Seattle in just a few months

Amazon’s cashier-less stores -- Amazon Go -- will be opening a second location this fall in Seattle.

The first store in Amazon’s homebase of Seattle opened this past January after the company spent more than a year perfecting it. Customers will be able to find the second location of Amazon Go in the new Madison Centre office tower.

“We are excited to bring Amazon Go to 920 5th Ave in Seattle,” the company said in a statement. “The store will open in Fall 2018.”

The new second location will be almost two times the size of the first store, topping out at approximately 3,000 square feet, versus the original store’s 1,800 square feet.

GeekWire first discovered that Amazon would be expanding its Go stores based on a number of clues around the city. In addition to a permit filing for an “Amazon retail” project at the building, passersby have been able to peek through the gaps in the window coverings from the sidewalk. Moreover, Amazon Go’s slogan -- “No lines. No checkout. (No, seriously.)” -- is also visible thanks to a gap at the top of the window.

Amazon Go

Amazon’s Go stores are another example of the company’s efforts to continually advance the technological landscape.

At Amazon Go stores, customers don’t have to wait in checkout lines -- there are no lines and no cashiers. Consumers can go through the aisles, picking up what they need. When they’re done, they simply leave the store.

Cameras and sensors throughout the store track what customers are taking home with them, and their credit cards are charged accordingly. Customers must have the Amazon Go app downloaded to their phones, as a unique QR code from the app must be scanned before leaving the store.

At the time of the first store’s opening, the company compared the technology used in its store to the technology in autonomous vehicles.

“Our Just Walk Out technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart,” Amazon said. “When you’re done shopping, you can just leave the store. Shortly after, we’ll charge your card and send you a receipt.”

Continued expansion

Following the success of the first Amazon Go store, the company got the green light to continue expanding to other locations.

This second Seattle location has been discussed for some time, but Amazon Go has plans to soon unveil stores in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. Earlier this year, Recode reported that as many as six new Amazon Go storefronts could be popping up before the end of 2018.

Amazon’s cashier-less stores -- Amazon Go -- will be opening a second location this fall in Seattle.The first store in Amazon’s homebase of Seattle ope...
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Whole Foods discounts now available to Amazon Prime members nationwide

The company has expanded its discounts beyond just select states

Starting June 27th, Amazon Prime members will receive 10 percent off certain sale items, as well as other discounts, at Whole Foods stores across the country.

Customers have two ways to activate the new Amazon Prime-related discounts. One way is to get the Whole Foods app, sign in with your Amazon Prime account, and then scan the app’s Prime code at checkout at a Whole Foods store. Another option is to enter your mobile phone number at checkout to verify your Prime membership.

When the rollout is complete on June 27th, yellow stickers will indicate items that are 10 percent off, and blue stickers will show additional deals just for Prime members. Some items customers can expect to see discounted right off the bat include:

  • Baby back pork ribs, $4.99/pound (regularly $9.99/pound)

  • Sockeye salmon, $13.99/pound (regularly $19.99/pound)

  • Organic yellow peaches, $1.99/pound (regularly $3.99/pound)

  • Mochi ice-cream, including chocolate, salted caramel, and green tea flavors, five for $5

  • 32-ounce organic Honest Lemonade, two for $3

“Customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive -- in fact, Prime members have adopted this benefit at one of the fastest rates we’ve seen,” said Cem Sibay, Amazon’s Vice President. “Since starting this rollout in mid-May, Prime members have already saved millions of dollars.”

Benefits of Prime Membership

Since acquiring Whole Foods last June, Amazon has made its presence in the grocery chain known to the public.

Discounts at Whole Foods for Prime Members started out in Florida in early May. By month’s end, Amazon extended the offers to 12 more states. Just last month, Amazon announced another 10 states were being added to the mix, and the rest of the country was not far behind.

“We’re excited that Prime savings will be available at nearly half of our Whole Foods Market stores, giving more Prime members access to great deals just in time for summer,” said A.C. Gallo, President and CEO of Whole Foods, last month.

Amazon Prime members receive other perks when shopping at Whole Foods, like free two-day grocery delivery on orders over $35 and access to Amazon products like the Echo and Kindle in Whole Foods stores.

Additionally, members who choose to have their groceries delivered still see the same storewide discounts at checkout. In certain markets, Prime members can get their Whole Foods groceries delivered for free in just two hours. Members with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa also receive five percent back when shopping at Whole Foods stores.

Starting June 27th, Amazon Prime members will receive 10 percent off certain sale items, as well as other discounts, at Whole Foods stores across the count...
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Amazon leaked Prime Day 2018 details

The company accidentally revealed its biggest day of sales

This morning, Amazon accidentally revealed the date of Prime Day 2018. According to a Prime Day Banner that TechRadar discovered on the Amazon U.K. website, consumers can expect the largest Prime Day to take place mid-day July 16th through July 17th.

It goes beyond last year’s 30-hour Prime Day, which started the night before at 9 p.m. The reveal of this date also breaks Amazon’s recent pattern of having Prime Day on the second Tuesday in July.

Amazon started Prime Day in 2015, and the event offers consumers the biggest selection of discounted items -- going above and beyond what’s offered on Black Friday.

What consumers can expect

While the dates listed above were for Prime Day in the United Kingdom, the experts at TechRadar believe the times will only be slightly different here in the United States.

Based on last year’s Prime Day -- which ran from 9 p.m. Eastern and ended at midnight Pacific time, Prime Day 2018 is expected to start midday on July 16th and end on July 17th at midnight, closing out 39 straight hours of sales in the United States.

Consumers can expect discounts on Prime membership in the days leading up to Prime Day. The discounts offered are only offered to Prime customers, and so Amazon typically promotes the Prime membership as much as possible prior to Prime Day -- at a lower price.

Customers can also expect deals on Prime Day on Amazon’s most popular products -- the Echo, Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick, Kindles, and tablets. While Amazon does discount these items throughout the year, Prime Day is when consumers see these products at their lowest prices of the year. TechRadar also thinks Amazon will reduce prices of other services like Audible.

Amazon Marketplace sellers are also expected to be active participants in this year’s Prime Day. Though they’ve been involved in the sales event since its inception in 2015, Marketplace retailers could offer consumers some of the biggest deals and discounts of the sale.

Marketplace retailers are also featured in nearly every category on Amazon’s website, so users can expect great discounts on everything from beer and wine to TVs, gaming consoles, laptops, baby products, and fashion.

This morning, Amazon accidentally revealed the date of Prime Day 2018. According to a Prime Day Banner that TechRadar discovered on the Amazon U.K. website...
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Amazon’s ‘Hub’ delivery lockers now available to over 500,000 residents

The program gives apartment residents another way to receive package deliveries

On Tuesday, Amazon announced that more apartment dwellers are getting access to its delivery lockers for apartment complexes, called the Hub.

The Hub is similar to the online retailer’s existing Lockers, which launched in 2011 as an alternative to receiving packages from Amazon at home or work.

With the Hub, Amazon places a large metal locker in a common area of an apartment complex. When a resident’s order arrives, couriers deliver the package to the on-site Hub where it can be picked up by the resident using an access code.

Unlike the company’s existing Lockers, residents can have deliveries from any sender sent to the Hub -- orders don’t have to be from Amazon. Residents can pick up their packages 24 hours a day.

Expanding access

The e-commerce giant, which quietly launched its Hub program last summer, has announced that the program is now available to over 500,000 residents across the country with “thousands more” gaining access each month.

The program, “addresses frustrations from property owners, carriers and residents concerning package delivery,” said Patrick Supanc, director, Amazon Worldwide Lockers and Pickup, in a statement.

The program is intended to eliminate the need for apartment residents to wait for a delivery from building staff or structure their day so that they can be home to receive a package delivery.

“The Hub simplifies delivery for residents, offering quick and secure access to packages, day or night. For delivery providers, it offers a single, convenient location for package drop-off and gives property managers time and resources back to focus on other priorities,” Supanc said.

The Hub program is Amazon’s latest effort to combat package theft. Last fall, the company launched Amazon Key, a service that gives delivery personnel access to a consumer’s home. Earlier this year, Amazon expanded its Key service to include in-car deliveries, turning a person’s car into a delivery locker of sorts.

On Tuesday, Amazon announced that more apartment dwellers are getting access to its delivery lockers for apartment complexes, called the Hub.The Hub is...
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Alexa for Hospitality is a concierge in your hotel room

Marriott is the first to install the service

Amazon has expanded its Echo smart speaker to the hospitality industry, with Marriott lining up to be the first hotel chain to make Alexa a permanent resident in rooms at select properties.

Guests will be able to talk to Alexa, getting hotel information, relaying requests to guest services, and accessing a music playlist, among other things. Amazon says its a new way for guests to access services and amenities during their stay.

For hotels, Alexa will almost be another staff member, answering questions that might go to a concierge and freeing up human staff members.

“Customers tell us they love how easy it is to get information, enjoy entertainment, and control connected devices by simply asking Alexa, and we want to offer those experiences everywhere customers want them,” said Daniel Rausch, an Amazon vice president. "Alexa for Hospitality makes your hotel stay a little more like being at home and gives hospitality providers new ways to create memorable stays for their guests.”

Marriott is installing the service in some Marriott Hotels, Westin Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Aloft Hotels, and Autograph Collection Hotels, over the course of this summer.

Customized for specific hotels

Individual hotels have already incorporated the Echo into their services, using it to allow guests to voice-control the room's temperature. Alexa for Hospitality is actually designed for the hospitality industry and can be customized for a specific property. Guests can tell Alexa to book a massage in the hotel spa or reserve a tee time at the property's golf course.

Jennifer Hsieh, Vice President Customer Experience Innovation, Marriott International, says being the first to sign up for Alexa for Hospitality wasn't a difficult decision.

“So many of our guests use voice technology in their home, and we want to extend that convenience to their travel experience,” she said.

The system will go up first at Charlotte Marriott City Center and Marriott Irvine Spectrum. After that, Hsieh said Marriott will evaluate feedback from hotel guests to expand the skills, features, and functionality to offer through the service.

Amazon says the system can also be configured by individual hotels to allow guests to control and adjust in-room devices like lights, thermostats, blinds, and TVs. Other features include Alexa skills like checking airport wait times, playing games, providing a guided exercise workout, and playing white noise at bedtime.

Amazon has expanded its Echo smart speaker to the hospitality industry, with Marriott lining up to be the first hotel chain to make Alexa a permanent resid...
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Amazon begins rollout of its Prime Membership price increase

While some consumers may be turned off, the company hopes improved amenities and add-ons will keep shoppers interested

Amazon has begun its Prime membership rate hike for its customer base of more than 100+ million. The new rate raises the annual membership by $20 to $119, the program’s first membership price increase in almost four years.

As is usually the case in situations like this, consumers have to consider the usefulness of the membership program. A new study by EffectiveSpend takes a look at how the new Prime rate will affect consumer shopping behavior.

In its study, EffectiveSpend surveyed 1,000 Amazon customers whose shopping habits fell into one of three brackets -- Prime Member Loyalists (unlikely to cancel), At-Risk Prime Members (likely to cancel), and Current Non-Prime Members.

The results? More than half of the respondents -- 54 percent -- felt the value of their membership does not outweigh the cost.

“This data indicates that customers who drop their Prime membership will be shopping outside of Amazon for more of their higher priced purchases,” said Jared Scott, EffectiveSpends Senior Amazon Strategist.

“Amazon will still be in their consideration set, but in the absence of their Prime membership benefits, these customers are less incentivized to purchase from Amazon and more inclined to comparison shop on other sites.”

Scott concluded that despite an “inevitable loss of some of its current Prime members, Amazon is well poised to grow its revenue from its best customers with a better mobile experience and a more sophisticated advertising platform.”

The consumer’s return on investment from Prime

Undaunted by a potential loss of Prime members, Amazon head honcho Jeff Bezos appears set on making Prime membership worth every penny. In his recent letter to investors, Bezos glowed about Prime’s growth.

“In 2017 Amazon shipped more than five billion items with Prime worldwide, and more new members joined Prime than in any previous year,” he said.

Bezos is hoping that Prime loyalists will love the membership plan’s ever-growing list of perks enough to renew.

Since its last Prime price increase, the company has added Whole Foods to its business family -- with a host of locations in which the grocery chain will deliver directly to customers -- faster shipping via Prime Free Same-Day and Prime Free One-Day, widespread delivery to 8,000 cities and towns, unlimited cloud photo storage, the video-game streaming site Twitch, a seemingly-endless parade of new content on Prime Video like Prime Originals and Thursday Night Football, Prime Wardrobe, and the recent addition of Prime Book Box for kids.

Amazon has begun its Prime membership rate hike for its customer base of more than 100+ million. The new rate raises the annual membership by $20 to $119,...
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Seattle plans to abandon homeless tax following lobbying from Amazon and Starbucks

The city’s major employers launched a referendum campaign in response to the proposed tax

Whoever came up with the phrase “Tacoma Aroma” probably wouldn't have predicted that the Washington town famous for unleashing a stinky, sulphur-like smell on all of its inhabitants would one day have some of the highest rents in the nation.

In 2017, nearly three decades after New Jersey’s Bruce Springsteen publicly complained that the smell of Tacoma made him sick, Tacoma was found by Trulia to have the highest rent appreciation in the entire nation, or a median rent that rose from $1,650 a month in 2016  to $1795 a month last year.

The reason? A booming tech sector 32 miles away in Seattle, Washington and a massive uptick in rents there to go with it. Tacoma looked relatively affordable by comparison. (It probably doesn't hurt that Tacoma’s leaders and polluting businesses also worked to eliminate the smell over the past few decades).  

In Seattle, rents have risen nearly 40 percent over the past five years, driven largely by the presence of major employers like Amazon and Microsoft, sending rents and homeless rates in the city and in neighboring towns soaring.

To those on the Seattle City Council, Amazon’s record-breaking profits, Jeff Bezos’ enormous net worth, and the area’s unprecedented affordable housing shortage and homeless crisis presented an obvious solution: tax big businesses like Amazon to pay for homeless services.

The Seattle City Council voted unanimously last month to implement a $275-per-employee tax on Seattle companies that earn $20 million or more in profits. City leaders enthusiastically said that the tax would raise $47 million in revenue.

But now the measure appears destined to fail. After intensive lobbying from the business community, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and seven of Seattle's nine City Council members announced on Monday that they plan to pass a new law to repeal the tax.

Their about-face comes after Amazon and Starbucks led a $200,000 signature-gathering referendum campaign to get the law overturned. Amazon also suspended plans to expand its campus, a project that was expected to add 7,000 new jobs to the city, as Seattle began debating homeless tax proposals earlier this year.

A “backroom betrayal”

The new announcement on Monday marks a significant departure from mid-May, when all nine of Seattle’s City Council had voted to support the tax.

“It is clear that the ordinance will lead to a prolonged, expensive political fight over the next five months that will do nothing to tackle our urgent housing and homelessness crisis,” Seattle’s mayor and the majority of City Council members announced in a public statement.

“We heard you,” they added. “This week, the City Council is moving forward with the consideration of legislation to repeal the current tax on large businesses to address the homelessness crisis.”

The majority of Seattle’s city council now argues that the tax would hurt businesses and the homeless problem more than it would help, but Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who wants to keep the tax in place, characterised the reversal in an interview with the Seattle Times as a “backroom betrayal.”

The lobbying campaign and tax fight comes as cities across the continent are offering Amazon tax breaks and other incentives as part of a competition to be the new headquarters of HQ2, the second Amazon campus.

Rising homeless population

Though Seattle faces a severe affordable housing shortage, with home price growth more than double that of nearly every other American city, about half of the city’s residents still earn less than $50,000 annually, according to IRS filings.

Meanwhile, Seattle’s homeless population increased 44 percent in the past two years, and the town and surrounding county have the nation’s third-largest concentration of people sleeping on the streets, according to a count done in 2017.

In the past, Amazon has agreed to use its resources to open a temporary homeless shelter. When asked by shareholders about the company’s otherwise lack of participation in philanthropy, Bezos responded that "our core business activities are probably the most important thing we do to contribute, as well as our employment in the area."

Whoever came up with the phrase “Tacoma Aroma” probably wouldn't have predicted that the Washington town famous for unleashing a stinky, sulphur-like smell...
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Amazon expands Prime discount at Whole Foods to 10 more states

Prime members will receive 10 percent off hundreds of sale items

Starting June 13, Amazon will be expanding its Prime discount at Whole Foods to 10 more states, including: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington. Amazon previously stated that it will continue to expand these services throughout the year.

In addition to receiving 10 percent off on hundreds of sale items, Prime members will also receive exclusive offers on many popular products.

Some of the offers include:

  • $2/lb on organic yellow nectarines and peaches

  • $3/lb on made in-house pork sausage, no antibiotics

  • $9/lb on wild sustainably caught yellowfin tuna steaks

  • Buy one, get one free Annie’s Natural Macaroni & Cheese

  • 4/$5 Essentia Water, 1.5L bottles

  • Self-serve tea cookies by the pound, 50 percent off

“We’re excited that Prime savings will be available at nearly half of our Whole Foods Market stores this week, giving more Prime members access to great deals just in time for summer,” said A.C. Gallo, president and CEO of Whole Foods. “Based on the positive customer feedback and successes we’ve seen over the past month, we’re accelerating our timeline to expand these savings to all of our U.S. stores.”

Prime members can also get these savings at Whole Foods Market 365 stores across the country.

Making the most of your Prime membership

Prime members that frequent Whole Foods can get these deals at participating stores across the country (or at Whole Foods Market 365 locations), by looking for yellow discount stickers on eligible items. Consumers can sign into the Whole Foods app with their Prime login information and discounts will be applied to orders at checkout.

Members who opt to have their groceries delivered through the Whole Foods Market stores on the Prime Now can also receive free two-day delivery on orders over $35. Prime member savings and Prime Now grocery delivery is currently available in Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Francisco.

Amazon’s new role in Whole Foods

Last June, Amazon purchased Whole Foods in a deal valued at $13.7 billion. Many were skeptical about what Amazon’s involvement would mean for the future of Whole Foods -- and the evolving world of grocery shopping.

“Amazon’s brutal vision for retail is one where automation replaces good jobs,” said Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. “That is the reality today at Amazon, and it will no doubt become the reality at Whole Foods.”

However, since acquiring Whole Foods, Amazon has been working diligently to make the upscale food chain more accessible -- and affordable -- to the public, and expanding its Prime discounts is one such way of doing that. Amazon also cut prices at many of Whole Foods’ locations, as they look to change the reputation of Whole Foods being too costly for consumers.

You can see what consumers think about the changes at Whole Foods and learn more about the chain by clicking here.

Starting June 13, Amazon will be expanding its Prime discount at Whole Foods to 10 more states, including: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi,...
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Amazon is increasing its investment in India

The company is investing an additional $2 billion in its battle against Walmart

Amazon is investing more money in growing its presence in India, a market of 1.3 billion people expected to be worth $200 billion within a decade.

After having lost out to rival Walmart in the bid to gain a majority stake in Indian e-commerce platform Flipkart, Amazon is increasing its investment in the country from $5 billion to $7 billion.

“Amazon is betting big on the India market. It is evident that after Walmart’s acquisition of Flipkart, Flipkart’s ability to increase market share and India presence will increase,” a source with knowledge of the development told CNBC affiliate CNBC TV-18.

Fighting for supremacy in India

Last month, Walmart agreed to buy nearly 77 percent of Flipkart for $16 billion -- the largest deal in e-commerce to date, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The deal also marked Walmart’s most significant effort to compete with rival Amazon.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos reportedly put in a competing offer to take control of Flipkart, but Walmart ultimately beat out the e-commerce giant.

Sources say Amazon is focusing on the end result of growing its presence in India by first looking at growth instead of thinking in terms of profitability.

“Amazon has had its eyes and ears firmly on the ground and has been carefully planning its strategy. India is one of its fastest growing geographies and Amazon will not be left behind,” the source said.

Amazon is investing more money in growing its presence in India, a market of 1.3 billion people expected to be worth $200 billion within a decade. Afte...
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Amazon to block Australian customers from using international sites

The decision could benefit one of the retail giant’s biggest competitors

As of July 1, Australian Amazon shoppers will be limited to a much smaller item selection.

The online retailer has geoblocked Australian customers, effectively preventing them from shipping items from non-Australian versions of its website. Shoppers that attempt to visit Amazon.com -- the American domain name -- will be redirected to Amazon.au -- the Australian one.

The decision is tied to Australia’s new Goods and Services Tax (GST), which imposes a 10 percent tax on any imported goods. Previously, the tax was only imposed on imported items over A$1,000 ($756).

What this means for consumers

Though Amazon’s Australian site is still stocked with tens of millions of items, it’s still roughly one-tenth less than what consumers can find on the United States site. Consumers shouldn’t notice a huge difference, as most basics will still be there, but more specific, specialized items might pose an issue.

“While we regret any inconvenience this may cause customers, we have had to assess the workability of legislation as a global business with multiple international sites,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

Amazon and the law

The Australian tax was seen as a win for local Aussie retailers, who had lobbied tirelessly for the 10 percent tax on imported goods bought both online and in-stores. Business owners said they were looking to “even the playing field” with overseas, online rivals.

“They think they have the right to pay no tax in Australia,” said Gerry Harvey, the executive chairman of Harvey Norman (a local Australian retailer), on Amazon’s decision to try to skirt the new tax. “They’ve done the dirty on the government. They’ve done the dirty on the public.”

“The second biggest company in the world, run by richest man in the world (Jeff Bezos) shouldn’t get a leave pass from paying tax in Australia,” Australia’s Treasurer Scott Morrison said. “If multinationals aren’t forced to pay their fair share of tax, they will have the competitive advantage over retailers here in Australia. A level playing field will help Australian businesses grow and create more jobs and opportunities.”

Options for consumers

Despite Amazon’s unwillingness to comply with Australia’s new tax, one of its biggest competitors -- eBay --  has stepped up to the plate. The company announced on Thursday that it would begin working on a way to collect the GST on overseas sales without restricting any sellers.

“This requires major changes to eBay’s global systems and we are working to have these ready by 1st July,” said an eBay spokesperson. “eBay’s GST solution will allow us to collect GST in any currency, from any seller, from any eBay site.

“We won’t block Aussie buyers, redirect them, or require them to pretend they are located overseas. Australians will continue to be able to buy from any eBay site.”

Additionally, Australian tech writer Darren Price said that he and many other Australians will most likely utilize package redirection services to get around the block. In doing so, orders would be shipped to U.S. addresses and then forwarded to Australia.

“Australians are very isolated and it’s the likes of Amazon that have enabled consumers to have more variety,” said Price. “The money will be made offshore still - the only thing is it’s the consumer that is going to be inconvenienced.”

As of July 1, Australian Amazon shoppers will be limited to a much smaller item selection.The online retailer has geoblocked Australian customers, effe...