As Amazon pushes Prime Day, workers strike

Amazon's Prime Day has become the company's annual excuse to get millions of people around the world to login to the site and purchase things they don't need. Prime Day is, in essence, a branded shopping day, that the company uses to drive sales of its Prime subscription by selling lots of stuff for cheap.

I will confess I was sucked in by the mania, and probably got things I don't actually need. The reality of Prime day is that while there's a number of great deals, the majority of it is just junk shop stuff to make it look like the sale is better than it really is. That's the genius, however: you're sucked in, because you don't want to miss out. 

History indicates that Amazon has successfully invented its own shopping holiday. In 2017, Prime Day saw almost $1 billion in reported sales and the breakout hit? Amazon Echo Dot, which was available for $35 a device, sold more than anything else on the service and the service saw more single-day signups for Prime than in its entire history.

The dark side of all of this is that while Jeff Bezos has become the world's richest man off Amazon's success, cracking $150 billion in net worth, the company has a poor track record of treating its actual workforce well. Thousands of workers across Europe took strike action on Prime Day to protest the company's refusal to pay for health benefits, enough time to use the bathroom or livable wages.

As The Outline puts it, quite brutally, in this article about the realities of working at Amazon:

It’s Prime Day, that magical 36 hours out of the year where it for some reason becomes socially acceptable to get publicly psyched over the prospect of paying a tech giant marginally less to send Alibaba-quality products to your door in a disturbingly short amount of time.

For its part, Amazon has staunchly opposed unionization and went as far as saying that the strikes would not have a material impact on shipments. Still, it's a reminder of the human cost of that 10 percent off, and Amazon's growing war chest that it wields against others (like in this case of it strong arming Seattle into dropping a tax designed to help the homeless population).

Amazon also struggled to keep the site online yesterday, with the initial surge in traffic summoning cute 404 dogs for almost an hour. With the event heavily promoted for weeks, we'll see if Prime day is as big as previous years — if it grows yet again, Amazon will have summoned a reason for consumers to spend out of thin air.

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