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Let’s Talk About Amazon

Can we be honest, folks? It’s time for some harsh truths but it’s time that we stop deluding ourselves. Amazon is the world’s largest okayest company. They do one thing very well: ship goods that reach you more times than not on time. Unfortunately, they also do several bazillion other things with fair to middling results.

To name a few, their Amazon Web Services (AWS) functions as the cloud for a multitude of companies and government institutions. You may remember the name because AWS managed to take down the internet across the Eastern seaboard earlier this year. They also produce a staggering amount of Amazon branded equipment such as the many models of Echo, Kindle, Kindle Fire. They have their hands in television shows and movie production under the A24 label. And of course they bought Whole Foods earlier this year. Bottom line is they have more money than several small countries and enjoy destroying various industries as a hobby.

However, have you noticed that despite all the acquisitions and new ventures they don’t seem to have updated their shopping interface since the mid aughts? Have you ever tried to buy an electronic peripheral from Amazon? What are the chances that a Samsung replacement battery is really going to be from Samsung? In my experience not too bloody likely. The chances of it melting in your pocket and sending you to the ER is however quite high. Amazon has an atrocious counterfeiting problem when it comes to electronics that they have done nothing to put a stop to.

Have you ever tried to buy a Blu-ray for an older movie on Amazon? Raise your hand if when you clicked on the link and checked the reviews you were greeted with page after page of reviews from the DVD version that came out 15 years before? All of us, yeah? How hard can it be to fix the review interface and separate out the various DVD editions from the VHS and Blu-ray skus? Apparently pretty goddamn hard given that Amazon has made no effort whatsoever to do so.

However this mediocre service pales in comparison to Amazon’s newest boneheaded decision. Remember when you could rent movies on demand at Amazon? They had a pretty good selection of older movies that you couldn’t find anywhere else, not just the new releases. Well, Amazon must have seen that was working too well and said “This won’t do, people are enjoying the service! How can we best screw this up?” Well, they came up with an elegant solution I can tell you that. Now, instead of paying $3.99 to rent Underworld: Blood Wars you can instead conveniently subscribe to Starz through Amazon for only $7.99 a month. What a deal! And the best part it’s not just Starz they offer, it’s also Showtime, Cinemax and HBO.

Shut up. I’ve seen the rest of the damn things. I might as well finish the series.

What exactly is the value Amazon is bringing to the market here other than pissing off consumers and enticing them to leave the platform to find the rental elsewhere? This bizarre focus on subscription services to another channel extends to the entire Amazon Video interface. Good luck finding a list of new releases simply by release date on your TV or console app. You need to go to the mobile app or desktop version to find any sorting that makes sense. Now everything is segmented in to “Popular releases” and divided by genres showcasing Prime (free) movies as Independence Wars: Insurgence, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and everyone’s favorite new classic, Atlantic Rim.

Amazon is a disruptive behemoth there is no doubt about it. But I really wish they would focus on, say, a dozen things and do most of them really well rather than their shotgun approach in which they fail to hit the target most of the time. Rumors are they want to enter the pharmaceutical on-demand drug dispensary business next. I have nothing witty to say to that other than “Holy fucking shit please god no.”

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