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Amazon Said to Have Paid Employees to Act as Cheerleaders

Amazon Said to Have Paid Employees to Act as Cheerleaders

Amazon paid employees to act as cheerleaders, according to a news report in Slate. “Amazon FC Ambassadors were a group of Twitter accounts belonging to employees who were paid to respond to posts criticizing the company,” it wrote.

The article went on to allege, “Although the ambassadors had always been Amazon’s biggest cheerleaders, they typically tried to mask their corporate propaganda as neutral fact checks based on their own experiences working at the company’s warehouses up to that point. When it came to the prospect of labor organizing, though, the accounts became more clearly opinionated, with ambassadors arguing that unions breed laziness and cronyism.”

(Today, Federal labor regulators allege Amazon went further. According to the Washington Post, regulators accuse Amazon of “illegally surveilling and threatening workers who are trying to unionize a Staten Island, N.Y., warehouse.” The Post reported that “Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said the allegations were false, adding without elaboration that “we look forward to showing that through this process.””)

The term “cheerleaders” has been tossed around on discussion boards for decades, as early eBay users can attest. The book “The Perfect Store” described how when eBay hired Jim Griffith and Patti Ruby as customer service reps, the company encouraged them to continue posting on the boards as “Uncle Griff” and “Aunt Patti” without disclosing they were employees. This tradition was carried on when eBay invited sellers to its Voices program but prohibited participants from disclosing they were members.

eBay is currently recruiting “mentors” (see this eBay for Business Facebook post), a program we first reported on in 2015.

The program sounds similar to the eBay Voices in that the perks include access to information members wouldn’t otherwise have (“Opportunity to shape new Community features”; “Invitations to exclusive events and opportunities,…”).

It’s actually in sellers’ best interest to promote a platform on which they sell – but when they are compensated by that platform in any way, financial or otherwise, should there be transparency?

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.