Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Sun Aug 16 2015 21:56:07

Amazon and eBay Corporate Cultures Impact Online Sellers

By: Ina Steiner

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Before you get too mad at the Amazon employee who can't get your seller-account suspension lifted, take a look at this article from today's New York Times. It could be that the person you are fuming at may him or herself be held up to unreasonably high standards.

The article paints Amazon as a demanding employer that perhaps goes too far, with workers expected to work long hours under difficult conditions. 
Online sellers who run into performance issues at Amazon (or eBay) because of a personal crisis may take note of this line from the newspaper article: "Some (Amazon) workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal crises said they had been evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover." (Update: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos defended his company in response to the article, says Geekwire).

Working in retail is tough, probably a lot tougher than working at a high-tech company. Amazon third-party merchants must also work all hours, including weekends and holidays.

One gets the sense that managers at eBay have life a lot different than their Amazon peers.

We'd love to hear what online sellers think about the corporate culture at Amazon after reading about the harsh conditions described by former employees - and how they think that compares with the corporate culture at eBay.

Many have noted that eBay has copied Amazon in many regards. Now that some of the secrets of Amazon's management style have been revealed, will eBay be tempted to copy them as well? And if so, will it trickle down to how eBay treats sellers?




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by: Terry in Texas This user has validated their user name.

Sun Aug 16 22:43:42 2015

Thanks for the link. Fascinating article. i applied for a part time Amazon job earlier in the summer (at a sortation center not fulfillment center). I'm probably a little older (45+) than most candidates and was only interested in the part time part. The job description stated that there was no flexibility (a MUST in my decision) but I went through the process anyway.

After reading the NYT articles, the ''what-if scenario'' questions I was asked on the online application suddenly made sense. I finally figured out that the ''correct'' answer was not so much the team player one, but the one to ''improve'' your overall team by ''reporting and correcting'' the errant employee's behavior. And still I went to the hiring session.

Privacy signs and cameras are rampant in the facility. Basically all contact outside the facility is cut off during work hours. To be fair, the sortation center work process does not allow time to stop and have a smoke. The shifts are only 4 hours and you are fully engaged the entire time.

Two things made my decision easy. On the application it asked for hours available. I put Monday through Friday and preferred early mornings/afternoons. Once the ''orientation'' began I was informed that the ONLY shift available was from 2pm to 6pm, FRIDAY to TUESDAY.

The second was sitting around watching the work process video with a room full of mostly  younger people, all of us with the Saliva Drug Test sticks poking out of our mouths for 10 minutes.  It's not worth giving up a quality of personal life for $10 an hour.

Although, I can understand how some people would find the structure appealing.

Note: After the orientation, I gave it day, then redrew my application (online of course). About a week later, I received a voicemail from the hiring person at Amazon saying they had another shift come available (did not state the time) and to call if I was interested. Yes, I just went ahead and deleted the message.

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by: Terry in Texas This user has validated their user name.

Sun Aug 16 22:46:38 2015

P.S. If Ebay were to go with this work formula, I suspect there would be NO sellers left. The whole point of running things in a way that is flexible for you would be gone. It's bad enough the way Ebay is trying to control my business--they won't control ME.

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Sun Aug 16 22:52:51 2015

How can it be even remotely similar? Amazon actually sells things for a living, as apposed to eBay who does NOT.

Amazon as noted int eh article is all about time and precision. This is due to enhanced customer expectations/satisfactions.

Amazons behavior may be flat out wrong - even to the point of bullying - but they have a business to run - slacking can not be afforded. (no Im NOT excusing Amazon for ANYTHING).

On eBays end - its just simple laziness. Most of eBays higher ups have ZERO ecommerce, big box store, wholesale, retail, or even "mail order" experience.

They may demand all kinds of things, but because they dont actually know or do anything - the policies they put in place are simply "guesses by small men with even smaller IQs, and even tinnyer ideas"

Amazon policies for sellers can be and in alot of cases are abusive - theres no denying it. BUT those policies are are what Amazon sets for itself - join Amazon and you must match them or exceed them.

Theres nothing to join when selling on eBay - that was the whole POINT of eBay (at least originally).

Sellers set ship times, ship costs, return policies and what ever else they felt they needed.

Those who succeeded did well, those that failed - dissapeared. In walks money men like JD, who unlike Amazon - didnt care about making SALES. He didnt care about box moving - how could he? He knows NOTHING about it!

JD did his job successfully. He turned eBay from an ecommerce comapny into a cash machine. Blow your nose on eBays time (during a sale where the buyer can be yours, theirs or both yours and theirs at any given time) and eBay will find a way to make you pay for it.

eBays ONLY culture is one of theft and corruption. eBay volunteers policies against its sellers whishes, against Pierre's stated mission, and in a good amount of cases - against US common law.

I give you returns as an example. On Amazon if a buyer returns a faulty or different item - Amazon doesnt say STFU, while eBay does. eBay takes no responsibility for ANYTHING, all while demanding the maximum from sellers, Amazon has wharehouses, shippers, CS agents - Amazon is a REAL company. Have a problem and they fix it ASAP.

They are 2 totally different kinds of companies.

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by: TomH This user has validated their user name.

Sun Aug 16 23:06:03 2015

Read the article. Tough company in expectations, but appears to be up front with it. Very much a fish or cut bait type of environment.

No one is forced to work there in its obvious striving to keep bringing in fresh dedicated over-achievers; as a 3rd party seller I'm not really concerned as long as they keep bringing buyers to my products.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Sun Aug 16 23:29:44 2015

Both companies are equally abusive in their own way.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Bill

Sun Aug 16 23:32:10 2015

Amazon is the typical American corporation that preys on the lowly employee so that they can increase the bottom line for the executives so they can make more money in bonuses and drive up the price of their stock options while paying no American taxes by sending their profits to over seas tax shelters.
This is the greed that is killing America.
 

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by: mindelec This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 17 00:39:37 2015

i've never believed that someone else's company was worth my entire life.  it's a job meant to make money to support the rest of my life.

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by: nsc This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Aug 17 00:49:57 2015

It is enlightening to read the reviews of both Amazon and eBay on glassdoor.com.

Amazon management gets high marks for vision and clarity of mission. The chief complaint from workers is that they are driven too hard.

But eBay management is generally acknowledged to be political and often incompetent. Projects get started and dropped all the time, which is a complaint you never see at Amazon. Some eBay workers complain about work-life balance; but for others it's not a problem. There does not seem to be a uniform corporate culture at eBay, unlike Amazon.

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by: nsc This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 17 00:51:47 2015

Bill, Wall Street hated on Amazon for a long time because Bezos was focused on building the business, not producing numbers for the quarter-end. He still is.  

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by: JustTheFacts This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 17 01:14:33 2015

It is one thing for any company to demand good work ethics, to motivate their workers to do more and achieve more.

However, the Amazon work place according to the thousands who have walked through their doors, it is far more than that. It is about POWER and CONTROL,it is about GREED, it is about INSTABILITY, INHUMANITY, a lack or morals, ethics and decency to their fellow human beings.

According to the thousands of former workers,(my summations from this article and others) people are not really people at Amazon, they are just OBJECTS who are used and abused to capacity, and once they reach that capacity or what Amazon decided is maxed out, they are disregarded like broken products.

Because all of corporate America has all of these same problems and people are so worried about losing their jobs, they have allowed corporate America to RENAME these very serious FLAWS and problems into what looks better for THEM, and many people are now really starting to BUY INTO the INSANITY and convince themselves it is, "motivation, innovation, vision" and every other new age trendy name or term they can think of calling it.

Lets be real here, Yes Amazon makes billions of dollars, but according to Amazon, it has yet to make a profit in what like 18 years.

What "innovations" has it really crated other than Kindle, which it did that buy being so ruthless it put publishers and book stores out of business.

If you look at it's seller platforms you will find numerous FLAWS either by designed or ignorance by it's programmers, which actually harm their sellers.
Because the "flaws" are so easily fixable it is hard to believe it is out of ignorance.

From my understanding the lifespan of their "best and brightest" is like 3 years, 5 years if you can survive it. How is that "motivating".

Studies have proven time and time again that the BETTER you treat your workers the more PROFITABLE and SUCCESSFUL your company is and will continue to be.

Amazon may LOOK like the exception to the rule but it is not and TIME does reveal all things and what comes around DOES go around, it is just that some people have more time than others to play the game.

ebay is a POSTER CHILD for this. ebay basked in it's glory for a long time and it became a TYRANT and is even more of a TYRANT except that it is losing money hand over fist. It has become a BEACON of arrogance and ignorance, of greed and of utter HATRED.

It is a cesspit of liars, thieves and scammers, and that is it's buyers and executives. The only HONEST and decent people on ebay are it's sellers. Are there bad sellers on ebay, sure there are but not many and they do not last long.
I doubt it will be long before they are penny stocks.

So how long do you think Amazon can survive in it's current culture both internally and externally, before it too suffers ebay' fate? I say just about as long. But if it continues as it is, it too will find that they are NOT immune and will pay the piper just the same as ebay is now doing.

I actually HOPE Amazon realizes that it cannot continue as it is and FIXES it many issues before it is too late. BEFORE it becomes so HATED and DESPISED by both it's HONEST buyers and sellers like ebay is.

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by: clegge This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 17 01:25:38 2015

@TomH, the problem is that Amazon, by example, encourages other employers to mimic their burn-and-churn model. Saying that one isn't forced to work there is meaningless in job markets where Amazon (and employers using that burn-and-churn model) are the only game in town. I sincerely hope for your sake that Jeff Bezos doesn't start holding 3rd party sellers to the same brutal standards.  

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by: BargainzBabylon This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 17 03:02:39 2015

Amazon is also in the process of destroying the city where it was born. Seattle is becoming unlivable.

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by: Tiffee Jasso This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 17 03:06:29 2015

Offer to pay someone for the privilege of flogging him or her and they will line up just like they do right now. Innovative my @#$#! Corporate bully more like it, but here again it is all done with consent and so is perfectly legal. Ethical? No. It's Amazon, they don't follow the rules or play the gentleman for anyone.  

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 17 05:18:07 2015

Working in retail is tough, probably a lot tougher than working at a high-tech company. Amazon third-party merchants must also work all hours, including weekends and holidays.
^^
I live in Chicago and occasionally take the rush hour bus downtown and all the young people on the bus are dressed very casually.  I have also visited some of the start-up companies in downtown and the atmosphere is one of "entrepreneurship" and laissez-faire work.  It was kind of startling to see (young) people sitting in cubicle-less rooms and spaces (no more rooms, only spaces).  And they set their own hours and do some work remotely at home.
I would imagine that AMZ/Ebay are competing for talent with the above start-ups and new tech businesses and the more AMZ/EB crack the whip the more they're going to lose talent.
I read the article about AMZ and if there's a revolving door of employees, that's not good and in the long-run, it's going to show in  performance and profits.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Mon Aug 17 07:05:12 2015

I'm quite surprised that in a very competitive job market, where most companies are trying to entice talent by offering them lots of perks, that there seems to be no work/life balance or flexibility at Amazon.  Seems like Amazon would be easy picking by companies who do offer work/life balance and flexibility.

I'm reminded of my European friends who are constantly making comments comparing their 6-8 weeks of vacation to my three. The Europeans do seem to get that there is more to life than just working all the time. It's great to have a career, but if that is all that you have, and if that is what consumes one's life, I'm guessing one's life is pretty empty.

With the great divide (it has never been greater) between CEO and C-level executive pay it is easy to figure out who gets rewarded with all of this hard work.

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by: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 17 08:22:45 2015

This is why unions exist.

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by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Aug 17 10:11:31 2015

I would much rather work at a company where things are clearly spelled out than suffer at the whims of a manager who decides for whatever reason that they don't like you. I changed jobs many times and usually because of the company 'culture'(whatever that really means), and then due to health problems was out the door for good. I have enjoyed selling on line, and one of the places I sell on is Amazon, far better than any job I have ever worked before. But then it is my business and I set the culture and because of my work ethic I score high            in my selling points at Amazon and no matter where I sold I have had feedback in 100%. That same ethic got me in trouble at other places in my time clock punching days because I expected the same ethic from employees that were supposedly under me.

I suspect that reports like this are exaggerated by disgruntled employees and was glad to know others gave a different opinion. You can find this at just about any company that you work for. I doubt if it is unique to Amazon.

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by: JustTheFacts This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 17 10:41:58 2015

One of the largest expenses for a business is employee TURNOVER.

I am once again reminded of the DeMoulas Market Basket story in New England. When that whole strike thing went on many things were revealed about the grocery store industry.

I believe I read that grocery stores only have about a 2-4% profit margins on their items, which to me is very small, Of course that is why they must have 10s of thousands of different items and have them in mass quantities in order to stay alive.

However, this store has been the lowest price for the entire New England area, pays it's employees the highest in the entire industry itself,pays them profit sharing with ZERO dollar investment by the employees, treats it customers so well that even it's customers felt the need to STRIKE WITH the workers,and at the time, for an entire year offered a 4% discount to all of it's customers and was still so profitable that it had NO debt and continued to opens several stores a year without a loan, while still making ALL of it's family stockholders VERY RICH!

One of the questions MBAS. professors, analysts and other "experts" in the industry kept asking was HOW could a store chain pay all of it's employees so well, be the lowest cost in the area, and offer a 4% discount for an entire year and still be so PROFITABLE?  

As they continued to dig to find out how this could be, and many doubting this was all true.  Not only did they find out it was all true but they realized a KEY ingredient actually came back to the EMPLOYEES.

What was also surprisingly revealed is that the average TURNOVER in the grocery store industry is about 90 days. However, Market Baskets is about 27 YEARS! With many exceeding 30 & 40 years and some over 50 years. That is not to say that every person stays 27 years or that you do not have people come and go in weeks to months.
However, the turnover, overall is so low and the amount of employees that stay years and years is so high that not only do they SAVE millions each year from this alone, but because they treat their employees so well and pay them so well, the employees CARE about the business and see it their own and TREAT it as their own. In turn the employees are good to their customers without force or the treat of force by management. They know their jobs and responsibilities and just do them. They respect their jobs and appreciate them, and they are also treated with respect by not only their bosses but by corporate.

Again, you will always find a few bad apples no matter how good you people them but that seems to be the exception in this Market Basket culture.

And get this. Once all of this was revealed to the public of how well Market Basket treated it employees and customers, and the strike ended in FAVOR of the employees and their CEO (the whole reason for the strike),they ended up getting even MORE customers then ever before (which was already a lot) and this is because people WANT to do business with GOOD, HONEST and FAIR companies and companies who treat their workers well.

Remember,the customers are also employees of other companies and they know how they are treated by their employers and want to be treated and feel they deserve to be treated and appreciated by them. And in today's corporate America, 99% are NOT treated or paid well.

So the point to Amazon and other companies here is, although some may defend their actions toward their employees because they have learned to live with working in such HOSTILE and UNSTABLE conditions for so long,the majority do not only disagree with it but find it ABUSIVE and DESPICABLE and it festers CONTEMPT for them towards Amazon. And that is very BAD for business in the long run.

In the Market Basket case above, remember this as well. As Market Basket continues to gain more and more customers, which is proving to be even more and more profitable for them. Because of the culture and environment of MB,those customers are LEAVING their competitors. People who have shopped at certain stores for years and some all of their lives are leaving. Not just because the prices are better,as many already new Market Basket had better prices, instead it is about supporting a company who does good to their workers as well. People WANT to be part of and support that type of environment, especially when they feel so powerless, abused, over worked, underpaid and unappreciated in their own work environments.

ebay THOUGHT it was unbeatable for a long long time. It bought up every form of competition in it's path to help ensure they stayed at the top.The bigger they got the worse they began to treat their sellers and workers. For a long time Amazon did not seem much of a threat because it was primarily a book seller and by the time ebay realized just how much a threat Amazon was to them it was too late and Amazon was far too big to be eaten by ebay.

We see Amazon eating their competition as well in order stay at the top. But it appears that what may be Amazon' biggest down fall in the end is the fact that they EAT THEIR OWN as well.

They not only chop up and spit out their own employees when they are done with them but they do the same to their own sellers as well. I think what they do to their sellers is actually worse. There are actually several bad things they do to their sellers.

One of the main ones is, they let the seller bear all of the costs and expenses of  testing the success of a product or products, and if it is very successful, Amazon comes along and uses it power and money to start selling it and if they do not kick the seller off completely (from what I understand they have done this many times)they then bury the sellers listing and promotes it under their own listing.

A snake can only eat it's own tail for so long before it has nothing left to eat and no tail left to help itself go to find more food and eventually dies by it's own cannibalization.    

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by: brokentoys19 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 17 10:59:35 2015

At really bad places, you'll have people jumping from 25th story windows and out in front of trains. Just sayin'

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by: sasikat9 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 17 12:01:03 2015

I would think that if these people felt that they were being that used and abused they would quit.

Only morons would allow the abuse and stay. No sympathy for them at all.

And needing the money isn't an reason its an excuse to allow the abuse.

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