I’ve been putting off writing you this letter. I don’t subscribe to the idea that ignorance is bliss, but in this case, it was certainly convenient and comfortable.
As from today, I don’t subscribe to Amazon Prime, or any of your other services, too. This is not a decision I have taken lightly, and not one that I can fit neatly into you’re ‘Why Are You Leaving Us?’ box.
I have been an Prime subscriber for a number of years now. I love the services you provide. I’ve saved loads on one-day-delivery, and because of you, I have been able to find some of the most treasured gifts for loved ones over the years. My kids have watched The Gruffalo 50 times if they’ve watched it once, courtesy of Prime.
That’s before I even get started on my Kindle E-reader, which I am genuinely reluctant to mention because it has absolutely changed my life for the better and I will miss it terribly. I’ve given so many speeches bestowing the virtues of my Kindle E-reader to good-humoured friends (with endless patience!) over the years that they have joked I should get a job in your sales department. I love my Kindle, and the app I have on my smart phone. It’s been the main reason I’ve been sticking my head in the sand.
I was concerned a few years ago when the issue of your elaborate tax avoidance became widely known. I think its fundamentally wrong that companies like yours can generate billions of pounds and then steal from the citizens that create your profits. I was glad to see the EU has taken steps to reclaim the lost tax revenue from you.
The children of your employees and customers are not taught in schools that are as well funded as they should be, and when they are sick, are not treated in hospitals as well funded as they should be, because companies like yours can afford the lawyers and accountants that enable you to avoid contributing your fair share in the communities you profit from.
The workers that generate your revenue pay their taxes, as do customers like me, who spend their hard earned wages buying from you. These taxes pay for the foundations that enable the business you profit from, and you benefit both directly and indirectly from them. There’s no moral justification for global corporations side stepping the rules that protect us all and create the infrastructure that should enable communities to thrive, at the expense of ordinary citizens and to their direct detriment. You should want to contribute to the communities that afford you so much wealth and power. You should want to enrich the lives of the people that work for you.
I should have cancelled my subscription when your tax avoidance came to light, but I didn’t, admittedly because of willful denial.
But i can’t deny the way you treat you workers. I could easily work for you. A minimum wage zero-hour contract job is about the level of desperation/poverty I, like so many others, find myself in. I could work for you, given a different set of circumstances, and so could anyone I know. How can I give you my money, knowing that you treat people just like me, with such little respect, or concern or dignity?
This documentary aired 4 years ago:
I’m a reasonable human being. When i see a documentary like that, I try to put it into some kind of context. It’s heavily edited and the broadcasters have an agenda…primarily to make evocatiove TV. Just because there are some people in some places in your business that behave in shameful ways and implement shameful practices, this does not necessarily mean that you fundamentally do not care for your workers and see them just as a resource or a commodity, rather than the human beings they are, does it? It doesn’t automatically mean that your coorporation is rotten at the core. This news report aired roughly the same time:
Reasonably, you should be given the opportunity to look at these issues and implement changes to make things better. That’s how i justified my continued custom.
Probably closer to the truth, like so many other things in my life, it was just easier not to think about it. Not to think about how it feels to be the people suffering while you wring profit from them, and I benefit from your services.
There are probably others who feel similarly, but don’t think about it too much. There’s so much suffering in this world, and it feels like its impossible to breathe without doing harm to someone. We can’t possibly cure the world of all human suffering, so why bother to start anywhere? It’s too hard, too long, too complicated. Its impossible, that’s what we are taught to believe. That is what we are comfortable believing, because it absolves us of any responsibility to try. At least we’re not personally affected. Yet.
That’s precisely how we ended up in a situation this week, where 4 years after those stories were in the public eye, The Mirror have published a report leveling similar allegations at your company, showing nothing much has changed. You are still treating workers appallingly. The BBC reports that Amazon workers are on strike this week, too.
I believe you make enough money to pay your workers well. I believe you have a basic human responsibility to show them respect and to treat them fairly and with dignity. I believe you have a duty of care to provide working conditions that you would be happy for the children of your CEO to accept for the rest of their lives (incidentally, I would guess that if you provided these basic things, productivity would increase and you would ultimately benefit, but evidently, I am not a businessperson).
I believe you are currently exploiting elements of your workforce, and because they are in low paid jobs and in relative poverty, they are vulnerable and unable to do much about it.
I have a responsibility as a human being, to try where I can not to be part of the exploitation and unnecessary man-made suffering of other fellow human beings.
I am privileged to be in a position where I can afford unnecessary services such as the ones you offer. I think the world would be far improved if people considered the responsibility that comes with the luxury of being able to choose. I choose not to contribute to the suffering of others wherever I can. I can’t do much, but I can choose where to spend my money.
I shall no longer be using Amazon services until I am convinced you have made a genuine commitment to, and are proactive in, improving your ethical business practices, with particular attention to the working conditions of your employees and your contributions to the taxation systems of the countries in which you operate.
I know my revenue is nothing to a giant like you. Not even carrying the equivalent importance of the pennies at the bottom of my hand-bag for me. I’m under no illusion that this matters to you, in the great scheme of things. You probably won’t even read it. That notwithstanding, I believe in the basic good in people, and I believe that as your business practices become more widely publicized, more people will make the decision to stop funding the suffering that you inflict on other people. People just like them. The ocean is only drops of water that have come together.
I want to be a customer of yours. I support local businesses where I can, but living where I do, there are many things I just can’t buy here. For the time being, at least, I will have to look harder.
As businesses like yours continue to demonstrate; you have the power to change the world, for better or otherwise. You have influence beyond my comprehension. Long after your founders and VIPs are dead, their influence will be felt. Tip the balance and be remembered for the good you did.
Please do the right thing. I really want to be able to use my E-reader till my hands are too weak to hold it (by which time I should hope you would have invented a hover version, or some sort of mind projector thing…)
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