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Amazon Left Me Feeling Less Than Fresh

Michael Woods

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In the grand scheme of things, this issue, this matter, isn’t at the top of the list of stuff to be mad about.

But what I’m talking about does tie in with larger matters, and the state of our society, in a way.

On Thursday, Jan. 7, I ordered some groceries for my family. We live in Brooklyn, NY, and I ordered through “Amazon Fresh,” a so called ‘same-day’ grocery delivery service, spending a pretty penny, almost $150.

Amazon Fresh is touted as a same-day grocery delivery service.

Amazon has its fingers in e-commerce, sure, but also cloud computing and artificial intelligence. As the company grows larger, more and more voices are speaking aloud the thought: How big is too big?

On Friday, a little after noon, the groceries were delivered, and I was very grateful to the man who brought bags up three flights of stairs. I gave him a cash tip. Hard workers like that, going above and beyond, they deserve every nickel from all of us who are able to indulge in the luxury of grocery delivery.

I then went to unpack the groceries, and I was in for a strange mini-shock.

I’d patted myself on the back, for ordering three jaws of marinara sauce, but that (pathetic?) self satisfaction disappeared when I saw what was sent.

Three jars of marinara, the good stuff, from Raos. I’d paid $7.49 per jar; yes, it’s an indulgence! But what arrived was NOT what I expected. Three tiny jars, each jar 15.5 ounces, came to my house.

Was it a mere mistake? They sent mini jars, not the larger size I have ordered from them time and again? Innocent oversight?

Nope, not the 24 oz jars I’d purchased from them prior, for around the same price. What Amazon Fresh sent me was 8.5 ounces of product less than I’d been accustomed to receiving from them, at roughly the same price they’d previously charged. By the way, in a compare and contrast effort, I noted that “Kroger Ship” would deliver a 24 oz jar of Rao’s marinara to people for $6.55.

Shame on me, I guess, for not pondering the possibility that Amazon Fresh might be looking to do a sort of bait and switch, and up their margins by sliding in smaller-portion containers and hoping customers don’t notice? Shame on me, I guess, for not looking at how many ounces would be in the package/container I was ordering, and double-checking to make sure that was the same portion I’d always obtained. And, shame on me for not having the default thought that of course this was just an innocent mistake…or a couple innocent mistakes?

OK, in case you are thinking, Jesus man, people are dying from COVID once every 40 seconds, and a mob attacked the Capitol building a couple days ago, keep your grocery issues to yourself, I hear you.

But let’s leave me out of this…What if someone who ordered groceries on Tuesday got pink slipped on Wednesday? And they were now in a panic, how am I going to pay rent, and keep food on the table for my kids next month? Maybe you think this is just something to shrug off, it’s life in the big city, and hey, big boy, buyer beware. OK, noted.

But what if this wasn’t me, but an elderly single lady who ordered these groceries online because she is afraid to go out, and catch COVID. What if this happened to a person on a fixed income, getting by on a social security check? Oh, by the way, my wife does well for herself, she’s a beyond-competent professional working for a respected company, being compensated well. I’m in media, I do journalism, and focus on boxing. You can read between the lines on how much of a fat cat I am, in case you’re wondering what filters I see through.

You might be thinking to yourself, dude, there are bigger fish to fry, no, I’m not letting go of this matter.

Amazon offers you convenience and sometimes, better prices than you’d enjoy if you went out and shopped on Main St. But, news flash, this “incident” really put into sharp focus for me what I already know. The massive conglomerate Amazon is doing really, really well. “Wall Street is projecting Amazon will surpass $100 billion in quarterly revenue for the first time ever in the fourth quarter,” according to a CNBC story which posted on Friday.

“The stock has gained more than 66% in the last year, taking its market cap from more than $956 billion to roughly $1.59 trillion, as of Friday morning,” the story stated. The platform Business Insider in 2019 reported that Bezos, a 56 year old Albuquerque, New Mexico native, “makes an estimate of $2,489 every second and $149,353 every minute of the day.”

Don’t cry for him because he was just passed by Elon Musk, who is now the richest person on Earth. Musk’s net worth is around $185 billion, while Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, is worth about $184 billion. Long story short, Bezos’ grocery gang doesn’t need to engage what looks like a sneaky trick that I’d expect — and have been stung by! — from one of their third-party sellers. (I ordered cat food off Amazon, about two years ago, same price point I always see, and WTF, opened up a box a few days later after delivery and saw three cans, priced at $4.00 plus per can. That, my friends, was a straight up scam.)

Amazon’s success comes with prices that many of us just don’t factor in. You know this in the back of your mind, every time you use Amazon, that means you are not visiting a shop on Main St. And oh, about that shop on Main St. Did you notice that it is no more? That after being in business a year, or two, or ten, they shuttered? That there is a sign in the window for the place that sold sporting goods, or shoes, or toys, or cat food, or books, or electronics, or stationary, or periodicals, or kids clothing, or women’s clothing, or men’s clothing, which says “FOR RENT, CALL THIS NUMBER.” Yeah, there are still plenty of real estate offices open, along with nail salons, where I live. Bezos hasn’t opened Amazon Virtual Realty, or collected an army of beauticians, or gotten far enough along to roll out his robot army of nail shapers. (That list bit was saracastic, though I admit that I don’t know Bezos does NOT have such a project in the works.)

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All those stores and shops and boutiques got Bezos-d, my friends.

OK, we get it, Woods, you might be thinking by this point, maybe this was a simple error by a data entry gig worker. I’m having trouble buying that possibility, because the same thing happened with the oat milk Amazon Fresh sent me. The 32 fluid ounce container I bought online from Amazon Fresh cost $4.08. I took it out of the bag, after delivery, and looked at it, and wondered if my eyes were really going bad. No, they had sent a mini version of what I’d ordered from them before. To be specific, on Nov. 19, Amazon Fresh had sent me oat milk, 48 oz worth, and charged me $3.48.

Do the math, and then ask yourself again, at what cost convenience? 32 oz for $4.08, that was the price being gouged out by Amazon less than two months after they sent me 48 oz for $3.48. They charged me significantly more, for significantly less. During a pandemic. Lord, at the very, very least that’s a bad look. And I’m past the point of defaulting to the kinder assumption when the topic is practices of corporations in this age. I won’t edge toward a safe zone, for fear of casting an unearned negative aspersion, unfairly sully their fine reputation. Their reputation precedes them, and the sullying has already occured.

No, it’s not “just” a few ounces. The percentage of how much more they charged, and how much less they sent can add up to millions and millions of dollars, depending on how often such switcheroos occur. Just how much? I suspect that some folks in Congress will be curious to know, after January 20, or so I hope. Because I forwarded this story to Senator Elizabeth Warren and a couple other reps who I believe care a bit about protecting consumers.

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Hey, Senator Warren, and other folks who perhaps care about this issue, and the larger and uglier reality that is conjured by my experience, care to do the math on this one?

Finally, in case you were thinking, Jesus, this guy is a jerk, with his fancy Raos and oat milk, let me prove I’m just a slob like one of us…Amazon Fresh sent me a bag of Fritos, as I’d requested on Jan. 7. Imagine my surprise when the bag told me that 2 oz. of Fritos were in there…and not the 9.25 oz I’d ordered, and been charged $3.99 for.

Again, do the math, and consider shifting your head space about Amazon. I love the convenience, but damn it, me and all of you who use Amazon have been paying a tax that isn’t apparent when you hit the buy button.

This isn’t a “rant” by a guy who is wanting socialism, as the crafty deviants in DC try and succeed in convincing low information citizens. Hard-working people with great ideas, let them become millionaires. Multi millionaires, even. But where we are now, it’s ludicrous, and ominous and disastrous.

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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