Why everyone should be boycotting Amazon

Amazon’s employees have to work in sweatshop conditions, being unable to take restroom breaks or sick leave without fear of reprimand or termination. Amazon does not pay a cent in federal taxes, taking from its communities with no financial return to its communities. Amazon’s privacy issues include selling email addresses to advertisers when a user creates an account, and opting-out does not stop advertisers from continuing to spam the user’s email address. And finally, Amazon has issues with account lockouts and cancelled orders, even if the owner of the account has authorized it over phone support. Everyone should be boycotting Amazon.

There are a few reasons I boycott Amazon when and where I can. Stay with me here and you’ll find out why you should too.

Account lockout issues

Let’s go back to 2018 for a moment. I made an order in the evening, went to sleep for the night, and the next morning the order was cancelled. I tried to place the order again over the weekend, and instead my account became locked for “unauthorized activity” and again the order was cancelled. So I call Amazon Support inquiring what’s going on, proving my identity and that I own my account, they explain that my account was locked for the unauthorized activity, which I explain was completely and utterly authorized. They unlock my account and place my order again with an internal note saying that the order was authorized by phone support with customer. I receive a tracking email for the new order. The next day, the order was cancelled again and when I looked up the order, it says that it was cancelled because of unauthorized activity. So, what this leads me to believe, is that Amazon Support’s internal note won’t protect an order from being cancelled in this scenario. The entire time this was going on, I was using the same IP address that I have used to access my account for the past several months, and I was not using a VPN or IP-changing services. While this issue with Amazon was underway, I had made a separate order at Newegg, and that order had already began shipping before I could even get my Amazon order to complete properly.

An issue with my account being locked out and several attempts at ordering going amiss, while ordering at another e-commerce website works without issue, that alone would leave a sour opinion for I believe almost anyone, but perhaps not enough to cause a complete boycott. No, there are in fact many other reasons.

Political issues

  • Employees skip bathroom breaks to keep their jobs, as reported by The Verge and The Seattle Times. They fear not meeting their quotas in fulfillment centers and then Amazon leveraging that to reprimand or terminate them. Restroom breaks take a considerable amount of time for an employee, because employees have to walk a far distance to find a restroom. If an employee falls ill and visits the doctor, a doctor’s note won’t prevent a meeting about misconduct for being absent from work. All the while, Amazon denies this is happening, despite employees going public about the issues.
  • There are past employees who describe the Amazon Warehouse as a sweatshop on Glassdoor.
  • Amazon will pay nothing in taxes despite billions in profits, as reported by Fortune. This has been sparking outrage by politicians, including Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Amazon was going to build its new headquarters in New York, until New Yorkers learned of the tax cuts Amazon would receive, sparking further outrage. That outrage led Amazon to back out of their deal to build their headquarters in New York. Furthermore, there is an ongoing movement to charge Amazon for past-due sales tax. When Texas sent Amazon a large tax bill, Amazon argued that Texas had no right to charge them that tax bill, causing Amazon to close their Texas-based warehouses and cancel plans to build more. What does this all mean? Less funding for communities, cities, and by extension, consumers. It’s predatory. Amazon takes from its communities but does not reinvest in those communities through taxes.
  • Traditional retailers are losing business to the mega-corporation, causing those retailers to either close shop or accept lower profits. When a retailer closes, those customers have to shop elsewhere. By taking out the smaller businesses, Amazon becomes larger and more difficult to compete with. It would be a surprise to no one to find out Amazon would become a monopoly at some point in the near future, at the direction this agenda is going.

Perhaps this grim and doom is a bit too serious. Let’s take a step back. I mean, in the United States, employees are free to pick and choose which business they work for. There may be circumstances that prevent an individual from relocating to better jobs or taking higher paying jobs. There will always be work available in every city or small town. If you take this stance, it makes Amazon appear less evil, less predatory, and more free market. Ignoring Amazon and picking to work somewhere else that treats you better won’t fix the long-term issues, however. Amazon will continue to pay nothing in taxes. Amazon will continue to bully-out smaller businesses, they will eat the competition and to make it more difficult to compete as time progresses.

By not investing in the local communities Amazon takes from, they are securing a future where communities are worse off than if Amazon would never have entered their community in the first place.

Privacy issues

Several years ago, I noticed that the email address I registered with Amazon.com was being sold to Chinese spammers. I know this because it was a unique email address I only used in one place: Amazon.com.

The only way a spammer could have knowledge of that email address I used with Amazon.com would have been if Amazon gave it to them, or in a much less likely scenario, the email address itself was “hacked” by having its information stolen from the email provider or stolen while an email message was in transit through the Internet. I like to believe it’s the much more likely scenario. It was given to spammers by Amazon themselves.

Once this email address was in the hands of the Chinese spammers, it has never seen a week without spam. It now receives requests to review Amazon products, with 1000+ pixel wide/tall images embedded, and loose “Engrish” sentences/paragraphs. There are no unsubscribe links, or when there are, they simply go to another email address that is obviously not legitimate, or they go to a dead or non-functioning webpage. And who knows if clicking that link and proceeding with its instructions will even actually unsubscribe the email address, or if it actually subscribes it to more spam. These websites are on the most obscure hosting providers, ranging from African to Asian countries. It’s impossible to stop this kind of spam because these hosting providers simply do not care about the hundreds of thousands of abuse reports they receive. They will do nothing. You may report “up the chain” all the way up to IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority), by reporting their IP address space for abuse, but that will not guarantee an end. The email messages are several kilobytes in size due to the embedded images, which causes some abuse report forms to break the email message into parts, causing additional confusion in the abuse report, or at worst, inaction due to incomplete data (I’m starring at you, Amazon AWS. Their abuse form has a 4KB limit that you can’t even use all 4KB of without receiving an error. Many email headers are over 2KB in size alone).

Many months after that email address was discovered by Chinese spammers scouring Amazon.com for email addresses they can spam to, I discovered Amazon.com has a user profile page that allows you to publish your email address. I never asked to publish my email address when I created my account, it was already up there, in the public, for anyone to view. I quickly put a stop to that, but that was definitely not an opt-in feature, it was an opt-out feature, which is ridiculous, and it was too late. When you create an Amazon account, your email address is automatically displayed in cleartext to anyone who wishes to spam you, and you have to take action yourself to hide it, but of course they don’t tell you that unless you read the Terms of Service.

What solution could be put in place to prevent blatant abuse of privacy? As it turns out, the EU already has strong privacy protection laws. In 2018, they passed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law, requiring any company or entity storing data in the EU or for EU citizens to protect that data, as well as explain in plain terms, not legalese, to the user, how they plan to use that data, and when that data is disclosed. Any company found violating the law would be forced to pay a large fine up to 1% of their profits. For a multi-million dollar company, that is an expensive fine to pay, and it’s part of why the GDPR is strong regulation.

The United States could follow the EU’s decision and adopt a law like the GDPR. This would require Amazon to begin protecting user privacy better than they do now, and if they don’t, Amazon would be forced to pay large fines until they do. GDPR is what we need in the United States to prevent companies like Facebook from abusing privacy so openly, by selling user data to advertisers, without the user being made aware (again, without legalese) about the intention. Though that issue with Facebook is out of scope for this article, so I won’t go into it.

Boycott Amazon

These reasons above are why I wholeheartedly feel everyone should be boycotting Amazon at every street corner, online, everywhere, anytime.

But hey, this is all just my opinion, with some cited facts. You’re welcome to your opinion.

A letter to AT&T

Today, I share with everyone an email message I sent to my apartment management about the level of dissatisfaction I have with the AT&T U-verse service.

It’s a bit of a read, but worthwhile I promise.

It was originally sent on March 19, 2018.

Hi,

 

After being at the [redacted] Apartments for a week, I wanted to bring to light my dissatisfaction with the Internet service available at this property. I’d appreciate if this was taken into consideration as well as forwarded to the appropriate AT&T employees.

 

This property exclusively provides AT&T Gigapower for Internet service. I’m extremely unsatisfied with the service provided, specifically because of the egregious level of technical responsibility on AT&T’s part. AT&T provided me with a BGW210 gateway device for connectivity which exhibits the problems described further below. The problems I have reminded my brother and I of similar problems that we had while living with our parents using AT&T U-verse in [redacted], Texas.

 

Please take the mood of my replies below as direct and with reasoned explanations. They are intended to show my frustration.

 

  • AT&T field installation technicians personnel relegated technical support to online and phone service support. This seems like a lack of ownership of responsibility to me. Field technicians should be able to handle technical questions.
  • AT&T online chat services are poorly configured. Consider the difference between http://chatnow.att.com and https://chatnow.att.com, the former displaying a web server setup page instead of the AT&T webpage. As a systems administrator myself, the difference between the data served indicates a lack of thoroughness and professionalism.
  • AT&T online tech support provided incorrect answers and recommendations; I was able to trivially prove this using simple network diagnostics tools such as ping and traceroute.
  • AT&T service regularly has latency/ping spikes indicating poor connectivity or service provisioning. This is easily visible using connection monitoring software such as Smokeping or Pingplotter.
  • AT&T does not provide IPv6 connectivity to residences, thereby contributing to IPv4 address exhaustion. It did not provide IPv6 service to my parents’ [Texas] address on AT&T U-verse despite repeated requests while I was living there for several years of service. AT&T still does not provide IPv6 to even [redacted] Apartment Homes’ brand new apartment complex; the complex is so new that most online address verification services are unable to verify the address. When tech support was asked about this, they stated that IPv6 was disabled and that I would need to speak to “advanced tech support”, then later after the conversation with them was told that the equipment in the area isn’t configured for IPv6 yet as they still have IPv4 available. This reeks of corrupt profit-seeking instead of creating and adopting solutions for customers. IPv6 is a technology that has been adopted by many major Internet providers since as far back as the 1990s, it’s over 20 years old, it isn’t new and should be freely available.
  • AT&T’s BGW210 gateway device is limited to 8,192 NAT table sessions, causing a bottleneck on the number of IPv4 connections that can be open to another device, whether it goes to the Internet or exclusively uses the local network. This bottleneck would otherwise not exist if AT&T permitted the use of customer third-party routers and modems, such as pfSense where NAT table limit can be upwards of 300,000 sessions, or if AT&T permitted IPv6 at this location. Additionally, as an AT&T Gigapower customer with a 1000 Mbps subscription, this bottleneck is effectively a throttle to the Internet, causing connectivity issues with web browsing and online games, as was already experienced in the first two nights at [redacted] Apartment Homes.
  • Drawing on U-verse experience, the first thing that many technicians would do when encountering a problem would be to replace the modem which was provided and required by AT&T. It was replaced so often that the account had been notated (paraphrase from memory) “do not replace the modem, it is not a problem with the modem” since we had gone through so many replacements without solving the service level problems.
  • With U-verse we had service issues so often that my brother ended up in a conference call with the field technician manager, local service manager, and regional manager to troubleshoot the problem. If I recall correctly, it turned out to be a configuration issue on AT&T’s side.

 

In all, AT&T does not provide service to the level of competitors. Other providers allow true bridged mode, allows customers to use their own purchased third-party routers and modems, and have full IPv6 connectivity support. I am disappointed that AT&T does not appear to have the level of technical service I hope for even after over a decade of interactions with them. I wish to protest AT&T being the exclusive Internet provider at [redacted] Apartment Homes, and wish for the property management to consider and prioritize adding additional competing providers such as Verizon Fios as soon as possible.

 

Thanks,
Carl

The only update to occur after this email was AT&T provisioning IPv6 to my BGW210 gateway device. All other issues still persist, including the NAT issue; I found out after the IPv6 was provisioned, IPv6 still uses sessions in the BGW210 NAT table.

AT&T is arguably worse than Comcast.