A glimpse of an alternative reality
September 11, 2018 11:18 PM   Subscribe

 
To be fair, Amazon's Australian offering is so uninspiring that it might as well not exist.
posted by krisjohn at 12:04 AM on September 12 [16 favorites]


Yeah, that's bullshit and not actually all that unique to Sweden.

For many countries in Europe it's true that we don't have access to the same sort of service you get from Amazon.US either because there isn't a local variant or it's so anemic as to be worthless, as is the case here, but we all have access to and frequently use the .de, .fr, .co.uk, .com or even the .co.jp versions of Amazon.

You can even get Prime there.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:07 AM on September 12 [4 favorites]


That is a weirdly patronising article.
posted by Panthalassa at 12:18 AM on September 12 [11 favorites]


Yeah, Amazon is hardly alone. There are and have been local services in Sweden for Ebay, Craigslist, etc. And other big global players like Starbucks were late to an already mature market. Swedish consumers are not exactly starved for choice, one might just have to order one's umbrella from a different site than one's underwear and ukulele.

The article is a bit off-base when it questions the viability of next-day services. Until its recent re-organization the regular postal service was famous for next-day deliveries for first-class letters. Next day delivery to even the most remote locations is feasible, but may not be profitable.

The big story in e-commerce here during the last year was the decision to mandate a 75 SEK (~$8.30) handling fee on all packages arriving with an origin outside the EU. This has had a major impact on services like Alibaba and Wish which specialize in high volume, low value items shipped for free directly from Asian producers.
posted by St. Oops at 12:51 AM on September 12 [8 favorites]


To be fair, Amazon's Australian offering is so uninspiring that it might as well not exist.

Not only that, but Amazon's Australian warehouses impose working conditions that no Australian would wish on another. Exploiting disorganized Americans for the sake of a two percent price advantage is one thing, but expecting this kind of bland managerial eyewash to fly in Australia is quite another.

Oh hell, who am I kidding. Scott Morrison is the PM now. Let us all hold hands and join the festive throng as we celebrate our new togetherness and sing and dance our happy clappy way into the maw of the corporate meat grinder.
posted by flabdablet at 1:35 AM on September 12 [17 favorites]


one might just have to order one's umbrella from a different site than one's underwear and ukulele

SIMPLY INTOLERABLE
posted by flabdablet at 1:36 AM on September 12 [12 favorites]


Well, we do have CDON ("the Nordic countries' biggest department store") where you can indeed order umbrellas, underwear and ukuleles. Why it's not mentioned in that article, I don't know.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 1:43 AM on September 12 [11 favorites]


Because it would have made us look less like an intriguing yet quaint digital wasteland.
posted by Vesihiisi at 1:45 AM on September 12 [10 favorites]


Not only that, but Amazon's Australian warehouses impose working conditions that no Australian would wish on another.

I mean, Australia's minimum wage is like USD 13/hr, so it's difficult for any good, honest, labor-exploitation company to really get going.
posted by rokusan at 1:54 AM on September 12 [4 favorites]


I think in Europe same- or next-day delivery is much less fetishised. When ordering in Poland I usually opt for the cheapest option that takes around a week and I still have to pay for it. Compared to this, Amazon.de free two-day courier delivery for orders over 25 euro is much more convenient.

(See also: everyone ordering from Alibaba/Aliexpress. Somehow we wait up to two months for a package and don't explode.)
posted by I claim sanctuary at 2:12 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


I think in Europe same- or next-day delivery is much less fetishised

I live in a small town, and my waking hours are peculiar. It's way more convenient for me to get stuff shipped via Australia Post, so that when it arrives I get a little card in my mailbox and can walk down to the post office at my leisure to pick it up, than to get rousted out of bed in order to sign a delivery confirmation on the doorstep. Takes a few days longer but who cares?

The Generalized Convenience Ratchet cares, apparently. Which is why Alibaba has become my first port of online call for umbrellas, ukuleles and underwear. Large evil corporate platform yes, but operates as a gateway to multiple vendors, most of whom ship via China Post Registered Mail which costs bugger-all and hands off to Australia Post at this end, and my shit takes weeks to get here, and I couldn't be happier.

Amazon can fuck off.
posted by flabdablet at 2:24 AM on September 12 [9 favorites]


Australia's minimum wage is like USD 13/hr, so it's difficult for any good, honest, labor-exploitation company to really get going.

7-11s managed to force workers to hand half their wages back in cash when they got paid for a while there.
Where there's a will, there's a way.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 2:43 AM on September 12 [7 favorites]


Perhaps it is simply an unheralded feature of their advanced social democracy.
posted by fairmettle at 3:05 AM on September 12


Zachariah Vargas was six hours into his shift delivering packages for Amazon.

He was about to drop off a package when he accidentally slammed the door of his truck on his hand. The door clicked shut, trapping his middle and ring fingers.

Once he freed his fingers, the blood began to pour. Both of Vargas’ arms started to shake involuntarily. The lacerations were deep. Vargas thought he glimpsed bone when he wiped away the blood.

Panicked, Vargas called his dispatch supervisor, who was working at a nearby Amazon facility.

He said he received no sympathy.

“The first thing they asked was, ‘How many packages do you have left?'” he told Business Insider.
And it's not like he was even delivering cheesecakes.
posted by flabdablet at 3:17 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


Yeah, this article is weird.

I suppose the next one will be about how the poor Europeans aren't even in the World Series?
posted by pompomtom at 3:40 AM on September 12 [5 favorites]


This [75 SEK fee] has had a major impact on services like Alibaba and Wish which specialize in high volume, low value items shipped for free directly from Asian producers.

This is an extremely good thing, because the externalities of importing goods that are non-compliant with standards (or not shown to be compliant with standards*) are huge, ignoring the slightly more contentious issue of sidestepping import duties.

Of course it costs the state money to handle these things, so why shouldn't they recoup these costs when there's no economic benefit to bringing these goods into the country.

*sorry, single market and customs union issues are the kind of thing that UK people are bringing into conversations all over the place, where they could heretofore have been ignored.
posted by ambrosen at 4:48 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]


The Alibaba thing is very useful, I have to say. Paying a 2-5 CAD for *small thing* that would cost ten at Amazon or twenty at Canadian Tire or whatever is really great. Especially because there is almost nothing they don't have. The dollar stores are like mini Alibabas, but stock is unpredictable. And yes one has to wait, and wait, and wait. Where was I going with this?

Oh, yeah, the postage thing. It's treaties, right? Right. I always have several items in transit from China for "free delivery" and it's hilarious in one sense because it would cost me like $10 CAD to post any kind of parcel to China but somehow they send me $THING in a padded envelope via airplane and it's all under $2 and I know that I'm paying for it in domestic postage rates skyrocketing but on the other hand if I'm paying for it, fuck, may as well use it.

I do feel there is merit in local retail but there's also merit in not having to pay 500% markup just so something can sit on a shelf down the street or in Markham as opposed to on the other end of a container ship.

We have an uneasy relationship with all of this, I know. The right answer is basic income.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:36 AM on September 12 [4 favorites]


The other week I ordered a replacement newly manufactured blade for a 50 year old Oster blender from some factory on Aliexpress and it was under $10 shipped to Canada. I mean, the fuck? How the hell would I even get this domestically, and which limb would it cost me?

Thank you, world, for this, but it's just kind of wierd.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:40 AM on September 12


I suppose the next one will be about how the poor Europeans aren't even in the World Series?
And like this one forgot to mention some really big local Amazon competitors, that one will probably forget to mention that a European country won the last Baseball World Cup.
This [75 SEK fee] has had a major impact on services like Alibaba and Wish which specialize in high volume, low value items shipped for free directly from Asian producers.
This is an extremely good thing, because the externalities of importing goods that are non-compliant with standards (or not shown to be compliant with standards*) are huge, ignoring the slightly more contentious issue of sidestepping import duties.

Of course it costs the state money to handle these things, so why shouldn't they recoup these costs when there's no economic benefit to bringing these goods into the country.
I agree that it is great the state is getting its VAT. And I am happy to pay VAT. But the way this is being solved in Sweden is terrible, IMHO. Some points:
  1. It is not the state claiming this extra fee. It is PostNord – the company – that bills you this. The state requires them to make sure VAT (and possible import fees) are paid, and for this extra work they are allowed to ask a fee before delivering any of the post.
  2. Even if you take care of all the import and VAT yourself, they are still allowed to require this fee.(Doing it yourself has to be at a physical customs desk … want to guess how far you might have to travel in an empty country like Sweden to get to one? Yes: the forms are online. No: you may not email them.)
  3. Even if they mess up the VAT declaration you have to pay whatever they declared your package as to customs, and pay their fee. You may recoup what you over-paid to customs by demanding a re-evaluation of your package, but the fee is gone even though they messed up to provide the service they say this is supposed to cover. (Re-evaluations require a lot of paperwork, of course, and most people will not bother.)
These are all things I learned because apparently nobody taught them how VAT actually works, and they charged me a full default (25%) on a book. Books have a lower VAT in most EU countries.
posted by Martijn at 5:46 AM on September 12 [6 favorites]


To be fair, Amazon's Australian offering is so uninspiring that it might as well not exist.

Canada's was bad as well up until about a year ago. (Well - outside of "Toronto", I can't speak for it there - but, I assume that whatever we yokels eventually receive in the frozen hinterland wastes was already there 5-6 years prior...)

As they build-out their logistics, they get better and better. Within this past year, I have moved from being on the fence, "meh, ok - I will get my package in 4-7 days even with Prime, but I like the Prime video" to "I can't believe that I can order an item in the morning, for a lower price than any store I can find it in and have it delivered before evening"...

Having lived in Australia for nearly a year, I recall that the retail pricing for most manufactured goods was even worse than we had in Canada.

Of course... In my region, last year there was much excitement - we were finally going to get a real IKEA, not just a shipping point. A few months ago, that was cancelled, IKEA citing: "rapidly changing retail environment"...

And - I guess it won't be long until the various courier and shipping companies start to complain about the loss of their marketplace due to Amazon using essentially a "delivery-sharing" model with crowd-sourced independant contractors ala Uber/Lyft...
posted by jkaczor at 6:22 AM on September 12


...Amazon's Australian warehouses impose working conditions that no Australian would wish on another...

Amazon US Patent "9,280,157,B2" - "System & Method for Transporting Personnel within an Active Workspace"

It's a cage...

The dystopian grim-meathook futurist inside of me says: "Well, gee... if they are already caging their employee's for working conditions in AI-controlled wharehouses, why can't they sub-contract to the U.S. Department of Corrections and use prison labour - it would reduce operational costs even further..."
posted by jkaczor at 6:28 AM on September 12 [6 favorites]


I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO JEFF BEZOS
THE IMMORTAL LEADER OF OUR RACE
AND TO THE ORDERS FOR WHICH HE PLANS
ONE GREAT STORE
SACRED AND INVINCIBLE
posted by flabdablet at 6:54 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]


Is this something I would have to not be symbolically boycotting Amazon to understand?
posted by klanawa at 7:28 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]


This [75 SEK fee] has had a major impact on services like Alibaba and Wish

I'm curious how they get around the International Postal Union rules, which are currently bleeding the USPS on exactly these sorts of packages. The fee is a pretty good counterbalance to what's effectively dumping by big Chinese e-commerce sites.

It turns out that, no, shipping 12 pencils from China is not free, and is not covered by the cost of the pencils, either; it's being covered by the recipient country's postal service. So countries are effectively paying so that business can be offshored to low-wage locales. Neat trick.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:30 AM on September 12 [5 favorites]


 Canada's was bad as well up until about a year ago.

amazon.ca still has a roughly 50% price premium over the US store, and then there's our more expensive shipping on top. Not factored in is the huge amount of traffic generated by Amazon's white vans: Bloor West Village and Leaside gets choked with them.

So maybe Sweden's happy because it doesn't have Amazon's high-fructose want thing, have thing instant gratification?
posted by scruss at 7:51 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]


It is not the state claiming this extra fee. It is PostNord – the company – that bills you this.

Oh hey, this looks a lot like what we do in the Netherlands as well, where it's thirteen euros to get a customs statement that says you don't need to pay import duties if you're unlucky enough to get selected.

Oh and to add insult to injury, it's cash only and no, the postie does not carry change.

Very annoying when I took advantage of an American holiday sale last year and grouped my orders into as few as possible to minimise postage fees only to be hit by that.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:07 AM on September 13


It's way more convenient for me to get stuff shipped via Australia Post, so that when it arrives I get a little card in my mailbox and can walk down to the post office at my leisure to pick it up, than to get rousted out of bed in order to sign a delivery confirmation on the doorstep. Takes a few days longer but who cares?

God, yes. The thing that finally has me trying to follow my convictions and wean off Amazon is how often standard delivery is being 'upgraded' to courier service - I'm not home most days, I don't want to drive the receptionists at my huge work building insane with small, frequent parcels, and so a surprise courier turns a simple order into "this is costing me as much time and/or money now as buying it in person".

I ended up using a postal locker service for about €4 per delivery (balanced by using their UK drop address and therefore often getting free postage from the sender) but they went from reliable service to holding parcels hostage for surprise numbers of days.

If this isn't a brilliant psyop to move people back to the national postal service or shopping in person, it's a pity.
posted by carbide at 2:09 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]


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