Although the company did raise the minimum wage for all of its employees earlier this month, it’s plowing ahead on warehouse robotics and automation in a way that could fundamentally reshape how its lowest-paid employees perform work — and how many of those employees it needs to retain. Amazon now uses more than 100,000 robots in warehouses around the world to help move and organize products, according to The New York Times, and it also sponsors an annual robotics competition to help spur innovation in AI that could result in more dexterous and intelligent robots capable of performing complex physical tasks.
While Amazon has publicly opposed secret government surveillance, as revealed by Freedom of Information Act requests it has supplied facial recognition support to law enforcement in the form of the "Rekognition" technology and consulting services. Initial testing included the city of Orlando, Florida, and Washington County, Oregon. Amazon offered to connect Washington County with other Amazon government customers interested in Rekognition and a body camera manufacturer. These ventures are opposed by a coalition of civil rights groups with concern that they could lead to expansion of surveillance and be prone to abuse. Specifically, it could automate the identification and tracking of anyone, particularly in the context of potential police body camera integration. Due to the backlash, the city of Orlando has publicly stated it will no longer use the technology.
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In response to criticism that Amazon doesn’t pay its workers a livable wage, Jeff Bezos announced beginning November 1, 2018, all U.S. and U.K. Amazon employees will earn a $15 an hour minimum wage. Amazon will also lobby to make $15 an hour the federal minimum wage. At the same time, Amazon also eliminated stock awards and bonuses for hourly employees.
Shelfari was a social cataloging website for books. Shelfari users built virtual bookshelves of the titles which they owned or had read and they could rate, review, tag and discuss their books. Users could also create groups that other members could join, create discussions and talk about books, or other topics. Recommendations could be sent to friends on the site for what books to read. Amazon bought the company in August 2008. Shelfari continued to function as an independent book social network within the Amazon until January 2016, when Amazon announced that it would be merging Shelfari with Goodreads and closing down Shelfari.
Throughout the summer of 2018, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders criticized Amazon's wages and working conditions in a series of YouTube videos and media appearances. He also pointed to the fact that Amazon had paid no federal income tax in the previous year. Sanders solicited stories from Amazon warehouse workers who felt exploited by the company. One such story, by James Bloodworth, described the environment as akin to "a low-security prison" and stated that the company's culture used an Orwellian newspeak. These reports cited a finding by New Food Economy that one third of fulfilment center workers in Arizona were on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Responses by Amazon included incentives for employees to tweet positive stories and a statement which called the salary figures used by Sanders "inaccurate and misleading". The statement also charged that it was inappropriate for him to refer to SNAP as "food stamps". On September 5, 2018, Sanders along with Ro Khanna introduced the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (Stop BEZOS) Act aimed at Amazon and other alleged beneficiaries of corporate welfare such as Wal-mart, McDonald's and Uber. Among the bill's supporters were Tucker Carlson of Fox News and Matt Taibbi who criticized himself and other journalists for not covering Amazon's contribution to wealth inequality earlier.
While Amazon was expanding into streaming video, hardware, and cloud computing, it simultaneously maintained an aggressive push into even faster shipping and all new retail formats. The company started its same-day shipping initiative, Prime Now, in New York City in 2014, and it’s since expanded it to dozens of cities around the world. Around the same time, Amazon began a program called AmazonFresh to stock and ship groceries — including vegetables and refrigerated and freezer products — that it used as a way to stay competitive with traditional big-box retailers like Walmart and Target and Uber-like logistics newcomers like Instacart. The company now sells its own line of meal kits through Fresh to rival ready-to-cook options from companies like Blue Apron and Plated.
The infomercial industry is huge and is worth a staggering $250 billion as of 2015. It all started back in the late 40’s and early 50’s when major sponsors of serial television programs were soap manufacturers (i.e. Proctor & Gamble, Lever Brothers and Colgate-Palmolive), which is how “soap operas” got their name. There is some controversy although the first infomercial is thought to have been for a blender either made by VitaMix or Waring Blenders and aired in 1949 or 1950. Time limits for commercials were imposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not too long after this which halted the growth of infomercials until 1984 when those limits were removed.