Amazon’s transformation into the world’s more pervasive retail operation wouldn’t be complete unless the company began a seemingly counterintuitive push from online to offline. Starting with its brick-and-mortar bookstores in 2015 — first in Seattle and now in Chicago and New York City — Amazon established its intent to compete on all fronts with its retail competitors.
That’s a lot of people to compete with, but it can pay off. While smaller items like clothing, consumables, and books won’t see that large of a price cut, Black Friday is still worth the pre-dawn alarm if you’re after deals on big-ticket items. Think: Household appliances, grills, TVs, and other electronics. “Stores use the doorbusters to whip you into a bargain-shopping frenzy in hopes that you'll buy more than the advertised bargains,” says Lisa Lee Freeman, co-host of the Hot Shopping Tips podcast. “The stores often barely break even or even lose money on doorbuster specials, but they make it back when shoppers stick around and buy other items that may not be such great deals.”
Since its founding, the company has attracted criticism and controversy from multiple sources over its actions. These include: supplying law enforcement with facial recognition surveillance tools; forming cloud computing partnerships with the CIA; luring customers away from the site's brick and mortar competitors; placing a low priority on warehouse conditions for workers; participating in anti-unionization efforts; remotely deleting content purchased by Amazon Kindle users; taking public subsidies; claiming that its 1-Click technology can be patented; engaging in anti-competitive actions and price discrimination; and reclassifying LGBT books as adult content. Criticism has also concerned various decisions over whether to censor or publish content such as the WikiLeaks website, works containing libel and material facilitating dogfight, cockfight, or pedophile activities. In December 2011, Amazon faced a backlash from small businesses for running a one-day deal to promote its new Price Check app. Shoppers who used the app to check prices in a brick-and-mortar store were offered a 5% discount to purchase the same item from Amazon. Companies like Groupon, eBay and Taap.it countered Amazon's promotion by offering $10 off from their products. The company has also faced accusations of putting undue pressure on suppliers to maintain and extend its profitability. One effort to squeeze the most vulnerable book publishers was known within the company as the Gazelle Project, after Bezos suggested, according to Brad Stone, "that Amazon should approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle." In July 2014, the Federal Trade Commission launched a lawsuit against the company alleging it was promoting in-app purchases to children, which were being transacted without parental consent.
The main con is obviously the cold, crowds, and chaos. But just because Black Friday traditionally means in-store shopping, doesn't mean that many retailers won't offer sales online. Last year, online sales hit 19.62 billion over the five-day period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. So if you don't want to wake up in the middle of the night to battle crowds and wait in long lines, check with your favorite stores to see if you can do it all from the comfort of your home.
Amazon hasn’t been content stopping with smart speakers and just standard old appliances under its AmazonBasics brand. In its quest to put Alexa everywhere, the company now sells a dizzying number of smart home devices that go well beyond its core speaker and set-top box beginnings. First there was the Echo Dot, to help bring Alexa to analog speaker systems and get the voice assistant into more rooms of the home. Then there was the Echo Look, for AI-assisted outfit recommendations, and the Echo Show, which contained a display and camera for video chatting and was designed to be a hands-free screen for the kitchen.
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