I just recently had a conversation with my brother about amazon, the former book retailer and today the retailer for everything. My brother told me that, when you order something directly from amazon and you send it back, amazon destroys the goods. I couldn’t believe what he said. So, I started to do my own little research to understand the full story.
I found a German TV report which was broadcasted in June 2018. The report claimed based on several testimonials of former amazon employees, that the company destroys goods worth several 10.000 Euros daily. Why is that? The report mainly focuses on the argument that amazon organizes the logistics for a wide range of external suppliers, who pay a fee for the storage space amazon offers. To keep that volume of storage space as small as possible, amazon receives the order to destroy the goods, which are not sold to the customers.
That seems to me as a pure economic action and maybe ‘business as usual’.
As I went on looking for some other reports I found an interesting article on t3n, which is an online platform dealing with topics around digitalization. The article gives a more objective view on the issue of the destruction of returned goods in the trade. It also details some more arguments for the destruction. For example, amazon donates a certain amount to charity organizations, but the donation is taxed (in Germany 19%). Compared to the tax the destruction of goods costs significantly less.
Yes, if you are a company such as amazon you watch your numbers because your main focus lies on making a profit. I totally agree that it seems like amazon is trying to do good and I also think that this destruction of new goods is an issue that goes way beyond just amazon. The article makes a very interesting statement: “it is a problem of our society and not purely of the trade”. The quote refers to how we consume and that there is the tendency to buy something new if it is broken, because it’s repair would cost more. And that is, in my opinion, the big underlying issue here: our consumption behavior influences the actions taken in the economy. I am sure there are many more things to consider but that is a huge issue.
And so, we have to ask ourselves “How much responsibility do we have?” “How many things do I need, how much do I want to spend on quality, from where do I buy?”
I have been customer of amazon for years now, mainly buying books. In knowing about this behavior, do I now consider to stop purchasing from amazon? …honestly no, because I think that that will not solve that particular problem.
Of course, amazon is a big player, but it is not the only one. So far, I have ordered a lot of my clothes in the past years from Zalando. And I can tell you that I have sent a lot of clothes back, not knowing what Zalando does with them.
But after that bit of research I will definitely reconsider my online ordering habits.
I would love to see any big company doing the first initial step towards a more resourceful handling of goods. But I get the feeling that we as customers also have to make our own contribution.