“It’s Amazon’s playground and they do seem to win a lot of the time…” says John Oliver in a light-hearted look at the international giant marketplace. But Oliver places further scrutiny on the fact that Amazon appears to be creating its own knock-off designs of products already being sold on its marketplace.
“Amazon isn’t just a marketplace, or indeed a shipping company,” says Oliver. “It’s also started coming up with its own products now.” Oliver gives the example of a camera bag that is uncannily similar to Peak Design‘s own version.
According to reports, Amazon has “approximately 158,000 private-label products across 45 in-house brands” and they tend to prioritise their own products in searches. So essentially when a third-party brand notices Amazon is selling an identical product, that’s the death knell for them and they will immediately liquidate their inventory because it’s impossible to compete.
So back to the Peak Design bag. It’s a small grass-roots type of company whose origin story reads a little like the ultimate in start-ups becoming successful. San Franciscan spends a few months travelling and notices that most camera bags suck so he quits his job to start solving the problem. His strong values regarding quality and sustainability and hard work get the product designed and successfully to market via Kickstarter.
That is of course an incredibly abbreviated version, but what we are missing is the sheer intensity of effort and constant striving that is involved in designing a great product and bringing it to market. And Amazon is simply bypassing all of that, under-cutting and offering far lower quality, just because it can, ultimately undermining the very people who they are supposed to be working with. It even has practically the same name: The Everday Basics.
Peak Design offered a brilliant snarky response in this video highlighting the fact that Amazon’s version is likely not paying fair wages to the workers who create the bags, nor are they carbon neutral, nor is there a lifelong guarantee like Peak Design offers. It’s a small needle-prick of a dig at a behemoth like Amazon, however, as consumers, we should be made aware of these things.
“It seems pretty weird,” says Oliver, “that one of the biggest companies in the world seems to be using the same strategy as knock-off DVDs”. Quite so.
So why does this matter? Well, because Amazon actually runs the marketplace it has a huge advantage over independent sellers. It also has access to confidential seller information regarding product details which according to Jeff Bezos himself, “he can’t say absolutely yes or no that their data policy hasn’t been violated in order to promote Amazon’s business interests.”
Now that we are aware of this, we can continue to support smaller companies that genuinely want to create the best products for their customers. It would be wonderful if we could snub huge corporations such as Amazon, but the reality is, that in many parts of the world, that’s all there is. It is becoming increasingly difficult to do business without these huge tech companies. Perhaps it’s already too late.