Could Amazon lose its flow?

Amazon has just reported sales of £36bn for July, August and September, more than a third higher than for those months in 2016. An article in The Times’ personal finance column on a tiny part of that amount may be interesting in assessing its future, however.

The writer had ordered a £550 mobile phone through a third-party seller on Amazon, and got a shampoo bottle in a box. Fraud can happen, but the expectation would be that the big company would sort it out fast. Not so; because she’d signed for its delivery, Amazon refused a refund until nagged by the paper.

I’ve twice had third-party Amazon orders that failed to arrive, although in both cases the company provided a refund. But third-party is usually better than buying direct from Amazon, as the latter means a delivery from Amazon Logistics, whose couriers have been known to bang on the door on a Sunday as if announcing a police raid.

Getting things from Amazon is not a pleasure. The company appears to believe that the answers lie in drone deliveries, or customers fitting electronic locks that let its couriers in. Amazon is a bit obsessed with newness, such as creating its own television and voice-activated devices, both areas where it has very strong competitors.

But the Kindle e-reader, released a decade ago, failed to replace the book and to some extent has itself been replaced by smartphones. The company also has the common tech giant reputation for minimising taxes, with the European Commission recently demanding EUR250m in back payments.

Leaving all these aside, one wonders if Amazon is starting to lose sight of what made it so big – selling and delivering competently.

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