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The Ignoble End of AmazonSmile

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AmazonSmileI’m not a huge fan of Amazon, given my past experience with the company but, as the largest retailer in the world, it’s sometimes impossible or impractical to avoid it. The AmazonSmile program had made it more tolerable for me to, on occasion, order products from the smile.amazon.com URL instead of the customary www.amazon.com. At least I knew a small portion of my purchases was being donated to the charity of my choice. And they had a long list of charities covering a large array of causes.

Sadly, that is no more. Of course it’s their money and their choice to withdraw this voluntary program, but people can have opinions about it and it’s been mostly negative. Possibly the most irritating part of this termination is the timing of it and the PR spin to justify it and to soften the blow.
Here are the salient parts of the email they sent announcing the end of the charity support program:

… after almost a decade, the program has not grown to create the impact that we had originally hoped…
… We will continue to pursue and invest in other areas where we’ve seen we can make meaningful change …
… charities will still be able to seek support from Amazon customers by creating their own wish lists…
… we’re determined to do every day better for our customers, our employees, and the world at large…

There’s quite a bit of PR double-speak and fluff in there designed to put the best light on something that is so negative. What impact had Amazon originally hoped to achieve with this program? Was it some unattainable goal like complete world peace, elimination of poverty and hunger, or a full reversal of the damages done to natural habitats?

The fact is that even small donations to legitimate charities do make a difference. Not everything must always be on a grand scale.

But of course the truth is what everyone already knows and it’s glaringly obvious given the timing of this decision. Companies, specially of the tech variety, had over-extended themselves during the past few years and are now shedding that extra weight. Amazon, along with many others, recently announced mass layoffs and massive cost reductions. They must do what’s needed to guard their profits and keep the shareholders calm.

To that end, terminating AmazonSmile was simply a cost reduction and revenue retention initiative and “we’re determined to do every day better” is not going to obscure that fact. So, why so blatantly insult the public’s intelligence instead of telling the truth, however bitter that may be?

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