Malta is a modern, English speaking country. It is part of the EU and the western world. Residents of Malta can enjoy a lifestyle with all modern conveniences. It is quite a pleasant place to life.
Some people, however, might think that I am not fully truthful. That is because Malta does not have one of the centre pieces of a modern, convenient life. That is, it does not have Amazon. That is right my dear non-Maltese readers, Amazon does not exist on these Islands. I know this seems almost unimaginable to a lot of people, but it is true.
In many countries, Amazon has become an essential part of life. It is the place where a lot of people buy everything that is not fresh food. I know a number of people who don’t even order on a weekly but on a daily basis on Amazon. With Amazon Prime there is no delivery charge and everything arrives the next day. In some areas one can even get a same day delivery.
It is incredibly convenient. Pretty much anything can be found on Amazon. Not only that, everything can be found on Amazon for probably the cheapest price possible. It is therefore very difficult to not use Amazon when it is available.
Before I moved to Malta, I was a loyal customer of the company pretty much from the beginning. I still remember when Amazon started as a book store. Since I lived in the countryside at the time, it was immediately the best way to get books quickly.
As a libertarian, I of course did not see anything wrong with a profit orientated alternative company to the local book stores, that offered me a great service at great prices. I have since defended Amazon against, often not very valid, criticisms from people who were more critical of capitalism.
But I must say I cannot do that any more. Amazon has reached the point where it got too large. The size of the company has become so large that this creates a number of problems.
First of all, it is dangerous to be totally dependent on a single retailer for everything. There is no plan B if anything goes wrong with that retailer. In places where Amazon exists, the company has made life difficult for local, decentralised retailers. Therefore, if for whatever reason one gets locked out from Amazon, one has a problem. It is a very fragile system.
And this is a major political danger. Politicians have come to love it when a single company can give them leverage over the population. As a consequence, Amazon has become politically biased. Just this week there was a story that a man got locked out of his smart home devices, because Amazon assumed that he had a racist mindset. This turned out to be wrong, but even if it was not, it should worry anyone that Amazon things it is part of its job to check the political views of its customers.
We had already seen similar problems in the pandemic, where Amazon joined in de-platforming books that where inconvenient for the ruling politicians. Because it has such a monopoly position, not being features on Amazon is almost the same as a book being banned. This is worrying and should motivate anyone to move away from using this monopolist company. We need multiple platforms.
The political dangers are not the only ones however. Amazon has now got so large that the service itself has started to deteriorate. I just had a very bad experience with its customer service.
As I said, I have used Amazon for a very long time. Since I like the logistics of digital books, movies and music, I have bought a lot of digital products on the platform. I did not just do this because of the convenience, but my reasoning was that if I have all my digital assets on one large platform I will have the security that I can access them at any point in the future.
Since I moved to Malta two years ago, I have not ordered anything physical on Amazon. I bought a few books on my kindle but that was it. When I was trying to log into my account lately, because I wanted to download some MP3s that I bought years ago, a realised that the phone number that Amazon had was still my UK number. That number, however, has been switched of since and I was not able to receive the 2FA code on it.
I contacted their customer service to find out how I could alternatively verify my identity to log in and change my phone number on the account. To my big surprise, I got told that that would be absolutely impossible. My only option would be to create a new Amazon account. When I pointed out that that would mean that I lose all my digital purchases I made over the years I was simply told that I was correct with that assessment.
The problem was that I had not made any physical purchases in the previous 3 month. Any account that is not used for purchases for 3 month is marked as inactive. That means Amazon assumes that the account holder does no longer exist or want to use their services. 3 month! I don’t know about you, but 3 month is not a very long time in my world.
Of course, in a world where Amazon is essential for daily life there is some logic to that assumption. Still, I did not even get a warning that my account would be switched to inactive if I did not make any purchases. Strangely, it is only physical purchases that count, not digital ones. On my kindle, which is still logged in, I can still access my kindle library and even buy more books. And all of that in an apparently inactive account. Once my kindle device goes, there won’t be any other way to access them again though. What a strange policy.
To me that means that your digital property is not secure on the Amazon platform. You can lose it at any point if Amazon decides without warning to log you out. There is not even a process to complain about it. Believe me, I have tried. The peak of absurdity was when I got disconnected from their customer service and they did not contact me back, because “It appears that your phone number is not working any more” and that I “should change the phone number on my account”. No kidding, if I could change my phone number I would not have contacted your customer service in the first place.
Amazon has got too large. Its size has become politically dangerous and it seems unsafe to use the platform for some kind of purchases. Their customer service is a disaster. Amazon has therefore joined many other companies in history that has started to fail because of its unmanageable size.
Needless to say, I will not create a new Amazon account. I will instead look for alternative platforms for my purchases whenever possible. Luckily, this is very easy in Malta. Here, one still finds many small stores that offer most things that are needed for a comfortable life. Some of them even are cash only. Sure the price point is often a bit higher, but I increasingly think that this local environment is worth the extra money. I am therefore terminating my customer relationship with Amazon for the absolute majority of items I want to buy, and you should considering doing the same.