Amazon’s Visa embargo symptom of ‘comply or die’ customer mentality 

Eleanor Thomas, Wholee UK spokesperson

It happens every year. The joy and splendour of Christmas is followed by the inevitable bleakness of the New Year. This year’s, however, looks set to be particularly dreary.

From January 2022, online retail megalith, Amazon, has announced that they will stop accepting Visa credit cards. Their justification for the decision: high credit card transaction fees.

The reality is that the decision is not a one off, but instead a symptom of Amazon’s broader willingness to put profit before people. So obsessed are they with ensuring they make as much money as possible that they are willing to potentially exclude millions of customers from their business just to avoid paying higher transaction fees. Globally, Amazon recorded third quarter profits of $3.2 billion, so they’re not exactly struggling.

The reality is, though, that Amazon operates on the understanding that they can behave like the bully boys of the online retail playground. They know that they have a dominant enough share of the market that they can wilfully curb consumer choice without fear of losing market share. Their approach to their customers is simply: ‘comply or die’.

Amazon’s Visa move is by no means unique. Instead, it’s merely the latest in a long line of attitudes and approaches and tactics the online giant loses to penalise their customers.

Price Gouging

This Christmas, for example, the retailer will deploy its ‘price gouging’ optimisation to maximise their profits and see users pay more. If demand for a certain item spikes retailers like Amazon will seek to capitalise on this by simultaneously increasing their prices to maximise profit. The practice rose to prominence during the lockdown-driven worldwide surge in demand for toilet rolls and hand sanitiser. In Amazon’s case, ‘essential’ pandemic products saw prices surge by as much as 300 per cent in some cases, while sites like eBay were found to be re-selling Christmas toys for up to ten times their original price.

Locked In Subscription Syndrome

Many of Amazon’s clients will be tempted by their subscription offers. Subscriptions to Amazon Prime or are easy and offer you a range of products to choose from. Leaving these subscriptions often proved to be much more difficult, with subscribers often finding obstacles in their way. Shopping should be enjoyable and if a service isn’t working for you, it should be easy to leave. Last year, Norway’s Consumer Council (NCC) published a report calling out what it describes as the e-commerce giant’s “manipulative” and “unreasonably cumbersome” unsubscribe process for Prime. The report has been amusingly titled ‘You can log out, but you can never leave’.

Customer service

The online retail giant’s customer service is also a common source of rancour among shoppers. Consumer complaints surrounding sub-standard customer service when shopping online have sky-rocketed over the course of the pandemic. Another online giant, eBay, landed itself in hot water after passing the buck to its couriers for the delivery of faulty or inappropriate products. Though eBay’s customers are offered online consumer protection statements, many customers claim these are not being honoured.

So, what’s new?

The pandemic has been notable for so many things. Our lives have changed from the way we shop to the way we work. The shift toward online retail has in turn fostered greater competition online. New, innovative retailers are opening up who are daring to challenge the pre-eminence of retail giants like Amazon and eBay.

At Wholee, we operate with a ‘people over profits’ mindset. Our zero-markup strategy ensures that customers are always able to find the products they are after at affordable prices, and we have recently opened up benefits such as 24/7 customer service and express shipping. Consumers should not feel the need to adjust simply because Amazon demands it of them. It reeks of entitlement and conceit, with Bezos and co. acting like they are the only online retailer worth shopping at. They are stunningly wrong, and we are ready to meet the needs of customers everywhere, no matter their credit card provider.