Would Amazon prefer to employ robots instead of people?

David Streitfeld writes: Amazon warehouse employees in Germany walked off the job again Monday even as they tried to take their case directly to the e-commerce giant’s Seattle headquarters. The first action seemed more successful, involving more than a thousand workers. The second drew only about 50 people. “We are humans not robots,” one sign said.

The tech companies, including Amazon, are getting ever richer and more powerful, but there seems to be a bit of a backlash developing. In San Francisco last week, protesters briefly blocked a Google bus transporting workers to its Silicon Valley campus.

Amazon’s announcement two weeks ago on “60 Minutes” that it is pursuing delivery by drones inspired not admiration but widespread mockery. Amazon, critics said, was dwelling in fantasyland. (An Amazon spokesman disagreed with this assessment, saying the news “did inspire some admiration.”)

Perhaps Amazon brought up the subject of drones as a form of wish fulfillment. For the retailer, the moment when machines prepare and deliver packages could not come too soon. Humans are too much trouble. Germany is Amazon’s second largest market, and the labor turmoil there is increasing. [Continue reading…]

I’m not an economist, but I have to wonder whether Amazon’s goal of providing products as fast as possible might end up becoming a marketing strategy that benefits its competitors at the expense of the online giant itself. Shop online and pick up at the store may end up becoming the most successful business model — not only because it can work faster than Amazon, but also because people prefer to engage in transactions with people.

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