Hexbyte Tech News Wired
Note: When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Read more about how this works.
Why It’s Hard to Escape Amazon’s Long Reach
In this detailed report, WIRED writers Louise Matsakis and Paris Martineau go over every aspect of the Kingdom of Amazon and why, exactly, it is called “the everything store.” Amazon owns a bewildering array of companies and subsidiaries. Besides shoes and snacks, it also offers everything from payment processing services, healthcare, and web hosting. And that’s not even counting Jeff Bezos’s own private holdings. Amazon really does have its long, sticky fingers in nearly every pie.
KYLE JOHNSON/The New York Times/Redux
What Do Amazon’s Star Ratings Really Mean?
Amazon has a suite of features to help customers choose which product to buy. Of these, the star ratings seem the most obvious. Some star ratings have more weight than others, depending on factors such as how recent the purchase was and whether the purchase was verified (meaning, if Amazon can confirm that the reviewer actually purchased the products. And just like everything on the Internet, the ratings system can also be manipulated.
What Does It Mean When a Product Is ‘Amazon’s Choice’?
If star ratings or best-sellers aren’t good enough metrics to judge a product, Amazon also has a feature called “Amazon’s Choice.” Amazon isn’t transparent about what being a chosen product entails, but sellers, consultants, and consumers speculate that it may have something to do with how often a product is returned and whether it’s fulfilled out of a warehouse. It’s also very keyword-dependent—if you search for “toothpaste” versus “best toothpaste”, for example, you get different results.
Casey Chin; Getty Images
Elena Lacey; Getty Images
Elena Lacey; Getty Images
Is Amazon Prime Still Worth It?
Last year, Amazon raised the price to subscribe to Prime, from $99 annually to $119. No one likes a price hike, but news editor Brian Barrett ultimately concludes that an Amazon Prime subscription is still one of the best deals in tech. If you can’t afford the annual price tag, Amazon still offers student pricing and a monthly Prime membership for two-day shipping, Prime Video, and more.
Mark Makela/Getty Images
This Wasn’t Even Amazon’s First Bear Repellent Accident
Bear repellent is a highly noxious aerosol made from capsaicin, or chili pepper extract. If it can ward off a charging griz, it’s not hard to imagine what an exploding can could do to a warehouse full of human workers. As you might expect from a company that ships literally everything, bizarre accidents are not uncommon. Amazon does have onsite medical contractors at some facilities.
Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Why You Still Can’t Buy Fireworks on Amazon
Were you hoping to get a great deal on a live cockatoo, tobacco products, or a “water walking ball” on Prime Day? Sorry, folks, but Amazon prohibits the sale of many eclectic products that may pose a risk to consumer safety (with bear repellent as one clear exception). Amazon does not verify the legitimacy of the products on the website, but fireworks are just one bridge too far.
Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg/Getty Images