Halloween is still two weeks out, and everywhere you look, there’s a holiday sale. Black Friday feels almost irrelevant against the backdrop of yet another Prime Big Deal Day , where new discounts are being released “as often as every five minutes” throughout the online shopping event. Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and Costco have all gotten in on the consumer bargains this month. Is this what President Joe Biden’s Federal Trade Commission is trying to protect consumers from with its sprawling antitrust lawsuit against Amazon?
Because if discounts are indeed going to hit “record highs” this holiday season for toys, electronics, and apparel, as reported by Forbes, I don’t want to be saved.
FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan already knows that Amazon is largely enjoyed by the American public, admitting as much in her 2017 essay, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox.” Khan is no longer a student at Yale and is now sitting atop America’s most powerful consumer-focused government agency, but nothing appears to have changed about Khan’s understanding of Amazon’s appeal.
Consumers like Amazon and the value of their Prime membership; Khan just thinks they shouldn’t. Extraordinarily large companies have a tendency to adopt anti-competitive practices that fleece the consumer while lowering the quality of goods and services.
Amazon is, in fact, a very large company, but with many subdivisions working in tandem ultimately to lower prices and delivery times for consumers, especially Prime members. Buried in the FTC’s complaint against Amazon is a reminder that its real target is membership models in general.
Do you feel coerced into doing your holiday shopping on Amazon? I don’t. Turns out, I can’t afford to go downtown and “shop local” while those businesses also suffer through economic factors driving up their already high prices.
From the FTC’s perspective, this dynamic is evidence of Amazon’s malevolent effect on the economy. Amazon, so it claims, is suppressing the potential of small businesses in a market of big box retailers racing with them to the lowest possible price.
I have a 13th birthday party, a baby shower, Thanksgiving, and Christmas to pay for in the next 60 days, and I’m not sure how to pull it off. Sound familiar?
Consumers are living in the same economy as small business owners and Amazon employees. Record-high inflation and fast-rising credit interest rates are crushing the aspirations of Americans looking ahead to the holiday season. Family budgets are razor thin, monthly savings are being depleted by higher fuel, grocery, and utility costs, and as a result, consumer spending habits are changing.
The usual December splurge on Christmas gifts isn’t possible in this period of inflation. Instead, shoppers are spreading out their purchases over several months, with a reported48% of young shoppers (ages 18-29) saying they’re not waiting around for the Black Friday tradition.
Amazon, Costco, and Walmart take notice of these trends, and consumers end up the winners with repeated opportunities to save on TVs, laptops, appliances, and other assorted gadgets.
It’s quite the position for the Biden administration to take, continuing to spend the country into an inflationary spiral all while backing the FTC’s war on American companies meeting consumers where they’re at financially.
As put in the pages of The Economist, “The main effect of the president’s economic policies has been to boost prices.” Is that what Biden means when he whispers , “Bidenomics is working”?
It would be a welcome change for the administration to demonstrate some shared interest with everyday Americans and consumers heading into the holidays. If you take “Bidenomics” and the FTC’s broad antitrust campaign as two parts of the same whole, you might conclude that a war isn’t being waged on Amazon and big box retailers, but on you.
Originally published here