Thursday, January 19, 2023

Amazon Closing AmazonSmile

Amazon (Hacker News):

In 2013, we launched AmazonSmile to make it easier for customers to support their favorite charities. However, after almost a decade, the program has not grown to create the impact that we had originally hoped. With so many eligible organizations—more than 1 million globally—our ability to have an impact was often spread too thin.

So if it had grown more—i.e. it was costing Amazon more—they would have kept it?

Once AmazonSmile closes, charities will still be able to seek support from Amazon customers by creating their own wish lists.

Eric Schwarz:

I’ve used this feature almost since the beginning and find it slimy that Amazon would end it with the excuse “it’s spread too thin” when even the small amounts going to some organizations (such as schools and animal rescues) make a big impact.

Annie Palmer (via Hacker News):

Amazon on Wednesday will begin a fresh round of job cuts in what’s expected to become the largest workforce cuts in its 28-year history.

Earlier this month, CEO Andy Jassy said the layoffs would affect more than 18,000 employees, primarily in its human resources and stores divisions.

Rich Johnston:

Today, there are significant redundancies and firing occurring at Amazon, with executives sending statements to staff. This included staff members at the digital comic book publisher and distributor ComiXology, acquired by Amazon and later integrated into the main Amazon site, with reports of up to 50% layoffs.

Update (2023-01-20): this_my_sportsreddit (via mrzaius):

Here’s the most messed up part. I used to work at Amazon corporate, let me tell you how the entire program Amazon Smile got created.

So basically, when a customer wants to buy a product, they usually go straight to and enter what they’re looking for. But there’s also a large segment of customers who begin their search on google, and ends up at Amazon. Well guess what. When that type of search to purchase experience happens, Amazon has to pay google. Internally, Amazon thought that if they could force users to go straight to Amazon, offer a small but obviously less amount of money to charity from each customer than would have been paid to google, it would help kill customers going to google, save Amazon more money than paying google, and be good overall for the brand value of Amazon.

That’s why for the program to work, the user has to start shopping at Until recently, the option to use amazon smile wasn’t even available in the app, and even then the user still had to ‘renew’ being a part of Smile multiple times a year. There is no way for a customer to go through the traditional shopping experience, and then during checkout decide they want to give a portion of their purchase to charity, because giving to charity isn’t the point of the overall program. Amazon Smile was developed by the Traffic Optimization team, whose entire purpose is increasing efficiency and lowering costs of getting customers to Amazon.

Update (2023-01-21): Emily Schmall (via John Gordon):

Amazon’s decision to remove certain charities from the program drew the ire of prominent Republicans, who accused the company and its founder, Jeff Bezos, who was Amazon’s chief executive at the time, of discriminating against conservative groups and indulging in what they described as “woke activism.”


For some organizations, AmazonSmile donations represented significant support. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, for instance, said in November that it had received $15 million in donations over the lifetime of the program.


Mr. Malone said that “many of the people” who had worked on the AmazonSmile program were among the company employees who were being laid off.

But it was “not a cost-cutting measure.”

5 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

So if it had grown more—i.e. it was costing Amazon more—they would have kept it?

Thank you.

The amount of doublespeak I’ve seen lately confounds and disappoints me. The recent tech layoff memos, like the email I got about Amazon Smile, are amazingly poorly written, completely devoid of empathy and substance.

For instance

For over 25 years, we’ve innovated on behalf of customers, and in so many ways, we are just getting started. Lowering our cost to serve will be a core priority for us in the years ahead to fund even more innovation. It’s not just about doing more with less, but rethinking how we serve our customers, how we organize internally, and what new areas of innovation we invest in. Every team has a role to play in finding ways to reduce costs while improving selection, pricing, and delivery speeds. I am confident that Amazonians will bring their ownership, innovation, and bias for action to this challenge, unlocking even more value for customers.

Translation? We expect to have as much revenue after layoffs as before? Prepare to work harder?

Nothing about whether to expect more layoffs if the economy doesn't improve. No metrics, nothing actionable. It's a manager vomitting verbal tripe.

Who looks at that and think they did a fine job writing? That they’re good interacting with and connecting to people?


Smile was always a cruel joke, as were Amazon's "charitable" donations, more generally, so that on the one hand this is completely unsurprising in light of Amazon's recent "cost reductions", and on the other it's just really, really sad. I've no doubt it was better than nothing, but no-one seriously entertains the belief that it was anything other than a feel-good PR operation, and sure enough, it's no longer "viable", so it's gone, and all the people in civil society who said Amazon wasn't doing enough are cruelly vindicated.

I use smile to passively send donations to haiku os. I don't think they got a ton from it, but I would regularly get emails talking about how smile sent them a few k over the last few years.

That a company as vile as amazon had a charity at all was just mindblowing.

I used smile too, mostly because living far from town, and working remotely, means that going there to get stuff is costly in time and fuel, particularly when the store in town is out of stock.

The dishonesty in Amazon's announcement of its ending did not please me.

Part of their justification was that they would give money to causes they support. Why should I care what they give their money to? The point was that I could decide what I wanted to support.

Not only that, but the causes they support directly benefit them, and would be better called tax-free investments. To name but two:

* reducing homelessness in Bellevue, Washington, where Amazon is based, so that their bigwigs don't need to see the results of cutting employment (such as automating Whole Foods stores so that there are no checkout employees).

* increasing the future supply of software engineers, thereby reducing their salaries.

So this announcement does not sit well with me.

Leave a Comment