/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Would you do your weekly food shop with Amazon?

It’s that time of year when we’re all tempted by the ease and convenience of ordering from Amazon. But would you be happy to order your Christmas food shop alongside your Christmas presents?

Thanks to the recent launch of Amazon’s ‘Pantry’ service in the UK this could soon be possible. It’s only available to Prime members, who will now be able to fill a Pantry box with up to 20kg of groceries from a list of 4,000 items. Delivery of a first box costs £2.99 with further boxes charged at 99p.

You won’t be able to order fresh fruit and vegetables just yet – but the retail giant aims to have that one covered very soon when it launches its full grocery service, AmazonFresh.

Will Amazon food orders work?

Amazon has tried to branch out into the world of food and drink before. We tested it back in 2010 with pretty disastrous results:

‘Our poor tester who had eight deliveries for her full grocery order. Eight! And to make matters worse, not all were delivered on the same day – in fact, the whole lot took a week to arrive! Our tester’s postage totalled £60 on an order costing £74. No-one can consider that value for money…’

So can Amazon make food orders work with its new venture? If it can get the price and the deliveries right then its monopoly on just-about-anything-you-could-ever-want-to-buy will be complete. A rather depressing thought for me – but for the supermarkets too, I’d imagine.

Amazon vs the supermarket

I’ve never bought into online grocery shopping – to me, it removes another layer of interaction, both in terms of chatting to shop staff and deciding which carrots to buy. But I’m lucky to have lots of great local shops, which means I can avoid supermarkets as much as possible – and a car when needs must.

Many people don’t have these options, so online shopping is a handy solution. The question is, will ordering food from Amazon be any different from doing an online shop with a supermarket?

I want to know where Amazon will be sourcing its fresh food from – and how much it might try to undercut competitors. Make grocery shopping much cheaper and our already-stretched farmers will struggle to meet demand. I’m worried that extra competition could force supermarkets to squeeze our food producers’ margins way beyond what they need to survive.

How appealing is Amazon’s Pantry service to you? Is speed and convenience more important than a personal shopping service? Would you use it regularly if it’s cheaper than supermarkets – or do you share my concerns about the wider implications of adding more competition to the groceries market?


I greet the idea that Amazon with its tax avoiding ways expands any further into the economy is a matter of nightmares.

Bezos has been highly efficient at getting his expansion paid for by the various US states vying for his warehouses. And then there is the major boost to his growth by not paying State taxes on sales – a huge benefit against traditional bricks and mortar stores which is only now being addressed.

The growth of super-sized multi-nationals is really a grave dnager to society. We all believe that we can get a cheap deal without any harm. Indirectly it is a collective suicide as we kill jobs. There are some pretty graphs showing how many staff Amazon needs for ten million of sales and it is but a fraction of a that employed in a normal town scenario and even makes super-stores look overstaffed.

However if employing people in YOUR community is of no concern and you have no children to worry about then Amazon is great.

Perhaps the media should do more on its tactics in killing bookshops in the US. And the state subsidies, and the work practices, etc


I have been increasingly concerned about large multinational companies in the past few years and try to avoid using them. Apart from the occasional book, I buy little from Amazon.

I don’t order food because I have a supermarket nearby and use others if passing. Amazon would be my last choice if I did buy online.

Convenience is great but it’s time to start looking at the control that businesses have over our lives. We already have the mighty Walmart in the UK, trading as Asda.

For those like us living in the middle of nowhere, with flooded, tiny, single-track roads, rockfalls and all manner of horrors awaiting the unwary driver, online grocery shopping is a lifeline. As an example, to reach our nearest Waitrose requires a car journey of over an hour though the high mountain passes.

But the big online grocers – Tesco, Sainsbury and Waitrose – have learnt their craft over many years, and even they make some mistakes, although it has to be said they’re a lot better then even five years ago. I can’t see what Amazon could bring to the mix that would be any sort of improvement. Sainsbury and Waitrose already offer free delivery and – most importantly – people are generally familiar with their product lines.

So no; Amazon’s reincarnated food delivery service is of no value to us.

Amazon has wormed its way into the British way of life through its colossal range of products and efficient fulfillment process. So many people go straight to Amazon when they want something that they could offer a next day sandwich service and get away with it.

Although we have home deliveries from Sainsbury’s we generally don’t order fresh produce except for known items like loaves or potatoes. The service is useful mainly for the heavy and bulky household stuff that doesn’t require any special selection and for tinned or packeted foods that are stock pantry items. As Ian says, there’s nothing that Amazon can do that would improve on that, and the advantage of using a supermarket for home deliveries is that you can pick a 2-hour delivery time-slot and the driver will bring the crates into the kitchen.

I might just consider using Amazon for anything at all if they pay their taxes and treat their employees with humanity. Until they do I’ll stick with Waitrose/John Lewis.

I stopped having any dealings with amazon when it was made public that they donot pay their fair share of UK tax!

As to how big it is
An interesting statistics site. And for a mere $49 a month you can access the statistics dossiers.

A less commercial concern has this interesting insight

And for those who cannot recall the way that AMazon strips profits from the UK economy:
” Amazon’s booming UK business paid just £11.9m of tax last year, while the online retailer’s Luxembourg unit took £5.3bn of sales from British internet shoppers without being subject to UK tax, according to company filings.
The Amazon group posted a strong UK performance in 2014, with overall takings rising by more than 14% to £5.3bn. However, its British-based Amazon.co.uk Limited subsidiary recorded a profit of just £34.4m and tax of £11.9m, according to results filed at Companies House this week.
As in previous years, the UK accounts make clear Amazon.co.uk Limited claims not to sell to British online shoppers: instead the group’s Luxembourg arm fulfils that role. Amazon.co.uk Limited’s much more modest turnover of £679m comes from providing “fulfilment and corporate support services” to Luxembourg.
The Amazon group’s total UK sales of £5.3bn – representing 9.4% of its global sales – were taken through its Luxembourg company Amazon EU Sarl, which has a much smaller number of employees. Amazon EU Sarl also took billions from Germany, France and other major European economies. It was not subject to tax on any resulting profits in those markets.”

Amazon always dodge this issue by claiming they comply with UK tax requirements, which is no doubt technically correct. It seems that off-shoring their business to Luxembourg is perfectly legal. Surely the tax liability should arise where the orders are physically received and fulfilled, not through a bit of financial trickery that pretends they are handled in Luxembourg. It’s only the money, in digital form, that takes that route.

When Amazon dealt mainly in books VAT was not an issue because they were exempt. When audio and video products were added to their inventory they were traded via the Channel Islands where VAT was lower than on the mainland, but that loophole was closed by the Chancellor in one of the coalition budgets which added costs to each purchase. Now that Amazon are dealing in an immense volume of products liable to full UK VAT can we be sure this tax is all being remitted correctly?

Nick Davies raises the question of Amazon’s treatment of its employees. I have not heard much about this so it would interesting to have information on how they compare with other big retailers and warehouse operators in both pay and service conditions.

John – I am a little shocked that the status of workers is not known much in the UK.

I would mention the EU is getting its act together on this, and indeed world governments, However this was a problem that as been in existence for decades and its principal proponent was the Vestey family pre- WW1.

So fiddling with tax is a major problem for nation states, and leads to bizarre events like Pfizer and Allergan [?] being the latest act. Many US corporations are off-shoring hundreds of billions of dollars waiting for a tax amnesty. This means they are also avoiding paying US State taxes which leads to cuts in services in those states.

And of course these huge sums of money are being used “creatively” whilst off-shore.


starter piece

Well with all due respect, Diesel, I don’t think most people pay much attention to the pay and conditions in companies unless they have some personal connexion. Unlike for public organisations details of rates and terms in companies are not available. Whenever trade unions or individual staff make reference to such matters the companies refuse to discuss the details. Even for public organisations the information has to be prised out of them using the crowbar of the Freedom of Information Act.

It is chilling reading the Guardian article. My preferred solution is to charge heavily on floor area for distribution centres to equalise the situation. Plus of course paying tax in the country where the sale occurs.
This does mean that use of royalty payments etc etc to Eire and Luxembourg would be a cost from HO not garnered from various countries.

DT says: “It is chilling reading the Guardian article” and I can see to some it might well be. But if we examine the facts a slightly different picture emerges.

The oft-levelled charge that Amazon doesn’t pay its fair share of tax is open to question. Amazon does pay all the employment, NI, PAYE and VA taxes, its business rates and whatever taxes it’s obliged to by the UK government. Because it’s a multinational company, however, it doesn’t pay UK corporation tax. In other words it arranges its tax affairs as prudently as is allowed by law. So if we feel it’s not paying its due share of tax, who’s to blame? If the law allows it, perhaps the government is responsible. And how many of us don’t attempt to pay as little tax as possible?

In regard to how it treats its workers, again the question should surely be ‘Is it breaking the law?’. If it isn’t. then – again – who is to blame?

But the real question is this: if Amazon is such a dreadful organisation, how is it so incredibly successful? As a child, I well remember the times when I was dragged around the town to look for something that could never be found. In those days that was the only way. Take a bus ride to the shop or department store and spend the best part of a day just looking.

I also remember the times when a firm promised to deliver something on one day, but they didn’t. Late deliveries, items simply not arriving when they were promised – that was all part of life. The stress, disappointment, resignation and frustration that accompanied these business ‘models’ probably contributed to the early death rate in the ‘70s.

Amazon did away with all that. An item ordered on a Sunday will be with you on a Monday and if there’s the slightest issue with it you’ll be refunded before you’ve returned the item. Other companies started to notice that Amazon was getting the lion’s share and started to pull their collective socks up, and so online business models started to arrive that were so different from the early ones it sometimes seemed like a different planet.

Of course Amazon isn’t perfect. Its rapid delivery, ease of shopping, no-quibble exchange policies and sheer range of goods are a powerful attraction, but it’s not infallible. Its dominant market position can lead to overconfidence, and the recent decision not to sell Apple TVs “because of confusion they might cause customers’ could yet cost it dearly; Apple is no slouch in the global multinational market, either. But Amazon are the market leaders for online shopping. And that’s simply because they’re extremely good at what they do. However, they should take note of Tesco. Ten years ago it seemed set for world domination. Now, it’s cutting back on lines to survive.

In the end the consumer will decide the fate of Amazon and any other online stores. And if Amazon drops the ball, there’ll be plenty of others waiting to pick it up.

I agree with Diesel; the Guardian article is quite an eye-opener, but not a surprise – in the company’s model the human function is just an operational necessity until it can be automated. It would seem that no laws are being broken and, sadly, that is deemed to be a sufficient justification. As Nick said earlier, so long as this persists we might prefer to use more socially responsible traders like John Lewis and Waitrose.

By the way, while I appreciate the additional detail and verification contained in a news report or documentary I think it would be better for our amicable Conversations if people would just give a description or summary of their point in a few sentences rather than posting a link that might contain quite a lot of packing material before you get to the essential content. I don’t think we should cite references before we have said something! I don’t come here to read the Guardian or watch Panorama but to see what other esteemed contributors are thinking and saying.

Well JW !

I see plenty of unsupported opinions on Conversations daily. My personal take is that I like to see proof provided rather than assertions. Possibly because of vast experience on a US WW2 site I realise that what people believe and what is true can often not coincide.

However JW if you are happy to take my assertions at face value …. : )

BTW if we were to start fining Amazon for all unsafe materials and goods it is happy to vend through its site it would probably be very beneficial.

Turning to Ian’s contribution. I do not dispute that efficient systems can be wonderfully attractive however whether this is good for society as a whole is moot. As one might expect the USA is the prime example of these sort of business practices and we can see there high poverty levels, lack of healthcare, and some extremely rich people who by dint of political system where money is power arrange things as they wish.

All of those statements are supportable. The de-skilling of the US workforce and then the automation of more jobs is perhaps why members of the population get desperate enough to turn to crime and killing. The land of the free with one of the largest prison populations in the world and per capita*.

* Second to the Seychelles

So yes I do take a dim view of the rights of “corporations” to exist as pure money driven machines without conscience. They seem now to be vehicles for sociopaths. Perhaps we need to look anew at the concept of the limited company.

One of my big dilemmas is convenience and price versus ethics and personal enterprise. The only place we can post a letter near us is inside a large Tesco store so I had to go there this morning. They have a sort of extension which is used for seasonal products and at the moment is full of Christmas things – trees, wreaths, decs, lights, and other stuff. Not five minutes walk away is an excellent family-run garden centre which, in order to sustain itself through the winter months, puts on a fabulous display of good quality Christmas ornaments and accessories, wreaths, trees and all the trimmings, models, toys and lots more. It’s an absolute wonderland that is a delight to browse in and took hours of work by the staff to create. Not content with exterminating the high street the big retailers are now trying to eliminate secondary shops and take their trade away. Unfortunately they are succeeding because people can just grab what they want on the way in to the store and it just goes on the grocery bill. I am not trying to compare Tesco with Amazon but the same business drive is there – fill every need, supply every want, leave no profit opportunity unexploited, and let volume mass production push down the price. Their response to the competition from the discount stores and pound shops is to destroy other people’s profits by making life impossible for them.

We can’t turn the clock back and there never was a golden era when all trade and commerce was wonderful, when shopkeepers wouldn’t tread on others’ trade, but it would be good to stop the domineering behaviour of the giants, and if they are also exploiting their staff and their suppliers and offering non-compliant goods without sanction then surely there comes a point when monopoly laws must be invoked.

Josh Golding says:
4 December 2015

Amazon have gone from a 100% record for my ease of delivery, price and availability of the item I wanted, to this cumbersome beast. Amazon logistics are a joke and they deserve to lose their market share for the sloppy half baked service they have become.

Paul Rees says:
5 December 2015

NO WAY! Quality? Destroy more High Street Shops?

Nina says:
5 December 2015

Since retiring from full time to part time working combined with studying I am out and about locally more than I ever was when working all week in town with a long commute. I enjoy shopping in different places, the Co-op, deli’s, real greengrocers, occasional big shops at Tesco or Waitrose and home delivery for family gathering catering. Sometimes I bump into acquaintances who I haven’t seen for a while, try a new product, find a bargain, notice a local show or fete and just enjoying the buzz of life. The thought of automating my food shopping via Amazon or any other multi doesn’t appeal to me but I love Amazon for many other things including Prime delivery, even though that actually costs more despite having paid a subscription. So not for me at the moment.

I try & support firms paying their fair share of tax ie John Lewis over Amazon these days. Admittedly I use a Kindle (bought in JL) as it is a great product. As for this venture I’m sure it may well worry supermarkets as Amazon is generally fiercely competitive on price and does offer excellent customer service. Personally I prefer to walk to do my shopping locally and will continue to do so.

Amazon are a disgrace! I used them a lot but then they arbitrarily put up the Prime facility by nearly 100% and even though I never download content etc. it was take or leave it. Added to this are they way that they treat their employees and the non-payment of U.K. taxes.
Furthermore they are not the cheapest as I found out when I started some research for items that I wanted to buy online and having to spend at least £20 for “Free” delivery beggars description. Next day delivery does not bother me.
I shall not under any circumstances buy from Amazon again.
My advice is shop around folks you will be surprised.

Why would I shop with Amazon and have to pay prime membership for the privilege?

Joe Wharry says:
5 December 2015

Admire the pofessionalism and convenience of Amazon. But this? A fridge too far!


Housebound, I need to use any and all of the online order/delivery services. More competion in the market means more competive pricing of store cupboard goods which I often have to rely on.

Greg Conway says:
5 December 2015

I would like to avoid using tax-avoiding Amazon completely, but as it is sometimes the only source for something essential, I have to admit using it on rare occasions. I would NEVER use it for food.

Susie B says:
5 December 2015

I have no intention of buying groceries from Amazon, which I only use for occasional books and vouchers. I prefer Sainsburys,Waitrose and farmers markets for fresh veg etc.