Because Dealing with the Real World Equivalent of Lex Luthor Works out so Well

Of course, I am referring to Lex Luthor lookalike Jeff Bezos, and it increasingly appears that Amazon is increasingly using its contracts with state and local governments to lock out vendors who don’t use their platform.

Also, it looks like the promised cost savings have not materialized:

Amazon has already helped reshape the retail landscape for books, clothes and groceries. Now the online retail giant is moving into local government procurement. This new business venture is raising concerns that cities, school districts and counties will end up spending more money than they have to on supplies.

Early last year, Amazon contracted with the Prince William County School District in Virginia and by extension earned a contract with U.S. Communities, a purchasing group with public-sector members in all 50 states. More than 1,500 public agencies have since signed on to buy products through Amazon Business, the B2B counterpart to the company’s popular Prime service.

While Amazon and U.S. Communities have touted their partnership as a cost-saver for public agencies and a boon for suppliers, a new report finds that Amazon Business does not always deliver the savings it promises. The report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a frequent critic of Amazon, also argues that Amazon is increasingly cornering the supply market by forcing vendors to sell their products through Amazon.


On a press call about the report, Mike Mucha of the Government Finance Officers Association explained the contractual problems with an example of a government choosing a new type of software, in which Apple is expected to be one of the proposed vendors.

“You can structure that process so that you can truly evaluate the merits of [different companies] through a fair process. Or you can include a requirement in the RFP [request for proposal] that says, ‘The logo must be in the shape of a fruit,'” he says. “It’s not a real RFP.”

Prince William County Public Schools created a similar bid in 2016 when it required 10 product categories in an RFP for office supplies. Of the 12 firms that submitted bids, only Amazon was able to supply all 10 of the categories requested.

Additionally, the Amazon contract differs dramatically from traditional procurement contracts between governments and businesses. While government purchases are usually based on fixed prices, the Amazon Business prices can vary by the day and even by the hour. The report analyzed purchases made by a California school district and found that buying those supplies from a local vendor as opposed to Amazon would have saved the district between 10 and 12 percent.


If public agencies have long-established relationships with certain vendors, they are now only allowed to continue buying from them if those vendors join Amazon’s marketplace.

Seriously, we need aggressive and broad antitrust enforcement today.

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