Has Amazon Lost It's Way

The other day, Amazon announced earnings which a lot of people cheered because they actually made a profit. Many saw this as perhaps the actual turning point where Amazon stopped "investing" in the future and actually started taking profits.  This would finally justify the infinite PE that the stock now currently enjoys.  

Of course, this would probably be not so great for consumers.  While I won't comment on if I actually think this is what is happening, I have noticed a substantial erosion in my mind whether or not Amazon is my go to place to buy things.  

To be clear, I was and still am a big fan of Amazon.  I am probably Amazon's perfect customer as I have a tendency to buy big ticket items from them as well as the small little everyday things I need.  

But buying on Amazon is no longer a slam dunk for me.  I have found that prices are not nearly as competitive as it used to be.  I find that I can actually buy from local retailers at similar if not better prices on A LOT of items.  

But something I saw yesterday on Amazon has me really worried.  I had previously bought this item on Amazon and was trying to recommend it to a friend.  But take a close look at the listing.  You can see that by default, there is a 3rd party seller listed.  But you can also see on the right hand side that Amazon also sells it. 

I've seen this in the past where either the 3rd party has a cheaper price and/or Amazon doesn't have it in stock, but that is not the case here.  I checked, Amazon has it in stock.  So why are they recommending to me to buy from this 3rd party at a higher price?

The only reason I can come up with is that selling from 3rd parties has a higher margin for them.  As the buyer, I'm getting a worse price and probably worse service and a worse return policy.  So what benefit am I getting from this?  Amazon has always been about putting the customer first but this is clearly Amazon putting Amazon first.   

This would support the idea that Amazon is ready to turn the dial and start making money.  All companies eventually have to do this, but not sure if I agree this is going to benefit Amazon in the long run. 

What do you think?  Are you still as loyal to Amazon as you always have been?  Have you seen similar things happening?  Do you think Amazon can stay Amazon if it starts to go down this path?
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