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As this series reveals multiple cases of Amazon.com's unethical behaviour, we want to encourage you to consider looking for alternative online (or offline) stores. In this part, we'll have a closer look at Amazon Smile, and the apparent incentive it provides. We're examining what's really going on with Smile, and present you our own version of the Smile program.

Why Amazon's smile program is a silly joke

Through the Smile program, Amazon.com supports your favorite charity for any purchase you make. Therefore, we'll do just the same. HeiDoc.net will support your favorite charity for any purchase you would have made on Amazon.com, but make somewhere else, because of the information presented in this blog, or some other news report (about Amazon working conditions, destruction of returned goods, tax evasion strategies, and other unethical business practices).

But let's have a look at the Amazon Smile program first. It doesn't cost anything, it supports your favorite charity, and there are no strings attached. Great for the charities, great for Amazon, great for you, right? No, wrong!

Amazon gives a meagre 0.5% of the purchase value to charity. To raise just one dollar, people would have to spend $200 on Amazon. It's for good reason that Amazon doesn't reveal this fact on the Smile landing page. You really have to dig deeper to find it buried deep in the terms somewhere.

Stop Smile

"But people would have spent this money on Amazon anyway. Therefore, it's free. It's good."

Wrong. Some people would have spent this money on Amazon anyway. Some other people might buy stuff on Amazon just to support their charity. Let's assume that out of the $200 that people spend to raise one dollar, they would spend $180 on Amazon anyway, and the remaining $20 they would not. Amazon might make about $5 to $10 profit from that extra sale. So even in this simple example, Amazon would give one dollar to charity, and make up to $10 additional profit in return.

Plus, the people who support their charity through Amazon Smile might give less direct support to their charity, because "they've already given through Amazon". Plus, Amazon gets lots and lots of free marketing when highly respectable charities endorse them, which otherwise would have cost them a fortune. In comparison, the affiliate program pays out up to 10%. That would be much closer to the real marketing cost.

Amazon Smile is not a win-win-win situation. The only winner is Amazon. The customers and especially the charities lose out.

Please consider the direct comparison as well: Amazon Smile has paid out about $100 million to charity so far. Does it sound like a lot? It's really not. Here are two examples what would be a lot: Bill Gates has given a total of $30 billion to charity, and Mark Zuckerberg has given a total of $45 billion.

Smiling back at Amazon.com

To act against Amazon Smile, we're giving away a total of up to $2,000 to charity, if you decide to buy stuff elsewhere during the next three months. We'll reveal the significance of the $2,000 in due course. Since our dispute is with Amazon North America (and Japan) exclusively, we're also restricting this giveaway to North America (and Japan).

The rules are easy: stay away from Amazon, send us proof, and we'll send funds (0.5% of the purchase value) to your favorite charity after the three months are over (on 15 January 2019). Don't forget to share this campaign (for example via this Facebook post) with your friends who care for the same charity as you do .

We're keeping the progress of the campaign completely transparent, and update this Excel file regularly with the details of the charities, and the accumulated amount they're going to be given.

Official rules of the giveaway

  • A purchase is eligible if it fulfils the following criteria:
    • dated between 15 October 2018 and 15 January 2019.
    • bought from a shop in the USA, Canada, Mexico or Japan, or shipped to an address in these countries.
    • you would have purchased the items on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.com.mx or Amazon.co.jp, but got them elsewhere because of this blog or other bad publicity about Amazon.
  • We will give 0.5% of the purchase value (excluding tax and shipping) to a charity of your choice. The charity must be listed on Amazon Smile. We will be especially happy to also send gifts to charities that have been unjustly removed from Amazon Smile.
  • For purchases in C$, N$ or ¥, the following exchange rates apply: US$ 1.00 = C$ 1.30 = N$ 19.00 = ¥ 110.00.
  • For the charity to receive the gift, you must send us the following details through the email address on the contact page:
    • clearly legible scans or photos of the invoices of your purchases, valued no less than a total of US$ 200.00 in one message (sorry about this restriction, but everything else would probably result in an administrative nightmare, and charities receiving mere cent amounts causing them administrative nightmares as well).
    • links to Amazon where these or similar items are available.
    • the exact name of the charity as listed on Amazon Smile, and if the name is not unique, also the location and the founding date.
    • if you raise funds for a charity that has been unjustly removed from Amazon Smile, and is not yet on the Excel list, please submit evidence (link to a blog, social media or similar); the final decision on whether the removal was unjustified or justified is ours.
  • We are recording the accumulated donations in this Excel file, and try to do so daily.
  • If the $2,000 are used up, keep going. In that case, we'll try hard to find sponsors. (It would also mean a loss of $400,000 in revenue for Amazon! Yay!!)
  • If we suspect abuse, we will request verification of the submitted invoices from the vendor, and might as a result remove the amount in question from the Excel list.
  • All eligible invoices received by 15 January 2019, 23:59 PST will be considered.
  • Pay-out will commence shortly after 15 January 2019.
  • We will not sell or use your personal data to create any sort of user profile, link your identity to your purchases or the charities you support, send you any messages unrelated to this giveaway, or use it for marketing of any kind. (Food for thought: does Amazon.com do the same?)
  • Keep in mind that I'm not a multi billion dollar enterprise, but just a small and insignificant blogger, who is doing his best to run this campaign smoothly, and pays the funds to charity from his own pocket.

We don't have a comment section here in the blog, but you can leave comments and questions in our forum.

This blog post is part of a series on our legal dispute with Amazon.com. This is what's been released so far:

  1. The History of a Legal Dispute
  2. HeiDoc Smiles back at Amazon.com
  3. Closure of the Affiliate Accounts
  4. Playing the Waiting Game
  5. Conspiracy and Fraud
  6. More Allegations against us
  7. Breaking the Kindle Monopoly
  8. The Verdict
  9. How to sue Amazon.com
  10. Amazon's GDPR Fail