Robert Kuttner seems not to know about how retailing works. Then again, this is Robert Kuttner and business so who is surprised here?
The underlying claim is that Amazon – through Whole Foods – is throwing it’s monopolistic weight around. By not stocking the type of tea that Mr. Kuttner likes. This is, apparently, a conflict of interest:
There is a Whole Foods in my neighborhood. I shop there as little as possible, but once in a while, it can’t be helped. They used to have a terrific selection of teas. Yesterday, I noticed that most of the favorite brands have been expunged, in favor of Whole Foods’ crappy house brands.
They’ve done this with more and more independent products. This is called a conflict of interest, and it’s one of several dozen different kinds of abuses of market power displayed by Amazon.
This is not a conflict of interest. Just as Walmart agreeing to sell Pepsi alongside Coke and the house brands is neither a conflict of interest nor not such.
For recall, the one sole and major duty of a corporation is, within the law of course, to maximise the shareholder interest. Usually, but not always, that means maximising profit. If Whole Foods makes more money selling own brand tea then where is this conflict with the interest it is supposed to be supporting?
The great advantage to consumers of such concentration upon the bottom line is that if enough of them agree with Mr. Kuttner then Whole Foods will sell the brands of tea that he and others like. Because that’s how you do maximise profits – sell stuff people want to buy.