How drop shipping and Amazon FBA affect online shopping

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“Can I tell you a really easy way to make money online?” asks Maddie, a doe-eyed 20-something, in a TikTok that’s been viewed over 1 million times. It is so easy, in fact, that making money “basically requires no skill at all” — just a laptop and a wifi connection.

Maddie is one of the many hustle-culture figures on the internet who has gained popularity by encouraging their followers to start a business, usually through a practice called drop shipping. All a person needs is an idea of what they’re going to sell, a website, and boom, they’ve got a potentially profitable side hustle that could make anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand per week. “We’re going to be drop shipping with Printed Mint,” Maddie goes on, referring to a print-on-demand company that creates customized products. “Don’t be afraid of that word.”

A few years ago, this disclaimer — that users shouldn’t “be…

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