Want to Buy a Hair-Scrunchie Mask? Great. But Forget About That N95.

“Amazon changes the rules all the time without explanation,” Mr. Atkinson mentioned. “I realize they’re not a charity, but a small company like ours doesn’t stand a chance.”

James Thomson, a former Amazon government who’s the chief technique officer on the advertising consultancy Buy Box Experts, mentioned the tensions between on-line retailing giants and small mask-makers mirrored the bigger debate over the outsize energy of the net platforms that dominated the retailing panorama. Mr. Thomson, whose firm helps manufacturers navigate Amazon’s complicated gross sales insurance policies, mentioned its seemingly contradictory method to N95 masks — claiming such wares are reserved for medical personnel however then permitting exceptions for masks they have bought in bulk — might be an outgrowth of Amazon’s bedrock technique for sustaining shopper loyalty.

“Even if they make next to no money on that mask, it’s really about keeping customers happy so they don’t go somewhere else,” Mr. Thomson mentioned. “The problem is, if they allow these practices to scale up, it becomes disruptive to anything else that isn’t Amazon.”

It is tough to overstate the promoting energy of the tech giants. Max Bock-Aronson, ae co-founder of Breathe99, a start-up in Minnesota whose washable face masks filters out 99.6 % of microscopic particles, mentioned his firm had been ailing since Facebook dropped its adverts in December, resulting in a 50 % drop in gross sales. “Because of our cash flow crunch, we can only make small batches of masks but they sell out immediately,” Mr. Bock-Aronson mentioned.

He says he’s particularly irked by the corporate’s claims about needing to guard the general public given Facebook’s reluctance to sort out misinformation surrounding political and pandemic-related content material on its platforms.

“It’s just frustrating because we’re waving our hands, saying ‘Hey, we have a better mask that can protect people,’ but we’re really not allowed to talk about it on their site,” he mentioned. “It’s hard enough to start a business in normal times, but it’s next to impossible when these companies shut you out of the marketplace.”

In statements, Facebook, Google and Amazon mentioned that they had no speedy plans to revise their insurance policies.

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