It's the end of 2019 and reflection time. One reflection I've had this year is how much Amazon is dominating my life.
As a consumer, it's obvious and great. I can get anything I want without leaving my house, and it generally comes no later than 2 days after I ordered it.
But as a citizen, you have to be a bit wary of what Amazon has become, both as a partner and an employer. The Bezos creation has so much market power and smartly reinvests most profits back into the business to build for the future. That was really cool to write about in the past. No profits, all reinvestments. Then something happened and it went from being smart to also having some pretty remarkable societal impact. Consider the following:
--Amazon has long been written about as a hard place to work - both in professional grade positions and in warehouses. My favorite related piece of this was the trademark application that had humans in cages while the machines zipped around.
--Amazon's also having a well-documented impact on retail. We spent a decade complaining about WalMart putting small stores out of business. That seems cute now.
Being a hard place to work and representing the Grim Reaper of Retail still holds true for Amazon. But there are other trends that are newer, but just as troubling:
--Amazon's a tough partner. Their recent decision to build their own delivery fleet of transport jets is the right business decision, but looks pretty hard towards UPS and FedEx. That's life in the show. Read this great post on this impact on FedEx here.
--Amazon's also putting together it's own network of local delivery, but they're pushing the responsibility to aspiring entrepreneurs to invest in fleets with the promise that Amazon will always have work/volume for them. In this way, they're also deferring the tough responsibility of running fleets of drivers to anyone that can finance a few 100K to ramp a franchise up. Is there any doubt the cautionary tale from UPS/FedEx will hold true here as well?
--There are lots of tax issues with Amazon (meaning they don't pay a lot of them).
At the end of the day, things evolve. Change happens. Jobs and companies are destroyed and new ones emerge - I get that. And I'm certainly addicted to Amazon as a consumer. Their ability to create a marketplace and invest in money-losing free shipping as a means to put other people out of business is genius. You and I would do the same thing if given a chance.
But a couple of months ago (before the Christmas rush) I had the moment. I had ordered a pair of slacks from Amazon, and I got the notice they were being delivered - on Sunday. An hour later, there he was. A delivery person employed by a third party, looking like he had been in the van for 12 hours already.
Do I really need a pair of ####ing slacks on Sunday? That's what Amazon has taught us to expect.
I got my slacks on Sunday, but a whole bunch of people got used in the marketplace and supply chain to make that happen. That's why my 2019 Employer Brand Song of the Year award goes to Amazon and is - wait for it - "Use Me" by Bill Withers.
As Amazon continues to grow, everyone's getting used a little bit. Song embedded below - click through for the post if you don't see it. Worth a listen.
My friends feel it's their appointed duty
They keep trying to tell me all you want to do is use me
But my answer yeah to all that use me stuff
Is I want to spread the news that if it feels this good getting used
Oh you just keep on using me until you use me up
Until you use me up
I returned the slacks to the Amazon return center at Kohl's 29 days later. Damn.