Amazon dot com — Work for Me, Baby

I had so many friends and colleagues ask me if I read the NYT piece about working at Amazon, I finally broke down and frittered away a good ten minutes of my time wading through the vacant profile on the “world’s largest retailer”(actually, I think that’s Walmart, but I digress). It was, in fact, time I should have used more productively, like taking a nap or shampooing the carpets. But no, the story had struck a nerve and I was going to get to the bottom of this aberration. I’d be getting the inside dirt on a company with a current price to earnings ratio of 535 (that’s really bad, by the way); a company that’s never turned a profit (tax subsidy), a company in a wide-open, under-regulated business environment that could be completely compromised by a large data breach (maybe around the corner), a company with over 150,00 employees (including a few who are pretty bummed out), and I ended up asking myself why commit resources to this day-in-a-life drivel masquerading as journalism.

Do NYT readers really have a need to know or care about what consenting adults do at work?

You’d think folks would be more concerned with Amazon’s role in the coming/current information apocalypse.

If you haven’t read the article, don’t bother. It’s just another narrow, shallow, sensationalized set of impression that struggle at being a fair and balanced representation of working at an online store. I’m sure the authors slaved over this expose about what it is or was like to be employed at the big A. That’s not my beef. I’m more concerned about how a story like this can command the level of attention and engagement at a time when so many more important issues beckon. We’re talking about a business whose only goal is to find customers the best deals on toilet paper and then placate them into thinking that someone behind the curtain is actually watching out for them with more suggestions on what else they should order. Amazon reduces everyone into data points, nothing personal. That they turn their employees into data points as well should come as no surprise. Thanks, Amazon!

Shop until you drop!

No, I really don’t care what they’re selling or how they’re selling it, inside or outside their data-driven, virtual walls. I have bigger fish to fry here and it’s really not with the chuckleheads willing to slave away for a junk peddler, that’s right, digital books included. What I’m concerned about is the level of ire, vitriol and support found in the 5000+ comments posted on the article within 24 hours. That’s got to be an online journalism record! THOSE are the chuckleheads I’m talking about. To be fair, I only read a sampling of the posts concerned reader produced. I notice some of these rants received 3–4000 “likes” over the course of a day. Who the hell is doing all that liking?

I struggle to know what to think about this level of engagement when we can’t even get 37 percent of the registered voters to turn out for a national midterm election. That’s not counting the estimated 75 million Americans that were too important to even register.

One comment writer had 4155 thumbs ups, last count. And the comment wasn’t really that compelling: “I cannot support a company that so purposefully creates a negative environment for its employees.” Really? Are you really going to give up the potential of having one hour, drone-delivery of that case of bottled water? Because somebody got their feelings hurt in a meeting? I think not.

One thing is clear. The article is one of the best, free pieces of recruiting material that Amazon could have never created, even with all their alleged brain power, in a million years.

Let’s put Amazon work environments in every major metropolitan area. The only thing I’d add as a condition of employment is the inclusion of the “Hotel California Clause.” Simply stated, “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave…”
Engage, disengage, does any of this move us forward as a people? What if that article was about something our lives depended on and it got the same level of engagement? Maybe create a national, political and social discourse we could all be part of, proud of?
On second thought, the Amazon article and the accompanying ire are potentially about fearing the Amazon culture model becoming the operating standard for the American culture. Maybe that’s what this is all about…

ps. This story begs for engagement, so I encourage you to sign in, recommend and leave some tracks. Your input will be the most powerful thing to come out of it. Thanks!