A Quick Defense of Amazon
Disclaimer: I love Amazon. LOVE IT. Have been a Prime member for over five years, own a Kindle, and use the hell out of Prime Streaming.
At this point in time, I assume everyone who is interested has read the NYT piece on Amazon. Some of the stories were indeed concerning. The lack of empathy for those that had undergone a loss or major medical procedure seemed especially galling. But other than that, I actually liked what I read about the company. It seems like a place where honesty, ingenuity, and hard work are valued. I wish there had been some salary numbers included in the piece so we could make sure that those who are working hard are being deservedly rewarded, but otherwise the company seemed to operate how any would: hire the best and brightest, keep the best and brightest, those who aren’t leave or are fired. That is how capitalism works.
But Amazon also is an anomaly in that they are not highly profitable. Their stock is well valued (as it should be for a company that provides such great service) and while their revenue has been steadily increasing, their profit does not. It seems that is because their main focus is on the consumer. Unlike so many other companies (looking at you Wall Street) who bilk the consumer for their profits, Amazon provides a valuable service. Just take a look at the latest study on how hedge funds perform vs. non-managed funds and you can see the type of service Wall Street ACTUALLY provides.
To top it off, Bezos isn’t that type of CEO who takes a lucrative salary from the company. As far as I can tell from published sources, his annual salary is about $84,000, with stock options pushing total compensation upwards of ONE POINT FIVE MILLION DOLLARS. That’s right. $1.5 Million. In the world of Fortune 500 CEOs, that is a pittance. And unlike many of those Fortune 500 CEOs, Bezos’ fortune is self-made.
I don’t have any insider knowledge of the salary’s Amazon pays its productive employees. Publicly sourced information seems to point to their skilled employees being paid on par or more than Bezos. They do ask a lot of their warehouse employees who are not as well compensated, so they are not perfect. But they aren’t the kind of company who vampirifically reifies commodities and sells it to profit their own bottom line, ruin the economy, handsomely reward those in charge of ruining the economy, and then get bailed out by the Federal Government and the taxpayer. While the certainly operate within the constraints of capitalism, they do a great job of actually providing a service, innovating, and pushing the world forward. They ask a lot of their employees, because they give a lot to their customers. When the warehouse workers get replaced by bots and the delivery men by drones, I hope Bezos is on the forefrount pushing for a new way to look at the economy, and capitalism. Because those jobs are going away, and we will have to look long and hard at who deserves to get paid a livable wage (HINT: It is everyone!). But the innovation from Bezos and Amazon and Company will continue into the future, and I think it makes the world a better place, all told.
Maybe I’m wrong, though.