Innovation, exploitation… hey, what’s the difference if you’re Jeff Bezos?
I read a piece in Salon about Amazon’s business model and almost throttled my friend Swamp Rabbit, I guess because he was the only creature in sight. But I was glad to see that at least one media writer wasn’t treating Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos like a rock star, or calling him an e-commerce innovator.
I call him a jobs killer and the overseer of a vast corporate plantation. Amazon has helped destroy countless retail jobs in its campaign to make bricks-and-mortar stores obsolete. Ironically, the mail-order monster Bezos created to replace those stores depends on bricks-and-mortar warehouses where people work for poverty-level wages at jobs much more exhausting than anything in retail.
Bezos and his minions would have you believe the poor wages and brutal conditions are all for the good, because they help ensure the happiness of Amazon customers. His “customercentric” philosophy is at the root of what the Salon writer called
…a regime of workplace pressure, in which targets for the unpacking, movement, and repackaging of goods are relentlessly increased to levels where employees have to struggle to meet their targets and where older and less dexterous employees will begin to fail. As at Walmart, there is a pervasive “three strikes and you’re out” culture, and when these marginal employees acquire too many demerits (“points”), they are fired…
And there was this from New Republic, written soon after Amazon took over The Washington Post:
… The company that made [Bezos] one of the richest men in the world has… exacerbated the growth of the low-wage economy, to the point where the president feels the need to celebrate an increase in warehouse jobs that will pay barely more than minimum wage. (Fun fact uncovered by the Morning Call in Allentown, Pa. two years ago: Instead of paying for air-conditioning at some Pennsylvania warehouses, Amazon had just stationed paramedics outside to take the inevitably heat-stressed workers to the hospital.)
“That’s exploitation, not innovation,” I said to the rabbit, who was sipping from a bottle of Wild Turkey with his feet next to the wood stove in my shack. “And most people who patronize Amazon are exploiters, too.”
“Ain’t you the righteous one,” the rabbit said. “So how come you used Amazon last month to order that new Dave Eggers book?”
“Because of the rotten winter. I would have had to hitch a ride all the way to Philly in the snow to find it at a bookstore. There aren’t as many as there used to be, you know, thanks to Amazon’s Kindle.”
He twitched his nose and assumed an ironic tone. “So you’re against using Amazon except when it ain’t convenient to not use it.”
“Except when it’s impossible to do not use it,” I said. “This is not a perfect world, you dumb rodent.”
The rabbit’s laughter was high-pitched, like a munchkin’s. “Bullshit,” he said. “You’re either on the bus or you’re off it. You either feed the pig or you don’t.”
He took a big swig of bourbon and added, “You sound like one of them fake Democrats in Washington.”
“And you sound like a Luddite, rabbit.”
“That’s OK, Odd Man. I’d rather be a Luddite than a neoliberal.”