A Trip Down the Amazon

By Tony Moorby April 06, 2021 406
 Amazon Scout ia a 6 wheeled robot that is used to deliver packages for the E-commerce site. Amazon Scout ia a 6 wheeled robot that is used to deliver packages for the E-commerce site.

Years ago, I wrote that I was extremely enamored of Amazon. In those days it was an online bookseller. I extolled their virtues of ease of use, keeping a note of my reading preferences and pleasures and a fast delivery of in-stock items. The safe and secure, easy payment set-up was also wonderfully convenient. 

That didn’t stop me from strolling around Barnes and Noble, exercising all the tactile senses of actually being in a bookstore; a satiating experience even now, as then. The pandemic put a temporary hold on those types of indulgences but books and magazines still have that appeal to draw me back and make impulse purchases that I didn’t necessarily intend in the first place. Online buys tend to serve an immediate need without browsing – fabulously convenient but a fairly lifeless exercise.

So what of Amazon today? Has it become a necessary evil? The devil is in the details. According to Forbes Magazine, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO, has a net worth of $183 billion and adds $320 million a day to that luxo-pile, making him one of the three richest people on the planet. Is that a problem? Absolutely not. He single handedly turned retailing around on its head, using the latest technologies, while developing new ones to protect the company’s position, going forward. The pandemic helped fuel a growing dependency on things delivered to your door, rather than run the gamut of risks by going to the store. So Amazon grew by leaps and bounds while others were trying to find their way around a new world with little or no planning for this awful eventuality.

I, for one, will freely admit to this addictive convenience like a moth to a flame or a child to a mother’s breast.

Success at such a stupefying level has its price, however and the downsides have been growing, mostly unseen and unheralded until just recently.

Their facility or fulfillment center, as Amazon calls it, one of 175 globally occupying over 150 million square feet, in Bessemer, Alabama, is going through voting to become a unionized shop. This in a time when unions, to a large degree, have been a bit outdated. Why would you need a union when many of the lowest paid workers are already at $15 an hour? Well, it’s not as easy as that and it’s not all about the money for the employees. The drive for “efficiency” is creating awful conditions for the warehouse personnel and delivery drivers alike and there is now a backlash to the public relations vision of this scion of new-world technology. A Dickensian sweatshop is more akin to the conditions suffered by a great many of the employees. 

There are greater ironies too in trying to attract Amazon to operate in cities, lots of which are crying out for employment opportunities in an era of diminishing employment rolls. Attractive tax relief packages, even to the extent of rebates, are on offer by almost every contender, lured by the prospects of having 500 employees and an active distribution traffic center as a hub, clearly marking the city as part of a global infrastructure. The irony is that the city needs more money to house those employees, educate their children, build new town centers and shopping capacity, have roads sufficient to handle the increased traffic, all after giving away the tax dollars that would normally go to pay for those things.

Amazon knows they have all four aces because they access more data on the population’s buying habits than anyone else in the world. They know how and where to exert any pressure they see fit to exercise.

That smile from A to Z on their logo could easily be taken as a leer! Now, how about some cornflakes. Oh, we’re out….

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Last modified on Tuesday, 06 April 2021 15:18