bezosfordishThe New York Times’ expose of brutal working conditions at Amazon drew attacks over the weekend (here, here, here, here, here, via The Digital Reader—along with a memo from Jeff Bezos).

I’ll still side with the Times. The defenses tended to center around individuals’ experiences. Keep in mind, too, that a techie manager’s opinion of Amazon might differ from a grunt-level marketer’s. Guess which kind of human Bezos values more.

Beyond that, ask yourself: “Why wasn’t the Times flooded immediately with comments from recent Amazon alumni who loved the place?” Yes, flooded.

To reply to the “We’ve changed” argument, let’s see the paperwork. Did Amazon’s HR people or others write up a whole series of memos urging the company to be just a tad kinder to ingrates who took time out to care for sick parents? Or who actually had the temerity to develop breast cancer? Or who inconsiderately vacationed in places with bad Net connections?

What’s really scary is that some executives in corporate America may react to the Times story the way certain young sleazes did to the movie Wall Street—by dreaming of becoming Gordon “Greed Is Good” Gekko.

Thank, you, thank you, New York Times, for telling us in such depth about Jeff Bezos’s Amazon culture. I want to be like Jeff and pals! First step will be to set up a Stasi-style system where employees can rat on each other.

Of course, a counter-argument could be just as unnerving: Hey, it’s already happened. Is Amazon really that special?

At any rate, the harm is not just to Amazon employees and their families. Amazon is growing rapidly in Seattle. Given Amazon’s workaholism, will the city become less civic-minded—as people fixate so much on their work and devote less time to local civic organizations or politics?  And what about U.S. cities elsewhere? Haven’t business values already elbowed aside traditional civic values and the Golden Rule in general, on too many occasions?

Standard reminder: I’m a capitalist and a huge fan of Amazon’s positives, such as innovation and great e-reader hardware (despite issues such as limited font selections and lack of text to speech in recent E Ink machines). I have sided with the company in its dispute with large publishers. I just call ‘em as I see ‘em.


  1. Amazon has a policy to fire its bottom 10% of performers no matter how well they are performing. In the same presentation the person said they had 5000 unfilled development positions, but could only fill about 500 per year due to the rigorous hiring process. Someone in the audience told the person they should check their math because with the 10% policy they will NEVER fill all the open positions.

    Long story short, don’t work at Amazon. There are plenty of better tech firms out there.

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