amazon-prime_thumb1.jpgA series of articles and authoritative statements about Amazon have all surfaced more or less simultaneously, giving fresh perspective on the Bezos Behemoth, and where it may go from here. And also, on what kind of services you can expect from it in future – and whether all those knockers who insist that the Amazon ebook platform is in terminal decline and that you’d better give up on Kindle are right or not.

First, Kevin Kelleher in Time Magazine runs a comparison of Amazon versus Walmart, which unsurprisingly comes out in favour of Amazon, but for perhaps less expected reasons. His subtitular thesis is that “It’s not really about physical stores vs online anymore” – which also suggests that it’s not really about physical books/bookstores vs online/ebooks either. His point is that Amazon is not only way ahead of Walmart in market cap and dollar-value productivity per employee (nearly three times Walmart’s), it’s also that Amazon is reinvesting its proceeds in growth, instead of share buybacks and dividends. Walmart pays billions for these, which are essentially bribes to the market to prop up its share price, and it isn’t working. The markets are rewarding growth and future prospects, and Amazon will therefore keep investing in new growth drivers like the $50 Kindle Fire 7.

The second piece, in Inc., shows Jeff Bezos responding promptly and personally to a New York Times article describing ferocious working conditions and disgruntled employeers. Bezos sent an email, obtained by GeekWire, to Amazon employees, where he states: “The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day. But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at” What’s more, he continues, “The article goes further than reporting isolated anecdotes. It claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard.” And he adds, “I don’t think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive, much less thrive, in today’s highly competitive tech hiring market.”

Some of you out there will probably side with the NYT and find yet one more reason to never buy a book from Amazon again. Some may poo-pooh Bezos’s response. But what it does suggest is that Amazon will continue to push to innovate, and will try its hardest to attract and to keep the kind of leading minds it needs to do that.

And the third piece, from Business Insider, draws on a video “fireside chat” with Bill Gurley of Benchmark at a Sailthru e-commerce conference. Gurley compares Amazon very favourably to Google in the e-commerce space – actually, he states that Amazon is invalidating Google’s entire e-commerce business model, especially through Amazon Prime. His thesis is that Amazon Prime now has immense traction with its loyal customers, built up through competitive pricing and just-as-competitive delivery and fulfillment. Any existing Prime user needs a massive incentive to step outside Amazon and Google more widely for things.

So, Amazon will continue to invest in Prime, and is seeing all its efforts to build network effects rewarded. Bezos is not likely to take his foot off the innovation pedal any time soon, and we should all see the benefits in due course. Will that make Amazon a more lovable, caring company? We’ll see ...



  1. Amazon didn’t give a flying toss about the appalling Prime service I received, and ultimately they “kindly” offered to cover the costs of shipping an item to me on next-day delivery which should already have been sent next-day to my heavily disabled mother-in-law. Too late. I’d been forced to scour bricks and mortar stores for the item she urgently required.

    This was the fourth time in a row that Amazon Prime failed to even dispatch an item in time, let alone deliver it next-day. Nobody at Amazon cares, and TWO emails to received no response or acknowledgement whatsoever.

    For a company so hellbent on “customer experience” they sure don’t give a damn when they lose a customer to their own incompetence

  2. Quote from Bezos: “But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR.”

    You could hardly come up with a better proof that the NYT article was right. Escalate to HR” is precisely the sort of nasty, top-down dictate the article describes.

    What is a Amazon employee going to report?

    Perhaps that their immediate superior is being harsh. But a talk with him privately might reveal that he is being threatened by his boss that if he isn’t harsh, he’ll be fired. Reporting to HR would get the wrong guy fired. Jerks tend to be very good at covering their tracks.


    Amazon clearly has one big advantage over Walmart. Amazon is almost the ‘everything store.’ If I’m looking for something, I can usually find it there in a minute or so. No trouble. No bother.

    My local Walmart, as huge as it is, might better called the ‘lots of the same basic thing’ store. Different brands of laundry soap might take up 30 feet of aisle, but when I look for some minor but useful item I often draw a blank.

    I know precisely what’s driving what Walmart stocks. Items that sell a lot, get lots of shelf-space, even if the item is almost identical to a dozen others. Items that sell rarely, even if they’re one of a kind and take up little space, are dropped from inventory.

    You can imagine how ticked off I get after walking in from a huge parking lot and wandering around the store, getting various ‘maybe it is there’ directions from employees, only to find Walmart does not have it.

    I’ve reached the point where, if I need something that’s not a mass-market item, I don’t even bother with Walmart. They won’t have it.


    One hint for the frugal. If Amazon has what you want but at a price above what you want to pay and you can wait, list it with:

    Set the price you’re looking for and Camel will send you an email when it drops below that price. For most items, they’ll also display a price history, which will let you know what a good deal is.

    Act quickly though. Some items are limited quantity and sell out at the lower price in mere minutes. I’ve got mine set up so that email also texts my phone. Alerted, I once got up at 4 am, bought two heavy-duty 50-foot extension cords for 40% off and went back to sleep. They were brand new. Someone simply got ticked off that the box broke open in shipping and returned them.

    Here are some of the marked down popular products active right now:

    –Mike Perry

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