THE WORST THINGS ABOUT BEING AN AMAZON EMPLOYEE
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BY NICHOLAS VRCHOTICKY/MAY 7, 2020 1:59 PM EST
Amazon employee horror stories are nothing new, with new ones hitting the web at every turn. It’s amazing that a company that had a net income of $11.59 billion in 2019 would have such low employee satisfaction, but it seems to be a common factor in Amazon’s history. Employee treatment and harsh working conditions at the number one online retailer have made headlines since the company was founded in 1994, and the trend doesn’t show any sign of slowing in the future.
Employee treatment has allegedly been so bad within the company that politicians have been speaking out about the supposed injustices for years, to the point that in 2018, Senator Bernie Sanders proposed the Stop Bezos Act, which would’ve required large companies like Amazon to put money toward the social services that so many of their employees relied on. Low wages, however, are merely one of the worst things about being an Amazon employee.
AMAZON THREATENS TO FIRE EMPLOYEES WHO SPEAK OUT
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Amazon has made it pretty clear that they want their employees to keep the company name out of their mouths, and they don’t take it lightly when their workers break that directive. In fact, they have a policy that prohibits employees from speaking about the company while being identified as employees, and, according to the Washington Post, there’s disagreement on when this clause was added to their communications policies. A group of employee activists known as Amazon Employees for Climate Justice say the company added this policy in September 2019, a couple of months before two members received emails threatening termination of their employment over the clause. As you may assume, the issue regarded AECJ speaking out about Amazon’s environmental impact, according to CNBC. Amazon, of course, says the policy isn’t new.
Another (former) employee, Gerald Bryson, was allegedly fired over using “vulgar” language, though he claims it was in response to his protesting working conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to CNET. He wasn’t the only protesting employee from the Staten Island facility to be penalized, either. Derrick Palmer was given a final warning for breaking social distance protocol, and Christian Smalls was fired. Three more employee activists were fired recently from an Amazon location in Minnesota. So, you know, suck a lemon or get out.
AMAZON FIGHTS WORKER UNIONS TOOTH AND NAIL
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With a company that has over 400,000 employees in the US alone, the fact that Amazon has kept unions from breaching their company’s doors in the country verges on insane, but it’s not for a lack of trying. Amazon just happens to be winning the anti-labor arms race.
One of the early attempts at “quashing the union menace” was with the closure of a call center following an organizing campaign by the Communication Workers of America, according to Time magazine. It’s possible this was a coincidence, but looking at the incident through the lens of the company’s anti-union history suggests something different. Since their start in 1994, there have been numerous reports of Amazon distributing union detecting and busting instructions on their inward-facing website for managers. Most recently, in 2018, a training video, detailing how to identify union efforts and scare the crap out of any participating employee by barely skirting legality, was leaked from Amazon’s Whole Foods stores.
When so many seriously unsatisfied personnel seem to pop out of the Amazon work pool, fighting against collective bargaining with everything you have is probably the smartest thing you can do, especially when raising that satisfaction level might make Jeff Bezos the slightly-less-but-still-richest man in the world. If not, you might end up with the type of upheaval seen from the unions protesting Amazon in Europe.
AMAZON EMPLOYEES WORK 60-HOUR WEEKS DURING PEAK SEASON
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As any retail worker, online or in the flesh, knows peak season runs roughly from Christmas “cram shopping” until ungrateful gift recipients are finished returning all their “as seen on TV” items — in other words, Black Friday to shortly after Christmas. During this time period, many Amazon employees are forced to work up to 60 hours per week, and that’s with the seasonal influx of temporary workers. It doesn’t seem that crazy until you look at the level of physical labor that goes into the average Amazon worker’s day around the holidays. Some fulfillment center employees, according to Business Insider, report walking up to 20 miles per shift while carrying heavy boxes, with one employee calling it “11 ½ hours of cardio five days a week.”
Amazon says they allow workers who have extenuating circumstances to opt out of this peak season overtime, such as those with physical ailments, healthcare appointments, and the like. But, for everyone else in the US, you either work the overtime, or the company can legally terminate your employment as long as they pay you time and a half for any hours beyond a standard 40-hour workweek.
AMAZON EMPLOYEES ARE EXPECTED TO WORK DURING SEVERE WEATHER
If you enjoy driving through terrible road conditions and working in sweltering temperatures, then Amazon might be the place for you. The company says they monitor weather and will close facilities if travel conditions are unsafe for employees, but some of Amazon’s workers say otherwise, as detailed by Business Insider. These employees have said that Amazon will excuse late clock-ins but reprimand workers who don’t make it in for their scheduled shifts, even when one couldn’t see the road under the snow in Minnesota. Another employee camped in his car during a state of emergency due to a blizzard in Kansas so he wouldn’t miss his shift.
Regardless of the weather, Amazon keeps running, and that includes triple-digit heat waves, which employees have complained about for years. In 2011, according to the Morning Call, an Amazon warehouse in Pennsylvania stationed paramedics in their parking lot to treat workers suffering from heat-related illness, as the heat index in their warehouse heat index would sometimes reach 110 degrees. These weather-related problems have been commonplace enough for protesting workers to include them in their lists of demands, such as in July 2019 in Chicago and in an April 2019 open letter regarding environmental issues.
AMAZON WORKERS GET PAID A LIVING WAGE AT THE COST OF OTHER BENEFITS
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The company owned by the richest man in the world finally relented to political pressure in 2018 and declared that all of its workers were worth $15 per hour (around $31,000 per year). This caused many Amazon employees to celebrate their new pay raise. But major companies can be sneaky — while champagne bottles were being uncorked and streamers were being hung from the ceiling, benefits were cut behind the scenes. The retail empire holds firmly that their employees have had an increase to their total payment package, as reported by Yahoo! Finance. However, with the slashing of their previous stock options, incentive programs, and bonuses, some Amazon employees believe they’re losing out on thousands of dollars per year in a shell game that improved the company’s public image and gave the bottom-tier workers nothing in return.
One employee who spoke to Wired says his $1-per-hour wage increase has resulted in a loss of $1,400 per year of benefits, which included Amazon’s Variable Compensation Pay that Yahoo! Finance states could increase an employees pay by 8% every month. Removing the stock option plan may have been another big hit, given that the share price had tripled between 2016 and 2018, but figuring out which cup is hiding the ball is half the fun.
AMAZON EMPLOYEES’ BATHROOM BREAKS ARE ON A TIGHT SCHEDULE
The trope usually has people peeing their pants out of fright, but Amazon employees seem to have it backwards. According to at least one journalist, they’re scared to pee. James Bloodworth went undercover inside an Amazon warehouse for his book, Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain, where he claims to have seen bottles of urine on shelves from employees who were too scared to lose their jobs for taking a bathroom break. When the Seattle Times followed suit by touring a fulfillment center in Kent, Washington, they didn’t see any bottles of urine, but a couple of employees did comment on time-crunched bathroom breaks.
One worker claimed that you could use the bathroom for up to “six minutes tops.” Another worker commenting from the Kent facility said she’d been warned “to watch how much time [she’s] in the bathroom.” A former employee of a facility in Kentucky sued the company for terminating him over his bathroom usage due to his Crohn’s disease, according to Newsweek, which he informed Amazon about when he was hired. In a survey by Organise, a worker’s rights platform, 74% of employees said they avoid the bathroom so they don’t seem unproductive.
AMAZON EMPLOYEES SAY THEY AREN’T TREATED LIKE PEOPLE
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“We are not robots” was a slogan seen on the signs of protesters who gathered outside the Staten Island fulfillment center in 2018, and that sentiment has been echoed around the US. It’s easy to feel like a number when you work for a large corporation, and it’s easy to feel like a robot when your job consists of doing the same repetitive task day in and day out. But that’s only where the complaints start among Amazon workers. Big Brother is always watching, and productivity is constantly monitored. In fact, an anonymous Amazon employee who writes the Guardian’s “Amazon diaries” says workers are treated like they’re “disposable.”
A former employee who was interviewed for a Frontline documentary respectfully disagrees with the idea that they’re robots but rather believes they’re treated as “part of the data stream” because of the constant pressure they’re forced to carry as Amazon increases technological efforts to observe what’s happening within their warehouses in minute detail. Regardless, these workers feel they’re not seen as human, and this feeling could contribute to the high rate of suicide attempts and other “mental health episodes” that occur in Amazon facilities. According to Newsweek, there were 189 such incidents between October 2013 and October 2018.
AMAZON WORKERS ARE CONSTANTLY TRACKED
There are few things worse than living inside an Orwellian dystopia, and if you work at one of Amazon’s fulfillment centers, you might find the atmosphere to be eerily similar. Where other companies might track your overall performance for yearly reviews, Amazon tracks their employees constantly to make sure they’re hitting their productivity rate and aren’t spending too much “time off task.” When the Seattle Times visited the Kent facility, there were computer screens that gave updates on employees’ hourly productivity, while James Bloodworth’s book, Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain, describes handheld devices that would track and display messages about the undercover employee’s rates in the UK warehouse where he worked for a short time.
A letter obtained by the Verge makes this tracking system seem even more outlandish, stating, “Amazon’s system tracks the rates of each individual associate’s productivity”and automatically generates any warnings or terminations regarding quality or productivity without input from supervisors.” Amazon itself says that supervisors have the power to override these automated terminations on a case-by-case basis, but the fact that an algorithm holds employees’ futures in its digital hands is still unsettling.
AMAZON’S QUOTAS PUSH EMPLOYEES TO THEIR LIMITS
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Amazon has this cool thing known as “rate,” which is the rate of tasks an employee should be completing per hour. Then there’s “TOT” or “time off task,” which is whenever you’re not completing job tasks. It’s a simple system used to keep employees productive, over-productive, and terminated for not being productive enough, and its demands are far too much for a lot of people to keep up with. For example, workers at the Amazon facility in Staten Island were required to pick up one item every seven seconds to be packaged, according to the Guardian, and, according to Bloodworth, workers had to break other rules, such as running in the workplace, to keep up with their quotas.
As you can imagine, “rate” is usually cited alongside other issues by protesting Amazon employees. Sure, a worker’s body might catch up to the sheer athleticism the company seems to require if they’re not fired first, but the rate seems to go up every year. A worker who talked with the Verge said his rate went from 120 items per hour to 280 items in three years. By the time he leaves, he’ll either being playing for the NFL or bedridden.
AMAZON WORKERS HAVE TO GO THROUGH SECURITY
Walking into work as an Amazon fulfillment employee can feel like going through security at an airport terminal, since workers are forced to walk through metal detectors when they enter or leave the facility. Thanks to a Supreme Court decision in 2014, the workers aren’t paid for their time standing in line, either. If there’s anything worse than having an employer who puts zero trust in their employees, it’s having one who doesn’t pay you for the time it’s wasting.
Do you plan on bringing personal items to work? Good luck. According to Ecomcrew, employees aren’t allowed to bring most things into the warehouse. You enter through a one-way gate and metal detector, hand over any items (including keys and cell phones) to be put in a locker during a secondary screening process, and go about your day. When you leave, you go back through a metal detector where some people are randomly selected for a full-body search. But that’s just the price you pay to be an Amazonian.
AMAZON EMPLOYEES HAVE A GOOD CHANCE OF GETTING HURT
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A high risk of injury isn’t something you want to see in a job description, but it seems to come with the territory if you work in an Amazon fulfillment center. At least, that’s what the numbers say – Reveal found that Amazon’s incident rate was more than double (with some specific facilities much worse) that of the industry standard in 2018. Amazon says these numbers are high because of their diligence in reporting incidents, but with employees calling their facilities names like “the meat grinder” and claiming that a visit to the onsite medical staff is the first step to losing one’s job, it’s hard to take the company’s claims seriously.
Amazon’s integrity has been called into question further as a result of Amcare, the company’s in-house medical response team, being cited by OSHA on several occasions for providing inadequate medical care to injured employees and working beyond their scope of practice, according to the Intercept. The Intercept went on to conduct their own investigation and found that Amcare had several more issues, from disobeying government and Amazon regulations to blatantly disregarding medical problems, so who’s to say what the incident numbers actually are?
JEFF BEZOS PERSONALLY MAKES AMAZON EMPLOYEES’ LIVES DIFFICULT
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When it comes to running a company, Jeff Bezos takes the type of hands-on approach that other CEOs tend to admire and his workers tend to hate: micromanaging. A Quora post from an Amazon employee speaks of a thing called “Jeff demands,” where someone working on a project will be ripped away to work on something different because Bezos decided that’s what’s best. What Jeff wants, Jeff gets, and this micromanaging is nothing new. Publications like Forbes, the Verge, and Business Insider have all written about it from different viewpoints.
And where micromanaging can be seen as beneficial depending on who you are, it’s difficult to believe Bezos’ tendency to insult his employees is helpful. Everything from “I’m sorry, did I take my stupid pills today?” to flaunting his status as CEO have been used by Bezos to belittle employees, according to Business Insider, which probably doesn’t make for the most healthy of workplaces (or any other form of human interaction, for that matter).
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THE DARK TRUTH ABOUT AMAZON FOUNDER JEFF BEZOS
BY PAULI POISUO/JAN. 23, 2019 5:27 PM EST/UPDATED: AUG. 17, 2021 3:05 PM EST
With an estimated net worth of roughly $190 billion, Amazon founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world by a significant margin. Thanks to his e-commerce juggernaut, the entrepreneur is raking in so much cash that the average person would have a hard time comprehending his true wealth. As a bite-sized example, Yahoo has calculated that in 2021 alone, in very rough and approximate terms, Bezos earned about $3,715 … per second.
It’s easy to think that someone who’s sitting on such a massive mountain of money didn’t get the best seat at the billionaires’ table by being polite and playing nice. In Bezos’ case, such suspicions may very well be correct. Many of his business practices and personal traits show a man who knows what he wants, and is not afraid to be hard on his opponents and allies to achieve his goals. There are many stories of his less than savory antics, and when they’re compiled, the dark truth of the richest man in the world emerges. Here’s what Jeff Bezos is really like.
JEFF BEZOS IS A MASSIVE CONTROL FREAK
When people discuss Jeff Bezos, a recurring theme seems to be his insistence on holding all the strings he can reach. Bezos stepped down as Amazon CEO in July 2021, but his former employees and critics have had things to say about his tenure. In an interview with CBS News, Noel Tichy from the University of Michigan described Bezos as a “control freak” and Amazon as a “one-man show.” Business Insider tells the story of former Amazon engineer Steve Yegge, who went even further by saying the billionaire made “ordinary control freaks look like stoned hippies.” Bezos seems to be fairly unapologetic about this and was known to tell his employees that they should pay him to work at Amazon.
Yegge did admit that Bezos’ tendency to micromanage was overshadowed by the fact that he’s extremely smart and often far ahead of his time. However, that didn’t make things any easier for his employees. In 2002, the CEO suddenly demanded that all his engineering teams must rebuild their systems from the ground up to build Amazon into a platform where every system was compatible and that outside developers could easily access. He also promised to fire every single person who couldn’t pull off this massive undertaking.
HE BRUTALLY INSULTED HIS EMPLOYEES
To say Jeff Bezos was not the world’s most softly-spoken boss is like saying that the lemon is not the sweetest fruit. In his book, “The Everything Store,” author Brad Stone describes Bezos’ tendency to go ballistic when an employee didn’t meet his standards (via Business Insider). The billionaire had an array of hyperbolic and harsh insults he spewed at the unfortunate targets of his ire with such anger that a blood vessel bulged on his head. Amazon veterans have actually collected a greatest hits list of Bezos’ outbursts, which range from “Why are you wasting my life?” and “I’m sorry, did I take my stupid pills today?” to labeling his target incompetent or part of the “B-team.”
Some of these attacks were more or less understandable, such as when someone tried to blatantly bluff their way through a situation or attempted to take credit for someone else’s work. However, an Amazon employee could get chewed out for any number of reasons, including internal politics, “frailty in the heat of the battle,” or simply not having all the right answers straight away.
HE’S NOT INTERESTED IN CHARITY
For a man who the The Atlantic estimates would have to spend $28 million a day in 2018 just to avoid getting richer, Jeff Bezos appears to have a strange relationship with charity. BGR describes how he took to Twitter in 2017 to ask people what he should do to be a philanthropist. Then, in a 2018 interview with Mathias Döphner, he stated that the only way he can see to use his wealth is to spend it on his space company, Blue Origin. Out of the four richest Americans (Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg), AOL says Bezos is the most elusive about charity, despite being No. 1. He’s also the only one of the four who hasn’t signed the Giving Pledge — the commitment many of the world’s wealthiest people make to use the majority of their resources for good causes.
In all fairness, Bezos has made some charitable donations over the years. In 2020, CBS News reports he launched the Bezos Earth Fund to help fight climate change with a $10 billion gift and gave $100 million to the Feeding America COVID-19 Response Fund.
In 2018, he started the Day One Fund, which aims to devote $2 billion to address homelessness and education issues. However, Vox points out that the initiative is uncharacteristically vague and potentially ineffective for a Bezos effort, and Recode even wondered whether the world’s richest person would be so generous if he wasn’t under such intense scrutiny. Even if the Day One Fund is ultimately successful in whatever its mission is, it’s still peanuts compared to the $41.3 billion that the significantly less wealthy Bill Gates gave in charitable donations between 2000 and 2016.
HE’S A SELF-ADMITTED TAX DODGER
Few people like paying taxes, but even fewer can compare to Jeff Bezos in how frankly he speaks about his hard work to dodge them. According to Fortune, Bezos famously decided to found Amazon in Washington state instead of the hot tech hub of California and was perfectly happy to admit that he did it to dodge California’s sales taxes. At one point, Bezos even considered planting Amazon on a Native American reservation in California, where it would have been exempt from state sales tax. This was just the beginning of Amazon’s natural aversion to tax-paying. For the next 20 years, the company carefully avoided sales taxes in the majority of other states, too. This gave it a price advantage over traditional book retailers and helped it to establish a strong foothold in e-commerce.
As The Atlantic points out, Amazon’s attitude toward taxes hasn’t exactly changed through the years. As a massive economic player, it’s able to parlay governments and states for billions and billions of tax deductions. In 2017, the company made $5.6 billion in pure profit, and in 2018 CNBC reported a profit of $11 billion — yet Amazon paid no federal income taxes whatsoever. As a major shareholder, this policy directly benefited Bezos — who naturally commanded a fairly small salary, meaning nearly all of his income was subject to capital gains taxes, which maxed out at just 20% instead of the 37% top rate on regular income.
HIS WEIRD ATTITUDE TOWARD DANGER
“So Jeff Bezos is sitting in a helicopter with an attorney, a cowboy and a pilot” sounds like the setup of a bad joke, but in 2003, this scenario really happened. According to Business Insider, Bezos was in West Texas to buy some land for his Blue Origin rocket company. He was advised to survey on horseback but preferred to make things quick by using a helicopter instead. So Bezos, his attorney, and a cowboy guide stepped in an Aérospatiale Gazelle chopper, piloted by Charles “Cheater” Bella.
Once they landed at the first location, the guide grew worried about gusty winds and wanted to leave while it was calm. However, Bezos took his time before they moved to the next spot. What happened next was described by the National Transportation Safety Board as “an uncontrolled descent” that impacted the terrain. In reality, the accident was a bit wilder: A gust of wind made Bella lose control of the helicopter, which clipped the ground and violently rolled into a nearby creek, tail and rotor blades snapping off during the tumble. Fortunately, no one died.
Bezos’ reaction to the life-threatening accident that actually broke his attorney’s vertebrae was … a one-liner and a loud laugh. He just commented that they should have used horses after all, and started laughing so hard that it boomed through the entire canyon.
HQ2 WAS ONE BIG CIRCUS
In late 2017, Amazon announced that it wanted to pick a location for its new “HQ2” headquarters and began graciously accepting offers from cities all over the USA. Many of the offers were ridiculously generous, basically a competition to see who could give away enough freebies to lure Amazon in. MacLean’s reported that many jumped at the chance to get the corporate juggernaut in their backyard. Chicago offered to direct $1.32 billion of the income taxes paid by Amazon workers back to the company itself. Newark’s bid included over $7 billion in assorted tax benefits. Maryland’s package of incentives and tax exemptions totaled $8.5 billion, and they even named their program “Promoting ext-Raordinary Innovation in Maryland’s Economy” just to shoehorn in the acronym PRIME.
New York and Virginia won the bidding war, but according to In These Times, everyone involved actually lost, saying that neither location were likely to bring the promised 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment in the region. In fact, in 2019, Amazon halted their New York plans due to local opposition, CNBC reports. And, while plans are still underway in Virginia, Amazon has estimated only around 25,000 new jobs over the next decade for the new headquarters.
The HQ2 process also gave Amazon access to a massive cache of non-public financial and infrastructural information on the whopping 238 cities that submitted their bids over the course of the competition, giving them massive leverage for future operations, which is maybe why Amazon orchestrated the whole bidding war in the first place.
JEFF BEZOS ATTACKED BOOK PUBLISHERS LIKE “SICKLY GAZELLES”
When Amazon was starting out, many small publishers welcomed this new way of distribution with open arms. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite realize what they were signing up for. “The Everything Store” reveals that Jeff Bezos doesn’t think too highly of the publishing business and views the industry as a helpless animal just waiting for a predator (via Business Insider). When the smaller publishers started becoming more and more dependent on Amazon for sales, the company suddenly started playing hardball, demanding more favorable contract terms in ways that “The Everything Store” calls straight-up sadistic. This treatment was courtesy of the former CEO himself, as Bezos had ordered his employees to “approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.”
As a result of this mandate, some Amazon executives took such sadistic pleasure in abusing publishers that the company’s lawyers started feeling a little worried about the situation. Eventually, they stepped in and demanded that Amazon rename its publisher-abusing business program from the Gazelle Project (yes, that was its actual name) to the more corporate-friendly Small Publishers Negotiation Program. When your lawyers have to calm you down, you know you’ve maybe gone too far.
HE MADE HIS EMPLOYEES WORK AGAINST EACH OTHER
Being unpleasant to your underlings is rarely considered an effective management tool, but Jeff Bezos actually harnessed it and took things to the next level by encouraging his workers to be unpleasant to each other. According to the New York Times, Bezos and Amazon threw the concept of workplace harmony to the wind. Instead, employees were actively encouraged to eviscerate each others’ ideas in meetings, and the company’s internal phone directory even features instructions on how to give secret feedback about their coworkers to their bosses. The system is called the Anytime Feedback Tool, and using it to snitch on a fellow worker is so simple that it even provides sample texts, such as, “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.” Multiple employees say the tool was often used to sabotage colleagues, and some even devised smear campaigns where an unpopular coworker was buried with multiple bad reviews.
One former Amazon HR director called this approach “purposeful Darwinism,” and it’s … not exactly the most employee-friendly management method. Amazon is a highly stressful workplace even without having to constantly fear that someone’s decided to randomly report you to the Thought Police.
JEFF BEZOS MAINTAINED A RUTHLESS CORPORATE CULTURE
To shape Amazon according to his vision, Jeff Bezos created the Leadership Principles. Among other things, these 14 rules required workers to obsess over customers, accomplish more with less, and make speedy decisions while maintaining “relentlessly high standards.” If that sounds unrealistic, many employees have agreed. The New York Times describes how workers toiled over projects without sleeping for four days in a row, paid freelancers in India to help them keep up with data entry, and spent vacations at Starbucks using the free Wi-Fi to get work done. This sort of ruthless corporate culture can lead to health issues, which the company has been less than sympathetic about. Amazon has reportedly cast aside workers who can’t perform to the company’s borderline impossible expectations, regardless of the reason behind their “incompetence.” Even workers who have suffered cancer, miscarriages, or other life-altering personal crises can be evaluated unfairly or “managed out.”
The company even gave an insanely hard time to the people who could actually cope with the pressure. Ex-employee Chris Brucia tells a story about a particularly punishing performance review in 2012. His boss eviscerated him with a 30-minute lecture on all his faults and every goal he had failed to meet. Just when Brucia was certain his Amazon career was at an end, his boss hugged him and informed him that he was, in fact, being promoted. Thanks for the pep talk?
HIS ENDEAVORS MAKE HIM SEEM LIKE A SUPERVILLAIN
Jeff Bezos was a mighty CEO and is a noted tech industry power player, but as Market Watch describes, there’s also a whole lot about him that’s ripe for comparison with a comic book supervillain. Apart from having the same hairstyle as Lex Luthor and Ernst Stavro Blofeld, he has money to burn and the “control of a globally influential media institution.” His penchant for developing a fleet for space exploration is another tick on the checklist, as is one of his stranger vanity projects — a 500-foot-tall, thermally powered “10,000-year clock” that he’s embedding in a mountain for reasons that remain his own. Bezos even has the melodramatic laugh to go with the classic villain image: As Inc. points out, the billionaire is known for his loud, honking laughter.
Really, all Bezos needs at this point is access to a giant robot he can pilot … which, incidentally, he absolutely has.
HIS DIVORCE AND ALLEGED SEXTING SCANDAL
On January 9, 2019, Jeff Bezos announced on Twitter that he and his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie Bezos, were divorcing. According to USA Today, an extramarital affair may have something to do with the divorce, as multiple tabloids claimed Bezos had developed a relationship with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez. Some even released private photos and messages in which Bezos was said to flaunt his strangely robotic sexting skills: “I love you, alive girl,” he allegedly wrote to Sanchez. “I will show you with my body, and my lips and my eyes, very soon.”
Bezos’ divorce announcement strongly indicated that the separation was amicable and the two exes will remain friends. In July 2019, a settlement was reached, with MacKenzie receiving $38 billion. Over the next two years, she donated billions to charities across a variety of sectors — in stark comparison to her ex-husband’s record of charitable giving. In 2021, MacKenzie married science teacher Dan Jewett, reports Forbes. In a statement, Jeff Bezos wished the newlyweds well, saying “Dan is such a great guy.”
AMAZON WAREHOUSES ARE “LIKE PRISONS”
The warehouse is rarely the most luxurious place of employment in any company, but things are really bad when people are peeing in water bottles and comparing the work environment to prison. Life in an Amazon warehouse (or “fulfillment center,” as the company calls them) involves both of those things, and many more. In 2016, author James Bloodworth went undercover in an Amazon warehouse to research for a book and soon discovered that the job was so hectic that he didn’t have enough time to eat or drink properly. The atmosphere reminded him of prison, and the airport-style security checks and oppressive, point-based management added to the image. Some of the employees even peed in bottles and left them on the shelves because the performance targets were so high that they didn’t have time to take a bathroom break.
While Amazon denied many of Bloodworth’s claims and has since stopped using the employment agency that hired him due to its questionable policies, other warehouse workers have repeated the writer’s claims. According to multiple reports by Wired, Business Insider, the Guardian, The New York Times, and Newsweek, warehouse employees still urinate in bottles and even trash cans due to time constraints. The workers also say that many of the problems Bloodworth reported persist: The targets are too high, surveillance is constant, the pay is inadequate, and workplace injuries are depressingly common.
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THE REAL REASON JEFF BEZOS PICKED THE NAME AMAZON
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BY TOM MEISFJORD/OCT. 10, 2019 12:15 PM EST/UPDATED: OCT. 29, 2019 5:51 PM EST
There are some things in life that we interact with so regularly that we never bother to question what we call them. Everybody knows, for example, what the dough-scraping stick with the rubber thing at the end is called, but do we ever stop and wonder “how’d we come up with the word ‘spatula?'” Most of us don’t. Most of us have jobs and things to focus on. (It’s latin, by the way.)
But what about companies? Ubiquitous mega corporations? These are the great loves of society’s elite. Most businesses, you’d think, would have a name that’s meaningful to the titans of industry who created them. Let’s take a look at how a company that got its start selling stacks of thinly sliced trees wound up being called Amazon.
JEFF BEZOS, AMAZON, AND THE PROCESS OF ELIMINATION
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According to “The Everything Store,” a book by Brad Stone on the history of Amazon, the original intended name for everyone’s favorite juggernaut of commerce was “Cadabra,” as in “abracadabra.” The problems were as follows: first, Jeff Bezos’ lawyer thought that the name was “too obscure” since, you know, nobody’s ever heard of magic, maybe. The second issue was a little more pragmatic. It was easy to mistake the word “cadabra” with “cadaver” over the phone, and that’s the stuff snarky political cartoons are made of.
A couple of other names got floated around and even registered. The domain “relentless.com” still redirects to Amazon, but the name was scrapped when it came off as too intense.
SO WHY DID JEFF BEZOS CHOOSE “AMAZON?”
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The name “Amazon” came from two places. First off, it was already the name of the biggest river in the world, making it both familiar and evocative of grandeur. Secondly, way back in 1995, a lot of websites were still listed alphabetically, meaning that a site with an “A” name had a leg up on the competition. If that sounds strange, keep in mind that it’s an age old business technique harkening back to the first phone book listings. That’s why so many back-in-the-day businesses had monickers like Acme and Ajax.
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