I was wrong. Or was I?
For months I’ve been dismissing the negative impacts of Amazon on the economy. Perhaps I’ve got a soft spot for a success story. After all, who really took the company seriously when it launched as an online bookseller? Now look at ‘em. Amazon has done incredible things!
Sure there’s a dark side. Amazon has given everyone’s former favorite whipping boy, WalMart, a run for the money along with numerous other warm and fuzzier merchants.
Moreover, stories surfaced in January, in the shadow of the search for ‘HQ2’ that hundreds of Amazon employees are receiving food stamps. I don’t like it. It’s not cool. But is it really a condemnation of the company and its excessively wealthy founder or is a symptom of the system?
Anyone of those employees could come up with an idea that will change the world, or at least capitalize on a changing world. Right?
Isn’t the same true of Wal-Mart, The Home Depot and other mega employers? Dig a little. I’m sure their rank and file are no strangers to public assistance.
Isn’t ‘shareholder value increased; and aren’t prices kept artificially low, at the expense of worker wages? How is THD trading over $200 a share? Are that many millennials building that many tiny homes?
Ask your friendly neighborhood fast-food franchisee if he or she is paying a ‘living wage’ then ask the kid dragging soggy bags of trash to the dumpster how ends are being made to meet.
Sure, well perhaps Jeff Bezos is possibly the richest man in the world, and perhaps he had this ‘everything store’ concept back in 1995 or earlier, but to the rest of us – it was an online bookstore in an age of online pet food stores, online hotel discount sites and sites playing to other market niches. I’m happy for his success.
Did Amazon kill Tower Records or was it the mp3? Hell, I worked for the industry giant, twice! I stopped shopping at Tower long before it basically went out of business. Perhaps it was the prices. Perhaps it was the selection. Perhaps I’d outgrown the attitude.
How about Borders and Circuit City? Benny Evangelista put it rather well three years back on SFGate.com, on the anniversary of Amazon’s first sale. “It’s not that Amazon became a one-company juggernaut that laid waste to the world’s retail landscape. … But Amazon changed the way that people shop. Now … shoppers routinely ask themselves, “I wonder if I can get this cheaper online?”
I know I do, though that’s also a symptom of geography.
I was a regular shopper at both Barnes & Noble and Borders stores for years, along with handful of other bookstores; and to this day I still enjoy the heft of a book in my hands and the sensation of turning pages. But sure, ebooks are great – and what are a few more hours of daily screen time in our lives?
OK, I’m taking a simplistic view. Mine represents a limited perspective. Big companies are evil. Only mom and pop shops, where they still butcher chickens in the back room are worthy. Have I mentioned appreciation for Sam Walton? I’ve picketed outside of his company’s stores, for Pete’s sake.
I was wrong. Or was I?
Then news came that Amazon, the retail disruptor was joining forces with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to form an independent health care company. Read about it in The New York Times, if you haven’t already. It’s big, really big, and insurance company stocks along with the rest of the markets are already taking a hit.
Bad for portfolios? Not if you’re holding a bundle of Amazon stock – up over 1.3 percent or close to $20 by mid-afternoon.
Why do I suspect these three CEOs will do a better job of solving the health care dilemma for their combined workforces than the butchers in Washington, D.C.?
Is this Bezos’ attempt to do to the insurance companies what some say he did to the retail sector? I doubt it.
Presently the plan is for employees of the three companies alone to participate.
Heaven only knows what would become of the country if high-tech, well managed affordable health care became universally available. That could never come of this, right?
But then … back in 1995 Amazon was only selling books, right?