Amazonication — One Store to Rule Them All
Yeah, it’s Saturday! The weekend’s finally arrived! At least that’s what the pre-corona me used to say. Now the weekend is just like the week except for the work part. There is no dinner with friends, no movie at the local cinema, no walking along a beautiful wooded trail — well, that’s because it’s always raining, as if we moved to Seattle or something — no shopping to speak of unless it’s for essentials and frankly, I’m a little nervous that all this staying at home to flatten the curve is also flattening my creativity with my writing at an abysmal all-time low.
There is one thing I have become extremely good: shopping on Amazon.
Be honest. How many Amazon deliveries have you gotten since the beginning of the Covid-19 quarantine? Two dozen? Three dozen? Several million?
Look, I’m not proud of it. It’s been hard for us and there’s a lot going on, trying to fill in the gaps with things the grocery store doesn’t have or items that we can’t run around looking for because we are sheltering-in-place, and face it, we’re exhausted even though we aren’t going anywhere or more likely because of it.
It looks like there’s a year’s worth of packaging in my garage right now, but really it’s only about two weeks worth. My son is doing an internship with Americorps in Idaho at the end of the semester so we’ve been ordering things like a new sleeping bag and tent, boots and all-weather gear, but even without those contributions, there’s a lot of packaging on the garage floor. The one bright spot is that of the four things Lancaster still recycles — glass, aluminum, plastic bottles (with necks only) and cardboard — at least these boxes make the cut. If you’re wondering why they are strewn all about, well, that’s because we’ve been too lackadaisical to break down the boxes and put them into the recycling bin, another side effect of quarantining — downright laziness.
But other than a messy garage, why is shopping with Amazon such a bad thing? Well, for starters, Jeff Bezos is richest man in the world, not a bad thing, yeah for him, he achieved his childhood dream, or something like that, and I applaud his ingenuity and drive. Somebody’s got to hold that moniker, right? Yet, what did the richest guy in the world say when asked about sick leave for Amazon drivers who contracted Covid-19 during a global pandemic where his company stands to rake in more money than ever before — drivers who are out risking their health, BTDubs, to bring us our packages? He wanted people to donate sick leave to support them; he didn’t want to reach in his own pocket.
For a company that made over $11 billion in profits last year and did $280 billion worth of business, I’d say that’s a little bit love-of-moneyish, wouldn’t you agree, or to put it in blunter terms, downright greedy?
It is the love of money, not money itself that is the root of all evil. Money is simply a means of exchange. So when did it get so gosh darn blown out of proportion? If I had the answer to that, maybe we could fix a few things around here like health care and boosting people out of poverty, but the truth is, I have no idea why although I think it has something to do with feeling unsafe in the world. Let’s face it. Fear is a powerful motivator and things are moving at a fast clip. Money insulates you from a lot of life’s vicissitudes. Not everything, mind you, but many things, and if you’ve got it, you don’t have to worry about feeding your family or keeping a roof over your head, or having access to clean, safe water, luxuries that many of us in the developed world take for granted.
[The Greek meander key representative of our meandering through life.]
To be fair, Bezos did say he’d give two weeks of sick leave to any Amazon employee who contracted Covid-19, but the Amazon drivers, those men and women coming into contact with the public — or at least the public’s front porches — all day long, sometimes up to 12 and 14 hours a day, are not considered Amazon employees, but contractors and, therefore, not eligible for employee benefits. It’s not unusual. I work for the feds, and it’s the same deal there — contractors don’t get the benefits that employees do, but we don’t make a profit, our budgets are allocated by Congress, and we operate on an entirely different level than a Fortune 500 company that recently cracked into the top five highest grossing companies in the world. Usually contractors benefits are covered by their employer, yet Amazon contractors seem to be a scattershot of companies with very little oversight which looks to me to be very much by design.
Similarly, when Bernie Sanders pressured Amazon to raise the minimum wage for its workers to $15, Bezos bent, but did so disingenuously, passing the costs along to employees by eliminating their bonuses as well as Amazon’s stock unit program which paid some portion of employees salaries in stock.
The question is, why? Is Bezos a modern day Scrooge? He didn’t even pay taxes in 2018, why does he need all this money, or more to the point, why can’t he pay people what they are worth? The drivers delivering his packages are making him tons of moola. Can he give a little back so their health and well-being are safe-guarded? Is he hoarding? Saving for a rainy day? Isn’t that the kind of thinking that got us all into this mess in the first place with our planet cratering under the pressure of take, take, take, me, me, me, while we slash and burn, destroying natural resources so we can make cheap plastic crap, and there most certainly is not enough to go around so I better take what I can get now?
Then there’s Amazon’s carbon footprint — 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2018. Not the worst out there, but certainly not the best, especially when the retail giant is expected to come out of the pandemic stronger than ever. To their credit, Amazon is shooting to be carbon neutral by 2024. Now if they can just get that salary and health benefits thing worked out.
Look, I love Amazon and as you can see, I buy a lot from them, but couldn’t they be, IDK, a little nicer? Costco, one of my favorite retailers, pays its people well; Costco shares and shares, and the company is thriving. Is it really that important to be the richest guy in the world if no one likes you?
You can do better, Amazon. So can we all.
pam lazos 4.18.20