retail news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  Newsday reports that Amazon plans to open one of its Amazon Fresh supermarkets in Plainview, New York, on Long Island, in a location formerly occupied by a Fairway.

Amazon has not confirmed the story, and it is not known whether the location is one of 28 planned Amazon Fresh stores recently reported by Bloomberg.

Amazon has said that the Fresh concept stores offer "consistently low prices for all, and free, same day delivery and pickup for Prime members," as well as Amazon Dash Cart technology that "enables customers to skip the checkout line," and Alexa-based features "to help customers manage their shopping lists and better navigate our aisles," providing directions to shoppers as well as meal recommendations.

I'm intrigued by this report because the Amazon Fresh location is about five miles up the road from a Stew Leonard's store … and at the moment, there is a lot of chatter about an Amazon Fresh store potentially opening in Westport, Connecticut, which would be about five miles up the road from the original Stew Leonard's in Norwalk, Connecticut.  As I say, none of this is confirmed - but I'd be very interested to watch a Stew Leonard's vs. Amazon battle, especially if it plays out in several locations.


•  The Washington Post reports that Amazon is taking "an unusually combative tone on social media in pushing back against reports and tweets that its productivity demands are so intense that workers routinely urinate in bottles because they can’t take restroom breaks."  The reaction comes after several media reports in which Amazon employees said that "they had to urinate in bottles in their vehicles to keep up with productivity rates."

These claims have been documented by a number of journalists, but Amazon seems resolute about shooting the comments down as inaccurate.

On its Twitter feed, Amazon posted:  “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us.  The truth is that we have over a million incredible employees around the world who are proud of what they do, and have great wages and health care from day one.”

However, the Post writes, the Amazon tweet "drew immediate pushback from Twitter users, including journalists who linked to news reports documenting workers’ claims of having to forgo restroom breaks. Ken Bensinger, a reporter and editor at BuzzFeed News, tweeted a photo sent by a former driver that purports to show one trucking company advising drivers that they are responsible for cleaning their vehicles at the end of their routes, including 'urine bottles' under company policy."

I have a feeling about where this may be going - that in the end, it will be contractors that are found to be responsible for foisting such restrictions and rules on their employees, who are not Amazon employees.  And when such things happen among actual Amazon employees, it will be said that it is rogue supervisors who are responsible.

And then, Amazon will say that it cannot be held responsible for actions that it says are beyond its control.

Now, I'm not sure that any of this will be precisely true.  And I do think that Amazon's pattern of denial is a dangerous game.  It might be better to simply acknowledge that the company's rapid growth has meant that mistakes have been made and priorities have been misplaced … and then do better.