Published on: July 1, 2021
Got the following email from MNB reader Steve Ritchey:
The column about Amazon using computer algorithms for HR functions made me think of a couple of things I've been exposed to over the years.
Decades ago as a very young college student, in my Economics 101 class which was Macro Economics, the Professor, Dr. Shorow was talking about unemployment rates and how at that time unemployment of 5% was considered healthy for an economy as it was considered to be cyclical unemployment with people who are simply between jobs, moving from one to another rather than truly unemployed and frantically looking for another job. He admonished us, saying, "It's easy to look at these statistics and forget something crucial , behind these relatively low and seemingly healthy percentages are people who are out of work, frequently through no fault of their own. They aren''t statistics, they are people who need a job and frequently need one badly, don't ever forget that."
The second one is a rant done by George Carlin many years ago. He was on a rant about language and how frequently it becomes softer so hide the pain and suffering beneath seemingly benign terms. He used the WWI condition, Shell Shock as an example, he traced how it morphed from that to "Battle Fatigue", to "Operational Exhaustion" and by the time of the Vietnam Way, it was known as "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder", and all the humanity had been squeezed out of it.
I believe Amazon, in it's zeal to be profitable and to be the worlds largest retailer may be heading down that slippery slope to where the humanity has all been removed from the equation. I've already worked for several employers where I was a number, and expense to be written off the books when it became convenient to do so, I wasn't considered an asset, but a liability and a cost.
On the same subject, MNB reader Monte Stowell wrote:
"Star Trek" was one of the best TV shows of all time, especially the shows that highlighted The Borg - "Resistance is futile."
Fast forward to today, the modern version of The Borg is Amazon. Is resistance futile today in trying to do business with Amazon? It sure looks that way.
I've always argued that Amazon is either the Federation of the Borg - it all depends on where (or on what planet) you are sitting.
Yesterday we took note of a Wall Street Journal report that when product and service suppliers want to do business with Amazon, the retailing giant often has a condition for making a deal - those companies have to be willing to allow Amazon to "buy big stakes in their companies at potentially steep discounts to market value."
One of the companies that made such a deal - food wholesaler SpartanNash.
One MNB reader wrote:
I would have thought that someone at SpartanNash (or, at least, NashFinch) would have recalled how things worked out for them when they started out as the grocery supplier for Target in its early days of selling groceries until Target built out its system to the point where they could self-distribute…..wonder if this is heading down the same path with Amazon?
Another reader made an interesting point:
I find it interesting that SpartanNash after years of demanding slotting allowances from their suppliers now has to pay what is essentially a slotting allowance to Amazon. What goes around comes around. I love it!
From still another reader:
A Jack Nicholson movie quote comes to mind: “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
Extra credit for a movie reference I wouldn't have thought of.
I did a FaceTime yesterday about how Amazon has engineered a frictionless approach to returning items bought from Whole Foods - you just go on the app, say you didn't want it, and they refund your money without you having to even go back to the store to return it.
One MNB reader wrote:
Doesn’t amazon charge back the supplier of the brioche? That’s my experience on their return policy. Another example of Amazon leverage on the supplier. Fortunately, the return amount is small most of the time and just absorbed by the supplier.
Here's the deal - the consumer doesn't give a damn who pays for it. What's important is that the consumer didn't.
And, from another reader:
Or you can do what Walmart did to us recently. My wife bought some refrigerated packaged fish. She found out when she got it home that the package was torn open already. The next time I was there, I had some reading glasses to return, and I told them about the fish. I reminded them that this is Texas in June, and there was no way I was putting an open package of fish in my car to return to the store. They refused to refund my money, even though they clearly would not be able to resell the item. They told me they needed the item so they could return it to their supplier. For $4.74, they could have made a customer happy but chose not to.