Intelligence

24,000 words about Jeff Bezos

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Within minutes of each other this afternoon, The New Yorker and The Atlantic published massive feature articles on Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos.

The stories, which come in at 13,000 words and 11,000 words, respectively, take a critical look at Amazon’s dominance in almost every aspect of the consumer supply chain.

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For The New Yorker, Charles Duhigg details the mounting regulatory scrutiny that’s come with Amazon’s “flywheel”-like growth. The company, which has nearly tripled its workforce since 2015, is now facing antitrust probes from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the European Union, while dealing with growing internal labour strife and revelations of its sale of illegal and deadly products.

The piece digs into the company’s last-mile ambitions—its outsourced courier system meant to rapidly connect its sprawling delivery networks. Brittain Ladd, a former senior Amazon logistics manager who spoke to Duhigg, warned the company that the system was designed to fail, writing in a memo: 

“I believe it is highly probable that accidents will occur resulting in serious injuries and deaths.” 

His recommendation to build the last-mile network internally were rejected.

Franklin Foer spent five months reporting for The Atlantic’s opus. But as he reminds readers, he’s been reporting on the company far longer, dating back to a 2014 piece in The New Republic titled “Amazon must be stopped,” which led the company to pull its ads from the magazine.

One issue Foer raises is the lack of diversity in Amazon’s most senior ranks, dubbed the S-Team. According to the report, the team—considered the closest to being able to read Bezos’ mind—includes just one woman, who runs human resources.

One former S-Team leader, a person of colour, told Foer that when top executives hear the word diversity, they interpret it to mean “the lowering of standards.”

Amazon told Foer that over 40 per cent of its global labour force is women.

Both stories are worth reading to get a sense of how Amazon, with a market cap of US$850 billion, is responding to ever-louder calls for the breakup of the FAANGs.