I confess: I read this book on my Kindle—my eighth Kindle, no less!—and of course I bought the book from Amazon.com. As I have practically every other book I’ve read over the past dozen years. And I have to admit that I’ve bought lots of other stuff from the company over the years, including some really expensive items. Not so much because of the low prices, though I hardly object to them, as because of the easy ordering, Amazon Prime, and the exceptionally good customer service. But I find myself gritting my teeth after reading Brad Stone’s account of the Jeff Bezos story in The Everything Store.
This post was updated on December 28, 2020.
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone @@@@ (4 out of 5)
So, why do I carry with me like a massive weight on my shoulders a festering hatred for the company and for the pile-driving founder who has built it into the behemoth it is today?
Read Brad Stone‘s revealing book, The Everything Store, and you’ll understand perfectly why that weight on my shoulders is so heavy.
Take Amazon’s employees, for example. Not only does Jeff Bezos have a long history of verbal abuse directed at his employees—including senior executives who work closely with him—but he treats as a matter of principle denying them such modest benefits as free snacks and full reimbursement for using public transportation that are common in so many other large companies. In other words, he’s a skinflint. Bezos uses the excuse that he’s saving money to be able to offer customers the lowest possible prices.
Somehow, though, the man’s personal wealth keeps climbing. It’s now at a staggering $185 billion, according to the latest Bloomberg Billionaires index, making him the world’s wealthiest person. You’d think maybe he could afford to show a little appreciation for the people working for him.
Then there are the suppliers. You know about book publishers, of course. You may have seen your own neighborhood bookstore go out of business in recent years. Amazon wasn’t the sole cause, but it’s right up there at the top of the list. But it’s not just book publishers that Bezos treats with contempt. Stone includes an eye-opening account of the troubled relationship between Amazon and the prestigious German knife manufacturer, Wusthof. In order to gain access to Amazon’s seemingly unlimited customer base, the German firm is forced to run the risk that it will be put out of business by Amazon’s ugly habit of promoting cut-price suppliers of its own products. Why? Apparently because Jeff Bezos acts as though his libertarian creed requires him to defy not just any government-imposed limitations but rules or customs adopted by anyone else at all.
No doubt Jeff Bezos loves his kids—he divorced his wife—and is affectionate toward furry little animals as well. Maybe his close friends even like him. But both his reputation and Brad Stone’s deeply researched account suggest that he is a thoroughly despicable CEO. No amount of philanthropy (and the man does give away a lot of money) can possibly turn the Jeff Bezos story into a heartwarming tale.
Brad Stone follows the leading technology companies for Bloomberg Businessweek. The Everything Store is his second book.
For additional reading
I’ve also reviewed a novel that might interest you: The Warehouse by Rob Hart (Amazon on steroids in a grim near-future dystopia).
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