I work at Amazon, and I notice things that I’m not sure many people that work there in the same capacity as I do. I have a perspective of an MBA who has written algorithms in Excel that optimize throughput and operations that are conducted in the very building where I work. Trucks deliver tons of goodies from manufacturers, nearly all from China, and dump them there. Then they’re sorted, labeled, binned, and stored in bins as inventory to go out. The merchandise doesn’t sit around long at all. In some cases, just minutes or hours. It comes in, then is ordered, pulled from inventory where it sat in a bin, put in one yellow tote out of about ten billion that are in the building, and somehow make their way all over the country. But yellow totes are EVERYwhere.
So the item, when bought, goes from the bin to a tote, put on a conveyor, where it travels to packing. Depending on whether it’s a single item, or shipped as part of a multiple-item-order, they are assigned to a line that packs and sends them down to shipping. Along the way, they are scanned(they’re scanned all the time, and assigned ASINs) labeled, and has a manifest applied. Meaning a label which either is an address label or a SPOO, which is a scannable label that tells a scanner the item travels under on the conveyor what label to affix to it with the correct address. Then the packages all go down to shipping where they are loaded onto trucks and taken to the airport or spread out across the country for delivery. That’s the general plan. There are numerous things that can happen along the way, and problems that can arise, which are dealt with promptly. Everything happens at light-speed and in a blink of an eye. It’s fun to watch happen.
I’m involved all throughout the process. So I notice things and patterns and anomalies and methods and systems being used to optimize the speed and accuracy of orders being processed from incoming to outgoing.
But there’s a lot more that goes on in that monstrous building. We have a giant area for photographing merchandise. Which is interesting. We also have a medical area for employees and an HR “floor.” And a bunch of other stuff.
But the HR area is going away. This was a dedicated space for all employees to deal with HR issues, of which there are many with so many workers there. What’s changing is that Amazon is switching to using a chatbot that’s part of their app that we can access via phone, computer, or one of many kiosks in the building that also are connected to an internal network. We can view certain job-related functions and features of the app that we can’t access at home.
The HR employees that are at the site will be walking around the building, intermingling with employees. I’m not sure how this is going to improve things, because the app many times doesn’t work, and finding an HR worker who’s wandering around a million square foot building isn’t efficient or easy. I’m not sure what the catalyst for this decision was. The HR “floor” was a large area where the main entrance to the building is. There is also a security area, a learning/onboarding room, a learning area, and much more. So I don’t know what’s going to replace Human Resources. But I notice that the way Amazon goes, a lot of other large employers go. So if you’re in HR, your job is tenuous and going to be replaced by a bot.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that Amazon is shipping a ton of items for L.L. Bean and J. Crew. L.L.Bean made its mark via catalog sales and selling retail through the mail. But now L.L. Bean is using Amazon to sell and ship their items. That’s a huge pivot. Same with J. Crew. But L.L. Bean doing it makes a statement about the future of retail sales. Vineyard Vines, which is a brand that those two guys really made a mountain out of a molehill, sells a lot. A study of Vineyard Vines’marketong would be a great business case to study.
Pendleton blankets are stored in inventory a lot. I love them, which is probably why I notice. But I don’t see a lot being sold. Pendleton makes their blankets in Portland, Oregon, where they’re located, but their sweaters are made in Cambodia. Go figure. Here we have China making our gear for the United States’ NASA program.
GO U.S. SPACE PROGRAM! Made in China.
The things moving through that building en masse are what’s impressive. You can see what’s going on in America by looking at what people are buying a lot of. And the trends are sort of scary.
I see a lot of the following: home ear and body piercing kits; Earlobe hole stretching kits, North Face everything. North Face is killing it. So is Champion. Under Armour is also killing it. Addidas, Nike, Crocs, Levis jackets, and jeans somewhat, but especially shearling jackets. Burton jackets and gloves. Lilly Pulitzer. Vans t-shirts. Carhartt jackets and coveralls and socks. Carhartt is very popular. Legendary Whitetails is another brand I see a lot of selling that is new to me, but sells a lot. It seems to be made for big men.
In a previous post I wrote about how it’s amazing that with what must be over a billion dollars worth of inventory in a single location, basically all out in the open, that employees, which number in the thousands, don’t rob the place blind.
There are cameras everywhere, but you’d need an army of security personnel watching 1000 monitors full-time to spot anything, and even if they did, there wouldn’t be a whole lot they could do, the building is so massive. There is security by the front doors, and meandering about the building, but nothing to really worry about for a robber.
The preventatives that really stop people from stealing are: the items for the most part are too big to just walk around with or out of the building. I mean, where are you going to stuff a suit or a giant coat? Even a small item would be obvious. And it isn’t worth it. It’s not like we’re shipping Faberge’ Eggs.
Another factor is that if you’re working as you should, you don’t have time to steal. You’re too busy. There are timed quotas that you try to stick to, such as picking an item from inventory, then getting to the next item. You want to be productive, right? Another way they prevent it is to stash the items in inventory all over the place in no certain order. Today I picked face masks, probably 150, and they were stashed in about 50 different bins all over the place. They do that with jewelry and just about everything, except for smaller items that go in 1 foot by 1-foot cubbies. Miles of cubbies where you can’t really see what’s in them unless you’re right on top of it. And one of the things you’ll hear said is to “not go shopping in the bins.” Meaning don’t dilly-dally looking at stuff in the bins. Keep working. Also, picking things up in the bins can damage them, or get misplaced back into the wrong bin.
However, today while working in “picking” I saw several ways theft can run rampant, and probably does.
Something I notice is that many/most of the Indian and African employees end up working in “pick” or “Stow.” Those are jobs where they’re stowing away inventory that’s been labeled with ASINs and also going around picking items to go into totes to be placed on conveyors to be taken to packing.
Something that happens when Amazon hires lots of Africans and Eastern Indians is that they tend to congregate together. They don’t assimilate. They stay in groups at work, just as they do in society.
So I’ll see quite a few Indians huddled together that are supposed to be working in a group around open inventory, especially around the cubbies where jewelry and electronics and other small easily-concealed items are stored. Many if not most of the African and Indian workers are Muslim women. They wear a full hijab, which is basically a sheet that covers them head to ankle, with tennis shoes poking out underneath. They could stash tons of things under those hijabs and no one would notice, and no one would dare ask to look underneath. They could put on quite a bit of clothing underneath and you wouldn’t be able to tell. Amazon sells some expensive clothing. I saw a $178.00 men’s shirt today, for example. Not cheap. In fact, I would say most of the clothing Amazon sells is above average in quality and, respectably, cost. The cheapest stuff Amazon sells is its own brand. It goes by Good Wear or something like that, and I think Amazon bought the Starter brand, which we sell a lot of. It’s not really that nice. Lacoste, Coach…all the upper-middle-class brands you’d expect.
Same with a lot of the men. They wear loose African and Indian clothing that is great for hiding all sorts of things under. Do they do it? I have walked up on a few and given them quite a shock when they were kneeling down doing something weird. And not praying. Amazon provides praying rooms for them. I’m not trying to come across as racist or xenophobic, just pointing out some ways that I see things being taken easily. Amazon is a great place to work, but they don’t pay a lot, and when companies don’t pay much, there tends to be a lot of shrinkage. That’s taught in every business school because it’s true. It really makes a good argument for companies to pay higher wages, and reduce capital loss due to shrinkage, which also reduces insurance premiums. And the need for security and other resources are freed up.
Amazon management is unique. Or at least novel to me. No one is called a “manager.” And no one really manages in the traditional sense, since it’s an operational, fulfillment center, and not a typical manufacturing or retail or office setting. So it’s unique to me, in that sense. There’s “Operations,” “Process Assistants” and “Learning Ambassadors.” And of course, “Associates.” Tier 3, and Tier 1. That’s the hierarchy. Managers, assistant managers, associate managers, and peons. And seasonal peons. Regular, hourly peons are “Blue Badge” peons.
There are several areas that are managed. Like “picking” “packing” “sorting” “HR” “maintenance” “Safety” and a couple more that are necessary. Picking, packing and sorting, loading, inbound, and so on is the main focus of the facility. Operations. So within those areas, there are lots of employees. But the “managers” don’t really manage them. Not in a traditional sense. They don’t advise employees or work with them closely to optimize their productivity, review their performance with them, or do any human managing. They are more focused on getting things moved through the building accurately and quickly. HR takes care of the nitty-gritty HR stuff like hours. So while an “Operations” manager might be over 130 people, they don’t really interact with them daily or do any hand-holding. In fact, most of the training is trial by fire. Learn on the job. You learn the basics on a day or two of o-boarding done by omnipresent “leaning ambassadors” but other than that, you’re on your own to figure it all out. Those who can, do. Those who can’t leave. There’s a lot of attrition. You might think “that must be expensive to take in so many people who just end up quitting.” But Amazon gets their money back in hours worked usually before they quit. And the ones who stick around end up being the good and best workers. Many people there have worked there for 5, 10, or more years. The facility isn’t that old.
The trick to Amazon’s success is that Jeff Bezos has broken each part of the journey(s) into fail-safe, manageable, optimizable systems. Which are all part of one giant system. There’s not any way really one thing can go wrong. At least to the point of catastrophe. The whole place is basically run by kids. You see a lot of grey hair around the place, but overall, the people running the place are 20 and 30 somethings. They don’t have any experience, but they don’t need any. They just need to follow rules. No matter how dumb or senseless they may seem. Just show up to work and follow the rules. That’s all you have to do to succeed at Amazon, really. I am rewarded for being a top performer almost weekly. That shows how easy it is to excel and stand out there. I appreciate the (very )small recognition but it shows that there are very average expectations. And just by those being met, Amazon is arguably the most successful company in the world.
All items are assigned ASINs and everything is tracked by those numbers. When they move throughout the building, they are assigned bins when they are held in any place, which are categorized, and placed into totes, which have scannable numbers on every one of them, when they are in transit via conveyor belts. When purchased they are called out of the bin (picked), placed into a tote with other items that are rushed onto ta conveyor, sent to packing, where they are pulled out of the scanned tote, scanned individually(usually – if part of a multi shipment, they are scanned into another area and handled a little differently) packed into a box, paper mailer or plastic bag. Some items go to an area where the package is assigned a SPOO and sent to a machine to label it base don that SPOO and sent down to shipping, or in some cases sent directly to a packer that works in SLAM(Scan Label Affix Manifest) who puts an addressed label on it packed, and send it down to shipping.
Help is always available. Radios are placed strategically throughout to communicate with problem solvers.
While all this is going on, the Operations and Process Assistant guys and gals are constantly bent over wheelable carts with laptops on them looking at lord knows what, but I can guess having done operations management in business school.
These handheld scanners are integral for locating, picking, acquiring, toting and relinquishing the goods. It’s a mobile computer that runs on Android. There are a LOT of these in use at all times. And they’re always sanitized, cleaned and charged for our use.
They’re looking at throughput and how to maximize it. We have around 8 lines going at any one time with about 21 work stations on each line. They rarely are filled except for Peak season which is Black Friday through Christmas. Totes come down a conveyor that’s at head height and taken down, packed, and the packed items are placed on an outgoing conveyor about knee level that is scanned along the way down to a chute that goes to shipping down below. I work on a mezzanine.
The funny thing is, for all the technology and incredible computing power and IT craziness that’s going on, the conveyor will get jammed quite often, for all the packages heading down at once, with the different shapes on the belt. So it’s not uncommon for me to have to run around down to the end of the belt and get a broom or some sort of stick and unjam the mess and clear out the jam and get the paper or whatever might be causing the problem off the belt, and press a bunch of buttons which sound alarms and make the belt start up again. It’s comical, in fact. But that’s how it goes. And there’s something satisfying about physically fixing a problem and pushing a button and starting the operation going in a huge place like that. In fact, there’s one chute that always gets clogged because of static electricity that the poly mailers generate as they pass over the stainless steel plate. A shot of WD-40 would solve that, but for some reason, it remains a problem.
Working at Amazon gives me the opportunity to see first hand what America is buying in real-time. The data Amazon has on the world’s interests and buying habits is unbelievable. Very valuable data to be sure. What they do with it all is anyone’s guess, but it’s seriously valuable information to collect and possess.
I see all sorts of things come through our fulfillment center, in very large quantities, and I get a very good idea of what’s popular and can get a sense of what’s happening in America just by the patterns I see in items purchased in such large volumes by America and the world itself. But primarily America. We’re the big consumers. We aren’t the manufacturers, though by a long shot. I’d estimate 99% of every single item Amazon sells was made in China. That’s pretty serious if you think about it. Most people don’t because it means they can get what they want inexpensively, and fast, which is all they’re concerned with. But there are some grave implications for Americans buying every single thing we own from China. It’s usually designed here, prototyped here, then outsourced overseas, and then shipped back to us. Coincidentally, a good friend of mine rode in on the biggest container ship on the East Coast as it docked at the Ports Authority in Charleston, SC today. It’s massive. And full of junk we ordered from China. And another good friend of mine’s husband was one of the harbor pilots that helped bring that ship into the harbor. I miss Charleston.
I signed a document saying I wouldn’t reveal people’s addresses and names, and of course, I wouldn’t do that. But I can give out some details of what I see a lot of people buying and some interesting things I notice, seeing the number of items we process through our center. Hundreds of thousands of things a day.
But there are some noticeable patterns and things I notice.
Our center distributes smaller items like jewelry, clothing, shoes, electronics, books, and a bazillion other things. We don’t sell things like kayaks, bicycles, and weird big objects. Just things that can be boxed and bagged and shipped quickly. Hundreds of thousands of them a day. Our facility is on several floors and a million square feet, which is about 28 football fields. Today I walked almost 16 miles in our building according to the pedometer on my iPhone. 36,304 steps. How many jobs can let you do that?
So here are some things I’ve noticed working there over the past 7 months or so. I process a little less than 50,000 items a month. But I see a lot more than that that comes through there. And for the most part, it’s a lot of the same “type” stuff, and brands, and I try to spot buying patterns as well. Having the country on lockdown from the Coronavirus has led to the purchase of a lot of things that I don’t think usually are bought so much, which I’ll get to.
The first thing is we sell a lot of clothing. A LOT. And it’s easy to notice one thing, which is the sizing and how much material some of these bits of clothing have. Sizes like XXL up to 6XL aren’t uncommon. XL and 2XL, 3XL are very common, and I see Levi’s jeans with sizes that are waists of 58-60 inches and inseams of 30 inches. That’s a Weeble-Wobble. A lot of yoga pants, a lot of fleece and sweat pants, that all have names like “Peak Performance” which crack me up. The only performing the people wearing size 3XL sweat pants are doing is moving from their couch to the kitchen to the toilet. 6XL “club outfits.” The amount of denim in some of these packages of jeans is enough to build a sail for a boat with. America is very fat. And a lot of the clothing we sell revolves around that fact. Lots of fleece, loungewear, sweat pants, pullovers, and gigantic outfits of all types. And a lot of “clubwear” which is very tight fitting revealing clothing for oversized gals. Lots of corsets, plus-sized this and that. Lots of costumes and “sexy” cosplay outfits being sold. A lot of transgender accessories and kinky things that I won’t get into.
We also sell a lot of home tattoo and piercing kits. And body modification sets with all types of rings and bars to put through holes made in bodies. Where this trend came from I have no idea. But we’re selling a lot of it. People are piercing and tattooing their very overweight bodies. Blue jeans that are all ripped up looking are popular, too, which is funny to me. I’m not sure what “look” the people buying ripped up jeans are going for. Poor and homeless?
But there are certain brands that are VERY popular. If you are going to invest in brands these are the ones that are solid and on fire right now. Polo/Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, Under Armour, Puma, Lilly Pulitzer, North Face, Nike, Spanx, and Burton. Amazon sells a LOT of those brands.
And of course, Amazon has Amazon Essentials and Good Threads and its own line of items which makes Amazon a strong investment as well. We sell a gazillion Timex and Casio G-Shock watches, too. The good old brands that have been around for along time have held up well. If you were looking to buy stocks, these companies would be good long buys.
With everyone staying inside because of this virus, I guess people are feeling sexy. Because Amazon sells a TON of adult/sexy items that you wouldn’t believe. I won’t even get into a lot of the things that we sell a lot of because of decorum, but it’s incredible. A lot of weird things are going on in America’s bedrooms.
And with it being an election year and racism being a hot issue in the media all the time, I see a lot of Trump gear selling. Not much Biden. But a LOT of Trump. And I see a lot of books that the left are buying. A lot of Black Lives Matter buttons. And Antifa gear.
I saw a book today that I can’t stop thinking about though. This one:
Here’s the link: https://smile.amazon.com/Dont-Think-Elephant-Values-Debate/dp/B000A5CJZ4/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1600648278&sr=1-2
I stopped what I was doing a glanced through this “New York Times Best Seller.” It made me laugh out loud. LOL. I love satire, and this book, unbeknownst to the author, was satirical of itself.
This has been spawned from the internet I assure you. The utter lack of self-awareness of the author, the topic, and the entire thing is just hilarious. And it’s what I see so many people do, and it explains why there’s such a divergence in America about the best way we should go about solving societal, economic, political(which is a catalyst as well) and cultural problems.
We have one group of people who know how things actually work: the mechanisms, infrastructure, and history of the efforts of our forefathers before us that have told us what has already worked and what failed. And most progressives these days want to erase all that so there’s no way to cite or reference it authentically. So we’re dooming ourselves to repeat it. But there are people who know finance, government, banking, regulations, economic laws, the law itself/civics, as to know what is possible legally and what’s not and how things are derived in the US, and an overall education as to be able to know the consequences of taking certain proper, and certain improper actions. People that know, for example, what will happen if the minimum wage is raised to a certain point. One group knows the people, demographics, businesses, unintended consequences, and fallout that will occur because they’re educated and experienced.
Then you have another group who knows nothing about this. A foreign, scary world. Money grows on trees group. I’m noticing this group has a lot of the following types of people in it: liberal arts majors, coddled children, academics, politicians, dropouts, and ignorami. As evidenced by this very book, the world’s problems aren’t caused, governed, or manipulated by laws and precedent and action that causes an equal reaction. No!
What the problem is is that it isn’t FRAMED correctly. The issues aren’t being debated properly, which is why there’s friction. Instead of going back and learning how things should work right, instead of blaming the way they are presented and focus on the vernacular and language that FRAMES the ideas. This book teaches you how to argue using crap as your evidence, instead of learning that the other person may be correct, learn to argue your poor stance better! It’s Monty Python.
I looked up who the author of this book was out of curiosity. Who on Earth thinks this way? George Lakoff. A name that begs to be made fun of. And it’s no surprise at all to learn that someone who thinks how the debate is framed is more critical than the ideas and reasoning within the frame is academic. And he believes when not “framed” properly, conservative ideas are correct and prudent and reasonable, which they are. It’s just a matter of “reframing” them so that the truth and reality cease to matter.
This guy has spent his whole life in school on campus and the most liberal ones around, so he hasn’t ever been up to the surface to breathe fresh air, ever. Berkley, Harvard, etc… Unbelievable. A Doctorate in Linguistics. Makes sense he knows nothing about business, finance, economics, or how things really work in the real world.
But back to the world of hyperconsumerism in America.
A lot fo this country looks a lot alike. They wear a lot of masks sold by Bloch. A lot of North Face Sweatshorts and hoodies with large NF logos. A lot of Burton clothes, but don’t actually snowboard. A lot of HUGE Wrangler and Levi’s “slim-fit” stretch jeans, with waists sizes of 40″+. A lot of Loungewear, like fleece pants, black Yoga pants made by one manufacturer I don’t recognize, Fleece robes(XXL), and tie-dyed tops and dresses(XXL+). A lot of Track Suits and Clubwear, which are outfits that emphasize busts and booties and are bright spectacular colors and patterns, like camo, Flagman yellow, and orange. A lot of Camouflage for some reason. I guess if you’re XXXXL size wearing camo is a good way to hide your elephantine physique.
A lot of wigs, for cosplay. A lot of cosplay stuff. A LOT. Fishnets, Steampunk. A lot of black plague doctor bird masks, for nightmare fuel. Which my ex-wife picked up our daughter wearing the last time we had an exchange for our 5-year-old daughter, which I thought was inappropriate and represented the mental state she’s in.
A lot of kind of retro stuff, like Vans shirts and shoes, tie-dye, and ripped up blue jeans for women and kids. The legs have lots of horizontal tears going across them, which looks like something background actors wore in the 1980’s cheesy horror movies. Lots of leopard prints. the ’80s are making a groaning resurgence. I see African themed garments, which are all made in China. I see a lot of Eastern Indian traditional garments, which are very pretty and nice. Very ornate and richly colored with a lot of intricate accessories to go with them. I like them a lot personally and think they would go well if you were decorating a room in Bohemian or gypsy or craftsman style decor. Indian rugs and dark woods with earthy patterns and colors.
Along with all the relaxed lounge-wear for blobby bodies comes a ton of body-shaping items for when women go outdoors. So I see a LOT of corsets, Spanx body-shaping lycra hosiery, and mechanisms to tuck and hide the flab. So many corsets you’d think Madonna was in town. Giant bras. And speaking of which, we sell a frightening amount of fake silicone breasts. I mean, a LOT. Enough to make me embarrassed to walk among the women that work at Amazon for wonder of what they must think of us men. I see the delivery addresses of where they’re going, and it’s all men. Going to California, Pennsylvania, Texas, and NY mostly.
I don’t know what they cost, but I’ll bet they aren’t cheap. And they come in different sizes. Some of the boxes weigh a ton. It just goes right over my head. But it certainly makes you wonder some things.
We sell a lot of gay pride stuff including Calvin Klein’s “pride” edit underwear. There are a lot of LGBT activists that work at Amazon. None of it bothers me. Everyone is entitled to live their life as they please. I applaud individuality and recoil from mindless conformity. Which is why I have no tattoos and never will. The shirts, flags, rainbow accessories, and, yes, tattoos, that announce the fact you aren’t heterosexual are confusing to me, though. When someone’s identity is so reliant upon their sexuality, I don’t think that makes for a happy life. I mean, I know it’s none of my business, but I certainly don’t plan on spending my time, money, and energy letting the world know I’m heterosexual by means of flags, bracelets, bumper stickers, parades, groups of other people that are formed for the distinct purpose of focusing on heterosexual ideologies, and making sure the world knows I’m OK with anyone that doesn’t share my natural predispositions. There are bigger and better areas in life to spend my resources.
This time of year, hunting season, there’s a lot of Carhartt Jackets and gear sold. It’s good quality and durable. An endless amount of Crocs in every shade and pattern. The person that came up with that idea is a wealthy person, I assure you. And probably never wears Crocs. They’re awful.
The data Amazon has about each thing it sells must be worth a fortune. Knowing the buying habits and preferences of people with the amount of data, which makes for some serious accuracy when performing regression analysis and making predictive graphs and scatter plots, is like being able to predict the future of retail buying. It’s Business Intelligence gold. The knowledge I have from working there is substantial, and I love being able to use consumer psychology and social science to interpret what’s going on. I wish I could get hold of the actual data though. Like just about every other business person on Earth. But I can remember what I process working there, which is a lot.
One of the many nice things about working at Amazon is that I have a lot of time to think while I work. You need to be focused on what you’re doing, of course, but it’s the kind of work where there’s a lot of muscle memory involved, which allows you to get into a groove, and while you’re working away, you can start getting into some pretty deep thought about things. Part of my job is “picking,” which is going around and grabbing items people have ordered and loading them onto totes to put on conveyors to be evaluated, packed, loaded, and shipped out. I do a lot of picking and packing. I’m fast at both, and when I do it, I almost go into a trance where I’m hustling about doing my job, and at the same time, I’ll be thinking about all sorts of life concerns.
I do a lot of my best thinking when I’m walking because the blood is pumping to my brain, and I’m alert. Very alert. I work hard and fast, so the adrenaline is going, and the juices are flowing, and I’m focused. So I’ve learned that I can come up with some excellent thoughts while I work, which is another reason I like working there. I’m going to miss it, honestly.
One of the reasons I like it is because everything there is the best. It’s not the fanciest or most elegant, but it’s the best. Tools and vests are DeWalt, for example. The company has a lot of money, and it spends it on where it should. Everything is kept in tip-top shape, and it’s kept clean and working, and the temperature is very comfortable, and working there is pleasurable. You have to understand what it could be like, and is like, at other such companies doing the same things to have an appreciation for Amazon. When you used to think of “warehouse jobs,” you were talking about dark, dusty, dirty, rat-infested, hot, noisy metal and concrete buildings with filthy, cracked old cement floors. It smelled bad, had safety hazards everywhere, and was run by people that cut corners and, let’s say, weren’t focused on their jobs. Whether that was because of being on drugs, unhappy about being there, or just slack, or all of the above, it makes for a pretty poor work area. There are lots of places like that out there. Amazon is nothing like that, and for the young people that work there, they have no idea how nice Amazon’s operations are.
When you have as much money as Amazon does, everything is done right and done well. It’s often seamless and invisible. It just happens. Everything is kept clean and neat and loaded and working, and there’s no dust, grime, or germs anywhere in that building. It’s disinfected every day around 6 am, and everything is constantly wiped down, cleaned, and sanitized. There are workers constantly wiping down every nook and cranny and piece of equipment with sanitizing wipes there. It’s not just tidy. It’s sparkling clean. You could build semiconductors in that warehouse, which is crazy, as big and busy, and as much that goes on there. A lot of dirty people milling about moving a lot of dirty boxes and pallets and items: Amazon spends a lot of money and time making sure people are safe and healthy. LOTS. You can read all about it on Amazon’s blog.
They pay a lot of attention to the temperature there, which is really nice. The air control there is outstanding. Fans and cold air and huge tubes of conditioned air being spread and fanned about the building strategically. Where the inventory is, there are high-output fans that blow down the aisles, carrying airconditioned air from the giant outlets along the side of the building. Massive propellor fans spin around at the top of the ceiling in the open areas. Long sea-worm-looking tubes of air with holes along the sides and ends are distributed along with the packing stations. Keeping a building like that comfortable with that many people and machinery working in it has to be a massive effort. Amazon asks us how we like the temperature in there often, to make sure we’re happy with it. It makes a big difference. For one thing, the inventory has to be kept at a reasonable temperature. But that building’s temperature and air circulation are outstanding. It’s probably too cold for some of the women that work there, but for the hard workers and the many people who, let’s say, are quite overweight, the cold temperature is awesome. It really makes a huge difference between what could be Hell and what’s like being on vacation. It’s really something. It’s like a brisk fall day in there. One funny thing I notice is that the overweight workers that stock the bins all congregate in aisles where the coldest air blows out, like sea creatures all gang around volcanic releases of warm water deep down in the ocean.
One thing I think about is the shrinkage factor, meaning items that go “missing.” The building houses what must be a billion dollars worth of goods at any given time. You wouldn’t believe all the things that are stored there. It’s all categorized and put into cardboard drawers, and there isn’t a lot of rhyme or reason s to where things go sometimes. Bras might be in a drawer with charging cables and books and a box of cat food. But it’s all accounted for with ASINs. The items’ whereabouts are tracked throughout with scanners and travel through the building in big yellow totes. There are so many yellow totes in that building I’m sure they would stretch to the moon and back.
And the totes travel around on conveyors scanned by lasers and air and move throughout the place. Miles of conveyors. All leading to the core of the building. It’s one way I know how to get around there; follow the direction of the conveyors. They all lead to the “heart” of the building. And from there, they’re parsed out to the packers to process and prepare for distribution. The engineering is pure genius.
So back to controlling theft. With so many items around and that many employees in that big building, it seems like the theft would be rampant. We sell small items, too, like jewelry, accessories and clothing, and electronics. You’d think Amazon would be getting robbed blind.
But they don’t. There are security cameras everywhere for one thing. But traditional security isn’t what keeps shrinkage down. What does is a combination of a few factors.
One is that workers are kept so busy that they don’t have time to take anything. If you’re really doing your job, you don’t have time to pause and evaluate how to “steal” something, which brings up the point where the thief would put it. Most items can’t be shoved into a pocket. Bags aren’t generally allowed in the building. Women bring clear bags with their things in them. And most of the items are packaged, so you don’t even know what’s in them anyway. You’ll know the ASIN, and some general descriptors, like color, brand, size, etc… but nothing to indicate the value. Very plain generic packaging with a general description and an ASIN assigned to it. But there’s no time to steal if you wanted to. You’re timed from picking point o the next, and once you’ve grabbed your item, it’s off ot the next bin. And when you’re packing, it’s just a flurry of putting items in bags and boxes and applying shipping manifests on them and onto the conveyor to the shipping department they go.
I notice a few things around there. One is all the diversity. Everyone who wants to be an individual by applying tattoos and coloring their hair and getting strange haircuts, just like everyone else, is there. I must be the only person without a single tattoo. Some must spend all their money on tattoos because they’re covered. Male, female, in between, whatever. And lots of piercings, nose, lips, eyebrows, and stretching out the earlobe like play-doh. When they come in without jewelry, and it’s just dangling, it looks so, so nice.
People of the same culture seem to be able to find one another without any problem. When I’m picking items for packing, I’m hustling around the bins and will see groups of people talking in their native language. Spanish is common. But there are a lot of Africans that work there, with a very foreign tongue. No Europeans anywhere. I hear a lot of Spanish. And I see a lot of French on monitors. Women wear the full hajib ensemble, covering every inch of their bodies. At the same time, they pick and pack lace corsets and all kinds of sexy clothing and accessories and trinkets and toys and erotic items.
A secret Amazon has is that it sells a TON of sexual goodies. Whatever your desire, they have you covered. I see some eye-opening products coming through that warehouse, which I won’t get into due to decorum. But there are a lot of people having a lot of fun out there. And there are a lot of twisted people out there. Cosplay is HUGE. As is bondage. Who knew?
Walking through the building reminds me of walking around NYC and going through the ethnic districts, back when you could safely walk around NYC. You hear all sorts of dialects and see lots of traditional clothing, which Amazon sells. And is made in China. Nearly everything going through that center was made in China. I picked out a Dashiki ensemble the other day. That was made in China. And I see lots of “African” clothing that’s made in China. It begs the question, at what point does it just become a costume? China is supplying America with anything we can dream via Amazon.
Something that’s equally as hard to come to terms with is the sizing of clothing Amazon sells. There are a lot of familiar brands that go through there. The North Face is doing HUGE business. So is Spanx. And Under Armour. Burton’s another. If you wanted to invest in stocks, those are some solid players: champion, PUMA, and Levi’s. And I constantly see 5XL and 3XL, and I saw a 50-inch waist and 30 inseam for jeans, until the other day I saw a pair of 60/30 jeans. There’s no way someone that has a waist twice the inseam is putting on jeans by themselves. I need video.
But America is FAT. And shameless about it. Buying “clubbing” clothes in 3XL. Bright yellow and neon green and sequins everywhere are unnecessary when you’re the size of a house. I’m amazed by the clothing I see bought. The amount of material that goes into them is enough to set up a circus tent. People’s pants are packaged like sailboat sails. I’m not kidding.
Incidentally, the lights on each row of bins will light up when you approach and go off as you leave to save energy. Like at the grocery store. That’s gotta save some major $. And in the packing area on the Mezzanine, the lights will brighten and fade/shade as if you’re outdoors and the clouds are going in front of the Sun. You notice it sometimes, but I have to imagine that’s intentional. We have windows, but they’re microscopic compared to the building’s size, so there’s not much functionality to them.
The building is immense. And it’ll play tricks on your brain. Everything there is standardized and a lot of stuff looks similar so you’ll see engineering repeated throughout. and there aren’t a lot of decorations or things you can use as mile markers to get your bearings. It reminds me of deep-sea diving when you get so deep you lose the light of the Sun, so you don’t know which way is up. You have to use instruments. And bubbles. It’s a similar experience astronauts must experience in space, being weightless and having no “up” “down” or horizon to position yourself. You’ll find yourself in the building with nothing to grasp onto to find your way out. It’s crazy.
Something else worth noting, albeit anecdotal, is that there is a TON of Donald Trump stuff selling. Coins, flags, pins, hats, shirts, you name it. There is tiny Biden/Harris coming through. Quite a bit of #BLM stuff, like buttons and rubber bracelets and ANTIFA, wear for scrawny 120 lb. nerds that have decided to come out of the basement and try their LARP moves on real people that will crush them into gorilla cookies. I also see a lot of steampunk clothing moving through there, which makes me wonder who these people have so much time on their hands and money to squander that they can get dressed up and go around looking steampunky? Government employees are the only possible answer I can come up with.
Amazon‘s an incredible company. Its shares have risen 70% this year thanks to the China virus, making its value around $1.56 TRILLION. That’s a lot of dough. And the founder, Jeff Bezos, unsurprisingly, is the world’s richest person with a personal worth of around $186 billion. Not bad. He’s a mad genius to pull off what he has, to say the very least.
And he has no intention of slowing down. Amazon’s on a hiring spree, and it is a solid company. A great investment in other words. Some companies are easy to identify as such. Tesla. Netflix was one back in the day. I bought that stock when it was about $5.80 but had to sell it to survive. And I can pick stocks very well. Unfortunately, I don’t currently have play money to parlay into massive wealth.
In any case, and relatedly, I happen to work for Amazon. And when I got to work yesterday I was informed the media would be there during the morning and I would be the person to represent the company.
I’m glad I showered. There are thousands of people that work at that location, and I’ve mentioned before how diverse the makeup of Amazon is. Lots of languages and religions represented. The cultures are a breadbasket of every imaginable sex, shape, color, and belief. I saw a drag queen there one day. Everyone has tattoos and colored hair and dresses as they want, from pajamas to full body hajibs. Mohawks, mullets and every color and style of hair you can dream of. Body modifications, piercings, and facial accessories galore. Today was actually a day they wanted people to come to work in their pajamas to raise money, and I thought “people wear their pajamas in here to work every day. Am I the only one that’s noticed?” Apparently so.
So when it’s time to present Amazon to the public, who do they turn to? Who is it that they think Amazon looks like? A West-coast Seattle company that is all about breaking the norms and achieving the best? Apparently a middle-aged white man. I find that interesting. There are lots of men and women that work there who are older than I am. And many, unsurprisingly, who are younger. And every nationality around: lots of Africans, Asians, Hispanics….not many Europeans, though. Many women. And men who want to be women and vice versa. Thousands of people to choose from. And Amazon chose me. I also think has to do with the fact I do my job very well and I tend to dress relatively nicely. But it was flattering.
As the media and politicians sustain this COVID-19 mess until November 3rd, when I have a feeling it will miraculously abate, it makes looking for jobs all that more complicated—and hiring for employment on the flip side. Everything has to be done virtually, which I have no problem with, but many companies still haven’t been able to adjust to the disruption as smoothly. It’s been costly in so many ways. I have friends paying rent on buildings where no one’s going—and then having to hook them up with the technology so they can WFH.
Plenty of companies have put out openings for jobs they think they may have, contract-type jobs, and some have legitimate openings. Even with the pandemic, it’s a better job market than when I graduated with my undergraduate degree. And I’ve had some great interviews lately that I believe will turn into something fruitful. I’m feeling optimistic.
I’m still working at Amazon in the meantime, though, as a “placeholder job.” I don’t mean that as a slight to the job itself, the people that do it, or in an arrogant way at all. Not only am I happy to have the job, but I also enjoy it a lot of the time. I’ll bet many people can’t say that. It allows me to stay healthy physically and engages me mentally, and myjob(s) there have a gamification aspect to them, which keep them interesting and make the time go by very fast when I’m there.
There are a lot of people that work at Amazon. A lot of very different people who have very different backgrounds, stories, and motivations for working there. I’ll bet there isn’t a more diverse company on Earth. And the people that work there are generally pleased and like working there a lot. That includes me. It’s not what I’m qualified for or in my vision for what I have planned long-term, but it offers some special skills and unique, meaningful work. If I had to gripe about anything, it would be the socialistic compensation pay program and the also rather socialistic management styles and tactics. But that’s about it. Getting around the enormous rat maze that’s our building could be made more straightforward, but there must be a reason it’s like it is.
I get to see and be part of the way the most significant and most valuable company on Earth does business, and it’s something to behold. They do take good care of their employees, and take good care of their facilities and keep them clean and above-par as far as safety, and a working environment goes. Top-notch. It’s all standardized and data-driven. It’s how the government should be run; if it had to obey the same rules and regulations as the private businesses, it depends on for fuel.
Amazon’s Standard Work Tenets
They offer good benefits and want their employees to feel like they belong, are heard, and have a voice there, which is a feat with hundreds of thousands of people yelling about something.
The building where I work is enormous, and it’s several floors. And everything is grey and yellow and looks the same. That means if you aren’t careful, getting lost in, there is a real possibility. It happens all the time. I’ve been a rat trapped in a maze in there many times, and it feels reminiscent of nightmares I had as a child, where I was trying to escape some vast wild world and couldn’t. It’s like being in space, where you don’t know which way is up or down (what floor you’re on) or where in the building you are. You could be anywhere. I have total freedom to roam, and there are no landmarks or ways to gather your bearings at all. It’s vast and endless, and did I mention enormous? And that’s just one operations facility. It’s a big one, but still, there are dozens. The operations there are insane. There are lots of people in the building and you could go a very long time without ever seeing a single solitary person. I’m sure I’m being watched though. There are cameras everywhere of course. The security there is a joke for the most part. I’m sure they’re well-trained, and diligent, but they aren’t there to defend the castle, should we be invaded by a Wal-Mart Army, for example. I’ve never seen anyone get in trouble for anything there, no matter the infraction. I’m sure it’s happened, but such an occurrence would be so isolated and stomped out so quickly, no one would ever now if something happened.
Conveyors and yellow totes are whirling all around you containing the latest and most extraordinary items the world has demanded and will be receiving in a day or two. The genius that Jeff Bezos has demonstrated by building such a company is astounding. Learning how it operates is a thrill as an MBA. I drink it all in. There are so many things to wonder about and be in amazement of in that building I don’t even know where to start. It’s an engineering marvel. And a construction masterpiece. A technological undertaking on the grandest of scales. To be built as well as it is to work as hard as it does and do the things required of it, day in and day out, and be kept in such immaculate shape and chugging along and safe and comfortable is mind-blowing. Technology helps with a lot of it, but it’s all out of sight. Things just work, which is an exemplary design.
I can see what’s trending in America and what this country is buying in real-time. I won’t get into that here, because frankly, it’s a bit disturbing. But it’s fascinating from a sociological perspective as well. I will say this: our population is very overweight and likes to have fun in the bedroom.
What’s nice is working somewhere you now you don’t have to stay forever, but still enjoy working there while you do, and they make it super-easy for me to interview and exit. And if I ever wanted to work for Amazon again, I have no doubt they’d hire me right back. It’s good to have something like that in your hip pocket in these uncertain times. There are lots of people who are there to make it their career. And lots of “elderly” employees, which is excellent. And lots of young ones, too. Lots of just about every type and shape, color, ethnicity, gender, and whatever label you have for a person works there. As long as you work hard and are halfway driven, they will make a place for you to help. I hear so many different languages spoken there, and see so many cultures represented; it’s like a World’s fair. Deaf people, amputees, people right off the boat, felons, runaways, retirees…you name it. And even MBAs.
A lot of the work there is great if you’re an idiot savant. There is so much volume, so many items coming through at such a fast pace, and everything is done so quickly that you need a brain that works like a computer to do some of the jobs well. People would be surprised at how mentally and physically demanding some of the typical jobs there are. It seems like you can do and go as far as you’re willing and able. They keep tabs on your productivity and quality no matter what you’re doing. Time off task and any useless nonsense are monitored as well. That’s not to say you can’t and shouldn’t take breaks or regroup every now and then. You have to, and they encourage it. But you’re expected to work towards and achieve if not break goals.
I never had a doubt that Amazon would become the world’s most valuable company, and make Jeff Bezos the richest man in the Universe. It did, and he has, just as planned. He’ll be a trillionaire. That’s pretty rich.
Amazon has the scale and abilities to take over the world and beyond, and I have no doubt it will. It was designed to succeed at scale, and it has. It’s what makes it so successful. So the bigger it gets, the more prosperous it becomes and it’s like the snake that eats its tail. Elon Musk and his companies will be right there behind him. Apple, Microsoft and the rest are has-beens. Yesterday’s news. Google doesn’t have the type of people it needs to be alongside them. Google has brains, but it takes more than brains to do what Jeff and Elon have planned and are doing. Google is a more insidious company, as well. As is Apple.
Ways to cultivate your vocabulary. These days, there are lots of tools to do this. There’s a screen saver that introduces you to new words. There are apps that help you expand your word set. Reading of course helps, and when you come across a word that you don’t know, look it up write it down or ask Siri or Google what it means. Read thoughtful pieces by people that have large vocabularies. William Buckley was a great role model for this, God rest his perspicacious soul.
It may also help to learn how words are formed. I took Latin, so I know the basis for a lot of our language, which helps. But if you remember your English lessons or studying for the SAT you might recall that words are made up of parts, which can be transfixed to one another.
Another way might be to read poetry. Poetry may not be for everyone, but give it a chance, and once you realize its function and how to read it as intended, it can be pleasurable. A lot of people become frustrated by poetry, which is understandable. If you don’t approach it with an open mind and with the right toolset, you won’t get anywhere. Keep a dictionary handy, or a way to look up the various meanings of words. Many words have different meanings, and used jointly, is what builds context and weaves a tapestry of art that becomes poetry. You can see what the author is trying to express, and use your mind to extrapolate and try each meaning of every word to see what works best. It takes time and patience, as does everything that’s worthwhile in life.
An interesting thing happened in my family recently. A tragedy, by any measure, to be sure.
Two women in my rather small family recently wrote another member off entirely, after calling their perspective on life “evil and delusional.” Pretty harsh. Both women are in their mid-seventies and have been married several times each. I don’t know if that has anything to do with their mindset, but those are some commonalities. One is very leftist politically, and the other very conservative. (I can’t use the label “liberal” anymore because it’s been redefined to the point of being nearly undefined.) They don’t share much in common other than age and my late mother as the fulcrum that brought them together. They are from the same hometown, Albany, Georgia, but couldn’t have been any different growing up. And are still opposites except for their sanctimony. One was a mousy introvert growing up, and the other a spontaneous activist-type that believes the world should know what’s on her mind at every moment. I love them both.
The interesting part of this arrangement they’ve decided on is where they each come from and what they did to reach their judgment and pass down their similar sentence to the person who happened to, unfortunately, land in their stern, but obviously fair, sights.
One is a person who presents herself as a devout Christian. As devoted as imaginable, with a prayer room in her house replete with an entire library, and love for proselytizing and posting scripture all over Facebook and sending it out unsuspectingly via text with no explanation offered. She lives in the heart of the bible belt in Alabama.
The other woman is her sister-in-law and lives in the Gomorrah of the US: Denver, Colorado. She and I have spoken of her interest in spirituality, many years ago, and she’s given up Christianity, dabbled in Buddhism and read about a few others it sounded like, and as far as I know, has ended up agnostic. There’s no evidence to the contrary.
Which begs the question: what does an agnostic base evil upon? There must be a set of commandments, decrees, rules, or life boundaries to determine what is right and what is evil. With no moral rudder to speak of, what is “evil” based upon? That’s one point of pontification. You can’t have “good” without “bad.”
The other is that the other lady held court in absentia. Meaning, brought that person in question into her court, held court without that person able to defend themself, without charges ever being mentioned, and held them guilty, and passed down judgment and punishment all without informing the “defendant” what she was doing or why. It still hasn’t ever been told what brought on her decision. Both of them did this.
But what is interesting is that for years she has sent out scripture about how wrong it is to judge others. The Bible says it, Jesus says it, and it’s a core belief among Christians, which you’d better believe she counts herself among.
These women got together and talked about the person behind their back and concluded together that their “perspective on life is evil and distorted.” And never speak to them again or have anything to do with them again. No reason was given, just the harshest of sentences handed down, final and just, and for all eternity, with no appeal. And they’ve gone on their merry ways to judge another. My aunt in Alabama felt the decree was relevant enough to inform the person via a brief text, and the other sent out no notice whatsoever.
Evil and distorted, indeed. Do their actions constitute benevolence and straight-shooting? In their high esteem, yes, it does.
An open book is how I live my life. I tell people that, and they probably don’t give it a second thought. I wouldn’t expect them to. But it was a pivotal decision I made and one I haven’t regretted yet.
What it means to live your life as an “open book” is that you offer yourself to total scrutiny. Plunder, plod, and pick through anything I have to offer. If I step out of line, I welcome people to tell me so, so that I can address it and try to correct whatever the problem is.
Living life as an open book keeps me accountable and helps ensure I’m setting a proper example for my daughter. Between that and the liberation that living this type of life provides, I find it to be a lifestyle that pays many dividends.
I don’t lie. That’s a statement many people make, but I back it up. If someone thinks I’m lying about anything, they have the freedom and opportunity to tell me so, and we can discuss why there’s a miscommunication. Because I simply don’t and won’t lie. That can create some sticky situations, of course.
I don’t play into the Santa Claus charade each Christmas. It was a hard decision to make and try and navigate, but so far, so good. My daughter’s mother and her family play it up to the fullest. That’s their decision, but I’ve found it doesn’t make my stance any more difficult.
People don’t like hearing the truth all the time. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. I try to be as tactful and considerate as I can, of course, but ultimately, it’s their medicine to either take or spit out. I don’t lie to people, and I also don’t lie for people. I’ve encountered situations where someone lied to me, insisted they didn’t, and, contradicting hard evidence that it was them that fibbed, they expect me to allow it to pass by and just absorb it. In other words, lie to me. And others, if questioned about the incident. And basically for me to say I was the one who lied. But I won’t fall for it. It might seem obvious how just a little “white” lie can spiral out of control.
Living life as an open book removes the baggage that some people carry with them their whole lives. They have to remember what they said to certain people, and they have to cover things up continuously. I don’t have to do that. You can be sure that what I told you is factual as best as I know. And if it’s not, then we can make it so because that’s the point.
I’m not perfect by a million miles. No one is. Some people can’t accept that fact. They believe they’re beyond reproach. But I’m humble, and admit I screw up sometimes. Sometimes big-time. I’m only human. But when you own the mistake, people are usually more forgiving and willing to help clean up the mess. It’s when you refuse to accept the responsibility that things get ugly. I invite people to call me out. Not many people will tell others that.
There are all types of unpleasant things people don’t want others to know. And that’s fine. I certainly wouldn’t tell someone else how to live their life any more than I would want someone to tell me how to live mine. Some surely couldn’t live the way I live, and that might be for the best. But I don’t have any horrible secrets. The big things that have happened in my life that others might be inclined to hide away are opportunities for me to help others that may have experienced the same thing and at least talk about it and get new ideas and perspectives.
Lying is just one activity that I avoid. Of course, there are lots of others that I steer clear of, just like most everyone else. It requires me to make the best decision with the information available that I can, without worrying about ancillary ethical aspects.
Setting a good example is a top priority for me when it comes to my daughter. Parents can tell their children to do something and not do something, or think specific ways, and it’s going to go in one ear and out the other. What sticks is seeing what you(I) mean consistently. I don’t ever ask any more of other people than I would ask of myself, so “Do as I say, not as I do” is awful parenting, and management of any sort, strategy. You’ll never gain any respect from others being a hypocrite. If you talk the talk, you must walk the walk. No matter how hard that walk might turn out being.
But this isn’t a parenting lecture. As I’m sure, some people would render it. It’s meant to be a statement of how abundant life can be when you shed the weight that many people carry around with themselves every day. It’s consistently liberating, and it frees up time that otherwise would be spent bickering about “he said/she said” type situations. Communication is more transparent, which is an enormous advantage. Solutions should be found more quickly. That depends on the other party, which is the significant variable.
I’ve been working at Amazon for the past three months. It’s a job that I don’t mind, for the most part. It’s not what I’m qualified for, which is why I’ve been interviewing and looking for other opportunities every single day. But I need to work somewhere to pay bills and keep a cash flow coming in. The COVID thing disrupted the whole planet and has made it hard to bring on new employees at the level I’m looking for. I get it. And I’m patient.
Some people try to classify jobs as above or beneath them. There’s no shame in working. There’s shame in not wanting to work and not doing an excellent job of the job you have. And I’m consistently in the top 5% of the 2100 or so people that work there in terms of productivity and quality. I hover around 96.7% and have floated around that for the time I’ve been there once I got the hang of the job, which was quick. They do an excellent job of onboarding new employees because they will hire pretty much anyone who can pass some criteria. You have to pass a drug test, which eliminates most of America. You have to have a brain. That removes a lot of the rest. And you have to want to work hard. That eliminates a lot of others. So they have a lot of turnover. Of the 30 or so that onboarded with me, only two others remain. That’s a pretty high dropout rate, which makes you wonder what a lot of Americans do to earn money.
It’s not mentally exhausting by any means, but it does require a bit of focus and the ability to work at a consistently fast pace, and it’s physical, which I enjoy. As I get older, I cherish opportunities to exercise and keep in shape. I’m in great shape. That means I can play with my daughter and keep up with her and haul her around in her wagon and carry her 45-pound monkey frame around with me wherever we go. I can scoop her up and take her with one arm for about 10 or 15 minutes before needing to switch arms. With her wiggling the whole time. That’s pretty good for a man my age and size, I think. Far better than most Americans who can barely lift their butts off the couch.
Amazon keeps track of all sorts of data, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. They monitor everything. It’s a huge company. The most valuable company on Earth. And it didn’t become so by cutting corners. They have a unique culture there. It’s a Seattle based company, which means it was born out of left coast ideals. And not surprisingly, it’s a “liberal” company. Jeff Bezos, the founder, and President owns the Washington Post. A media outlet that consistently hands out liberal/leftist propaganda. That’s indisputable, although I’m sure some people would want to try. They would fail because of the mountain of evidence that exists.
I probably broke about fifteen Amazon rules taking this photo, but as I said, I’m an outlaw!
And I don’t write much about politics on my website, but we’re in an election year, and there are political goings-on afoot. And I follow politics intimately. I always have because I have a member of my family that worked in a short-lived administration back in the 1970s, and it sparked my interest as a child when I visited the White House. I have a photo floating around somewhere of me behind the vice president’s desk with my feet up on it as a kid. I’d love to find that. I’ve been on a personal tour of the White House.
But I suddenly found a strict parallel between how Amazon is run and how the left in this country wants things to be run. Amazon is enormous, and I believe it almost represents the USA in it’s demographic and societal makeup. Maybe more than I know. They hire some interesting people. They certainly don’t discriminate. I’ve seen deaf people being taught how to do their job via sign language. I see women amputees. There are a lot of Africans that work there. And Hispanics. And don’t forget gay people. They are everywhere there, which is fine. One of the first “Learning Ambassadors” that I came across had more makeup and hair product than a Vegas showgirl. And he was male. They’re unusually flamboyant. Uncomfortably tight shorts, Most people there seem to be tattooed. Girls with mohawks, buzzcuts, and every color hair imaginable. Lots of body modifications, like giant holes in the earlobes. I, and Amazon, applaud their “individuality” like everyone else there. It’s ok to look different, as long as you look the same. Since I’ve been there, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go and the types that stick around and who’s management material.
I studied operations management while I was getting my MBA, so I’m not unfamiliar with the way Amazon works. I used to write algorithms to optimize throughput for companies like Amazon in Excel for practice. So I’m not their everyday shift monkey. I wonder what training my “managers” actually have. Amazon doesn’t use the terms “manager” or “supervisor” or “director” or such delineating and appropriately descriptive tags for employees. They are referred to as “Process Assistants” and “Learning Ambassadors.” They aren’t there to manage you. They’re there to assist you. And they do when you need it or “the system,” tells them that something needs to be corrected or worked on, like a quality issue. It’s all done via computer. Each one is attached to a laptop they carry around to show them what to do. Everything is monitored, and it’s as if an AI brain dictates what to do next.
And if there’s a problem, they usually are on it fast. It’s a great place to work when issues are identified and looked at so quickly. Everything happens there rapidly. It’s what makes Amazon Amazon. We get your orders to you fast. There isn’t much human interaction, which is by design. People cause errors, not computers or robots.
And that’s something that struck me when I was reprimanded the other night by a “Process Assistant.” A young guy I like a lot, of the three or so managers in my area. No one knows who does what. My “Supervisor” never introduced himself. He just goes around asking if there’s anything I need or if there’s anything to talk about, which is good, but it’s sprung upon me as he walks by my work station so that I have nothing prepared. One second he’s there, the next, he’s gone. If we were to have a sit-down meeting or review, as most companies do, I would have a long list of issues to discuss, of course. I’m asked when I check in to my work station via computer a series of questions like “Do I trust my supervisor?”
Well, if I answer “No,” then I’m deeming him untrustworthy, which I don’t even know him well enough to make that call. If I answer “Yes,” then I’m saying I know him well enough to trust him, which I don’t. I don’t know him at all. And those are the types of questions that greet you when you get ready to work your shift.
Keep in mind this description of my work-life is what I perceive the left in the USA wants to have as a governmental style. “Do you trust your senator?” Answer yes or no.
So when I ended my shift, at 5:00 AM, I went to the breakroom to grab my Coke I left in the refrigerator. It was actually about 5:10-5:15, because I worked until 5, and then clocked out and cleaned up my area and did the things I needed to for the next person that would work where I was. I believe in working the time you’re supposed to, and not bailing at 4:45 or 4:50 like I see others do. So there’s no one left by that time. Just me and the managers, and even most of them are gone by that time. The million square foot area is a ghost town. Just a lot of conveyor belts and workstations and machinery to keep the place chugging along at a good clip.
And then I did the unthinkable. I went down the stairs that were meant for people to go up.
These are the stairs that, under normal circumstances, people would go up one side and down the other on the other side of the railing, which splits the stairs into two. Because of social distancing, these stairs were made into “UP-ONLY” stairs, and to get to down from the mezzanine, which is where I work, I would have to travel about 100 yards across the floor, go down the stairs, then walk back to the exact location the UP-Only stairs led, which was the main entrance/exit of the building. I ran down the stairs and out the door. Total time: 3 seconds. No one else was around, except the security guard down below. No one. It was the end of the workweek as well, which means people fled the building even more hurriedly than usual.
The Scene of the Crime.
And when I returned three, almost four days later to work, I had a reason to approach a process assistant(manager) about an issue/anomaly I discovered. This is a guy I like, although he wears his hair in a man-bun. And he’s probably at least 20 years my junior. But he’s approachable and pleasant. And sometimes he’ll play music over the PA system when it hits the 4:00 hour, and we’ve all been good little workers. A special treat, where people shout out and whoop across the giant building, and it reminds me of prison movies where you can hear inmates yelling and singing across the echoing halls.
And he said, “I need to talk to you about how you left your shift the other night.” I knew exactly what he was talking about, and it was hilarious. I replied and asked if he was talking about going down the up stairs. Of course, he was. And his response was, “It’s like these masks – I don’t like wearing them, but we have to.” But it isn’t like that. We do wear proper masks at work to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. It’s more like if I was in an empty building and took off my mask and a voice came over the PA system and said: “Mr. Musgrove, please put your mask back over your face, for the safety of yourself and others.”
It hit me that Amazon expects its employees to be mindless drones. Don’t think for yourself, just do what you’re told, and you’ll be happy because we said so.
Ours is not to question why?
Ours is but to do or die.
This type of totalitarianism is precisely what the left in the USA is demanding right now, with their “CHOP” zone in Seattle, where Amazon’s headquarters is located. Rationed music, pre-approved happiness, and “be like everyone else.”
One of the things my job provides is a glimpse into what’s trending across the US, what people are buying as a result of some cultural catalysts. I see a lot of White Fragility books going out these days with the #BLM craziness. And something I’ve sent out en masse is a Sesame Street book titled “We’re different, we’re the same, and We’re all Wonderful.”
I get the intention, but this is teaching a falsehood to children. We ARE all different, correct. And most of us have the potential to be wonderful. Not everyone turns out to be, which is evidenced by just looking on social media. But we’re not all the same. That’s collectivist, socialist propaganda. It’s ok to look different in other words, but it’s not ok to think differently. We must all think the same way. And who gets to decide what we believe? Lately, it’s the media and politicians, which is a joke. They don’t have your best interests at hand, I assure you. No one but yourself will ever take care of yourself as you will. That’s a fact. But some people are more than willing to turn over their minds to others. That’s a shame and frightening. The manager that scolded me for going down the upstairs when no one else was in the building has given his mind to Amazon to control. And a lot of Americans want to give their minds ()to “the government” to use.
I watched the President’s State of the Union Address the other night again from start to finish, which means from when all the representatives and senators and people in control of this country entered the hallowed chamber that President Trump gave his remarkable speech in. You should watch it and get a good look at the people filing into that room. They are influential people. And for the most part, they look like sacks of crap. Seriously.
I tried not to focus on Nancy Pelosi in the background licking her lizardy lips and shuffling through the papers in front of her as if she’d misplaced her grocery list. It’s all a charade, and a staged act by her. She’s all hat and no cows. She was building up the courage and steam for her “ta-da” moment when she ripped up the state of the union address behind the President’s back. I find it disgraceful, but there are people among us that think that behavior is lovely. It doesn’t matter who the President is, tearing up the SOTU like that is childish and an indication you have nothing left. It was a historical state of the union address, and she treated it like she manages her district she hails from. Landfill garbage. Which is what San Franciso, once a beautiful bay city, has become under her bony claw.
So to summarize, I can see America becoming a lot like Amazon in the future years, whenever the Democrats regain control, which they will, one day, of course. It’s a political pendulum. I see a lot of similarities between how the operations of Amazon is run and how Democrats want to run things. And while the productivity levels are going up, things are beautiful. But there’s a lot of compromises to be had. The happiness factor, for one. Amazon isn’t unlike North Korea now that I think about it. Let that sink in as we have forces pushing us to be a Blue Badge Amazon Nation.
Self-discipline, honor, and integrity are three traits that I believe are hugely important to possess, to be known for, and consistently exhibit. They aren’t traits that are inherited or given, though. They must be deliberately and continuously built upon. Consistency is critical, as with any attribute. They are hard to imbue, but as they are consistently and deliberately kept, they become easier to form as a habit.
They are traits that the military tries to instill into recruits. That usually is due to a failure of the parents to introduce it to their children. It’s not an easy thing to do because it isn’t comfortable, and they are abstract concepts whose importance is difficult to explain to a young child. And sometimes to an adult. And if the parents never were taught the importance or how to have them, it’s nearly impossible to expect them to pass them onto their children. Typically an outer force has to interject and work at it, which was the case for me. It’s easy to talk about them and claim to have them, but as usual, actions speak louder than words, definitely in this case. They are abstract concepts, and it’s possibly easier to display them than to discuss them meaningfully and adequately. I’m trying my best. I may not do a perfect job, but I’m trying to explain them and will come back and edit this as I can to try and make as much sense as possible.
A fact I observed is that these essential traits escaped my ex-wife, and mother to our daughter and my ex-stepdaughter. She wasn’t taught them, and her parents weren’t taught them, so it makes sense they escaped her. When I attempted to explain them to her other daughter, she and her daughter considered them tyrannical attempts to destroy complacent behavior. If you aren’t familiar with any of them, as they weren’t, that perspective makes sense. But it doesn’t remove the responsibility (and reward) of invoking them. And it never will. I have a feeling my daughter’s step-father is deficient in them as well, beginning by the fact he’s never bothered to introduce himself to me. Honor and integrity are already missing. That’s going to make my job that much harder. But I’m determined to teach my daughter Cecelia about them and to understand why they are important to possess.
The difficulties I face in instilling these traits are formidable. When you begin to teach someone how to improve themselves, it’s helping them move in an upward, forward direction. That often doesn’t sit well with those who stay behind. So you have people that will constantly ask under their breath or right to your face, ” You think you’re better than me?” What they fail to understand is that it’s not about comparisons. It’s an end in itself.
I have a print hanging in my home of the mural of my high school’s 1908 baseball team that’s in the lobby of the awesome sports complex that was being built as I graduated. It reads: “Effort in sport is a matter of character than reward. It’s an end in itself and not a means to an end.”
Effort in sport is a matter of character than reward. It’s an end itself and not a means to an end.
Those words are true when you’re striving to improve your own character as well, I believe.
The Great Santini comes to mind, which I find interesting for a number of reasons. One is that it’s written by famous SC author Pat Conroy and set in a town where I’ve actually lived, in the exact same neighborhood it was filmed, in fact, right down the street. I know this life, and this writer, and I remember my father liking this movie, which starred Robert Duvall, who has a condo in Beaufort, where this was filmed and I lived. Small world. The Big Chill was filmed around the corner and The Lords of Discipline was another movie taken from a Pat Conroy book which centers around discipline at The Citadel, where many of my good friends went, and the incoming headmaster after Mr. Wright, at my boarding school whom I talk about below, General Grinalds, became president. Another formidable man.
Beaufort’s downtown, with its antebellum homes, has been named a National Historic District. (Discover South Carolina)
I intend to teach these attributes to my daughter and have her respect what they represent. And be able to identify them in others. When you find a person that has them, and they are fundamental in the way they conduct their life, you know you’re dealing with a person that you can trust. There aren’t many people out there that fit this description. It sometimes surfaces to appear to others as arrogance. It’s an excellent way to live. That’s not arrogant; it’s merely a fact. There are superior and inferior cultures and people and ways to do things. That’s life. To think otherwise is silly and naive. There are better ways to live life and in worse ways.
I had the fortune, privilege, or opportunity – define it as you wish – to be exposed to several people who know about these traits, what they mean, how valuable they are, and how to establish and maintain them. They are people who I try to emulate and respect and consider role models in specific ways. Not surprisingly, many of them are men, who were officers in the military, and are older than I. They have, or had if no longer with us, wisdom and experience gleaned form hundreds of years of tradition, substantial research through trial and error and living ones lives in a good way, with spirituality, chivalry, respect for others and humility all being essential aspects of their personality and lives. My appreciation for their values and efforts aren’t only noticed by me. Their names rightfully adorn bridges, hospitals, buildings of academia, medical research and hospitals, health complexes, roadways, and their legacies live on in innumerable ways. The fortunes these men have made largely go towards foundations and trusts to help and secure a future that they would have helped establish, had they been immortal. And in this sense they are.
HONOR: I went to a boarding school that emphasized honor. We utilized an honor system that has become legendary. I was surrounded by others who were being taught honor, integrity, and self-discipline. Their fathers were men who were pillars in their communities, both business and cities in which they lived, and had the same beliefs and traits, as did our masters at the school. Many of them attended the same school and traveled the same paths. I’m a member of an order, Kappa Alpha, which I joined in college, whose motto is Dieu et Les Dames. “God and Women.” The two things that garner the most respect from the men in the order. Two things I learned to hold in the highest.
Some of the men that had a profound impact on me growing up that I still think of and use as a role model is my headmaster at Woodberry Forest School, Emmett W. Wright, who recently passed away recently, well into his 90’s. He was from Atlanta, where I was born, and a southern gentleman and scholar, who studied English, just as I did in college as an undergraduate. He went to Furman in SC, where I’m from and is the best school in SC. We ended up having much in common, although he had a far more significant impact on more young lives than I ever will, as far as I know at this point.
The funny thing about Mr. Wright was that among the student body, I was probably considered one of the most unconventional students. And he liked me for that. The masters always had their eyes on me because of how I dressed and wore my hair, behaved, and who I dated and hung out with. I didn’t walk the straight line they expected all students to. They thought every student should act like they wanted to be a prefect. Teachers handed out demerits to me at will, but I never got a “See EWW” on the demerit board. He stuck up for me and had my back. It was a funny relationship that I’m not sure many students or faculty were aware of.
Another was the father of who I consider one of my best friends, John Buxton, and whose namesake he took. John Snowden Wilson Buxton. He was special forces, green beret, in the marines, and a father of five incredible children and husband to an equally unbelievable woman, Caroline Buxton, who I also admire greatly. He had two brothers, who were well-respected doctors in Charleston. Just a terrific family and Mr. Buxton was a man that any man should have looked up to and admired. I know I did. He taught his children what it means to be fighters, such as when my friend learned he had cancer and beat it, and how to have hugely successful and loving marriages with plenty of children to boot.
I have other role models, but I won’t keep listing them and what they’ve meant, because they all have contributed the same to my life, which is a model to strive for. These are just two such men. There are a handful of others who are/were giants among men in the business world, in their communities or country, in their church, in their military group, and were successes throughout life—real people with exceptionally high standards for themselves and high-achievers.
SELF-DISCIPLINE: My mother used to make me make up my bed before I went downstairs for breakfast before school. And keep my room straight. Even my dad used to say “a place for everything and everything in its place.” And at camp and school we had to keep our beds, rooms, cabins, footlockers, and common areas tidy and clean. Every day. It became a habit.
Self-discipline becomes a strength in that it allows you to do the things you don’t want to, but know you should. And do them now, instead of procrastinating. It leads you to become an achiever and to accomplish things that others can’t.
Discipline and self-discipline are two traits that are more focused on men than women in American society. In Israel, women are expected to join the military, so it’s clearly a cultural thing. I would even say it’s a socio-economic factor. Those with self-discipline tend to do better in life than those without it. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.
Discipline is such a big and, I believe, a valuable characteristic that I’m going to dedicate another post entirely to it. So I’ll leave this for now: Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.
INTEGRITY: Integrity is often defined as what you do when no else is around. But it’s more than that. It constitutes reliability and consistency. People can rely on you to do what’s best. It’s a principle of strength. People can count on you, which means you aren’t afraid to be held accountable.
I have people tell me all the time they’re responsible and accountable, but they aren’t. Talk is cheap. Action is what matters. Action that’s exclusive of whether anyone is around or not. Always do the right thing if you see an opportunity to make something better; take it.
Some synonyms for integrity are forthrightness, honesty, straightforwardness, principle, honor, candor, purity, and corruption. All things I strive to be and do an excellent job of, I believe, to the point that it’s too much for some people. They don’t like candor, straightforwardness, and aren’t used to people being forthright with them. They don’t believe it can even be done. But it’s like Yoda said, there is no “try.” You either do it, or you don’t. I believe that’s the same with a lot of ways to live life. Lying is something I don’t tolerate. I don’t do it. I don’t have to. I know other people do, and I know other people do it even when they don’t have to. It becomes a habit to them, where they always feel they have to make something up for every circumstance. I know a couple of women that do that all the time. And they believe all people lie because they do, which isn’t right, and is a sad way to go through life, I think. And the people they hang out with do the same thing. Birds of a feather flock together.
Something I’m placing here as an epilogue is a fact that no matter how far down you find yourself in life when other people have taken everything you have and you are stripped bare of all dignity and humility is all you have left, you will still have your honor and integrity. And that is huge when you’re left with nothing else. It will keep you motivated, and take you far.