What IS Marketing?

What IS Marketing?

WHAT IS MARKETING?

What is Marketing? Many people think they know the answer, but I see evidence that a lot of people don’t. I see it in the classroom even after I tell students, at the very least, they need to learn what marketing is and isn’t, and they still get it wrong on the final exam.

I see it misunderstood by CEOs and presidents, founders and executives, even marketing executives. And I see it wrong in job postings and titles in businesses all the time, which is why I’m writing about it here.

Please don’t think I’m trying to shame anyone or find fault. My effort here is to explain what marketing really is, and what it isn’t and how it became so mixed up and misunderstood, which causes many problems in business and lives, even. Lots.

I’ll explain first what marketing isn’t. It’s not advertising. It’s not sales. It’s not SEO, social media “marketing,” or a long list of positions that employers want to slice off marketing and hire for at a discounted wage.

Marketing is about identifying a solution and bringing a solution to market that solves problems and is presented to the person or team that needs a remedy at the right moment, at the right place, and the right price. Read that again because that is what marketing is.

How to do that involves market research, focus groups, surveys, advanced data analysis, regression analysis, multivariate analysis, trial and error with positioning, price, and timing. It’s an art and a science. It’s not easy, and it’s expensive to do right. This is why most businesses hijack that term and use it to represent activities that it isn’t. For hiring purposes, sales purposes, sometimes due to ignorance, define an activity that is something else.

Marketing itself is sophisticated and precise, and an activity that requires a quantitative and qualitative approach and tools. Scatterplots, algorithm development, advanced surveying knowledge and interpretation, and a litany of skills and knowledge aren’t usually taught on the job or picked up just by starting a job. That probably hurts a lot of egos of CEOs and business owners that didn’t go to business school, but it’s true. In fact, you wouldn’t even know these things to be true unless you were familiar with what’s taught in B-Schools or worked for a Fortune 500 company in higher marketing functions.

I recognized this phenomenon when I began looking for jobs in the marketing area in Louisville, KY. Businesses were hiring for marketing, alright, but what they really were looking for were people who know to advertise. Managing ad budgets, knowing how to search for advertising-friendly terms in Google, and how to do social media advertising. Most of the “Marketing” firms here aren’t marketing firms at all. They’re advertising agencies, offering SEO, social media, and web design strategies that are in line with advertising and not marketing.

Don’t think so? If you have taken or taught MArketing courses in a University setting as I have, there isn’t one single thing teaching anything about SEO, social media management, search engine marketing, inbound marketing or any of the other activities that many marketing firms revolve around. Those things aren’t taught in a University. They’re either taught on the job or usually on someone’s own time by taking lots of online courses and studies. There are some great resources available, not surprisingly. There’s a lot of money in it. Just look at Hubspot, Salesforce, Adobe, Moz, or any number of online “marketing experts” like Neil Patel, Ann Smarty, Ann Handey, Mari Smith, Rand Fishkin and a hundred other very well-paid “digital marketing experts.” What they are are experts at digital advertising using digital formats and channels. But they don’t teach much at all about marketing.

I asked via Twitter, an acquaintance who’s a local marketing firm’s CEO, if he looks at where job candidates went to college. And he said he doesn’t. If he were an IT, accounting, or law firm, he would, which proves my point.

They aren’t hiring for sophistication or high knowledge of marketing. They want someone who has done advertising or worked at an ad agency, a small part of marketing but not marketing itself by a mile. Otherwise, it would matter how intensely and rigorously and to what degree they’ve learned marketing. There’s a big difference between a Harvard MBA and a “marketing” or web design degree from the University Down the Street/Online, and it also denotes a lot about the person holding the degree. Their level of astuteness, intelligence, drive, goal-setting and achievement, self-worth and experience, and professional and personal network. The roles most firms hire for are splinters off the marketing tree and necessary activities of a lot of marketing plans. It creates and sustains revenue, generates data for marketers to analyze, and opens new opportunities for future marketing efforts. So it is very important. But nearly no marketing professor knows anything about SEO, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn advertising, the tools there used like SEM Rush, Google Analytics and Moz. If you asked them their eyes would glaze over. The students they teach know about them. But the professors use Qualtrics and survey design software for actual marketing, scatterplots, regression analysis  and multivariate analysis.

I pondered if colleges would be missing an opportunity not teaching “digital marketing” and realized it’s too dynamic and fast-paced for most Universities to keep up with, budget for, and do properly.  Most classes in college these days are nothing more than material handed out by the professor that the textbook publisher created for them to use with their books and past teachers developed(usually adjuncts), test bank multiple choice automatically-graded tests, You-tube videos to watch in lieu of actual Socratic instruction and entire class times to be used at students’ discretions for “group work.” If you want to earn six figures, never work and get you rear kissed all the time for nothing, become a marketing professor at a State satellite school.

I myself have an English degree from a large State School and an MBA from a large state school. Both have high accreditations and rankings for their individual programs. They aren’t Ivy League, but I have close friends that went to Ivy Leagues for both undergraduate, master’s, and teaching levels in my network. I interact and commiserate with them all the time. My programs are ranked and were rigorous. I went to school to notch myself up a few levels in business sophistication and my network, and I did, successfully. College is mostly what you make of it and what you put into it. I’ve spent the better part of my long life on a college campus somewhere in some capacity.

So what’s the point or big deal? This explains why when I am called upon to help business owners find marketing opportunities to increase their revenue(or decrease costs), and I ask for their marketing plan, they have none. No marketing budget sometimes. And no real understanding of what marketing really is, which makes it hard to properly integrate with their sales, accounting, and executive teams. They should be integrated with one another. And when they look for marketing help, they go looking for someone who knows SEO, social media marketing, and many modern advertising tactics that aren’t marketing. It’s advertising. They’ve plateaued, which I did in business and is why I got my MBA. They need help organizing things to manage correctly, which I help people do, and I love to do.

Marketing is high level, not low level. So when I see job openings that are “entry-level” and pay accordingly, it’s a sign that the listing is in the wrong category. And the business is confused about what it needs.  And when I sit down with a CEO to discuss their marketing needs and ask about their marketing plan, the conversation may take a downward turn because there is no plan and the CEO or president has a large ego to protect. Which I get- if you’re the manager or leader, you have to appear that you know what you’re doing. This also means you also know when to build and protect your weak areas and be accountable. It’s not about ego in business. It’s about the business and the people that rely on paychecks and your support. I’ve been there. Some people can’t separate the two. It’s common in businesses such as a software development firm that sprang up in a dorm room and a ton of other businesses that were created on the back of a bar napkin. It’s eve common with professional firms like architectural and engineering. Creating a marketing plan (and sometimes even a written business plan) is out the scope of many business people’s talents, believe it or not. Or so they believe for some reason to the extent they don’t bother. Scarily, I’ve interviewed with marketing firms that had no marketing plan or budget.

Hopefully, that clarifies the differences. I can and do SEO. I know social media marketing. I even know a few things about sales. But I also know a lot about marketing itself, which is much bigger than any of those. It’s those combined, and more.

Here are my personal thoughts on the matter for what they’re worth:

Hiring a marketing person isn’t an expense. It’s an investment that should easily pay for itself. I can help executives focus on what’s important, see unintended consequences down the road to avoid, and net out what’s critical to success. I can point out what’s an outlier and what’s dragging the ship down. I know what’s on the horizon to optimize throughput and make businesses more profitable and competitive. I can streamline operations and make a business run like a Ferrari. That’s because I know what true marketing is and how to do it. I also know how to do the menial tasks it involves: web design, SEO, keyword strategies, competitive analysis, and more

I want to tell employers to call on me if you want to go farther faster and rise above. Or keep hiring SEO and social media people that learned online and see what makes the difference. Because doing the same thing the other guy is doing isn’t going to make you excel or competitive. It will keep you in line with the other guys and that’s all.  Average.

 

Amazon News

Amazon News

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.

Amazon Yellow Totes

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.

Conveyor belts. Miles of them.

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.

 

NASA made in China

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.

Shrinkage

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.

inventory coming in ready to be sorted

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.

small item bins

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.

cubbies for smaller items

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

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.

Systems

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.

My perspective of Amazon is unique. I can recognize some things most can’t. What I see is that as much as possible is taken from human hands. Only the necessary steps are left for humans to do. The rest is controlled by scanners, computers, algorithms, data analysis, and even robots in some cases. But mostly the programs are nothing but javascript. Data is kept and items and inventory and stock is monitored and tracked by scanners everywhere at important steps along the trip from inbound to outbound.

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.

Radios to contact problem solve

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.

A picking scanner

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.

inventory

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What People Buy at Amazon

What People Buy at Amazon

What are People Buying at Amazon?

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.

sorters at Amazon

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.

feminique - fake boobs

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.

 

 

 

Key Takeaways Working at Amazon

Key Takeaways Working at Amazon

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.

 

 

 

 

The Face of Amazon

The Face of Amazon

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.

Three different media groups came through and filmed me. Here’s the local Louisville story.

The other two will be on CNBC and Fox Business News hopefully. Who knows where that footage will end up?

Update on the Job Hunt

Update on the Job Hunt

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 standard work tenets

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 historical stock price

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.