If you think Apple is a vertical corporate monolith, wait until you get a load of Amazon's reported plans: The e-tailer turned tablet maker turned publisher is said to be planning a physical store in Seattle with an eye toward building a national chain. And you thought the literati hated Amazon before.
After launching an electronic assault on local shops and abusing sick and pregnant warehouse workers, Amazon.com has been sued for ripping off and royally screwing over in every other possible way a partner that made Kindle cases. Maybe the e-tailer's 2011 New Year's resolution was "be evil constantly."
Zappos employee Christina Gomez sounded like an opiated zombie when she first talked to Freakonomics Radio. "This job is worth more than a million dollars, definitely," she said. "It's kind of like the Wizard of Oz, and we're in the Emerald City." A week later, Gomez was wondering what she had been smoking — and raising questions about life at the Amazon shoe subsidiary.
Workers in an Amazon.com warehouse were routinely sent to the emergency room because of sweltering, suffocating heat that sometimes exceeded 110 degrees — and because Amazon refused to open warehouse doors, fearing theft, according to a devastating exposé in the Allentown, Pennsylvania Morning Call. After workers, an E.R. doctor and a security guard complained, federal regulators investigated the warehouse and recommended changes. Amazon responded with popsicles, bandanas and finger pointing.
Amazon.com really, really does not want to collect sales tax from its customers. But that's not just the online retailer's problem: If you work for Amazon, the tax obsession means you need permission to visit certain states, and might not be able to send certain emails when you get there. In some instances, you won't even be able to identify yourself as working for Amazon.com.
These candid portraits of powerful corporate executives, taken this weekend at the private investment firm Allen & Company's annual media and technology conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, intrigued us for reasons we can't fully explain. Maybe it's because some of these rich guys seem so damned miserable?