January 22, 2021

Politics and Commentary News Aggregator

The Technology 202: Amazon won Black Friday. Here’s how it plans to dominate the holiday rush

6 min read

The shift highlights how the pandemic is accelerating a massive evolution in shopping. 

Amazon and other big-box retailers such as Walmart and Target that have expanded their online operations in recent years are benefiting. It’s another sign of how the pandemic is further empowering tech giants and it’s unclear whether traditional retailers will ever be able to make up the ground they are losing. 

Amazon’s swift growth during the pandemic is likely to attract greater scrutiny from Washington lawmakers and regulators, who have increasingly been scrutinizing the behemoth for anti-competitive behavior. (Amazon head Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

The company’s key advantage is an in-house shipping network that’s starting to rival FedEx and the United Parcel Service. 

The company has used the crisis to expand its logistics operations, seizing on plummeting prices on everything from commercial real estate to cargo jets, my colleague Jay Greene reports. The e-commerce giant leased a dozen Boeing 767-300 cargo aircraft, bringing its fleet to more than 80 jets. It also added 220 package facilities since the beginning of the year, including urban delivery stations and giant warehouses. 

“They are building the world’s biggest package-delivery company,” David Glick, a former Amazon logistics executive who serves as chief technology officer at Flexe, which helps retailers warehouse and deliver goods, told Jay. “If you believe the carrier network is tapped out today, and it is, there is no other option.”

This years-long effort, which has accelerated during the pandemic, will give Amazon an upper hand as other retailers struggle to deliver packages in a network that is jammed with holiday purchases. 

Amazon has hired more than 400,000 workers, as other companies have had huge layoffs. 

“It’s hiring like mad,” Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told Karen. “No American company has hired so many workers so quickly.

It far outpaces the 230,000 employees Walmart added in a single year two decades ago. The closest comparisons are the massive hiring sprees entire industries went on during the early years of World War II, she reports. 

At this pace, Amazon could have more employees than Walmart within two years and become the world’s largest employer. That exploding growth is in part why the company is under increasing regulatory scrutiny in both the United States and Europe. 

Amazon is rolling out a special holiday bonus to front-line staff. 

Full-time employees at the company from Dec. 1 through Dec. 31 qualify for a bonus of $300. Meanwhile, part-time employees will receive $150, the company said in a blog post. The holiday bonuses will total more than $500 million, as the company responds to the surge in online shopping, the company predicts. 

The company offered a similar bonus in June as lockdowns around the country increased demands on the company. It comes as workers have raised concerns about the safety conditions at Amazon warehouses during the pandemic. The company said in October more than 19,000 employees had tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Our top tabs

Former Coinbase employees reported alleged racist and discriminatory behavior at the cryptocurrency start-up. 

Internal documents and interviews with 23 current and former Coinbase employees outline the companys struggle to address concerns about allegedly unfair and racist treatment of Black employees, the New York Times’s Nathaniel Popper reports. 

Coinbase drew scrutiny in September when chief executive Brian Armstrong told employees they must leave issues like racial justice out of the workplace or leave. More than 60 employees have resigned since, including the companys head of diversity and inclusion.

Fifteen Black employees have left or been fired since 2018. The employees represented a quarter of the companys Black workers. 

Former employees say the exodus was fueled by numerous incidents of managers talking down to Black employees, making what they said were racist remarks and favoring less-qualified White employees.

“It was the first time I realized what racism felt like in the modern world,” said Layllen Sawyerr, a former compliance analyst, who is Black. “I felt like I was being bullied every day at work.” Sawyerr filed a discrimination complaint with Coinbase’s legal department before quitting in 2018.

Coinbase has a record of only three discrimination complaints from 2018 to 2019, Coinbase spokeswoman Kim Milosevich told the Times. The company “does not tolerate racial, gender or any other forms of discrimination,” she said.

TikTok has become a go-to source for information about coronavirus vaccines.

Videos about vaccines have racked up millions of views on the platform popular with younger users, Kalhan Rosenblatt at NBC News reports. The videos include both trial participants sharing their experiences and doctors weighing in about the different vaccines. 

The videos could prove a powerful force against disinformation as the United States nears emergency authorization of a vaccine. Some users report that the videos have allayed their skepticism about getting the vaccine once it is available. 

“Its very interesting to see people having conversations around that,” said Kate Bredbenner, a doctor of biomedical science who posted a TikTok video explaining how the vaccine that Pfizer is developing works. Her video has had more than 3.2 million views. 

“I have gotten some comments on the video that are like, ‘I was really confused about this before and unsure, but this made me feel a lot more confident in how it works,’” she said.

Former Zappos chief executive Tony Hsieh has died at 46. 

The e-commerce entrepreneur was credited with making the online shoe and retail site into an e-commerce giant, Matt Schudel reports. Hsieh joined the company in 1999 and retired in August after 20 years with the company. 

Hsieh died of injuries sustained in a house fire, CNN reported. “Tonys kindness and generosity touched the lives of everyone around him, and forever brightened the world,” his family said in statement shared with CNN.

Hsieh made the company an early standout in the e-commerce space by offering free shipping and returns. He also emphasized generous benefits for employees, and Zappos often ranked as one of the best places to work.

“We believe that a company’s culture and a company’s brand are really just two sides of the same coin,” Hsieh told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2009. “If you get the culture right, then most of the other stuff will happen on its own.”

Hsiehs methods werent without controversy. When he got rid of the companys management structure, nearly 20 percent of employees opted to take a buyout instead of staying. The company didnt hire its first top female executive until 2016.

Hsieh was also known for efforts to transform downtown Las Vegas into a tech hub and revitalize the local economy. He launched a $350 million program called the Downtown Project in 2009. Before joining Zappos, Hsieh co-founded the online advertising company Link Exchange, which Microsoft bought in 1998.

Amazon purchased Zappos in 2009.

Rant and rave

Members of the business community and political figures paid tribute on Twitter to Hsiehs legacy:

Entrepreneur and politician Andrew Yang, who received support from Hsieh for his Venture for America program.

President Trumps daughter, Ivanka Trump:

Code.org cofounder Ali Partovi

Transition news

Biden will nominate Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget. 

Tanden, who is chief executive and president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, would have a hand in setting telecommunications and cybersecurity policy for federal agencies. Tanden would be the first woman of color to serve in the role, Annie Linskey and Jeff Stein report. 

Kate Bedingfield, a longtime Biden aide, will lead Joe Biden’s press team. Bedingfield formerly worked as a vice president of communications with the Motion Picture Association of America, an industry group that has clashed with Big Tech over copyright issues.



  • The Atlantic Council will hold an event on the incoming U.S. administration and the future of supply chains in the Americas on Dec. 9 at 2 p.m.

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Cat Zakrzewski

2020-11-30 09:03:47

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