The Great Amazon Con

By Samir Shukla

Man, Jeff Bezos sure knows how to pull off cons. Bezos is of course CEO of Amazon and for the past year or more Amazon has been pursuing a location for their second headquarters, HQ2, if you will. Over 200 cities originally put in applications and 20 were selected as finalists. Amazon wound up picking two locations that will split its second headquarters - Long Island City, NY and Arlington, VA.

Both areas already have some of the highest numbers of Amazon employees outside of Seattle, its home base and the Bay Area. So, the big announcement about the final picks was anticlimactic. My astute guess is that Bezos already knew he was going to select these two locations as it makes sense to beef up their existing workforce.

It was never going to be Raleigh or Nashville or wherever. Amazon had cities and states salivating at the idea of a major company pulling into their area and creating thousands of jobs. Cities put together proposals and sent Amazon massive amounts of valuable data, absolutely free, that the company will now use to sell more trinkets online. Amazon extracted some 1.5 billion dollars' worth of concessions and tax breaks from New York alone. Hey, New Yorkers, Amazon needs you more than you need Amazon.

Folks, this was all about free publicity, free data mining, and getting cities to cough up massive tax breaks and incentive packages as they try and land Amazon. I call it the Great Amazon Con. I'm betting Amazon had already decided on these two locations months earlier, or even before they announced they were seeking HQ2. Amazon received tens of millions of dollars of free publicity with the ploy. They received vast caches of valuable data given up freely by cities.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking. How do you know this? Ok, admittedly I don't have proof that they would have picked these two locations anyway. But anyone with the capacity to see through the hype can spot the con a mile away. If not, I've got a NY bridge to sell you. Cheap. You see it connects these two boroughs…oh, never mind.

Amazon didn't become a dominant company by luck. Bezos is clearly a marketing genius with the foresight to see the advantages of changes in technology and buying habits years before most. Amazon has become a behemoth that doesn't need tax breaks. It can buy some of the smaller cities that were vying for its HQ2.

Small businesses and startups struggle to raise funds, get tax breaks, yet Amazon can just belch and cities will line up to give them money.

Amazon recently announced they would pay $15 per hour to employees. This was no charity on their part, you can thank Bernie Sanders for putting the pressure on them. Of course, the positive effect of this will be that many other companies will announce better, living wages if only as a PR move.

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Samir Shukla is the editor of Saathee magazine. Contact - Samir@saathee.com