Scrolling through my Facebook feed today I came upon a viral post that urged users to not shop at Amazon and to, instead, shop directly at the retailers stores in order to deprive Bezos and Amazon of additional revenue.
Which made me realize that the majority of Americans (and even non-Americans) really really don’t appreciate what Amazon has done during the pandemic. Worse, they can’t even begin to appreciate what they did before it arrived, in order to prepare us to better ride out the pandemic.
Even rabid Amazon fans do not really and truly appreciate how much heartache and death they have saved us from.
So, I would like to spell some of it out for you.
One of Amazon’s greatest contributions to modern society is its laser-like focus on logistics and its rock solid supply and logistics chain.
Many people can appreciate this. One day shipping is still a little like magic.
But what they don’t really get is that because of the competition that Amazon introduced, it FORCED other large companies to focus on their logisitics and supply chains as well.
Because of Amazon, large companies such as Walmart and Target were forced to fine-tune their logistics operations in order to compete.
This fine-tuned the entire national (and major portions of the international) supply chain.
Which meant that when the time came for the majority of the nation to go into lock-down mode, the country could survive on a much much leaner workforce – with a delivery infrastructure that was built rock solid and that has survived the equivalent of multiple nuclear explosions from coast to coast.
But it goes beyond that…
Contributing To Social Distancing
Imagine a world without the highly efficient operations of Amazon, Walmart, Target etc.
Imagine a world where half the nation could not get delivery of essential products on a timely basis – say, 50 Million households.
Imagine a world where half of Amazon’s existing staff, say, half a million people weren’t employed in central warehousing operations. Do the same for even just Walmart and Target.
Now let me paint a picture of that world for you under the pandemic lock-down in that scenario.
You would have an extra 50 million households (wild-ass guesstimate on my part) that had to regularly leave lock-down and go shopping at stores at least once a week. There would be lines of hundreds of people long at thousands more stores, all being in close contact with each other as they jostled to get the supplies they needed. And many of them would have had to use public transit to commute. And they would have do this week after week for 8 weeks (so far) – each week’s exposure just adding to the body count.
You would also have millions of extra employees out and about exposed to those 50 million households across the entire country.
Do the math based on the current transmission rates and you’ll quickly realize that the number of infections and resulting death would be many orders of magnitude greater than it is now.
Instead of 100,000 deaths in two months, you’d likely be looking at 500,000 or more.
Because all those people would have no choice but to be out and about.
Amazon’s employees (and Walmart’s and Target’s and other large company’s employees as well) have essentially been confined to transmitting among themselves in much much smaller and more centralized hubs. (And yes, its really really really sad that they, like many others, have been subjected to exposure but if you’re focused on that while reading this you’re missing the point already so you might as well stop reading.)
Absent that, the chaos and death toll would likely have resulted in martial law – something we have managed to avoid.
Don’t Be A Hypocrite
So, you can hate Amazon all you like. But because of them and their quest for ruthless efficiency in sourcing, shipping and delivering goods, you’re far far better off than you would have been otherwise. They inadvertently forced the building of the equivalent of ETHERNET (the electronic protocol the internet runs on) for supply chain operations.
The incompetent government that you’ve all voted for was probably saved by the quest for the almighty dollar. Even a far more competent government response would still have been highly dependent on these finely tuned private logistics operations.
So, go ahead and yell and scream all you want about the big bad corporate Amazon. Its your right to do so. But there’s a damn good chance that you’re alive because they exist.
If this was occurring even just 10 years ago – you’d be living a far far different and much uglier experience. 20 years ago? You’d be piling bodies in the street.
I, for one, am grateful for their existence. So I’ll split my dollars being spent between them and local stores – instead of being an ungrateful brat trying to will them out of existence. They spent (and continue to spend) billions to figure out how to be extraordinarily good at moving product efficiently across thousands of miles and dozens of countries.
And now our lives literally depend on their investment – and the investments that they forced others to make.
Try putting a price on that.