Asshole Hall of Fame

Inductee Fifty-Five: Jeff Bezos

Today’s inductee shouldn’t surprise anyone; he’s been on the list since the beginning. But recent comments — coupled with recent action — have him jumping the queue and shooting straight to the front of the line.

I’m talking, of course, about Amazon founder, Washington Post owner, and newly HNTBAJW-certified asshole Jeff Bezos.

First, full disclosure: I have an Amazon account. Until we moved to the UK, my household had Amazon Prime as well. I watched a lot of free movies on my days off, and appreciated the convenience. Now that we’re in London, we’ve been using it much less often, and are likely to stop altogether. However, much like with Wal-Mart, I’m not going to judge people who find that Amazon is one of the only ways they can access and afford items they need. It’s an enormous company with influence, power, and control spanning multiple nations. It might be hard to escape.

I say this because while it is Mr. Bezos who is being inducted today, it’s impossible to separate him from Amazon and some of the shady practices the company has engaged in over the years. When researching this post, I wanted to link to an article on shit warehouse conditions from a few years ago; I eventually found it but it was near the bottom of the search results because so many more recent articles have come out talking about the crap that some Amazon employees have to endure. For example:

This shows that Mr. Bezos isn’t so much a brilliant businessman but an exploitative asshole. If you can’t make money without your employees having to go on food stamps, you aren’t good at business. You’re just good at taking advantage of others for your own personal gain.

And what a gain it is for Mr. Bezos, who made this beyond infuriating comments just this week:

“The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel,” Bezos said. “I am going to use my financial lottery winnings from Amazon to fund that.”

I’m sorry, what?

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This man has 131 BILLION DOLLARS, and when he looks at this world (and his warehouse employees), the only thing he can think to do with his money is go into space? Look, I get it. I want to go to space, too. And I think that there is value in space exploration. But for a man who runs a company that can’t even figure out how to give its warehouse employees proper bathroom breaks, this is stunningly ignorant.

This kind of blisteringly absurd comment is event more egregious in light of Amazon’s recent attempt to blackmail the city of Seattle. As you probably know, Amazon doesn’t just employ warehouse workers; it also has a large tech side. And that tech work is arguably responsible for much of the economic boom in Seattle. Home prices in the Seattle continue to rise, in part fueled by technology workers with lots of cash. Yay for them!

Of course, there’s a downside to this. Homelessness has increased as rents increase; people can no longer afford to live in Seattle. And services haven’t been able to keep up with the increase in population, partly because Washington State has no income tax. Property and sales taxes fund pretty much everything, and there isn’t enough money to go around to take care of the people living there. So, Seattle has decided that it needs to take some action, and proposed a head tax on large businesses.

And what does Mr. Bezos’s company do? Immediately halt construction on a new building and threaten to sublease other space it had already leased. Mr. Bezos has decided that if Amazon is going to be asked to contribute to the city it has largely helped to change over the past decade, it’s going to take its toys and go home, like a petulant child who has been told that maybe it’s time to start sharing.

To this I say:

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Mr. Bezos’s staff use city services and the company isn’t paying for it at an appropriate or adequate level. Amazon came to Seattle because of the low taxes, but that’s not sustainable. So unless Mr. Bezos is committed to ensuring that the 40,000 people who work for him in Seattle never get robbed or assaulted (the police are funded by taxes), never fall asleep with a candle burning (the fire department is funded by taxes), never need paramedics (Medic One is funded by taxes), never die (the Medical Examiner is funded through taxes), never get sick (hospital reporting is analyzed by the publicly-funded health department), and never eat at a restaurant (which is inspected by the publicly-funded health department), Amazon needs to pay its fair share.*

The fact that Mr. Bezos and his company can’t — or won’t — acknowledge this reality is disgusting, and the fact that the response to a government proposal is not discussion but whining is shameful. I’m frankly a bit embarrassed for him and the entire Amazon company.

Given all of this, I think it’s pretty clear that Mr. Bezos has worked very hard to earn his spot in the Asshole Hall of Fame. Congratulations! You’re in horrible company.

Note: This does, of course, put me in the uncomfortable position of disliking someone who President* Trump also dislikes. It’s sort of like when a bunch of right-wing folks boycotted the NFL because of the protests taking place during the national anthem: I was already not watching because of the treatment of the people participating in the protests. So now two diametrically opposed views are resulting in the same action. It’s an odd feeling.

But as much as I loathe all that President* Trump does and says, it doesn’t mean that I’ll reconsider this induction. Trump dislikes Mr. Bezos because Trump doesn’t like Mr. Bezos’s ownership of the Washington Post; I dislike Mr. Bezos because Mr. Bezos is a pompous asshole who is utterly ignorant of the lives of the people who work for him and live in the cities his company operates in.

*Obviously staff are individually paying taxes, and people should have access to services regardless of their individual ability to pay. The point of this paragraph is to point out that an influx of people leads to an increase in service needs, and the corporation that brings the folks in should share in those costs.

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