Brad Stone’s New Amazon Book


“Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire”:

Monday I decided to replenish my stock of St. Ives face scrub. An old girlfriend had turned me on to Aapri, but they stopped making that, so I switched to St. Ives, which is a bit rougher, but I’ve gotten used to it, these apricot face scrubs work so well.

So I used to buy the St. Ives at the drugstore, but during the pandemic I saw no need to do this so I ordered it from Amazon.

I got the wrong product.

Now you have to know I have OCD, I check things out to the max, I essentially never make a mistake on stuff like this. So I went back to the picture on the website, and it was the product I wanted, but not the product I got. So I contacted Amazon and they apologized but then I had to return the item, which is a pain in the ass I try to avoid, that’s why I try to get it right the first time around.

Now noticing the St. Ives tube in the bathroom was starting to run low, I decided to reorder. Turns out I had to budget fifteen minutes for this.

You see on Amazon, you can click on “Returns & Orders,” and search on your previous purchase, how convenient! But when you click to “Buy it again,” you can’t, what should be simple is not, you’re taken to another page where in this case it said “See buying options.”

So I clicked on that and… I was brought to a page where they pictured the item, but I had to once again click on “See all buying options.”

Now I got a slide over page from the right side of the browser listing a slew of options at various prices and various delivery dates. This was positively insane! I’d normally just choose the one with the best rating and the cheapest price, but in this case I wouldn’t receive it for weeks, that didn’t make sense. So I decided to start all over.

I searched for St. Ives and I found out there was a St. Ives store on Amazon, what could be better! But when I got there there were two competing items, which made no sense, but when I scrutinized the image, I saw one was in French, so I made a tab for the one in English. But it was for six tubes, and I really didn’t want that many, as a matter of fact, I only wanted two. That’s why I made the tab, I needed to do further research. 

So I search on “St. Ives Fresh Skin” on Amazon and what comes up?

Two pictures from the St. Ives Store, not mentioning the size, one the French product, the other “Acne Control,” which is not the product I desire.

Below that…

Well, that was positively insane. I saw my product, but it was in tiny travel tubes, which is not what I wanted. Next to that there was an offer with a dated package which was priced at nearly double every other offer. As for the other two products on that same line, they were far from what I requested, but this line was all SPONSORED! I.e. ads!

The line after that was another sponsored product I had no desire to acquire.

Below that, I saw the French product, four tubes for $18.90. Even better, it was labeled “Amazon’s Choice”! Seemed reasonable to just click on that, but why was the product French?

But I really only wanted two tubes. I scrolled down the page and found them, for almost as much as four tubes cost.

That’s when I started to scrutinize the per ounce price.

The pack of two was $1.37 per ounce. The pack of four was $0.79 per ounce. But the pack of six, from the St. Ives Store, was $0.61 cents per ounce…WHY WASN’T THIS AMAZON’S CHOICE??

I don’t mind paying a bit more for a smaller quantity, but I don’t like being ripped-off. So I ended up buying the pack of six, and now I’ve got enough St. Ives for years. And I blew all this time buying something that should be a no-brainer.


You’d think “Amazon’s Choice” would be the best deal. But Brad Stone’s new book told me that was not necessarily so. The book also went into chapter and verse re advertising on Amazon, and also talked about third party sellers and…if you’re getting confused, you now know how I feel. I mean this doesn’t happen on the Apple site. It’s clear, you buy what you want and move on, even though the products are much more expensive. And there’s the rub, the margin on most Amazon products is small, so they do their best to monetize around them.

But hang in there…

Amazon makes more money selling third party products than it does on the products it sells itself. So, the company decided to grow the market. And it turns out many third party sellers get their products from China and then resell them on Amazon so why not cut out the middleman and allow the Chinese to sell directly on Amazon?

Which is what Amazon did, and now the third party sellers were screaming bloody murder, they couldn’t touch the price.

But then a lot of the Chinese products were inferior. Clothing where the sleeve immediately fell off. But if you shut down one brand in China, they just start all over using a different brand, it’s impossible to stop. Meanwhile, third party sellers must buy advertising, the sponsored posts referenced above, otherwise their products fall way down the search page.

And to tell you the truth, all of this doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that I CAN’T EASILY BUY WHAT I WANT!

You see Amazon is squeezing every penny out of screen real estate.

But it gets worse. Selling products isn’t such a good business, but providing web services is. Amazon makes most of its money from AWS, Amazon Web Services, which hosts third party websites, even of big companies, this is how Netflix started.

And I could go deeper but reading this book I kept asking myself…WHO CARES?


I guess I’m living in an alternative universe. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an MBA when I graduated from college. Life was about fulfillment, I wanted to make a living in the arts.

But most people can’t.

You can have little and work in the Amazon warehouse. Now what you saw in “Nomadland” ain’t so true anymore. People don’t walk twelve miles every day, they stay in one place and…they now have repetitive stress injuries. But one thing you know for sure, when the whistle blows…they go home and get drunk or stoned, try to blow off steam before they have to go back and do it all over again. And they don’t get paid enough money to get ahead. And you can’t work the same fulfillment gig for years, they blow you out after a few, they don’t want tired, uninvested workers. So you’re on a hamster wheel, and then they take away the wheel, push you out of the cage and don’t care where you roam.

Or you could be working higher up in the food chain. But your job is to squeeze out more pennies, as per above, making everything more efficient. Now let me think, do I want to spend all my working hours making a warehouse run right? Talk about a meaningless life. And as you move up the food chain, you make more money, but you can’t spend it because you’re working all the time, and most people end up burning out and retiring, and if you played your cards right you had good stock options so you’re financially cushioned, but that all depends on the stock price going up, which it may not, despite your best efforts.


So Jeff Bezos is in charge. Lock, stock and barrel. He’s very hands-on, and he’s not so nice. He’s learned not to be offensive, but in truth he suffers no fools.

And there are layers of management.

And you have to produce a six page document outlining your perspective, which everybody reads at the start of a meeting, and if chastised in the future you claim it was all in the document, Bezos criticizes your writing skills, you just did not make it clear enough. He laughs that bozo laugh and tells you failure is cool, but that’s only if you fail at an A+ level, see around every corner, adjust for every possibility.

And you must think of innovation 24/7, because Bezos keeps telling you Amazon is a “Day 1” company, and must continue to be, a “Day 2” company rests on its laurels, loses its edge and goes out of business.

And there is a ton more business gobbledygook. Is it a two way door or a one way door? If you take this path can you retreat or not? I mean who in hell gets excited about this stuff? Kind of like the law…I know more lawyers that don’t practice than those who do. Forget TV, law is mostly boring. And it’s hard to make big money. You work for people who make big money, but you don’t yourself. Which is why most lawyers are like doctors, always thinking of some business investment that can make them rich. But law is like Amazon in that you’ve got to get it exactly right. Maybe in the burbs you can use a general practitioner who makes mistakes, but you need a specialist in the city, who will cover every nook and cranny, every potential pothole, because deals go bad and then you go back to the paper and chances are unless you paid through the nose, your lawyer didn’t cover you.

Now this is where people bristle. Re the elites. But in America there’s no middle class. Either you’re working at the top level, or you’re a drone in the warehouse with no upward mobility, not making enough money to ever get ahead.


If you’re interested in Amazon, you should start with Brad Stone’s 2013 book “The Everything Store.” It’s definitive. Stone is the Amazon expert. This is where you learn about Bezos’s upbringing and the engulf and devour subterfuge it employs to kill competitors. Amazon keeps lowering the price until your profitability erodes and you are forced to sell to them.

But the truth is Amazon has a very small retail market share.

And the truth is Amazon is the best in the business. Despite the foregoing, I trust Amazon before any of its competitors. And if you have a problem, the company does try to make it right.

Stone’s new book, “Amazon Unbound,” picks up where the previous one left off, and runs right up to today, all the way through the pandemic.

Do you need to read it?

Well, I’ll let you decide. If you read business books for tips, absolutely. Forget the theories put forth by those who never did or those who are on a victory lap, Stone got complete access, he tells you how it really went down. And I’d be lying if I said I don’t admire Bezos’s acumen, a lot of what he did was right for business. Hell, the music business is laissez-faire. So much money is wasted it’s laughable. Acts don’t realize the label is charging them for limos and then the labels don’t account accurately and then acts blame Spotify, et al, which are the most transparent elements in the food chain, built on data, they don’t lie. A bean counter could squeeze incredible profits from the music business. The only problem is if you squeeze the profits, you kill the golden goose. As a matter of fact, to a great degree that’s what’s happened today. It’s not the seventies anymore, the label is the quarterback, not the act. And the label wants insurance, which is why you must employ a cowriter and get a remix and… If you want to sit at home and get inspired and lay it down with no interference, the major label is not for you. At best, the major label will scoop you up after you’ve proven your success online, but it’s not signing non-hip-hop or pop acts for big bucks and setting them loose in the studio and then promoting the end product for years. Hell, the CEO may not be working at the company that long, and he needs his bonus! Never underestimate having skin in the game. If you’re the owner, it’s your company, you care!


So “Amazon Unbound” walks you through all the decisions, all the failures, it goes deep into the identities and the process. Also, another thing the hoi polloi don’t realize is big operators respect neither the press nor the government, they do their best to obfuscate and spin.

But when you’re atop the pyramid, you’re ripe for blowback, it goes with the territory. Companies will now not talk to Amazon, for it’s got a reputation of stealing ideas. As for going into business with the company, they see that as death too. So, Amazon’s job is getting harder. But it’s got critical mass. And online, where one store sits right next to another, it’s hard to compete with the behemoth.

The truth is I love Amazon. I order from the company incessantly. And if you’re boycotting it, the joke is on you. Kinda like those acts who promoted BlackBerry and were shown using their iPhones. Or Trump saying to boycott Coke when he’s got a Diet Coke on his desk. Some products are just too good!

You can go the other way, I tried this in the sixties, I bought the new K2 Competition skis instead of the ubiquitous Rossignol Stratos. End result, two pairs delaminated within a month, then I switched to Rossis, which stayed in one piece, and in truth they were better!

Or you can go to the neighborhood store where inventory is low and prices are high. If you think you can save Main Street…you probably think you can save buggy whips. Things change, own them. Improve Walmart, make sure it can’t close after decimating the local Main Street.

No one can compete with the buying power of these behemoths.

And the end result is low prices, which customers love! People will switch airlines for ten bucks, maybe even five, the public is cheap, and it loves convenience, go in that direction as opposed to trying to keep the relics on life support alive.


But most people don’t care. They’re emotional, not informed.

We need a $15 minimum wage. A minimum wage even higher than that!

But business comes before people in America.

And business is a drive to the bottom.

You can’t get service from Facebook? That’s because you don’t pay! Products are so cheap that if they break you just replace them. And if you want service, you’ve got to pay for it, which people just can’t fathom, but why do you think the item is so cheap? And you talk to someone overseas, because it’s expensive to use Americans. Which should illustrate why manufacturing can’t come back to America, but people can’t link the facts, they want dirt cheap products that work right out of the box but they also want to be able to own a 3,000 square foot house and a boat working an unskilled job.

Even worse, with the barrier to entry so low today, everybody thinks they’re entitled to make a living as an artist, it’s seen as just another career choice. Why not ask these same people if they deserve to play in the NBA? Or be a rocket scientist? No, you deserve to work in the Amazon warehouse, and even that’s not a secure job.

Which is why the enlightened get an education, otherwise you’re nowhere in America, you’re just a victim, so downtrodden that you’re depressed. You haven’t read a book since high school, never mind this one. The train pulled out of the station decades ago, but you keep blaming immigrants for taking your job. Americans have become so dumb. And they believe everything they hear and can’t analyze any issues and are constantly looking for scapegoats. I mean what is end game for the Trumpists? A dictator who allows you to be free, without health care, without government support, as the rich get richer and you get screwed?

And Bezos didn’t believe you were his responsibility. He made beaucoup bucks off your back and didn’t give any back, philanthropy was not in his wheelhouse.

And now that he’s got his, he’s handing off the day to day reins as he traipses around the world with his new girlfriend hanging out with the rich and powerful, the movers and shakers. They party on David Geffen’s yacht, because Geffen can connect them with Hollywood, and anybody who’s not in Hollywood wants to be, they want access, they want to be able to make decisions.

Yes, at the end of the day, people always come back to the creative arts. And the truth is Amazon now makes movies and TV shows. Because life is unfulfilling without the arts.

And on both ends of the continuum life sucks. If you’re poor or rich. Believe me, you don’t want to be so wealthy you don’t have to work. That’s not living, which is why so many of them die, like Christina Onassis. It’s about getting high and being fabulous, and the truth is that’s not so fantastic, we’re human beings, our lives have to have meaning, irrelevant of your wealth.

Which is why Bezos went to work. He built a juggernaut. It was hard work. The public is benefiting from his efforts. At a cost, there’s always a cost. But you’ve got to pat the guy on the back, he was focused, he delivered, what consumers couldn’t even conceive of.

That’s an American story.

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