The Incredible Amazon Machine
By David Henderson
People, asked from where it came
Would very seldom know
They would simply click and ask
“Was it not always so?”
–David R. Henderson, “The Incredible Amazon Machine.”
If you’ve read The Incredible Bread Machine, you’ll recognize where I got the idea for the poem above. My poem was motivated by a Facebook post by my friend Ross Levatter. He has given me permission to quote his post.
May I take a moment to give praise to Jeff Bezos? Think if this pandemic had developed 25 years ago, before Amazon. Before the presence and power of Amazon dramatically increased the impact of FedEx, UPS, and other home delivery services. Back in the day when you had to go out and interact with large numbers of people in order to purchase everything you needed. This would all be much worse.
Ross expands on the point:
It’s not MERELY (as if this could be a “merely”) that Amazon is the EVERYTHING store, that you can get virtually everything you need from the store–groceries to restaurant delivery to TVs to toiletries to video games to…books), it’s not just that you can now download ebooks instantaneously…it’s not just that he’s developed an entire entertainment sub-industry to fill Amazon Video so we have things to watch while we’re homebound. It’s how he’s changed OTHER companies, other industries. Two brief examples:
FedEx and similar companies are now much more efficient than two decades ago because 1) Amazon became a major customer and made demands for efficiency, and 2) Amazon started its own delivery fleet to compete with them.
Ever notice how EASY it is to open packages these days? Remember when they came in fused hard plastic containers impossible to open with anything short of a chain saw? You don’t see that any longer because Jeff Bezos told companies if they wanted to sell their stuff on Amazon they had to develop easier ways for his customers to open them. Amazon, I believe, even aided in the research to create a new industry standard. As a result, in the time of pandemic, it’s much less likely you will cut yourself and bleed while opening packages.
Although my addition to follow doesn’t measure up to Ross’s great examples, here’s one little way Amazon changed my life that I haven’t seen commented on before. (I told former EconLog blogger Art Carden about it a few years ago and he told me that he started applying my strategy.)
Even before I retired two and a half years ago, I rented an office in downtown Monterey where I could hide out and get my work done without interruption. I would be working on an article, either academic or popular, and would want access to a book. I might find it at the Naval Postgraduate School library and I could quickly look on line for it. But then I would have to go in and get it. That meant finding a place to park. If I was on a research quarter, which is when I was typically writing, I would sometimes not go in for 4 or 5 days. If I could do without the book for a few days, which was almost always the case for academic articles, I could go to Amazon and buy a used copy for about $3.99 plus about $3.99 shipping. By the way, I’ve never seen anyone else make this point, but I think the reason the listed shipping price is so high is that the seller doesn’t have to charge you tax on the shipping price. In a zero-sales-tax world, I would bet the price would be more like $4.99 and the shipping would be more like $2.99.
So I would save a trip to the library and have my own copy that I could mark up to my heart’s content. Thanks to my new friend Jeff.