business news in context, analysis with attitude

Some reactions to our continuing Amazon vs. FTC coverage and commentary.

One MNB reader wrote:

I fail to see what prohibits a brand from selling their item at whatever price they choose to on Amazon.

Amazon’s policy simply says that prices on other sites should not be lower.

If a seller doesn’t like that policy, there is nothing compelling them to do business with Amazon…or stopping them from selling to a brick and mortar retailer, listing  their item on another e-commerce site or going directly to the consumer.

Moreover, lots of high market share brick and mortar retailers apply much more onerous policies with their vendors: e.g., pay their arbitrary listing fees and or make them a custom “pack” if you want your product on their shelves . 

An argument could be made that these totally arbitrary and capricious fees are significant barriers to market entry and an abuse of size and market share.

Furthermore, the FTC’s attempt to define e-commerce as a separate market is naive and purposefully conceived. 

Does anyone really think that WalMart, Kroger, Albertson’s, etc., are not competing with Amazon in a multi-channel marketplace?

The marketing challenge for a brand is to be available wherever and whenever a shopper wants to buy them. If the total value proposition of one of these channels is deemed to be superior…isn’t that the essence of building a successful business in a free market? 

Being innovative, efficient and successful should not be equated with being a monopoly.

And, from MNB reader Philip Herr:

I was intrigued by your article on Amazon. We have been experiencing a smaller, but related problem with Amazon dictating terms of business. 

I volunteer with our local library. We sell donated books on Amazon. We are not eligible for Prime — we fulfill ourselves. Most of our orders are between $6 and $15, for which we charge a standard $3.99 shipping. Typically we ship via USPS and usually are able to cover just about all of the shipping charge. Until this week when Amazon in its wisdom has decided that many of our daily orders must go via UPS (or sometimes FedEx). Charges for these carriers are at least 50% higher — sometimes double.  This cuts into any margin which goes towards programs funded by the library. In order to sustain our ongoing business we would be forced to raise our prices, making us uncompetitive.

Now we are small and a non-profit, but what about commercial small businesses who are in similar circumstances? How do we create any leverage against the behemoth? 

On another subject, from another reader:

I have done college recruiting and currently recruit and work with university student for an internship program which has caused me to think about what a college degree actually means for employers.  I look at a college degree as evidence that someone can take their knowledge and skills and apply them to something to achieve a goal over and over again.  There are always obstacles to overcome in the various classes, labs, and social interactions over a three to four year time horizon in order to reach the end goal of earning the degree.

I spent several years in the Army and find that military service offers many of the same things for young people of the same age that might not think they are ready for academics but ready to achieve.  Service members have to achieve in their everyday assignment to get promoted or to remain in the service as they get regular performance reviews and have to be recommended by their commanders.  Someone who achieves a rank of sergeant or above has proven that they can apply their knowledge, initiative and skills to the task at hand, come out with the desired result and often have the added benefit of managing soldiers in their unit.

Management is a people business and talent takes various pathways, but normally, talent, initiative and hard work win out regardless of the path.

Yesterday we took note of a Wired report on how "the United Nations has published a major new tally of the impact the world’s food system has on our health and the planet. According to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the total hidden costs of the world’s food system add up to $12.7 trillion dollars—roughly 10 percent of global GDP … Globally, 73 percent of all the hidden costs accounted for by the FAO were associated with diets that led to obesity or non-communicable diseases like diabetes and heart disease. The next biggest impact in monetary terms was to the environment, accounting for more than 20 percent of quantified hidden costs."

One MNB reader responded:

Good lord – how can this be?

Wouldn’t it be nice if this issue could gain a foothold in our collective consciousness?  The article left me with a combination of anger, frustration and sadness.

If only we could all unite over just this one calamity and fix it? So much waste and so many hungry people. Because we could solve it– but we won’t - because of complacency ---- and greed.

We can’t even solve the hunger issue in our own communities which is the saddest and most shameful. I am thankful that you continue to surface this challenge and I continue to hope that my fellow citizens will not look away when the homeless are right in front of them.

Finally, yesterday's FaceTime focused on the story of Paul Hendel, who went from flipping burgers at a Long Island McDonalds for $1.85 an hour in the mid-seventies to owning 31 franchises today.  In part, it is a testament to his willingness to abandon the path more traveled, but it also is a reflection of how his early bosses saw his potential and invested in him.

MNB reader Kathy Williams responded:

I have a similar story to Paul's.  I was single, teaching 5th grade in the 1980's and wanted to work during the summer along with school vacations to earn some extra money.  I applied for a Community Relations Representative job at McDonald's and they happily worked around my schedule.

After a year they offered me a full time position as a Marketing Supervisor, complete with a company car, better salary, and other great benefits.  It was a hard decision to make but I did  it and never looked back.  I was promoted and moved to Albany NY where I met my future husband who had started with McDonald's 15 years prior peeling potatoes in Minnesota working his way up to Regional Purchasing Manager for the Northeast.  We  then owned a McDonalds franchise for 3 years and saw our dream come full circle.

The question" do you like what you do" is so important and has a direct effect on your work and accomplishments.   I have had other career changes and the guiding force was to be happy at my job first and the money and other perks are secondary.  Many times McDonald's gets a bad rap in the news but I can truly say that it made a great difference in my life and my happiness!


I think it is fair to say that pretty much every bad career decision I've made was made because of money.  Which is not to say that every bad career decision ended up was a long-term negative;  I'm a big believer in the domino theory when it comes to big stuff.  I'm where I am today because of both good and bad decisions.  And since i'm both happy and fulfilled, that's a net positive.