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纽约客2019年10月10日发表了一篇题为《Is Amazon Unstoppable?》的文章,我非常喜欢,想提炼一些内容与大家分享。

文章开头记录了一段传言:盖茨打电话向贝索斯约见,接电话的是助手,盖茨询问周二或者周三是否可行。助手转告贝索斯,并且在查过日历后告诉贝索斯这两天他都有空。然后贝索斯说,我们约在星期四吧。

纽约客似乎想用这个段落表明贝索斯的权力表演或者傲慢情绪。但我觉得如果这则传言是真的,那它更体现了一种谈判策略。挪动一天约会时间,如果对方放弃了,那么说明这件事情也不是很重要,我就节省下来一次会面的时间。我要不要提一个新日期,和我在旧日期有没有空无关。

亚马逊现在是全美第二大雇主,第一大是沃尔玛。这么大规模的公司,确实需要一些洗脑型的管理策略,比如排队训话,比如价值观。在亚马逊,这个价值观叫做“Leadership Principles”,一共十四条。

PowerPoint was discouraged. Product proposals had to be written out as six-page narratives–Bezos believed that storytelling forced critical thinking–accompanied by a mock press release. Meetings started with a period of silent reading, and each proposal concluded with a list of F.A.Q.s, such as “What will most disappoint the customer on the first day of release?”

我很赞同这些方法,首先我很厌恶PowerPoint;其次,我觉得开会应该有事先准备的文档;再次,我觉得开会之前大家应该读这份文档。这都是我喜欢的方式。最后,列出来的这个问题我也很喜欢。

亚马逊很节俭:主张双面打印;使用门板制作的廉价办公桌;只提供咖啡和香蕉,但类似的科技公司都提供丰富的食物。

Employees line up at vending machines that dispense free over-the-counter painkillers.

仓库雇员的工作。

“No company pulling billions of dollars of profits should pay a lower tax rate than firefighters and teachers.”

这是拜登说的话。

文章很大篇幅提到了通用汽车和通用汽车的功勋总裁斯隆。通用与福特不同,福特是product companay,通用是process company。谷歌和脸书也是product company,但亚马逊是process company。product company的核心是一款拳头产品,他们几乎不生产别的东西,而process company是总结了一套process,然后用这套process生产各行各业的产品。

纽约客的文章提到亚马逊面临严重的假货问题。有的品牌方干脆撤出了亚马逊的销售,以此告知用户你们在亚马逊上买到的全是假的。但是品牌方撤出亚马逊以后,销量承受巨大压力。所以他们认为这个市场已经被亚马逊扭曲了。Birkenstock的首席执行官Kahan说:

Capitalism is supposed to be a system of checks and balances. It’s a marketplace where everyone hagggles until we’re all basically satisfied, and it works because you can always threaten to walk away if you don’t get a fair del. But when there’s only one marketplace, and it’s impossible to walk away, everything is out of balance. Amazon owns the marketplace. They can do whatever they want. That’s not capitalism.

In 2014, when a group of technicians at an Amazon warehouse in Delaware petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to allow them to vote on whether to unionize, Amazon hired a law firm that specialized in fightingg organized labor, and held meetings warning that unioniztion could be bad for workers’ jobs. Employees voted against joining the union.

和美国工厂的剧情一样。

贝索斯收购华盛顿邮报之后,就冻结了邮报的公积金计划。

斯隆的境遇与贝索斯非常相似,创造了新的方法,统治了众多领域,引发垄断危机,遇到工会和税务问题,与政府、国会发生矛盾,也遭到了小报跟踪和对私人名誉的攻击。通用遇到的这些困难情况发生在1929金融危机之后、二战前夕。

When Alfred Sloan and G.M. were fighting labor unions and tax foes, in the nineteen-thirties, the company’s critics begn providing tabloids with photographs of G.M. executives enjoying their luxury sailboats and cavorting with showgirls. In 1936, the United Auto Workers staged a weeks-long sitdown strike in Flint, Michigan, and labor activists smuggled gossip about Sloan to reporters. Walter Lippman soon declared that Sloan was a “bungling” menace. When Sloan refused to meet with union representatives, the Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins, took him to task publicly, yelling at him, “You are a scoundrel and a skunk, Mr. Sloan! You don’t deserve to be counted among decent men.” Soon afterward, G.M. agreed to recognize the union.
In 1937, the Treasury Secretary accused Sloan of “moral fraud”–”the defeat of taxes through doubtful legal devices.” Sloan insisted that he’d actually paied sixty per cent of his income from the previous year in taxes, and given half of what remained to charity, but the attack further blighted his reputation. Eventually, Sloan caved. He donated fifteen per cent of his whelth–the modern equivalent of a hundred and eighty million dollars–to fund the Alred P. Sloan Foundation, and he eventually gave hundreds of millions of dollars more to universities and other organizations.

看完这一段,我就想到马云说的,当人拥有了这么多钱之后,钱就不是自己的了。美国官员的语言风格与现在别无二致。

Until the nineteen-seventies, many process companies were constrained by a fear of U.S. antitrust enforcement. Alfred Sloan always kept a close eye on the size of G.M.’s market share. “Our blogie is forty-five per cent,” Sloan told a reporter, in 1938. “We don’t want any more than that.”

优秀的process companay很容易发展成综合体,可能就会遇到一些反垄断问题。不过,product company也可能会遇到反垄断问题。按照我的理解,product company更容易面临“除了你没别家”的问题,而process company更容易面临“怎么哪哪都有你”的问题。

Last year, Amazon tapped a group of warehouse workers to be a kind of Twitter rapid-response army, deputiziing them as “ambassadors.”
这种网络水军挺有意思的。

Part of Amazon’s defensiveness stems from executives’ convinction that regulators’ concerns are based not on logic but on a misguided understanding of retail. One executive told me that the real problem is that Amazon is disproprtionately popular among lawmakers. Congressional aides, high-profile jounalists, and other elites often use Amazon to buy kitchen supplies and Christmas gifts. They watch “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and shop at Whole Foods. They don’t even know the location of the nearest Walmart, the executive said, and therefore think that Amazon is much more powerful than it really is.

一方面,是否可以把线上零售定义为一个市场?那么在这个市场里,亚马逊有垄断地位。另一方面,综合体就是这样无处不在,让人恐惧。

亚马逊的政治力量比脸书、谷歌强很多。亚马逊在全美各州都有仓库,为全美各州提供工作,在全美各州都有选票。脸书和谷歌没有。

堪萨斯大学的历史教授David Farber曾经写过斯隆的传记,他指出美国历史中存在一种模式:

There’s an economic revolution, it creates amazing new opportunities, and then the companies that seize those opportunities become so powerful that the people revolt–they say the winners have become too powerful, they start atttackingg the people who are the embodiments of winning, sometimes with gossip, somtimes with facts. And then we have an era of constraint enforced by the fedoral goverment.

这有一点像我之前写的《大政府猜想》。现在想来,这也可能是社会矛盾自然解决的一种模式。也许我们现在就在这个临界点,和1880年代、1930年代一样。


本作品采用知识共享署名-相同方式共享 4.0 国际许可协议进行许可。

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