It’s particularly amazing when that tone-deafness comes from a tech company -- one that definitely should know better.
But apparently whoever’s got the access codes to the official “Amazon News” Twitter account does not know better.
This week, the verified account, with 163,000 followers, decided to pick a fight with the staunchest warrior for the working class of our time, Senator Elizabeth Warren. And as of the time of writing this column, things are not going well for the corporate behemoth.
Let’s start with the fact that Amazon is already starting a bit on the back foot in the court of public opinion.
A big reason for this is the sheer obscenity of founder and soon-to-be-former CEO Jeff Bezos’ wealth -- especially when placed in stark contrast with the ubiquitous suffering of the past year. Per Oxfam, Bezos’ wealth has gone up by more than $70 billion since the pandemic started.
It’s hard to wrap your head around $70 billion, but let’s try.
Bezos could give each one of the 876,000 Amazon employees a bonus of $105,000 -- and still be as wealthy as he was before the pandemic.
He could give away 3.5 billion shots of Covid vaccine -- and still be as wealthy as he was before the pandemic.
He could easily cover a multiple years of school lunches for the 30 million students being fed at 100,000 schools and education institutions, eliminating the shame of school lunch debt -- and still be as wealthy as he was before the pandemic.
(Before you comment at me, yes, I know wealth is not the same as income, and yes, I know he doesn’t have the $70 billion in cash, this is an illustrative exercise, so let’s just stay focused on the point here, mmkay?)
But it’s not only Bezos’ wealth that has been under scrutiny. As warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama seek to form a union, Amazon has gone to extraordinary lengths to get in their way: from forcing them into anti-union meetings to texting them multiple times a day to changing the rhythm of the traffic lights outside the factory so pro-union workers can’t talk to employees while they’re stopped at a red.
Which brings us to this week, and the following tweet from Senator Warren: “Giant corporations like Amazon report huge profits to their shareholders – but they exploit loopholes and tax havens to pay close to nothing in taxes. That’s just not right – and it’s why I’ll be introducing a bill to make the most profitable companies pay a fair share.”
Now, if you’re Amazon, already widely perceived as a caricature of corporate ruthlessness, you may want to let this one slide. But like a sideways boat in a major shipping artery, @amazonnews chose to forge its own path, responding, “You make the tax laws, @SenWarren; we just follow them. If you don’t like the laws you’ve created, by all means, change them.”
Today, the Amazon News Twitter account learned what the ratio is: the phenomenon where a take is so bad it generates more comments than likes.
Today, Amazon learned it may need to put someone with a little more maturity and self-restraint at the helm of it official news Twitter account.
Today, we all learned an important lesson about how to do corporate social media: namely, that this ain’t it.