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Amazon as the Evil Landlord

image via Business Insider

Amazon has a bad reputation for doing business with because they only care about customers, not suppliers, and because they manage both customers and suppliers with lots of automation.

But if you think that is bad, you should check out what some of Amazon’s tenants have been saying.

The retail giant is investing heavily in South Lake Union, a Seattle neighborhood. It has been building office towers by the truckload, and complimenting all the new offices with restaurants, bars, and other eateries. And since it’s an office district, there’s not a whole lot of nightlife (downtown Phoenix, AZ is the same way).

According to The Seattle Times, when restaurants tried to shut down early on nights and weekends because they’re not making any money, Amazon started throwing its weight around:

Lease requirements for restaurants in its Doppler Building property stipulate that venues must stay open late on weekdays and on weekends. That makes some tenants grumble.

Two former employees at Henderson’s now-defunct Bar Noroeste said it was cheaper to close early if sales were low.

On several Saturday and Sunday nights, revenues amounted to only about $100, not even enough to cover the cost of staffing, so management sent the staff home and called it a night, a common practice in the restaurant industry.

Henderson confirmed the restaurant got in trouble after Amazon’s security took note of the early closure, and the company then threatened to fine Noroeste for breaking the lease terms. Henderson said that’s no longer an issue at its new iteration, Kiki Ramen.

Two former employees there were less conciliatory, complaining that Amazon security guards micromanaged and created an uncomfortable working environment by tracking their every move and reporting what time they closed up shop.

Yes, Amazon is using its security guards as its private goon squad. Said rent-a-cops intimidate both tenants as well as press and anyone who passes by on the street.

Business Insider published a story today about one encounter its journalists had with Amazon’s enforcers:

A photojournalist had set up a camera on the sidewalk to film construction across the street. Two security guards were gathered around her asking questions and seemingly calling something in on their radio.

I snapped the above photo and walked past them.

As I did, the security guard pictured followed me, holding up his smartphone to my face. I stopped and asked him what he was doing. He replied that it is company policy to film all media personnel in the area. I had never identified myself as media.

After the guards left, I went back to the photojournalist and asked her about the incident. The photojournalist said Amazon security has tried to throw its weight around when she’s photographed in the area before.

"In my opinion, I think they think they own the city, and can patrol it how they want. But no one will stop me from taking photos on a public street,"  the photojournalist told Business Insider, asking to remain anonymous so as not to jeopardize her relationship with Amazon.

This kind of behavior is typical of security guards in private developments, where a development company owns the buildings as well as the sidewalk and roads, but this happened on a public street in downtown Seattle.

Amazon is acting like it owns the city, where it is merely a leading employer. Can you imagine how it is going to act in any of the cities that are currently bidding to become Amazon’s second HQ?

Some of the cities such as Chicago and New York City already have records of repeated and systemic human rights violations. Mix in Amazon’s willingness to behave like a feudal lord and we have a recipe for disaster.

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Geoffrey Kidd January 8, 2018 um 3:02 pm

How Amazon treats its tenants is a good indicator of how they’d treat their customers if they thought they could get away with it.

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