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Richard Laermer Headshot

Amazon Failure, the Future of the Corporation and "Crisis Communications 101"

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I'd like to think Amazon is in control of its business model but like all companies that have too many tentacles in too many places they are actually in a heap of trouble a lot of the time.

When a company spends as much time carefully cultivating their thought to be casual image -- Amazon's hype is about as contrived and particularly worded as I've seen -- you know that they take every word and comma written about them with the utmost seriousness.

Like, for instance, this:

Amazon is doing a big shiny dance with regard to moving gay, lesbian, transgendered and erotic books to the Adult section of the world's largest bookstore. On one hand they say it was a ham-fisted (a word when used is ham-fisted) re-categorization error, which would have worked as a plausible excuse if they corrected it immediately. But that's where the other hand slaps that hand away. Amazon sent letters to publishers informing them of the move. That's not something Amazon can take back so easily. As a matter of fact, publishing types I spoke to feel this move is final.

Crisis PR is about taking the bull by the horns of reality and stopping a shitload of bad press before it takes you over. In the case of Amazon, the tweets and posts about this debacle are still overshadowing their efforts to bring the noise level down and make everything better. When the dust on the gay fiasco settles, it's obvious that was an effort of Amazon insiders to take gay-themed books like Randy Shilts' The Mayor of Castro Street and John Rechy's City of Night and turn them into something naughty.

How did this happen? No outsiders know for sure. Most likely, Bezos and some insiders have an idea that brings them no pride: It's likely that someone or some group within the company has a religious or personal belief that trumps anything already "on the books" about categorizing gay or sexed-up titles. I believe that, like in caveman days, small people in power who have no hobbies use that heaviness in a way that will only make them feel better.

In Amazon's and others' cases, if you're a molasses-moving public company and a small number of employees (or two, in the case of Dominos' snot-in-pizza fiasco) screws with your brand, it usually takes a series of high level meetings before anything happens to clean it up. Somehow, Dominos, as we now nod to, pounced in an aggressive manner that made it clear this was a rogue movement of two never-to-be-seen-again idiots. The Big A moves in mysteriously slow ways (which is why its slogan, "Amazon. And You're Done." makes me laugh). They wring their hands for days diluting a statement and the non-spontaneity of that careful statement put more egg on an already crinkly face.

No matter what happens to Amazon, the policy put in place had a sinister smell, and so Amazon will always have a bad rep with gay authors, readers, and like-minded/sensitive/ folks who think prejudice is simply too last year for them to bear.

That's a literate group who pays full price. I can't imagine a collective with bigger mouths who now spend a great deal of free time slamming Amazon at every turn. Perhaps one day BN will stop licking their own wounds, look up and grab them by the bookbinders.

Oh, and what could Amazon have done to stop the attacks? They could have canned the folks who made gay book-bashing a pastime, and did so with verve and gusto, without worrying about fallout from the investment community. Alas, nothing transpired. In a big show of "We want to be all things to all people," oops-oh-boy statements appeared, and they, like all vanilla approaches, fall on deaf ears.

Crises aside, I am looking towards a new era when our networked population stops caring about corporate monoliths in favor of seeking ways to buy locally, from small sellers, outside the Amazon box. Let's give our shrinking expendable monies to entrepreneurs know how to treat each customer with style, grace and aplomb.

And yeah, wren't you tired of the nonstop huffing-and-puffing in our direction by companies who work so hard to 'acquire' us but do so little for us afterwards?
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