In two separate articles published this weekend, the Seattle Times criticizes Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) for its business practices and philanthropic efforts, calling it a “giant, silent neighbor.”
In the two pieces, Amazon comes across as a highly secretive company — when it is viewed from the perspective of other businesses. Book publishers reading the philanthropy piece today will find new reasons to distrust the company. Consumers may not care as long as they are getting excellent customer service.
The first article, “Amazon a virtual no-show in hometown philanthropy,” says, “As Amazon prepares to turn 18 this summer, it cuts an astoundingly low profile in the civic life of its hometown.”
While Seattle companies like Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Boeing are actively involved in charitable giving, Seattle Times reporters Amy Martinez and Kristi Heim call Amazon a “giant, silent neighbor”:
Though Amazon is a Fortune 500 company, you won’t find the company’s name on the rosters of major donors to such venerable local nonprofits as the Alliance for Education, Seattle Art Museum and United Way.
The Seattle Times also found no record of significant Amazon donations to the Seattle Symphony, Washington’s Special Olympics, YMCA of Greater Seattle or Forterra, a prominent conservation group formerly called the Cascade Land Conservancy.
Amazon now “leases more office space downtown than any other private-sector employer,” but “won’t even acknowledge how many employees it has in the area.” A philanthropic consultant who worked with Microsoft calls the company a “black box.
Martinez and Heim note Amazon’s attitude may be changing:
In the past year – as The Seattle Times began looking into its charitable giving and shortly after [former City Council member Jan] Drago questioned Bezos at the company’s annual shareholder meeting – Amazon reached out to more than 30 local nonprofits, offering volunteers, in-kind donations and small, often unsolicited, cash contributions.
The second article, “Amazon.com trying to wring deep discounts from publishers,” written by Amy Martinez, examines Amazon’s increasingly important role in the world of book publishing as it becomes a book publisher itself.
Most of the piece doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been following the company closely, but Martinez interviewed two small book publishers who have been fighting with Amazon over the company’s demand for better terms.
“Publishers rarely criticize companies they do business with,” Martinez notes, but “some say they’re speaking out against Amazon partly because they’re offended by its tactics. They describe Amazon’s demands — made in e-mail, with no personal-contact information provided — as overly aggressive and leaving almost no room for discussion.”