Did I Say That? Is Amazon ushering in a whole new era?
By now you’ve heard that Amazon bought Whole Foods for almost $14 billion and then cut prices as much as 43%. It’s a miracle for people like me who couldn't afford to shop there unless I tapped into my 401(k) or my grandson’s college fund. What’s truly amazing is that with every corporate acquisition I’ve lived through or read about, the only thing that usually gets cut is the staff ... or benefits.
Let’s hope a new era is dawning, especially since some of the price cuts were on items I regularly buy — organic avocados, organic apples, organic baby kale and organic rotisserie chicken, which is the only thing my wife lets our dog eat. Yes, our dog eats organic — it’s a household rule — although I’m more inclined toward Little Debbie cakes and synthetic frozen foodstuffs that have an appreciable amount of processed sugar, not to mention ingredients I can’t pronounce.
From time to time, I’ll survey the shelves of Super Walmart because it’s a national repository of items like Hot Pockets and Celeste frozen pizza, which were my favorites when I was growing up in Pine Rock Park, where we didn’t even know what quinoa was and certainly couldn’t pronounce it. There was no such thing as Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods in those days.
I’ve often thought that people shop at Whole Foods because they want to be seen as hipsters, just like those guys who camp out at Starbucks, allegedly working on their laptops when they’re really trying to meet women. Now, they’ll probably turn up with their laptops at the deli counter in Whole Foods.
The place has always had a countercultural aura, sort of like a California commune circa 1969 where toddlers wandered around the marijuana patch in diapers while their parents sat on the porch strumming folk guitars and peeling avocados. Everyone’s motto was “Peace, love, more peace, more love, even more avocadoes!”
Actually, this Amazon price reduction campaign is a momentous turning point in U.S. supermarket history, certainly in the history of free market capitalism. Most of my life, prices have risen and wages have stagnated.
However, I suspect this is really a move to help Whole Foods compete with Costco and Walmart and capture the big enchilada. Amazon is in a position to do just that. It’s so gigantic that one day it will probably rule the world, along with Google, Facebook, George Soros and the Kardashians. At least then we wouldn’t have all the hassles associated with politics, and Amazon could probably solve a lot of our country’s problems and make America great again, or at least affordable again, for the working family. Furthermore, we could put that company’s enormous wealth to good use for the benefit of humankind.
The Whole Foods acquisition is just the start. Let me offer some humble thoughts from the commune. Amazon, as you know, has breathed new life into the flagging U.S. Postal Service. Mailpersons are working day and night, including Sundays, to deliver Amazon packages. I know because our dog hasn’t stopped barking for months every time a truck goes by, especially since most of the packages are delivered to our home. That’s an American capitalism success story.
So imagine the benefits if Amazon bought the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It could repair the New York City subway system and Metro-North commuter railroad in addition to cutting train fares and giving the unions the raises and benefits they’re threatening to strike over. Union members would be eternally grateful and they’d have more money to spend on avocado dip at Whole Foods.
And what if Amazon bought the State of Connecticut? I’m sure the General Assembly would put it on the market for a reasonable price, since it’s decreasing in value by the day, and Amazon could give our elected officials jobs in the Whole Foods produce department.
Our taxes would go down, state benefits would improve, pensions and healthcare would be free for everyone, and — to quote Herbert Hoover — we’d have an organic chicken in every pot. Young people and retirees could afford to live here and not have to move. I’m not suggesting a 43% cut in taxes, although 40% would be greatly appreciated.