I don’t like Amazon as much as I did last week
Amazon.com announced on Tuesday that it had selected Long Island City (Queens), NY and Sterling City, VA as the sites for its new second headquarters operations. It follows a lengthy and much publicized evaluation process that started with bids from hundreds of cities which Amazon eventually whittled down to 20 finalists. While most people living and working in the chosen HQ2 cities are probably pleased with the news, those in towns that failed to make the cut may be having a different, more negative, reaction. I know I did.
As background, I’ve been a consumer fan of Amazon for years. I placed my first order with the site in 2001 and have been a subscriber to Prime for more than a decade.
As I write this, selections from Haydn’s Complete String Quartets are streaming from Amazon Music Unlimited in the background. My home page for the site is set to AmazonSmile, which contributes small amounts from my purchases to a charity of my choosing, currently the New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestra.
For years, Amazon has been my primary search engine for researching and purchasing products online and in stores. The service I’ve received has almost always been excellent — Amazon makes good on bad products, even when they are not eligible for return.
I am happy being an Amazon customer. But I’m not as happy as I was last week. The reason is simple. Amazon passed on Newark, NJ, the city with the most to gain — economically and socially — from its HQ2 choice.
My history with the city goes back to a Christmastime trip with my parents when I was no more than five. We visited the city’s downtown department stores, including Bamberger’s, where I got to meet Santa, drink a chocolate malt milkshake and delight in the sights and sounds around me.
Sadly, the Newark I remembered from that trip was soon gone. The tumult of the 1960s brought about by racial tensions and social inequality led to riots that destroyed Newark’s image. Residents, primarily the white middle class, and businesses abandoned the city.
In the decades that followed, Newark attempted to remake itself in fits and starts. The city, to its credit, has made great strides in redeveloping its downtown to attract corporate citizens, including Amazon’s Audible division, Mars Wrigley, Panasonic, Public Service Enterprise Group and Prudential Financial. Landing HQ2, or half of it, very well could have put the city over the top and partly moved it out from under the shadows of Manhattan to the east.
In the end, my purchasing behavior with Amazon may not change. That said, I don’t feel as good about it today as I did even last week. Memory is a funny thing. Sometimes it reminds you of a magical past. Other times it reminds you of slights, even the unintended ones.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Has Amazon’s handling of its HQ2 search had an effect on the company’s image? Do you think Long Island City and Sterling City will ultimately be happy with Amazon’s decision?