WTF, Amazon?

So, I ordered my replacement KVM switch from Amazon well over a week ago. Being a cheapskate, I opted for the free shipping. Which, of course, was the slowest shipping option.

It ended up being as slow as possible. The surprise was how it ended up being so slow: the item didn’t even ship until Friday, and Amazon then paid extra for a Sunday delivery so that the arrival date could be honored. Seriously, now: WTF? Why not ship it using the slowest, cheapest possible service the day they get the order?

Since it shipped from one of their Seattle-area warehouses, that would mean I got it about as soon as if I had paid extra for expedited shipping. But so what? The worst-case arrival date is just that: a worst case. There’s nothing wrong with making a package come sooner than that, particularly if it costs Amazon less money in the first place.

Then a thought occurred to me: What they did is botch a process (shipping a package) until it became a crisis and then spent extra money on heroic measures to deal with the crisis. That’s exactly how Amazon handles managing their technical staff. Instead of having procedures guaranteed to ensure routine, smooth operation, they pay people extra (Amazon has a reputation for having generous salaries) to work long hours in endless crisis mode (something else Amazon has a reputation for).

So, while consistent, both their shipping and their employee management practices still mystify me.

I can’t find the old post at the moment, but I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged about this (mis)management style before. Since then, I’ve come up with the term “techno-sadism” to label it by. It’s as if management believes that productivity is managed by making people work as hard as possible, which is done by ensuring that teams are in perpetual crisis mode.

How absurd it is becomes clear when you think of the manufacturing sector. How many manufacturers consider it a good thing to have routine operation of the assembly line to be disrupted regularly, to the point that heroic amounts of overtime and speed-ups are needed to compensate for the disruptions?

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