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An award-winning journalist investigates Amazon’s impact on the wealth and poverty of towns and cities across the United States. In 1937, the famed writer and activist Upton Sinclair published a novel bearing the subtitle A Story of Ford-America. He blasted the callousness of a company worth “a billion dollars” that underpaid its workers while forcing them to engage in repe An award-winning journalist investigates Amazon’s impact on the wealth and poverty of towns and cities across the United States. In 1937, the famed writer and activist Upton Sinclair published a novel bearing the subtitle A Story of Ford-America. He blasted the callousness of a company worth “a billion dollars” that underpaid its workers while forcing them to engage in repetitive and sometimes dangerous assembly line labor. Eighty-three years later, the market capitalization of Amazon.com has exceeded one trillion dollars, while the value of the Ford Motor Company hovers around thirty billion. We have, it seems, entered the age of one-click America—and as the coronavirus makes Americans more dependent on online shopping, its sway will only intensify. Alec MacGillis’s Fulfillment is not another inside account or exposé of our most conspicuously dominant company. Rather, it is a literary investigation of the America that falls within that company’s growing shadow. As MacGillis shows, Amazon’s sprawling network of delivery hubs, data centers, and corporate campuses epitomizes a land where winner and loser cities and regions are drifting steadily apart, the civic fabric is unraveling, and work has become increasingly rudimentary and isolated. Ranging across the country, MacGillis tells the stories of those who’ve thrived and struggled to thrive in this rapidly changing environment. In Seattle, high-paid workers in new office towers displace a historic black neighborhood. In suburban Virginia, homeowners try to protect their neighborhood from the environmental impact of a new data center. Meanwhile, in El Paso, small office supply firms seek to weather Amazon’s takeover of government procurement, and in Baltimore a warehouse supplants a fabled steel plant. Fulfillment also shows how Amazon has become a force in Washington, D.C., ushering readers through a revolving door for lobbyists and government contractors and into CEO Jeff Bezos’s lavish Kalorama mansion. With empathy and breadth, MacGillis demonstrates the hidden human costs of the other inequality—not the growing gap between rich and poor, but the gap between the country’s winning and losing regions. The result is an intimate account of contemporary capitalism: its drive to innovate, its dark, pitiless magic, its remaking of America with every click.


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An award-winning journalist investigates Amazon’s impact on the wealth and poverty of towns and cities across the United States. In 1937, the famed writer and activist Upton Sinclair published a novel bearing the subtitle A Story of Ford-America. He blasted the callousness of a company worth “a billion dollars” that underpaid its workers while forcing them to engage in repe An award-winning journalist investigates Amazon’s impact on the wealth and poverty of towns and cities across the United States. In 1937, the famed writer and activist Upton Sinclair published a novel bearing the subtitle A Story of Ford-America. He blasted the callousness of a company worth “a billion dollars” that underpaid its workers while forcing them to engage in repetitive and sometimes dangerous assembly line labor. Eighty-three years later, the market capitalization of Amazon.com has exceeded one trillion dollars, while the value of the Ford Motor Company hovers around thirty billion. We have, it seems, entered the age of one-click America—and as the coronavirus makes Americans more dependent on online shopping, its sway will only intensify. Alec MacGillis’s Fulfillment is not another inside account or exposé of our most conspicuously dominant company. Rather, it is a literary investigation of the America that falls within that company’s growing shadow. As MacGillis shows, Amazon’s sprawling network of delivery hubs, data centers, and corporate campuses epitomizes a land where winner and loser cities and regions are drifting steadily apart, the civic fabric is unraveling, and work has become increasingly rudimentary and isolated. Ranging across the country, MacGillis tells the stories of those who’ve thrived and struggled to thrive in this rapidly changing environment. In Seattle, high-paid workers in new office towers displace a historic black neighborhood. In suburban Virginia, homeowners try to protect their neighborhood from the environmental impact of a new data center. Meanwhile, in El Paso, small office supply firms seek to weather Amazon’s takeover of government procurement, and in Baltimore a warehouse supplants a fabled steel plant. Fulfillment also shows how Amazon has become a force in Washington, D.C., ushering readers through a revolving door for lobbyists and government contractors and into CEO Jeff Bezos’s lavish Kalorama mansion. With empathy and breadth, MacGillis demonstrates the hidden human costs of the other inequality—not the growing gap between rich and poor, but the gap between the country’s winning and losing regions. The result is an intimate account of contemporary capitalism: its drive to innovate, its dark, pitiless magic, its remaking of America with every click.

30 review for Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America

  1. 4 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    Amazon is a monster, if only just in size. There are numerous books and papers examining its labor practices, union bashing, seller abuses, platform monopoly tactics, and its effects on all other retail. Alec Macgillis’ book Fulfillment is different. It follows the lives of a handful of Americans, mostly working class, some of whom never intersect Amazon at all. But readers won’t know that until they’ve read their whole life story. One or two come back a hundred pages later – to work at an Amazo Amazon is a monster, if only just in size. There are numerous books and papers examining its labor practices, union bashing, seller abuses, platform monopoly tactics, and its effects on all other retail. Alec Macgillis’ book Fulfillment is different. It follows the lives of a handful of Americans, mostly working class, some of whom never intersect Amazon at all. But readers won’t know that until they’ve read their whole life story. One or two come back a hundred pages later – to work at an Amazon warehouse that has changed the face of their community. But some don’t. I can’t really say what the point of it is. Throughout the book, there are droppings of dramatic facts, but they are usually not explored beyond the simple statement of them: -Sellers on Amazon had great difficulty paying 15% for the privilege. That 15% was usually more than their entire profit margin. Today, Amazon’s fees amount to more like 27%. -Amazon has a code of Leadership Principles. Prominent among them: “Leaders are tenacious and have conviction. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion.” -One Amazon warehouse worker in 10 in Ohio is on food stamps, and Amazon ranks in the top five of employers whose staff is on food stamps in at least five states. -Amazon is responsible for the destruction of about 76,000 retail jobs – every year. -Warehouse accidents at Amazon are twice the national average. But Macgillis doesn’t weigh those statements. That’s not what the book is about. Macgillis barely mentions antitrust, Congressional hearings, union organizing, copying hot selling products and selling them itself, or putting “interior competitors” (outside sellers on the site) out of business. It is instead a series of biographies, down to extraordinary personal and trivial detail, almost none of which is relevant to working at Amazon. Their jobs are unsatisfying, short term, and low-paying. It’s no different at Amazon warehouses. People in dire straits have difficulties in relationships, difficulties with their health, and of course difficulties with money. Amazon has little or nothing to do with it. There is a puzzling amount of nostalgia for the good days of Bethlehem Steel’s operations in the Baltimore area (now occupied by Amazon operations). There is a great deal of nostalgia for working at family-owned department stores, (now history). Readers might to connect that to Amazon employment conditions today, but really, there is no connection. Macgillis doesn’t force the connection either. Times are different. Working conditions are different, and not just at Amazon warehouses. The purpose it serves in the book is never clear. The title, Fulfillment, has many meanings in this context. Fulfilled orders, fulfilled lives, or even a fulfilled dump of the evidence condemning Amazon. But the book doesn’t fulfill any of them. At this level, it is too clever by half. It isn’t fulfilling. The book concludes with a Baltimore drug dealer taking a job at an Amazon warehouse, because the pandemic closed the stores his customers used to steal things from. At the age of 33, this was his first real job. The end. David Wineberg

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Amazon's Long Shadow. This book seeks to show the America that was, and the America that is in the Age of Amazon and how the former became the latter. And in that goal, it actually does remarkably well. Sprinkling case study after case study after case study with history, political science, and social science, this book truly does a remarkable job of showing the changing reality of living and working in an America that has gone from hyper local business to one of hyper global - and the giant blu Amazon's Long Shadow. This book seeks to show the America that was, and the America that is in the Age of Amazon and how the former became the latter. And in that goal, it actually does remarkably well. Sprinkling case study after case study after case study with history, political science, and social science, this book truly does a remarkable job of showing the changing reality of living and working in an America that has gone from hyper local business to one of hyper global - and the giant blue smiley swoosh that has accompanied much of this transition over the last 2o years in particular. Very much a literary style work, this perhaps won't work for those looking for a more in-depth attack on Amazon, nor will it really work for those looking for a true in-depth look at Amazon's specific practices. But it does serve as a solid work of showing many of Amazon's overall tactics and how they are both the result of change and the precipice of other change. Very much recommended.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Viola

    https://portside.org/2021-02-08/union... LABOR Union Solidarity on Eve of Historic Amazon Warehouse Election In Alabama, unions gather to support workers seeking union recognition from the Earth’s largest non-union company. February 8, 2021 by Luis Feliz Leon The #Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama., Michael Wade/ICON Sporstwire via AP Images BESSEMER, ALABAMA – On Saturday, February 6, two days before the start of a decisive unionization vote, representatives from various unions across https://portside.org/2021-02-08/union... LABOR Union Solidarity on Eve of Historic Amazon Warehouse Election In Alabama, unions gather to support workers seeking union recognition from the Earth’s largest non-union company. February 8, 2021 by Luis Feliz Leon The #Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama., Michael Wade/ICON Sporstwire via AP Images BESSEMER, ALABAMA – On Saturday, February 6, two days before the start of a decisive unionization vote, representatives from various unions across the country and @Amazon employees gathered in the rain on a green field. Despite the weather, they made a show of unity with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which is leading a unionizing campaign to represent about 5,800 workers who toil in Amazon’s enormous warehouse. A day earlier, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that RWDSU’s union ballots can be mailed out on Monday, February 8, rejecting Amazon’s objections and calls for an in-person vote. Leading up to the vote, Amazon has thrown all its might behind efforts to throttle the union election. Now, with the NLRB’s decision clearing the way, RWDSU and a united labor movement are pushing ahead in the hope of coming out victorious against Amazon. Amid fluttering American flags and the sweet sounds of favorites on the union rally playlist like Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” and Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It,” RWDSU organizers busied themselves plunking yard signs into the muddy earth: Vote Union Yes. Don’t Back Down. Remember Mail Your Yes Ballot. The RWDSU’s leading campaign organizer, Joshua Brewer, spoke with passion and determination. Holding a microphone in one hand and a coffee cup on the other, he highlighted the obstacles they’ve braved to get to this point, not least the rain showering down on him. “We started with a dozen workers in Bessemer, and we grew to thousands. And it happened fast, and it happened because of people like you who supported them,” Brewer said. More than 100 supporters held up soggy placards. They included union members from the Communications Workers of America Local 3902, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 136, the United Mine Workers of America, the Iron Workers Local 92, United Auto Workers Local 2083, and the American Federation of Teachers. “This could be the difference between Amazon being what it is, corporate greed, and a provider of working-class jobs,” says Thomas Morrissey of Teamsters Local 25, who came down from Boston for the rally. Last month, Morrissey, a trainer for drivers of tractor trailers, joined his fellow Local 25 members at the Hunts Point Produce Market picket line in the Bronx. The Hunts Point strike, at the largest food wholesaler in the world, was about specific demands for higher wages and better benefits, and it ended with workers winning their largest pay raise in decades. By contrast, successfully forming a union at an Amazon warehouse, Morrissey says, would be a “spark” that “could literally take off across the country.” Morrissey says he makes these trips to create the kind of world he wants his kids to live in. Tears welling in his eyes, he tells me, “Sending pictures to my son down here in the rain is a big deal.” Amazon workers from other states joined the rally too. “We can only be as good as how we treat our lowest-paid workers,” says Zach, an Amazon driver from Louisiana. He lost his previous job due to the pandemic and has been on Amazon’s payroll since August of 2020. He earns $15.50 hourly and works an average of 30 hours a week. Amazon “kind of benefited from the capture of lots of people losing their jobs and being desperate for income,” said Zach. “I’m so used to people telling me that it’s impossible to form a union in the South. It’s impossible to form a union in Louisiana. But these guys are fighting, and if they can win this union here in Alabama, it means much better things for workers throughout the South.” Mail-in ballots began to go out on Monday to an estimated 5,800 members of the bargaining unit. Brewer says many of these workers come from union households, where their relatives are beseeching them to vote yes for the union. “This is a union town,” said Brewer of Bessemer, located just outside of Birmingham, Alabama’s biggest city. “It’s long been a union town. It’s gonna continue to be a union town.” Alabama has one of the highest union densities in the South, with an estimated 180,000 unionized workers, about 8 percent of the workforce. While quite low historically, that’s higher than in neighboring states like Georgia and Tennessee. Bessemer is a small industrial city of 27,000 residents founded in 1887 by coal magnate Henry DeBardeleben and nicknamed “The Marvel City,” described on the town’s website as an “economic engine driving development in the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan area.” “If you dig deep into Alabama’s history, it has such a strong union history with the steelworkers,” said Jason Kobielus, co-chair of Birmingham Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). “Unions are standing up for things that are bigger than them.” Sen. Bernie Sanders: “It cannot be overstated how powerful it will be if Amazon workers in Alabama vote to form a union.” In the 1930s, Birmingham’s Mine Mill union went on strike against steel companies over union recognition, including Tennessee Coal and Iron (TCI), one of the biggest steel companies of its time, and incubator of the Jefferson County Ku Klux Klan. Mine Mill represented a multiracial workforce of iron ore miners that was about 80 percent African American. Mine Mill’s president was white, while its vice president was Black. The multiracial union inspired future generations of civil rights leaders and workers, as it served up a radical example of militancy and chutzpah. Armed with the knowledge of these past struggles, members of the St. Louis and Birmingham chapters of DSA have been supporting the Amazon workers since the organizing campaign began in October. They turned out for the rally clad in signature red sweaters and holding handmade signs with the emblem of the rose. Amazon has been working to discourage workers from joining the union. Early on Saturday, I saw a woman in her early twenties filling up her car at a nearby gas station while wearing a lanyard with an Amazon pin, showing a smiling face spelling out “VOTE NO” in white letters against a red background. She says, “Amazon put it on us.” All newly hired workers got the pin when they started on the job, says the woman. She’s only been at the Bessemer warehouse for a month and tells me that she loves it in comparison to her last job at Walmart. Even though she’s not included in the bargaining unit for the upcoming election, she’s attended the company’s mandatory “captive audience” meetings, where she says Amazon “educates” workers with anti-union messages. “If it’s anything that can help us, I’m for it,” says another worker when asked about the union. She’s been on the job for over six months, so she is eligible to vote. Before Amazon, she worked as a production operator at a non-union auto plant. Amazon is telling her to vote no and that the workers “can do it without dues,” she says, referring to the name of Amazon’s union-busting website. But she’s also spoken with a friend’s husband who has a union job that provides retirement benefits and health insurance. Through Amazon, she has a 401(k) and health insurance. But she says, the union has “kinda some positive stuff.” Jennifer Bates, a union supporter, has been at Amazon since May 2020. She started as a stower, someone who packs and sorts bins of various sizes for delivery, but is now a “learning ambassador,” Amazon’s term for a trainer. Bates says one of her trainees was so excited about the union that she tried to sign up her father, a former union worker. “Well, honey, you can’t sign your father up because he don’t work here,” Bates told the trainee. Other workers, Bates says, went home and asked their parents about signing a union card. One parent, Bates says, answered, “Sign that card, honey, and take it back down there, you need it.” “I believe we will make history,” she adds. As the rally neared its end, people wearing hats and heavy coats milled about in the cold, biting wind, their masks wet and loose on their faces, their shoes sinking into the dried grass turned to mud, umbrellas raised to the gray skies. People were still whispering about how Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sent union supporters and workers 40 pizzas earlier in the day. Later that night, Sanders tweeted his support: “It cannot be overstated how powerful it will be if Amazon workers in Alabama vote to form a union. They are taking on powerful anti-union forces in a strong anti-union state, but their victory will benefit every worker in America.” Sanders’s words—“their victory will benefit every worker in America”—catch a theme of the rally, the idea that labor unions provide generational stewardship for future workers. Randy Hadley, president of the RWDSU’s Mid-South Council, tells the crowd of the precedent a unionized Amazon would set. “Let’s make a difference in our future,” Hadley says. “Our children, our grandchildren are going to end up working one day at a place like Amazon, and we need to fix it and make it better.” [Luis Feliz Leon is an organizer, journalist, and independent scholar in social-movement history making good trouble in New York City.] See Also Amazon Union Busting video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=AQeGBHx... ++++++ https://portside.org/2021-02-13/amazo... Amazon Files Preemptive Suit Over Covid-19 Worker Safety "This action by Amazon is nothing more than a sad attempt to distract from the facts and shirk accountability for its failures to protect hardworking employees from a deadly virus." February 13, 2021 by Jessica Corbett Amazon workers and community allies demonstrate during a protest organized by New York Communities for Change and Make the Road New York in front of the Jeff Bezos' Manhattan residence in New York on December 2, 2020. , Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images New York Attorney General Letitia James responded forcefully on Friday to Amazon's preemptive lawsuit intended to block her from taking legal action against the behemoth corporation over workplace safety during the coronavirus pandemic and the firing of warehouse workers involved in a walkout last spring. "We remain undeterred in our efforts to protect workers from exploitation." —New York Attorney General Letitia James "Throughout this pandemic, Amazon employees have been forced to work in unsafe conditions, all while the company and its CEO made billions off of their backs," James said in a statement about the suit. "This action by Amazon is nothing more than a sad attempt to distract from the facts and shirk accountability for its failures to protect hardworking employees from a deadly virus." "Let me be clear: We will not be intimidated by anyone, especially corporate bullies that put profits over the health and safety of working people," the state attorney general added. "We remain undeterred in our efforts to protect workers from exploitation and will continue to review all of our legal options." Amazon on Friday filed a federal suit in the Eastern District Court of New York. The complaint, according to Bloomberg, says James' office "has threatened to sue if the retail giant doesn't comply with a list of demands, which include subsidizing public bus service and reducing production targets required of workers in its warehouses." As Bloomberg reports: The company's complaint also amounts to a lengthy and detailed defense of its actions to protect employees, including a day-by-day chronicle of safety measures it rolled out as the respiratory virus spread around the U.S. in March and April. "Amazon has been intensely focused on Covid-19 safety and has taken extraordinary, industry-leading measures grounded in science, above and beyond government guidance and requirements, to protect its associates from Covid-19," the company said in its complaint. James launched an investigation into Amazon after workers—including organizer Chris Smalls, who was later fired—protested conditions at a Staten Island warehouse. The state AG said at the time that "it is disgraceful that Amazon would terminate an employee who bravely stood up to protect himself and his colleagues." Reporting on the company's move Friday, the New York Daily News noted that "Smalls says that he and another employee, Derrick Palmer, were terminated in retaliation for starting the protests. Amazon has argued that the two employees were terminated for their own failure to comply with health regulations." The Seattle-based company was founded by the world's richest person, Jeff Bezos, whose wealth has surged during the pandemic. Bezos, who announced this month that he will step down as Amazon's CEO later this year and transition to the role of executive chair, had a net worth of $189.5 billion as of Friday, according to Forbes. In December 2020, shortly after a global coalition of workers and activists took to the streets on Black Friday to launch the #MakeAmazonPaycampaign, 401 lawmakers from 34 countries endorsed the effort with an open letter to Bezos, putting him "on notice that Amazon's days of impunity are over."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    Alec MacGillis is a journalist who has written a new book on Amazon.com. The book presents a series of chapters about different part of the US, ranging from Seattle to Dayton to Central Pennsylvania, to Baltimore, to Washington, D.C. and suburban Virginia, to metro New York. All of the chapters present a view of late 20th century and early 21st century America and all have in common a focus of the role of Amazon in the current economic and social trajectory of the area profiled in the chapter. E Alec MacGillis is a journalist who has written a new book on Amazon.com. The book presents a series of chapters about different part of the US, ranging from Seattle to Dayton to Central Pennsylvania, to Baltimore, to Washington, D.C. and suburban Virginia, to metro New York. All of the chapters present a view of late 20th century and early 21st century America and all have in common a focus of the role of Amazon in the current economic and social trajectory of the area profiled in the chapter. Each chapter is a case study in which MacGillis follows the life stories and work careers of a number of parties in the area. We come back to them in subsequent chapters so that the book presents a composite picture of American economic life in the age of Amazon. The timing of the book is interesting. Most of the book covers up through 2019 but not the COVID-19 pandemic, The book was being finalized and edited into 2020, so that there are some references to COVID and there is some sustained treatment of the pandemic in a final chapter. A good portion of the book covers some well traveled territory in the deindustrialization of America and the hollowing out of the middle class as high paying and protected union jobs evaporated or went overseas and were replaced by temporary work, precarious contractor work, low level service work, big box retail work, and working for Amazon.com. The fall of the middle class from grace is clearly documented. This is part and parcel of the narrative that has dominated the trade books about the US economy since the crash of 2008 and more intensively since the 2016 election. There were also winners to these changes and it is the usual culprits of the economic elites and the enabling classes of highly educated professionals. These have all gravitated towards large central city complexes on the coasts along with some inland exceptions like Chicago. Life in these cities has been booming for some and good enough for others. Middle size cities and smaller towns have fared worse leading to political divisiveness and two different countries that do not seem to fit together well. Again, this is not new either and fits right in with books based on the outbreak of economic inequality since the Reagan years and the popularity of Springsteen songs. So is Fulfillment just a rehash bashing of Amazon? No, it is not. To start with, MacGillis brings the story up to date for Amazon and does a nice job explaining the growth of Amazon’s huge expansion of fulfillment centers and its AWS data centers. These two businesses are critical for examining recent developments and also for understanding why Amazon appears to have prospered during COIVID-19. Yes, it is a “winner take all” economy but Amazon made some big bets that served it extremely well as the global pandemic unfolded last year. The other point to note, and some may disagree, is that Amazon is not the clear villain of this story. The economic trends behind deindustrialization predated the dominance of Amazon. That Amazon figured out how to build its massive supply chain and data behemoth to take advantage of these trends is a fact and hardly a crime. Jobs are jobs, the checks cash, and customers are happy. There is no need to push a strong morality tale. Are there things about Amazon for critics to note? Sure. But Amazon’s role in this story is more mixed. That Amazon’s rise seems associated with middle America’s fall is unfortunate but correlation is not causation and there is lots of blame to go around for US economic woes. As for me, I have shopped at Amazon for a long time and have no apologies to makes, but MacGillis’s book is very good at informing the business logic behind some of Amazon’s business lines, for example in the chapter on Amazon getting small businesses to sell their wares on Amazon’s platform but then competing against these same small businesses. The growth of big business in US history has always featured these dynamics and MacGillis is good at describing them. Several of the chapters have substantial back stories, for which cites are provided for those interested. The chapters on Baltimore and neighboring industrial plants are especially good. The book is well written and easy to follow. It reads like a journalist account - which it is - and readers wanting more detailed analyses will need to go elsewhere. As these books go - and there are lots of books on Amazon - this is a nice piece of work and well worth reading.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jimgosailing

    So I probably would have read this anyway, but reading it now was prompted by a conversation with my daughter who pointed out that I don’t shop Walmart because of worker issues, so why would I continue to use Amazon? This book reiterated some of what I knew about Amazon’s treatment of its workers - the pressures to keep up with metrics; lack of bathroom breaks (more of that in the news just recently- peeing into bottles); and the churn of turnover. The book addresses Amazon’s extreme strategies So I probably would have read this anyway, but reading it now was prompted by a conversation with my daughter who pointed out that I don’t shop Walmart because of worker issues, so why would I continue to use Amazon? This book reiterated some of what I knew about Amazon’s treatment of its workers - the pressures to keep up with metrics; lack of bathroom breaks (more of that in the news just recently- peeing into bottles); and the churn of turnover. The book addresses Amazon’s extreme strategies and negotiations to avoid paying taxes (while reaping the benefits of, for example, local EMTs to provide aid to workers overcome by heat exhaustion)[there is a reason why the company whose origins were in California decided to move to Seattle- to avoid having charge state sales tax on what it projected to be its largest customer base] And points out that while Amazon touts that it pays its employees $15, it is silent on the fact that so many (hundreds of thousands?) of its workers are contractors who don’t get paid this much. An incident of an unmarked Amazon delivery truck fatally hitting a young child is provided as an example of the lack of liability on Amazon’s part in such a situation, but I don’t think MacGillis spends enough time exploring the ramifications of having so many workers who appear to be employees but who aren’t; he touches in one sentence on their not getting the same benefits as actual employees - but doesn’t explore lack of overtime, workers compensation, or unemployment benefits such contractors do not receive; and as far as accident liability, they and not Amazon are on the hook. I like how he drew comparisons of the site in Baltimore where Beth Steel had once been and the wages, working conditions, and camaraderie that existed then versus the new Amazon facility now occupying that site, but this is part of a larger issue of loss of manufacturing jobs and what is now available to job seekers. I like the vignettes of tying his reporting to individuals - it humanizes what would otherwise be facts and figures (and I’m still trying to decide if some of his examples had too much of their own baggage that maybe undercut his argument of the impact Amazon was having.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Mckay

    31st book of 2021: Unfulfilled The American model of technology innovation undoubtedly has created winners and losers. Hearing the stories of folks that are part of the 800,000 strong army powering prime delivery is a compelling premise, and I'm excited to go beyond a NYT article into what it means to work in a semi-automated warehouse, the likely future of low-skill work in America and eventually the world. In the introduction, it MacGillis takes an odd form of make-warehousing-great-again st 31st book of 2021: Unfulfilled The American model of technology innovation undoubtedly has created winners and losers. Hearing the stories of folks that are part of the 800,000 strong army powering prime delivery is a compelling premise, and I'm excited to go beyond a NYT article into what it means to work in a semi-automated warehouse, the likely future of low-skill work in America and eventually the world. In the introduction, it MacGillis takes an odd form of make-warehousing-great-again style nostalgia that uses big tech as a synonym for everything wrong with inequality today. MacGillis claims that the issue of geographic inequality, or the effects of low income jobs remain unexamined, but I beg to differ: Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism is a cogent account of the trends from those falling from working class to destitute class. The New Geography of Jobs makes a compelling case about how geographic inequality is bad for the country. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is a more sympathetic and engaging view of what it means to live on the edge when the cost of everything essential is rising. Macgillis' accounts of cities he's clearly never lived in are not compelling. His dramatization rather than humanization of individual narratives, and inability to tie statistics into a story beyond factoids means I'm still waiting for a good book on this important topic.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jason Weill

    “Fulfillment” is a shallow series of narratives of working-class lives under 21st-century U.S. capitalism. It would have worked better as a podcast with accompanying anticapitalist memes to share, out of frustration, for social media points. The book has good storytelling, but is riddled with errors and misinterpretations about Seattle, Amazon, and other topics. (I live in Seattle and formerly worked for Amazon.) Despite the book's title, subtitle, and cover art, this is not a book about Amazon, “Fulfillment” is a shallow series of narratives of working-class lives under 21st-century U.S. capitalism. It would have worked better as a podcast with accompanying anticapitalist memes to share, out of frustration, for social media points. The book has good storytelling, but is riddled with errors and misinterpretations about Seattle, Amazon, and other topics. (I live in Seattle and formerly worked for Amazon.) Despite the book's title, subtitle, and cover art, this is not a book about Amazon, nor does it claim to be in the text. Instead, “Fulfillment” latches onto every dystopian trope there is about the ways in which modern companies have identified and disrupted inefficient markets without regard for feelings — and it is upset in ways tailor-made for memes to share with your iPhone on your Facebook feed. Rather than winners and losers, this is a book about villains and tragic heroes. The villains are the people with money and influence and the heroes are the ones who started with little and ended with nothing. It makes for a very predictable narrative. If a wealthy person is introduced, you know they'll be a winner-villain; if a working-class person is introduced, they'll be a loser-hero. Apart from the internecine battles between labor unions and socialists over Seattle’s abortive “head tax,” virtually every story told in “Fulfillment” follows a predictable narrative. Amazon’s white-collar employees are rhetorical punching bags. Successful cities are mocked for their tasting menus. Dying cities are lamented for their dollar stores. The Manichean view of America is politically popular yet tiresome in its cliched oversimplification. The author’s only suggestion: force companies to locate jobs throughout the country to rebuild the mythical midcentury Main Street that is often nostalgically celebrated but whose limited selection and high prices seem untenable today. I found this conclusion, like most of “Fulfillment,” naive and ignorant to history.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Debra Daniels-Zeller

    This book was compelling on a number of levels. Small businesses in the US have taken a hit in the past decade, and more especially during the pandemic of 2020. Amazon delivered packages at a crazy level. Opting into Amazon Prime, can be an innocent mistake, and for those who don't cancel and pay the going rate for a yearly fee, you can get an endless amount of crap delivered without paying a delievery fee. At the time this book was written, twenty-five thousand retail stores were expected to go This book was compelling on a number of levels. Small businesses in the US have taken a hit in the past decade, and more especially during the pandemic of 2020. Amazon delivered packages at a crazy level. Opting into Amazon Prime, can be an innocent mistake, and for those who don't cancel and pay the going rate for a yearly fee, you can get an endless amount of crap delivered without paying a delievery fee. At the time this book was written, twenty-five thousand retail stores were expected to go out of business by the end of 2020, yet Jeff Bezo's net worth increased by $24 billion in just two months of that same year. He's projected to be the first trillionaire soon. The amount the company has grown is astonishing, and how Amazon pays no taxes is even more astonishing with cities dancing around like clowns giving Amazon massive tax breaks just to bring low-wage jobs in "Fulfilment" Centers to their towns. On Youtube, I see ads with actor/warehouse workers beaming into the camera and talking about how much they love working there. I feel an Orwellian chill creep over me as the world ends not with a bang but a whimper. This company is so massive and has its tangled roots in every sector and apparently Bezo's thinks he'll be able to just fly away to some other planet after we wreck this one, since he's investing his billions, into Blue Origin, challenging NASA's deal with Elon Musk's Space X, while his workers are peeing in bottles, and under constant survelience just to make their numbers. I wasn't as rivited when the author did deep dives into other companies or people, but overall this was an eye-opening book that makes me wonder about the future in a winner-take-all society. A great companion to this book is Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low Wage Britain, another book that takes a look at what it's like to work in a "Fulfillment Center."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael Martz

    'Fulfillment' wasn't particularly fulfilling, but if you're unfamiliar with the effects of Amazon's growth (I'm not sure who would be, but nonetheless....) you might get more out of it that I did. The author, Alec MacGillis, uses mostly anecdotes peppered with a little hard data to paint a picture of a behemoth that is threatening the basic fabric of this country. 'Fulfillment' is organized in chapters based on a curious mixture of subject matter: Community, Cardboard, Security, Dignity, etc. Mac 'Fulfillment' wasn't particularly fulfilling, but if you're unfamiliar with the effects of Amazon's growth (I'm not sure who would be, but nonetheless....) you might get more out of it that I did. The author, Alec MacGillis, uses mostly anecdotes peppered with a little hard data to paint a picture of a behemoth that is threatening the basic fabric of this country. 'Fulfillment' is organized in chapters based on a curious mixture of subject matter: Community, Cardboard, Security, Dignity, etc. MacGillis typically begins each with a story or stories about the human side and follows with the business side of the topic. For example. one of the most startling combinations to me was about a preservationist who developed a business selling bricks from torn down decrepit Baltimore buildings who happens to spot his product in $500K 700s.f. apartments being sold to people drawn to the DC area due to the decision to build the new Amazon HQ2 nearby. His approach is effective in some cases, but in others he spends far too much time providing background history that doesn't really contribute to the story. Personally, I was an 'early adopter' with Amazon and a long time fan of its founder, Jeff Bezos. However, Fulfillment paints a picture of a company and leader who aren't necessarily interested in playing fair with its employees and the tax code. It's a tough situation that likely can only be addressed through some sort of government intervention. If you're a consumer of business news and publications, Fulfillment may not break new ground for yo. However, it does pull information about the company together in a unique way that paints a pretty bleak picture overall.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Theo

    Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America was ultimately (ironically) not what I expected or hoped. I wanted to read more about the Amazonification phenomenon--labor policy, worker exploitation and injury, lost tax revenue, the wealth gap growing exponentially at an alarming pace, dystopian corporate ethics, the proliferation/encouragement of counterfeit and copied products, etc. And many of these issues were touched on...briefly, in between long personal profiles of various workers a Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America was ultimately (ironically) not what I expected or hoped. I wanted to read more about the Amazonification phenomenon--labor policy, worker exploitation and injury, lost tax revenue, the wealth gap growing exponentially at an alarming pace, dystopian corporate ethics, the proliferation/encouragement of counterfeit and copied products, etc. And many of these issues were touched on...briefly, in between long personal profiles of various workers and business owners across the United States. There was a great deal of unrelated backstory for each person/group of people covered in the text, information that is of course of great importance in the context of these peoples' personal lives but that rarely contributed to any understanding of MacGillis's larger point (?) about how Amazon's devastating effect on the American economy. An aspect of the book of great personal interest for me was the coverage of The Bon-Ton's takeover of Elder-Beerman, as one of my parents was employed at the Dayton, Ohio location for many years, including during this transitional time. MacGillis presents The Bon-Ton as a small, benevolent, worker-friendly company unfairly run into the ground by bigger fish. The author's description did not match my childhood memories of that time period--not necessarily surprising, since I was (as I said) a child, and my experience of the buyout was filtered through my dad's more direct experience and the many tense conversations between my parents, but still of note.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Filed under my new "What's Wrong with America?" shelf. Disturbing and depressing look at how Amazon is contributing to the economic decline of towns and small cities while making large cities unaffordable to all but the wealthy. The larger Amazon gets, the more it can bully local, state, and federal governments into giving it huge tax breaks and looking the other way as Jeff Bezos and Co. ignore health and safety regulations, force small businesses to use their Marketplace platform, and squash a Filed under my new "What's Wrong with America?" shelf. Disturbing and depressing look at how Amazon is contributing to the economic decline of towns and small cities while making large cities unaffordable to all but the wealthy. The larger Amazon gets, the more it can bully local, state, and federal governments into giving it huge tax breaks and looking the other way as Jeff Bezos and Co. ignore health and safety regulations, force small businesses to use their Marketplace platform, and squash any attempts at unionizing. All of this was before COVID-19 came along and accelerated everything, as Amazon became the sole source of most items for people stuck at home, and the dominant employer for those who lost their jobs. And the income/wealth gap in our country continues to grow... Numerous "victims" of Amazon's growth are profiled, but the saddest one to me was the Baby Boomer who had worked most of his life in Baltimore's steel industry, only to see the factories torn down and replaced by Amazon warehouses, where he now earns a fraction of his former salary and can't even take bathroom breaks without being written up for lack of productivity. After reading the book, you may decide to boycott Amazon products, but you can't possibly avoid Amazon Web Services, whose cloud servers host many of the most commonly used websites. So what can you do to fight back? Unfortunately MacGillis doesn't provide any potential solutions, only a bleak vision of a monopoly/monopsony (look it up) run by the richest man on the planet.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Budman

    I wanted and expected to like Fulfillment much more than I did. MacGillis has done fantastic, sensitive deep-dive reporting, painting meticulous portraits of several American families and their relationships with locations and employment over the years, but he does remarkably little to guide the reader through it all. Perhaps MacGillis was wary of the dangers of delivering an easily dismissed anti-Amazon screed, but he had options beyond offering scattered dispatches from various front lines and I wanted and expected to like Fulfillment much more than I did. MacGillis has done fantastic, sensitive deep-dive reporting, painting meticulous portraits of several American families and their relationships with locations and employment over the years, but he does remarkably little to guide the reader through it all. Perhaps MacGillis was wary of the dangers of delivering an easily dismissed anti-Amazon screed, but he had options beyond offering scattered dispatches from various front lines and letting reviewers & interviewers & readers do the work of synthesizing them into something coherent. It's a missed opportunity: I would have loved help in better understanding how Amazon has exacerbated the too-little-discussed trend of the nation dividing into a handful of thriving, winner-take-all cities and everywhere else, and Fulfillment left me with little beyond a few colorful snapshots. The book about which I kept thinking while reading MacGillis's is Brian Alexander's 2017 Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town, an illuminating and powerful account of how rapacious venture capitalists killed a company and its city. (My review here.) Fulfillment made me wish I were rereading that one.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Shirl Kennedy

    I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon, which I suspect is not uncommon. I don't think it's entirely fair to hold it so heavily responsible for the economic demise of small towns in rural America; trends have been moving in that direction for a long time. The globalization genie is well out of the bottle at this point. Economic inequality has reached absurd proportions. One thing that would help is universal access to health care. Free community college is another thing. Investment in affor I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon, which I suspect is not uncommon. I don't think it's entirely fair to hold it so heavily responsible for the economic demise of small towns in rural America; trends have been moving in that direction for a long time. The globalization genie is well out of the bottle at this point. Economic inequality has reached absurd proportions. One thing that would help is universal access to health care. Free community college is another thing. Investment in affordable housing would be a plus. Things will never go back to "the good old days" (which were not universally "good"). I do think there are antitrust issues here that need legal scrutiny. Not just Amazon, but Google and Facebook as well. The digression into the minutia of the BonTon stores rise and fall didn't really add anything to the narrative here. Telling the story of rural/small town devastation through the experiences of individual people helped to humanize the story; it's not news that Amazon exploits its lowest-wage workforce, but seeing how it actually affects people on an individual level makes it vivid.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bevan

    America does not exist any longer. Four or five companies with enormous economic power now dominate our lives; cities and towns will give away millions of dollars in what are called rents to attract these companies. In the case of Amazon, they have become so powerful that towns will allow them to pay no real estate taxes for years on property that they own, or offer them massive rebates on other taxes and services. This is not new: many companies, such as Walmart and other retail chains, have be America does not exist any longer. Four or five companies with enormous economic power now dominate our lives; cities and towns will give away millions of dollars in what are called rents to attract these companies. In the case of Amazon, they have become so powerful that towns will allow them to pay no real estate taxes for years on property that they own, or offer them massive rebates on other taxes and services. This is not new: many companies, such as Walmart and other retail chains, have been taking advantage of arrangements like this for years. What is new is the gigantic scale and audacity of Amazon's demands. Woven into the narrative of this book are the many human stories about the effects of the changing economy. Alec MacGillis is a great journalist. The workers of Bethlehem Steel are especially vividly shown in great detail. The rise of Amazon and other giant monopolies corresponds to the deaths of small cities and small enterprises. With its armies of lawyers and lobbyists, Amazon takes advantage of every possible defect in our capitalist system. This book needs to be read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    This book explains the Amazon phenomenon with the rise of educated mega cities and the fall of the uneducated rural area and small cities. In the beginning, people have jobs in industries like the steel industries. Then the Japanese and then Chinese made cheaper and better steel and other stuff. So manufacturing disappeared. Then Amazon appeared and people started to buy online. Then the malls started closing too. Soon the only jobs left in the small towns and secondary cities are Amazon jobs, d This book explains the Amazon phenomenon with the rise of educated mega cities and the fall of the uneducated rural area and small cities. In the beginning, people have jobs in industries like the steel industries. Then the Japanese and then Chinese made cheaper and better steel and other stuff. So manufacturing disappeared. Then Amazon appeared and people started to buy online. Then the malls started closing too. Soon the only jobs left in the small towns and secondary cities are Amazon jobs, distributing stuff from China to Americans. Amazon is both the platform and also a seller. It knows exactly what sells and compete away its competitors with fakes or sell below cost. It can change its prices minute by minute. It then uses its power to play cities against each other, asking for property tax breaks, free infrastructure and sales tax break. They base their company in Luxembourg to avoid company tax. It monitors its workers and only give them 30 minute break for a 10-hour shift. It developed its own distribution infrastructure but employ the truckers as contractors. The whole story is told matter of factly, with human stories intertwined with the macro picture.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    I can't say I really enjoyed reading this book, but I feel it is my civic duty to know what the heck I am doing when I click once again and order something from Amazon without giving it a thought. MacGillis introduces us to real people who work for or have been affected by Amazon as a way to demonstrate how this company is dominating so much of our lives. I find it obscene the way Bezos is pilling up cash at the same time as his warehouse workers toil for low wages under horrible conditions. It I can't say I really enjoyed reading this book, but I feel it is my civic duty to know what the heck I am doing when I click once again and order something from Amazon without giving it a thought. MacGillis introduces us to real people who work for or have been affected by Amazon as a way to demonstrate how this company is dominating so much of our lives. I find it obscene the way Bezos is pilling up cash at the same time as his warehouse workers toil for low wages under horrible conditions. It feels like we are incapable of resisting Amazon's secrecy and ruthless domination of any competitors. MacGillis' description of how Amazon conducted its search for a second headquarters was so disheartening. Cities all over America prostrated themselves before Amazon promising to give away all kinds of tax breaks only to be tossed aside as Amazon predictably choose Northern Virginia. And everywhere Amazon goes, it manages to degrade the landscape with its hideous warehouses and escape paying almost any taxes. Its trucks dominate the roadways, yet it pays almost nothing for those roads. Are the kinds of jobs Amazon does provide really worth it? Do I really need low priced books delivered in a day this much?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    I found this a really interesting examination of how the rise of Amazon has impacted life in America. The author is obviously pro-worker and pro-union. He examines the different cities and areas where Amazon has established itself, first in Seattle and then as it stretched out into different areas of the country and expanded into different commercial fields. Amazon is now huge and has its fingers in everything, pretty much. It built itself up by avoiding taxes, playing price games, offering coun I found this a really interesting examination of how the rise of Amazon has impacted life in America. The author is obviously pro-worker and pro-union. He examines the different cities and areas where Amazon has established itself, first in Seattle and then as it stretched out into different areas of the country and expanded into different commercial fields. Amazon is now huge and has its fingers in everything, pretty much. It built itself up by avoiding taxes, playing price games, offering counterfeit products, fantastic marketing and extreme consumer-centric delivery and PR that unfortunately screws over a lot of other people, like warehouse workers and local businesses and even local governments (Amazon is famous for paying little in taxes but demanding a lot from the areas it infiltrates.) A good part of the book examined Amazon's ongoing venture into my neck of the woods which I found really interesting. This book inspired me to try to become less reliant on Amazon.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ula

    A devastating account of the labor market in America. There was a time when a job could give fulfillment - but for more and more people this word is associated only with huge warehouses, not personal happiness. And in no small part, the responsibility for this situation bears one company. It may seem easy to unjustly vilify the Big Tech, but Alec MacGillis doesn't rely on bias or prejudice: he gives us terrifying stats and numbers, as well as personal stories of ordinary, hard-working people who A devastating account of the labor market in America. There was a time when a job could give fulfillment - but for more and more people this word is associated only with huge warehouses, not personal happiness. And in no small part, the responsibility for this situation bears one company. It may seem easy to unjustly vilify the Big Tech, but Alec MacGillis doesn't rely on bias or prejudice: he gives us terrifying stats and numbers, as well as personal stories of ordinary, hard-working people who suffer from the long shadow of Amazon. It is great non-fiction, full of painstakingly accumulated details and impressive research, but beautifully written and engaging like a novel. Highly recommended! Thanks to the publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and NetGalley for the advance copy of this book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    David

    MacGillis takes an in-depth look at the state of the economy focusing on Amazon’s growth and business practices. This book is not an analysis of how Amazon does things but, rather, the impact of Amazon’s presence in communities across the land. Amazon is certainly the headliner of the many changes in our economy: technology, consolidation, winner-take-all cities, etc. Like many books of this type, the reporting is quite good, the story is easy to follow, but the end result is dire. No jobs in sm MacGillis takes an in-depth look at the state of the economy focusing on Amazon’s growth and business practices. This book is not an analysis of how Amazon does things but, rather, the impact of Amazon’s presence in communities across the land. Amazon is certainly the headliner of the many changes in our economy: technology, consolidation, winner-take-all cities, etc. Like many books of this type, the reporting is quite good, the story is easy to follow, but the end result is dire. No jobs in smaller cities, too expensive to live in the successful cities, cities giving away tax breaks to lure companies to town, and on and on. Yet Amazon focuses on customers and makes it very easy to shop at home for just about anything. Consumers win, competitors are overwhelmed, workers are in a tough spot.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Theresa Jehlik

    It's ironic that I finished this book just as Mitch McConnell was telling businesses that they shouldn't get political. Much of MacGillis' research shows how political business is behind the scenes with both past and present case histories. Although Amazon is featured, this book is less about their operations and practices (well-documented by others) and more about the cities and regions that are winning and losing in an economy currently dominated by Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. Us It's ironic that I finished this book just as Mitch McConnell was telling businesses that they shouldn't get political. Much of MacGillis' research shows how political business is behind the scenes with both past and present case histories. Although Amazon is featured, this book is less about their operations and practices (well-documented by others) and more about the cities and regions that are winning and losing in an economy currently dominated by Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. Using case histories (past and present), the author explores the costs of being a "winner city" on either coast and a "loser city" everywhere else in America. MacGillis also details how America's addiction to online shopping has devastating economic consequences for local and state governments and the climate.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Richard Blackmore

    DNF at 1%. I’m sorry, I can’t do it. I can’t tolerate the author’s apparent first attempt (I hope this is) at writing book length material, for the sake of reading yet another account of how horrible Amazon is. MacGillis seems to be having a love affair with the comma. If only he were good at writing long sentences. He is no Charles Dickens. His sentences are bland and boring and rather than gluing the reader to the page they repel the reader. Or at least this one. Also, if you want to build symp DNF at 1%. I’m sorry, I can’t do it. I can’t tolerate the author’s apparent first attempt (I hope this is) at writing book length material, for the sake of reading yet another account of how horrible Amazon is. MacGillis seems to be having a love affair with the comma. If only he were good at writing long sentences. He is no Charles Dickens. His sentences are bland and boring and rather than gluing the reader to the page they repel the reader. Or at least this one. Also, if you want to build sympathy with the reader, don’t begin your book with the story of a Latin American former tech worker who loses his $100,000 + job in the recession...and his first thought after months of depression, and being kicked out of the house, is to work at Amazon? What the? No other job was good enough? It was either a tech job or worst job imaginable? Really? Sorry, not for me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dustin

    Full review to come. I’m a fiction guy, but every once in a while I get a craving for some nonfiction and this book was so important to me. Fulfillment tells the story of how wealth and power in America has accumulated in a few “winner takes all” cities including my home, and the home of Amazon, Seattle. The book argues convincingly that swift antitrust rulings and action are needed not just to spread economic opportunity to more places in the US, but to preserve our democracy. I’ll update this re Full review to come. I’m a fiction guy, but every once in a while I get a craving for some nonfiction and this book was so important to me. Fulfillment tells the story of how wealth and power in America has accumulated in a few “winner takes all” cities including my home, and the home of Amazon, Seattle. The book argues convincingly that swift antitrust rulings and action are needed not just to spread economic opportunity to more places in the US, but to preserve our democracy. I’ll update this review with some of the mind boggling facts spread throughout. For example: - Amazon was responsible for 30% of all jobs added in Seattle from 2010-2019. - Amazon owns or leases 1/5 of all office space in Seattle, the highest proportion of any company in any city in the country.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Joey Nedland

    I think that there’s good content to write to better understand Amazon’s impact on our economy and society writ large, but MacGillis’s way of telling that story doesn’t necessarily take the most effective angle. He anchors the story through personal stories, weaving in biographies of many whose lives have been negatively affected by Amazon in some way, along with detailed histories of industry in select areas (Ohio, Baltimore). I think that it relies a bit too heavily on these anecdotes, and the I think that there’s good content to write to better understand Amazon’s impact on our economy and society writ large, but MacGillis’s way of telling that story doesn’t necessarily take the most effective angle. He anchors the story through personal stories, weaving in biographies of many whose lives have been negatively affected by Amazon in some way, along with detailed histories of industry in select areas (Ohio, Baltimore). I think that it relies a bit too heavily on these anecdotes, and the throughlines are muddled at points, which I found somewhat frustrating. Still, a useful book to read to understand just how many people have been active champions of the detrimental rise of Amazon to the point of monopoly.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    This had the potential to be so much better. Amazon has fundamentally changed everything about American Life, (and not in a good way). Even this Good Reads platform was bought by Amazon. Other platforms I use on a regular basis such as IMDB and Audible were also bought and owned by Amazon, and they provide Web services to countless on-line platforms, so even though I try hard not use Amazon it is impossible to totally boycott them if you use the internet. What this book tries to do is show the i This had the potential to be so much better. Amazon has fundamentally changed everything about American Life, (and not in a good way). Even this Good Reads platform was bought by Amazon. Other platforms I use on a regular basis such as IMDB and Audible were also bought and owned by Amazon, and they provide Web services to countless on-line platforms, so even though I try hard not use Amazon it is impossible to totally boycott them if you use the internet. What this book tries to do is show the impacts of Amazon on worker's lives, but unfortunately he rambles and sometimes never gets around to tying these stories back, or if he does it's hundreds of pages later. He barely talks about Unions, Congressional hearings, or even anti-trust. In all it was a disappointment.

  25. 4 out of 5

    David Dayen

    I've probably read most of Alec MacGillis' work for the past decade, and much of what's here feels familiar, with the Amazon throughline layered on. In a way the book is a victim of the author's success - his deep reporting in Baltimore and Dayton was already known to me. The uninitiated reader will get a lot more out of the project to locate Amazon within the trend of regional inequality in the United States. It fits together well, and while sometimes the book is a bit too sprawling in its effo I've probably read most of Alec MacGillis' work for the past decade, and much of what's here feels familiar, with the Amazon throughline layered on. In a way the book is a victim of the author's success - his deep reporting in Baltimore and Dayton was already known to me. The uninitiated reader will get a lot more out of the project to locate Amazon within the trend of regional inequality in the United States. It fits together well, and while sometimes the book is a bit too sprawling in its effort to connect everything back to the Amazon story, for the most part the connections are warranted and clear. This is quite an achievement and something policymakers should internalize.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Linda Bond

    Fulfillment is a book about American workers – about the changing landscape of production/sales and delivery in America – about what it means to find yourself living from “click” to “click” in a world that has all but left humanity behind. It is fascinating. It is partly but not totally about Amazon. But it is about big business gains, loss of small business, loss of community “glue” and the impact of things like the pandemic. You may be surprised at what you learn from these pages. There’s much Fulfillment is a book about American workers – about the changing landscape of production/sales and delivery in America – about what it means to find yourself living from “click” to “click” in a world that has all but left humanity behind. It is fascinating. It is partly but not totally about Amazon. But it is about big business gains, loss of small business, loss of community “glue” and the impact of things like the pandemic. You may be surprised at what you learn from these pages. There’s much to think about, though, and it is well worth reading. I met this book at Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane, WA

  27. 4 out of 5

    Austin Gustin-Helms

    The book is about Amazon, but more specifically, the book focuses on specific people who have been affected by the growth of this massive company. MacGillis shows how Amazon’s business model contributes to our country’s growing divide between “winner-take-all” and those barely scraping by. There is also a significant amount of investigation with some of the more shadier practices of the company and Jeff Besos. But overall, you are left with an impressionistic view of America under Amazon’s shado The book is about Amazon, but more specifically, the book focuses on specific people who have been affected by the growth of this massive company. MacGillis shows how Amazon’s business model contributes to our country’s growing divide between “winner-take-all” and those barely scraping by. There is also a significant amount of investigation with some of the more shadier practices of the company and Jeff Besos. But overall, you are left with an impressionistic view of America under Amazon’s shadow. It will definitely make you think a little harder next time you see a “Buy Local” bumper sticker.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    This book is excellent. It’s the matching piece to all of the political analyses of a very split American electorate. The authors do an amazing job of picking locations in the US and weaving personal stories into a pattern of exploitation, class struggle and small town loss. I was glued to every page and struggled to justify my own shopping choices. Or my enjoyment of Goodreads, where I spend a lot of time, another Amazon tentacle. I don’t have an answer but this book presents alarming and fasci This book is excellent. It’s the matching piece to all of the political analyses of a very split American electorate. The authors do an amazing job of picking locations in the US and weaving personal stories into a pattern of exploitation, class struggle and small town loss. I was glued to every page and struggled to justify my own shopping choices. Or my enjoyment of Goodreads, where I spend a lot of time, another Amazon tentacle. I don’t have an answer but this book presents alarming and fascinating information.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Megan Quinn

    I thought this was well done. I agree with others that at times there’s too much delving into the personal lives of those affected rather than pursuing more on Amazon’s operations. However, I liked MacGillis’s descriptions of changes in big cities like Seattle, due in large part to the influx of employees and money from the tech industry. Reminded me of Anna Wiener’s look at the changes and gentrification of San Francisco in Uncanny Valley. After reading this, I’m really interested to see how th I thought this was well done. I agree with others that at times there’s too much delving into the personal lives of those affected rather than pursuing more on Amazon’s operations. However, I liked MacGillis’s descriptions of changes in big cities like Seattle, due in large part to the influx of employees and money from the tech industry. Reminded me of Anna Wiener’s look at the changes and gentrification of San Francisco in Uncanny Valley. After reading this, I’m really interested to see how the union fight amongst Alabama Amazon employees will turn out.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Colin Thomas

    A solid handful of interesting tidbits about Amazon scattered throughout, but largely the flow of the book is from This American Life-style anecdote to anecdote. The stories and characters in them are never all that compelling and fail to weave much of a broader argument about Amazon. So much of the book is “look at this generic middle class decay, it’s kinda sorta Amazon’s fault.” I’m more interested right now on actual reporting and research on Amazon itself and how it’s practices bear out dir A solid handful of interesting tidbits about Amazon scattered throughout, but largely the flow of the book is from This American Life-style anecdote to anecdote. The stories and characters in them are never all that compelling and fail to weave much of a broader argument about Amazon. So much of the book is “look at this generic middle class decay, it’s kinda sorta Amazon’s fault.” I’m more interested right now on actual reporting and research on Amazon itself and how it’s practices bear out directly.

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