Right now, Amazon is deciding where to build its second headquarters based on proposals from countless US cities. Considering many US businesses (I’m talking 285,000 according to The New York Times) have fake addresses in Delaware in order to not pay taxes, or do things like Apple does and move their entire headquarters to increasingly remote places whenever asked to pay the billions they owe in taxes, this is kind of a plot twist.
An American company with not only 1, but 2 American headquarters? As in, an American company building a real new HQ in a state that isn’t just a tax haven with a queer beach town tacked onto it? In America?
Cities across the United States spent a chunk of 2017 begging for Jeff Bezos’ attention in some ways that seem so weird it kind of makes you feel like capitalism has become a parody of itself, or that maybe nothing is real. It kind of seems like I’m lying when I say things like this, which is why I always provide links, my guy. I’m not gonna go through all of them, but here are my top 3 weird things cities did to try and seduce Amazon.
“It seems as if Amazon has transformed Seattle from the city which brought us Nirvana to the city where talented men go to be ground into paste by Jeff Bezos.”
Tucson, Arizona hauled a 21 foot Saguaro cactus all the way to Amazon’s Seattle headquarters by truck, only for Amazon to be like “What the fuck? Is this cactus full of Trojans or something?” and reject their gift cactus.
Kansas City, Missouri mayor, Sly James, wrote 1000 reviews on Amazon. Every review was 5 stars and included some kind of clumsy segue pimping Kansas City’s many virtues.
Birmingham, Alabama had giant buttons installed around town which, when pressed, would sexually harass Amazon on Twitter with flirty tweets.
Over 200 cities of all sizes submitted themselves for consideration, and pretty recently Amazon narrowed that list to their top 20. As a Philadelphian, I was vaguely aware that we probably submitted ourselves, but was mostly under the impression that it was kind of a joke and would not go anywhere. Philadelphia is one of the largest cities in America, and yet still nobody really knows where it is, what it’s about, or what the fuck a cheesesteak is. Let me clue you in, it’s disgusting. And it’s perfect. It’s not thinly sliced Kobe beef on a brioche bun with vegetables and black garlic on top. Half this city is a goddamn food desert. We don’t eat vegetables here.
Look, a few months ago CNBC graded potential bidders, and Philly failed in every category other than having a lot of motherfuckers here. We got an A+ in population, but failing grades in every other category, including location and talent. As somebody who lives here, I can 100% vouch for this. Nothing works in the city of Philadelphia. It’s the kind of city where there is more trash on your porch after the trash guys come than before they did. That’s who we are.
I read that article and I breathed a sigh of relief, but that relief was destined to be crushed I guess, because Amazon just released its top 20 potentials and Philly is on there.
Here’s the list:
• Austin, TX
• Boston, MA
• Chicago, IL
• Columbus, OH
• Dallas, TX
• Denver, CO
• Indianapolis, IN
• Los Angeles, CA
• Miami, FL
• Montgomery County, MD
• Nashville, TN
• Newark, NJ
• New York City, NY
• Northern Virginia, VA
• Philadelphia, PA
• Pittsburgh, PA
• Raleigh, NC
• Toronto, ON
• Washington D.C.
If you are a normal person, you have probably read so far and thought that Amazon could probably do my city some good, because it sounds like a terrible and gross place. It is. And that’s why I love it. And I don’t want a bunch of tech bros coming in here and leveling it so it can be replaced with a Soylent manufacturing plant. I don’t want to sit in an Uber pool with a guy and his sex robot girlfriend one day, if I can still afford to live in this city at all. I don’t want any motherfuckers coming here. We are doing fine without you. Two nights ago I was woken up by gunshots in the middle of the night. I love it here.
Being glib aside, Amazon is a shitty company that seems to ruthlessly swallow its surroundings, making it both internally and externally a creature I personally imagine being like The Blob. It seems as if Amazon has transformed Seattle from the city which brought us Nirvana to the city where talented men go to be ground into paste by Jeff Bezos. It seems like a city where these men can get all the cultureless bland luxury they want on their one day off a month, but none of those benefits particularly touch the majority of the inhabitants, who are being forced out by rents which double and triple faster than you can blink.
For me, Amazon coming to Philly does not represent opportunity, but is sort of a grim ultimatum. If they come here, me and millions of other people, who are as poor or far far poorer than me, will be displaced. Where will we go?
Seattle is also famously a city where no one talks to each other. Where it is impossible to make connections. I didn’t invent the famous Seattle Freeze, y’all. This is not just me being an asshole. Academics have studied and written about it, coming to the conclusion that Amazon dropping a bunch of antisocial male nerds in an unfamiliar city, working for a company with a notoriously poisonous culture that’s famous for torturing its employees and is probably killing these men slowly, has probably turned that freeze into a frostbite.
My question is, how are the actual majority of Philly locals, who are not rich, supposed to benefit from Amazon shipping in a bunch of dudes from Chicago and Boston and Los Angeles and Kuala Lumpur or wherever, and giving them a huge paycheck? How are we supposed to benefit from rising housing costs and an added 50,000 people clogging up our tiny streets, crumbling infrastructure, and barely-functional public transportation system?
We don’t. And even if we did, the price of that six figure paycheck would be working for a company which offers little benefits, is famous for firing people experiencing life crises because they aren’t productive enough, expects you to work around the clock, once a year ranks employees and cuts everyone below a certain number, and fosters an environment where employees strategically scheme to cut each other down so they can survive to the next payday, like something out of “The Hunger Games.”
The average length a person lasts working for Amazon is one year.
Does that sound like a sustainable life path to anyone?
And that’s not even talking about the lower paid workers, those in Amazon warehouses, many of whom live on food stamps and work in grueling conditions, while the CEO of their company is deemed by many to be the richest man in history.
So, long story short. As somebody who is not rich, and doesn’t have plans to kill myself to make room for “progress,” I don’t want Amazon making their HQ2 in my city. They could go to a town which has infinitely more space, a less strained housing market, and where dropping 50,000 people suddenly would not cause massive issues. Cities like Raleigh or Columbus are in a way better place to handle that sudden influx than many of the already overcrowded east coast cities on their list, for example.
Damn, I wish I knew that getting Amazon Prime 3 years ago and forgetting to cancel it ever since was me handing my money to a company that might make me homeless.
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Isadora Teich is a freelance writer and traveler. They’ve written social media copy, tabloids, news, erotica, opinion pieces, quizzes, have worked on film scripts, and do some ghostwriting from time to time. Isadora lives for artistic experimentation and is working on a novel.