A New York Post story claiming Amazon has plans for a bigger version of its experimental, cashierless convenience store triggered a mocking post by Bezos. Speculative news stories are mostly ignored by the busy executive. So why would he focus on this one?
As far as CEOs’ Twitter accounts go, Amazon.com boss Jeff Bezos’ tweets are in the camp of the not very colorful.
A quick scroll through his timeline will mostly yield commendatory musings about various Amazon ventures or the executive’s space exploration outfit, Blue Origin. It’s a far cry from rambunctious T-Mobile US chieftain John Legere’s, or, for that matter, President Trump’s.
But Tuesday the tech billionaire unusually embraced some of the medium’s rich potential for projecting sarcasm. In a jaunty tweet he mocked a New York Post story that claimed Amazon has plans for a bigger version of its experimental, cashierless Amazon Go store, operating the supermarket with as few as three employees, topping out at 10. The story is topped by an illustration depicting Bezos as a multi-armed blue robot strolling down a supermarket aisle.
The report, like many that purport to disclose Amazon’s closely held plans for the future, is based on anonymous sources. But Bezos tweeted that “whoever your anonymous sources are on this story (…) they’ve mixed up their meds!”
Bezos also disputed another claim in the story: that Amazon is aiming for operating profit margins exceeding 20 percent, whereas margins in the grocery business tend to hover around the low single digits. “If anybody knows how to get 20% margins in groceries, call me! :),” Bezos cheerfully tweeted.
Now, lots of people write things about Amazon based on unnamed sources — and those are mostly ignored. Why would a busy CEO focus on this particular one?
Amazon wouldn’t say, except to attest that the New York Post article “is complete fiction.”
Which leaves us to theorize that the automated stores are an interesting and sensitive topic for Amazon. After all, Bezos’ tweets come two months after the company countered a Wall Street Journal report on plans to open 2,000 grocery stores, also an unusual departure from its traditional offer of no comment on rumors.
On one hand, the futuristic stores symbolize the way Amazon sees itself: as a tech powerhouse that leverages artificial intelligence and automation to do things no one has thought of, and a big disrupter of convention.
On the other, they represent what people on Main Street fear the most about the Seattle company: being Amazoned out of a job. The very idea of a cashierless store creates anxiety among grocery workers, one of the biggest occupations in America, even though Amazon says that there’s plenty of work for humans at the Amazon Go store.
Another factor: President Trump is an avid New York Post reader, according to media reports. He was voted into the White House partly by sectors of the middle class that saw their traditional livelihoods disrupted by technology and free trade.
Since the election, many corporations, including Amazon, have focused their communication on touting how many U.S. jobs they create.