Good Luck With Amazon, Whole Foods

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Amazon has taken over Whole Foods. There is the lack of transparency in Amazon, and it is deliberate. Let’s first note that it is unethical (not to mention illegal) to restrict the free speech of employees when they are not on the clock. Of course, the media has to respect the firm in question and admit that what an employee tells them is not official communication from someone designated to speak for the organization. According to some articles on Amazon, even low-level employees sign a lengthy confidentiality agreement. Amazon generated $136 billion in revenue in 2016; it isn’t like they’re protecting the recipe for Coca Cola. While public image is everything, a few former employees bad mouthing Amazon is unlikely to cause much damage.


Amazon must think they’re above the law, as in their unethical communication rules, as observed in another article on Amazon: “Some states, like California, also have laws that protect employees from being disciplined for the things they do or say off the clock. There are narrow exceptions if the conduct directly affects the company; but it has to be a pretty big deal that causes actual damage to the company. So if someone tweets that the boss is a douche bag, they generally can’t be fired if it was on their personal account while off-duty”. The employees from Amazon who spoke to the media were anonymous, and obviously fearful, which is a bad sign in itself. Transparency should be the rule, with exceptions of financial conditions or marketing programs that could damage the organization. Amazon’s only legal exception that I am aware of would be if the employee caused some sort of damage to the organization.


Amazon’s policy of the annual “cullings of the staff” eliminates potentially valuable employees means releasing employees who are performing below standards when what Amazon should be doing is trying to improve their performance. How could you possibly know if a new hire is going to perform better, or even as well, as the employee you are firing? Attempting to fill positions where the former employee was deliberately “eliminated” would be an awkward question from a potential employee. Perhaps Amazon uses the universally used and quite despised “they didn’t work out.” If the interviewer makes that claim, run, don’t walk to the nearest exit.


When an environment such as Amazon’s is created, the unethical behavior that is likely to result is that there is a lot of lying, disparagement of fellow employees, backstabbing, and taking credit for the work of other people if it can be convincingly passed along. Amazon’s environment appears to be encouraging employees to say things behind people’s backs, while attempting to torpedo the careers of fellow employees and the management seems to be going along with this wholeheartedly, or possibly they are unhappy but sworn to secrecy.


At Amazon, a policy of treating everyone fairly is undermined by the comments encouraged by management, and unethical behavior creates more unethical behavior.  Ethically, what you say behind someone’s back should be what you are willing to say to their face, but that is not the policy at Amazon. Amazon’s “Anytime Feedback Tool” allows employees to praise or scorn their fellow employees and the ranking system that Amazon uses can mean being “eliminated” at your evaluation. Bear in mind that under the Anytime Feedback Tool system, as explained in the article that I read, the other employees could simply send consistently bad comments on an outstanding employee and seal their fate to be “eliminated.” Amazon is basing evaluation of performance on office politics and putting peoples’ careers in jeopardy on what is nothing more than hearsay. In order to fire someone, (ethically and legally) the organization must have solid unchallengeable evidence of poor performance, and a collection of disparaging statements from fellow employees is hardly an ethically sound justification.


Many employees of Amazon have workweeks of sixty hour plus, and that would seem to generate a lot of burnout. The intense competition and unrestrained criticism that is encouraged at Amazon could cause people to take credit for the ideas of other people and severely criticize the ideas of other employees to the point that ideas that could increase productivity could be so severely criticized that it is dropped before implemented. Amazonians are instructed to “disagree and commit”  to rip into colleagues’ ideas, with feedback that can be blunt to the point of being painful, before lining up behind a decision, as one article I read stated.


 Another tactic is to summarily reject a good idea and wait until the person who quits and then suggest the idea as your own, a policy I have witnessed. Stealing of ideas is a common problem in ultra-competitive environments like that of Amazon.


Unethical behavior such as lying or misrepresenting a fellow employee who is making other employees look bad can be drummed out of Amazon by using the Anytime Feedback Tool. Similarly, underperforming employees can be unduly praised and held in high regard because of unearned and unmerited praise by the same Anytime Feedback Tool. According to the articles I have reviewed, resources are hoarded, and rightfully so, given the competitive atmosphere. The ideas that are so prized and encouraged by Amazon might never make it to discussion because of the harsh and unbridled criticism that is encouraged.  Encouraging employees to suggest improvements and then allowing unbridled criticism of suggested improvements seems contradictory on its face for an organization.


The stack ranking, or also known as “rank and yank” rating system that Amazon uses has been abandoned by General Electric, Microsoft and Accenture Consulting because it forces managers to dispose of valuable talent only because the numbers insist that a certain number be eliminated, no matter how good their performance. As stated before, and this question has never been answered, in what instance has the potential talent of a prospective employee measurably exceeded the talent of those already employed by the company?


The lawyers around Seattle where Amazon is located have received many calls from former Amazon employees seeking legal redress. The Human Resource people of Amazon blithely claim to have no knowledge of any of the instances where people are seeking legal compensation; that is because if they admitted awareness of the abuse that would immediately validate the claims of the former employees.  


Employees leave managers, not companies. The manager is the focal point, good or bad, for all employees. For the most part, not always, but most of the time, bad managers have high turnover, while good managers have low turnover. There are exceptions to this rule, and the biggest being the good manager who nurtures mediocre employees into exceptional employees who are then poached by other managers from the good manager’s staff for higher positions. The best of managers have to remember that holding people down because they do a good job for him/her is selfish and bad for both the good employees as well as the organization. It is unethical to restrain the career of an employee simply because they do a great job for you.


Transparency, loyalty to subordinates, fairness of treatment, and development of talent are all behaviors that demonstrate ethical treatment. The ethical treatment of employees is the fair treatment and equal opportunities for all employees (if they wish to do so) to move ahead in the organization. Ethics start with the managers, who need to consider how they treat their subordinates. From the looks of the articles about Amazon that is not the environment that they are creating.


Ethical managers foster and encourage ethical employees. Managers who are letting employees cheat and lie about each other (via the Anytime Feedback Tool) are fostering an unethical environment. A super-competitive environment with long hours, daily evaluations of performance and harsh criticism of the ideas and suggestions of employees is almost begging employees to be unethical.


It is not that a competitive environment encourages unethical behavior, it is when a competitive environment does not recognize honest effort and encourages employees who are willing to do anything to get ahead, including being unethical. Honest criticism is one thing, whereas severely criticizing a coworker in order to promote one’s own agenda is quite another, as well as unethical, not to mention detrimental to the organization.


Skip Stein Added Jun 18, 2017 - 2:52pm
I can't disagree with anything you say and accept it.  I have a love-hate relationship with Amazon.  I think a lot of people do.  I hate their monopolistic practices, how they treat employees as you describe and the political stance of Jeff Bezos and his politics.  He is a liberal globalist and that I can't stand.
Then there is the obvious love of how Amazon operates.  The almost unlimited choices of products.  The amazingly fast delivery and Amazon Prime with it's multitude of features.  The 'free shipping' isn't really free but if you use the service frequently it is one hell of a great deal.  The Fire TV is an example of great technology that no one has, so far, been able to compete against.  The movie selection is pretty good and the 'made for Amazon' shows are better than broadcast and pay-cable.  They partner with Netflix so you have a choice.  Then there is the amazing depth of alternative streaming channels you can subscribe to for a few dollar$/month; although it can add up, the quality and variety is broad and, in general, superior to any broadcast venue with commercials taking up the bulk of the broadcast.
The price point on much of the Amazon fulfilled items is not always the cheapest but when you compare the landed/delivered cost to other suppliers, they usually win; but not always.
The Amazon Createspace enterprise has allowed easy and almost free ability to publish, well, anything.  The worldwide distribution is amazing and the percentage charged is reasonable and better than you would get from a publishing house.  you don't get the advertising and promotional coverage but that is a trade-off if you want something published.  I have tried other self-publishing sites and they just don't hole up to the coverage Amazon & Createspace offer.
I could go on and on but Amazon is a company I despise but cannot afford, today, to not do business with.  I would love to see some competition.
Leroy Added Jun 18, 2017 - 4:25pm
I don't like Bezos's politics, but I love the company.  He make a believer out of me.  He is an amazing individual.
I can't speak to how he handles his employees.  Personally, I would love to give feedback on managers and employees.  Today, the feedback is top down and it is unfair and just wrong.  If my manager gets chewed out and taken down a notch, the people under him get chewed out and taken down a notch.  I don't enjoy getting taken down a notch for something I didn't do.  My boss got taken down a notch because I was injured on the job.  It wasn't his fault.  It wasn't my fault, but, the company rules are that the manager is responsible.  He got taken down a notch, so he took me down a notch.  I would like to be able to offer my feedback, but it is all one way.  I started to file ethics charges against him, but it would have just made more trouble for me.
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 18, 2017 - 4:53pm
Thanks Skip. Leroy, I got into a bitter argument and eventually left a company because I refused to be a supervisor when there were safety measures that they insisted not be taken.The risk was too great, and I knew full well that if there was an injury, something they did nothing to prevent, I would take the blame and the fall.  As a boss, the safety of the subordinates remains the boss's responsibility.
While I have no doubt of Bezos's business acumen, he, as so many other successful business leaders, has left a lot of bloody bodies on the staircase of his ascent, and, it seems to me, needlessly. Money is a great motivator, but I could not justify or rationalize some of things Bezos has done, or, at least it is reported that he has done at Amazon. Thanks for the responses, Skip and Leroy rock on.  
Dino Manalis Added Jun 18, 2017 - 5:10pm
Employee relations are important, but the big story is how will supermarkets be impacted.  Amazon will probably slash prices to attract customers to complete their shopping online and could eventually close down supermarkets, like malls!  Do it Amazon, because grocery shopping should be inexpensive, like gasoline, to bolster consumer confidence and spending!
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 18, 2017 - 5:32pm
As Jim Kramer said on "Mad Money" last week, the grocery stores in American are on the "race to the bottom." Kroger posted lousy earnings and a warning of tough times ahead. We have national chains like WalMart, Kroger, Target and Aldi (which plans on opening 900 more stores in America, along with regional stores like Meijer, Publix, Ensenada and Fresh Market. My prediction: the first thing they'll try to do is lower the wages of the workers. Kroger is a union chain, and they'll probably be challenging the union real soon. 
George N Romey Added Jun 18, 2017 - 5:49pm
The grocery business has always been a low margin business.  Few chains can operate against the like of giants such as Wal Mart, Target and Publix.  Moreover, suppliers are being squeezed and the marginal ones are going out business.  The Company (a food company) I went to work for is so pissed poor managed they are losing their shirt to big grocery chains that pay low prices. Its run by a bunch of French yuppies that know nothing other than how to put together pretty PowerPoint presentations and make Excel Spreadsheets.  Talk about operational control and strategy and they give me their stupid French look.  The Company won't make it more than a few months its losses are so bad. I guess job search here I come again starting tomorrow. 
Whole Foods was getting their ass kicked by low cost knockoffs.  Remember its nickname "Whole Paycheck."  No doubt Bezos will put the Amazon business model to work.  However, a business model of automation will put workers out of a job and make the other ones willing to work for less, part time and be treated like fertilizer.  Unfortunately this trend will only accelerate.  Its a lousy time to be a worker bee but a beautiful time to be a top level executive. 
Leroy Added Jun 18, 2017 - 5:56pm
Jeff, there was a guy who left work because the company refused to install sprinklers.  It wasn't going to happen on his watch.  I can respect that.  In my case, I slipped on the ice in the parking lot because someone failed to do their job.  It was well beyond the responsibility of my boss, yet he had to pay the price--as well as me.  They say the buck stops with management.  It is not true.  In another case, same place, the site manager got amonished on video.  That was the extent of a very serious accident. 
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 18, 2017 - 6:50pm
George I had heard Whole Foods was a god place to work, and I don't think that will last with the Amazon philosophy.
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 18, 2017 - 6:57pm
Leroy, sometimes the manager gets off, depends on who they know and such. I've worked with a fellow that fell out of a truck and was frozen (literally, it was very cold) to the ground before they found him. They kept him on, but he was badly mangled, and they felt bad for him. He couldn't drive anymore, and his injuries had injured his mental processing abilities. Very sad. I'm very careful about safety, because I have seen the consequences first hand.
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 18, 2017 - 7:01pm
George your coworkers are the carefully trained unthinking processors of information. By processor, we mean record it and barf it back, draw no conclusions, project no current trends or events into future outcomes. My millennial boss always got angry when I took the policies and events and projected an outcome. He got even more angry when they happened.
George N Romey Added Jun 18, 2017 - 7:10pm
There is a huge Amazon fulfillment center near me.  Its very automated and the only jobs are part time at $10.50 an hour. Amazon has multiple, and I mean multiple help wanted ads on craigslist each day because they are too cheap to pay the rates that a LI or Indeed charges.  Turnover from what I can see is non stop.  Whole Foods was a good place to work.
Peter Corey Added Jun 18, 2017 - 7:16pm
> Its a lousy time to be a worker bee but a beautiful time to be a top level executive. 
It's also a beautiful time to be a consumer, especially a consumer of groceries.
One hopes Bezos will implement his idea of a retail store without any checkout lines or bottlenecks: just take what you want from the shelves, and walk out. I suppose something like RF sensors by the entrances and exits would scan your items as you leave, and automatically charge the amount to your debit card.
Love it. I especially like the idea of leveraging 21st century technology given the fact that we live in the 21st century. Who the hell needs long lines, slow baggers ("paper or plastic, Miss?") and other time-wasters just to purchase groceries?
And increasing the profit margin of Whole Foods (assuming that occurs under Bezos as helmsman) will lure more competition into that sector thus leading to even more innovation.
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 18, 2017 - 8:29pm
Peter, why bother leaving the house? Just order everything online and have it delivered to your door.
Bill H. Added Jun 19, 2017 - 1:17am
The change from a teamwork environment to the fear of loosing one's job is sadly becoming common in today's bean counter-controlled work environment. Employee's are judged by numbers on a spreadsheet and pitted against their fellow employees. It becomes all about "me" and not at all about the company, moral, and teamwork. Many employee's don't even take there vacations because of the fear of showing lower performance numbers on the graph and being replaced.
I've been there and that is exactly why (thank god) I retired early.
Paul Austin Murphy Added Jun 19, 2017 - 4:37am
John G, are you part of the Deep State too or have you simply got a lot of time on your hands?
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 19, 2017 - 7:16am
You're right Bill. There was a company that required service employees to take a minimum number of calls, and because of that minimum, they could not talk long enough to solve problems, but no one cared as long as they answered the minimum number of calls. There was a way to trace who had spoken to customers via the tracking numbers and you could tell who they had spoken to before when they called and the problem had not been solved.The callbacks were people who had called in and spoken to the people who had the high numbers but didn't solve the problem. All that mattered were the numbers, and if solving customer problems took time and lowered their numbers, it made no difference that there were happy customers, only numbers mattered. It was all numbers and no problem solving skills. Solving problems can take time, and volume is important, not satisfaction.
Bill Kamps Added Jun 19, 2017 - 7:26am
This continues the ironic trend that Skip highlights.  We hate the company's practices, but as customers we love the service, the choices, the ease of shopping, and the pricing.  Walmart started this trend decades ago, and Amazon took it to the next level, and continues that process with this purchase.
Some time ago I had to return something I bought from Amazon, and I was prepared for the nightmare.  They did everything but put the item in a box for for me.  It was the easiest thing I ever returned anywhere.  They emailed me a label, I took it to the local UPS store, my card was credited, and done.
George N Romey Added Jun 19, 2017 - 7:47am
The question is can a company be very customer oriented as Amazon and still be a great place to work.  Companies like Costco, Publix, Southwest Airlines and many others prove, yes they can.  Costco starts its employees at $12-$13, most are full time with benefits and tries to promote within (understanding that Costco like many other retail stores has slowed down the rate of new store openings.)  In fact, its hard to get a job at Costco because the turnover is low. 
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 19, 2017 - 8:27am
You're right George. The HR people who complain about no one applying for work are the HR people for the high-turnover companies or companies that are paying their executives so much money there is nothing left for training and development, and it is glaringly obvious to some of us.  Bill, Amazon's squeeze is also on suppliers, and that is good for customers, even unhappy ones. If what you got through Amazon is not what you wanted and they give you a hard time about it, Amazon threatens to drop them as a vendor. I'm all in that it's as good deal for customers, I just think a billion dollar corporation could be a little more employee friendly, and the ex-Amazon employees are not painting a pretty picture of Amazon as an employer. I understand the Amazon distribution centers are brutal to the employees. Strangely enough, I take into consideration how companies treat their employees when I am considering doing business with them.
Bill Kamps Added Jun 19, 2017 - 9:34am
Jeff and George, in theory yes it is possible for Amazon to be more employee friendly.  However, its not required, its up to them.  Companies so big as this it is difficult to avoid them simply because we dont agree with their HR policies.  That is their gamble, that customers will care more about service, choice and price, and less about working conditions for employees.
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 19, 2017 - 9:49am
I also try to avoid the companies that refused to hire me. No sense encouraging them. I really try to use the mom-and-pop stores, because they are the local economy and I know the money isn't going to an overpaid CEO, and such. Some of my favorites are just places that have been there for years, the small place, locally owned.
George N Romey Added Jun 19, 2017 - 10:23am
Bezos is a risk taker and he has the money to do it.  I don't think he goes into a business with the idea of it being a great place to work, rather to revolutionize the industry.  He is changing the world of retail and now including the grocery business.  Over the years the grocery business has become a very low margined retail that needs capacity to be profitable, hence the massive consolidation and historic names like Acme and A&P no more.
Whole Foods for awhile had a novel platform and could charge accordingly.  Then cheaper knock offs like Trader Joes came along and Whole Foods increasingly could no longer demand a price premium.  To cut costs he will reduce overhead which of course will include the human element. Will he be successful?  Can selling underwear and lap tops translate into the food business?  No one really knows for sure. Bezos believes it can.
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 19, 2017 - 10:48am
Sometimes things aren't as simple as they seem. GM tried Hughes and failed miserably. AT&T bought NCR and it too, was a disaster, not the least of reasons why being the AT&T culture and the NCR culture were incompatible. Bezos has the money and guts, I'll give him that, but lots of things look easy from the outside. Eric Clapton makes playing the guitar look really easy, now doesn't he?
Janie Smith Added Jun 19, 2017 - 11:17am
Say what you want about Amazon employment practices but people are still tripping over themselves trying to work for Amazon.  But, yes, I have heard the burnout stories.  
Amazon is an amazing business and I think people are always a little fearful of that kind of success.  Still, they are what they are today because they are meeting a need in the marketplace.  
I get my groceries delivered, I know a lot of people who do.  I also use Amazon for about 90% of my general shopping.  
Janie Smith Added Jun 19, 2017 - 11:20am
Oh, also, Craigslist is a smart way to advertise for a 10.50 per hour person, much smarter than LI or Indeed.  
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 19, 2017 - 11:31am
I think the people who want to work for Amazon are not trying to work for Amazon as much as they think it will enhance their resume with that name on it. Henry Ford a long time ago raised the wages of his factory workers for what was then an astronomical amount of daily pay. Ford understood that work needed to be paid for, and when he paid them good wages, they bought more things and propelled the market. Business people of today think that paying the CEO dozens of millions of dollars propels the market, and it does for Rolex, Rolls Royce, country clubs and mansion builders, but the rest of the economy stays poor. Thanks for the commenst Janie.
Michael B. Added Jun 19, 2017 - 12:23pm
I've gotten a few books and DVDs from Amazon over the last several years, but that's about it. My friend's wife is the opposite, and apparently does 99% of her shopping on Amazon.
I've heard about Amazon's fascist and totalitarian policies regarding their employees, and they're not alone. I worked for a large multinational industrial company, and they also went out of their way to tell employees that they better watch what they say and do on social media. It was obvious that they had employees who spent a part or all of their workdays surfing the Internet on the lookout for disloyal and/or disgruntled employees. One woman, who was actually very, very good at her job, got fired for posting derogatory comments about her job on her FB; she evidently did a couple of other things to get the boot, but still.
One time while at my desk, I got a phone call from a dude who worked there for a couple of years who called me up out of the blue to ask if I would be a job reference for him; unfortunately for him, I couldn't, because I knew that he had been fired for stealing things and using a company credit card for personal use. Coincidentally, his former boss was in the next cubicle and overheard the conversation, and asked me what it was about. I told him that if I hadn't known about the stealing, I would have given him a good reference, because he was actually a hard worker and was a nice guy, or at least seemed like one. The manager then told me that I wasn't allowed to give any references, personal or professional, to any former employees, under no circumstances, period. I told him that I'll give them on my own time, and he repeated, "Under NO circumstances." I gave him the "Whatever, dude" wave off. Nobody tells me what to do or not do on my own fucking time, "under NO fucking circumstances". lol
Janie Smith Added Jun 19, 2017 - 2:30pm
Oh, Amazon does pay well, at least for technical resources, and they offer stock shares.  
The lowest salary I saw on Glassdoor was 11.43 per hour and that was for a customer support position.  The warehouse workers are making over 12.00 per hour.  
It is true that a lot of employers and recruiters check out employees and potential employees on social media.  
Janie Smith Added Jun 19, 2017 - 2:43pm
People misunderstand what employment rights really are in an "at will" country.  You definitely have all the rights you think you are entitled to but not necessarily hand in hand with keeping your job.
George N Romey Added Jun 19, 2017 - 2:46pm
Big difference between working for Amazon as a programmer or other professional versus someone packing boxes in the warehouse.  Remember $12 an hour even if its full time is $24K a year.  This is not a wage one could live on unless living at home.
Unfortunately today your employer can check up on you via social media.  Its why I do not do FB or tweet. 
Bill Kamps Added Jun 19, 2017 - 2:53pm
Well Amazon is the ultimate in cutting costs, and increasing convenience for the shopper.  They are trying to remove as much friction as possible between the producer of a product and the consumer.  This of course includes employee costs, particularly in the fulfillment area. 
Janie Smith Added Jun 19, 2017 - 3:05pm
your right George, 12.43 per hour isn't enough to live on most places, but its more than 10.50 and it more than the minimum wage and its about the same as Costco, who pays a front end assistant 12.13 per hour.
Bill Kamps Added Jun 19, 2017 - 3:05pm
A lot of companies have a policy against giving recommendations, for fear of being sued.  Doing it on your own time, does not get around this problem.
Also, as George points out, posting in social media, is just an invitation for anyone, including your employer to snoop on what you are doing.  If you are going to use it at all, you should only post things that you literally want the whole world to know, regardless of any privacy passwords. 
Michael B. Added Jun 19, 2017 - 3:09pm
People misunderstand what employment rights really are in an "at will" country.  You definitely have all the rights you think you are entitled to but not necessarily hand in hand with keeping your job.
Janie, you're certainly right about that. There are many, many people who put up with tons of abuse and bullshit and do and/or don't do things out of fear of losing their jobs; most employers are well aware of this and usually take maximum advantage of it. Ironically, I've seen some of the most blatant and flagrant ass-kissers and brown-nosers get canned one way or the other. There are others with whom I'm amazed that they manage to keep their jobs; some companies just like raging assholes, I guess. lol
Bill Kamps Added Jun 19, 2017 - 3:18pm
Michael, companies have cultures that encourage behavior.  I know oil companies where people are very professional, and oil companies where people wear their asshole on their sleeve.  It is about what is encouraged and tolerated by their peers.
In at will states, you can fire someone for pretty much any reason, and the employee can leave any time they want, assuming no contracts exist.   If you want to keep people around you pay them a fair wage and treat them decently.  If you dont care if they  stay, well then all bets are off.
As observed here, it is not surprising that Amazon treats its programmers better than the warehouse people.  Not saying it is right, just how it is.  Its not a perfect or fair world.
Michael B. Added Jun 19, 2017 - 3:31pm
Bill, I live in CA, and despite its well-earned reputation as "The People's Republic of California", it's actually very right-wing in dealing with labor; it is a totally "at will" state, and they never fail to remind you of that fact, lol.
Regarding company "cultures", you're right, they can vary widely; I used to crack up at some of the people and places I would call for various reasons. Some places would be all chilled-out and relaxed, and others you would hear loud screaming arguments in the background. My favorite one was when I was talking to a woman who was in complete disarray and obviously having a bad day; suddenly there was a man yelling out profanities, followed by a very loud crashing and banging sound; the phone was silent for a few moments; it turned out a guy was just fired, and on his way out, he cussed out the boss and then knocked over a bookcase. 
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 19, 2017 - 7:21pm
Janie is correct, the "at will" states have the right to fire you any time they wish. Janie sounds like she has some HR experience. Here is the legal distinction that I believe you are looking for: You can give a personal reference, you can give a professional reference, but if the company has a beef with it, you state clearly and under no uncertain terms that what you are giving is, again, a personal or professional reference but you are not representing any organization in any way, shape, matter or form; again, you are not speaking for any organization.
Businesses have no right to restrain your free speech unless it harms them in some certain, definable and measurable way. Most businesses will only reveal the starting and ending dates of the time worked there. One of the HR tricks is to ask if the old firm would hire the person back or not, and that is only a yes or no question. You have the right to your personal opinion, and if you are a licensed professional, you have the right to offer that as well, as a professional.
Today's potential employees post nasty things on social media and think that it is "cool" but can be very damaging in the job search. One company required, yes required, that you give them your Facebook password, a demand that I would have refused, even it I had a Facebook account, which I don't and never have had. That request is a breach of privacy, and I would have bounced out the entire HR department that asked that of an employee. By that way, I am an SHRM-CP. I have given personal references many times.
George N Romey Added Jun 19, 2017 - 7:54pm
When asked for references I've always given them two people that know me well and my abilities but are now retired.  That way they are not violating any company policy.
As far as Bezos.  He is just like Elon Musk, a billionaire that wants to revolutionize things with the money a second consideration (given they already have billons).  Amazon and other websites along with a general decline in spending is going to cause multiple retail chains to fail or at least become much smaller (the latter likely through a Chapter 11 reorganization).  The malls particularly the older ones are going to the graveyard. 
wsucram15 Added Jun 19, 2017 - 9:01pm
Amazon revolutionized marketing, plain and simple.  The way they were able to market items to people based on shopping practices was never done prior to them.  At one time a majority of their value was in their research and data ability for the customers.
You can shop on the site and for example the way I shop, is very specialized and they know that, they sent me a specialized division of them with high end items that are discounted from retail.  Knowing I put things in my basket and wait for the price to drop before purchase.  Now I asked them about this and this was how it was explained by a friend who works at Amazon, Seattle.
I dont shop with them anymore since they have third party sellers on there but DO NOT guarantee the sales or deliveries like lets say Ebay or Paypal does.   Also I do not care for the politics of Bezos, dont care who he supports, but I do care that it might be my money that supports it.
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 19, 2017 - 10:47pm
An astute observation wsucram15. Actually, Google Analytics was the first to use all of the information that you provided for them, and the term target marketing gained a whole new meaning. By the way, Google Analytics is free if you want to try your hand at target marketing, they've made so much money that you can use it for free! That was some research that I did, but it's fairly complicated and I couldn't justify the time it would have taken to do all of the research for the end result to be worth the investment. It's there, I'm just not in need at present time.
Firms like Google, Amazon, and the other internet retailers know everything you click on and by that information are able to advertise the things that you're interested in. There are now browsers that do not identify the clicks, making your internet excursions more private. I predict that there will be a lot more firms that will make money by privatizing your internet use. We are now at internet II, I believe, and there will be more versions as time progresses. Thanks for the comments.
Peter Corey Added Jun 19, 2017 - 10:53pm
>Peter, why bother leaving the house? Just order everything online and have it delivered to your door.
I don't understand the comment. You're suggesting Bezos has made a poor deal buying Whole Foods and (perhaps) using the chain as his flagship retail stores without checkout lines?
You might email your comment to Apple, Inc., and suggest to them that their retail stores (some of the most successful in the world) are useless because anything they have to sell can already be purchased online and delivered to one's door.
Consumers still value seeing items they want to buy in real life, in real time. This is especially true, by the way, of food: despite VR technology, retailers still can't transmit smell and taste online.
Good grief. I've stumbled into a crowd of reactionary Luddites here on WB.
Peter Corey Added Jun 19, 2017 - 10:56pm
>The change from a teamwork environment to the fear of loosing one's job is sadly becoming common in today's bean counter-controlled work environment.
Pompous ass. You're claiming that baggers in old grocery store chains like Grand Union, A&P, PathMark, ShopRite, etc., felt some sort of sense of "teamwork" while doing their job? You really are just utterly full of Bull S., Bill H.
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 19, 2017 - 11:14pm
Amazon and its ilk is killing retail brick and mortar stores, that's just how it is. Sears keeps losing money and trying to hang on, but retail is in real danger.
The firms like Fresh Direct, Blue Apron and Hello Fresh are killing the traditional restaurant and grocery  business. This is all good for the consumers, as long as they enjoy the services delivered to their door. Firms like Fresh Direct can offer even fresher goods than the retail grocers, because the retail grocers have to put out the food and see who will come in and buy it, all the while it gets old. More and extensive control via the information that technology provides is drastically changing all of the markets, and many firms will perish before it is all over with. I have no objection to this.
There may well come a day when the young people of tomorrow wonder what a retail grocery is, just like they cannot now understand why a phone would be attached to a cord. I agree, Peter, we certainly are a bean-counter controlled work environment, on that point you are on target. All of the technology that was supposed to make our lives easier is also killing off industries and jobs. We are in the midst of tremendous change, the likes of which we have never seen before.
Peter Corey Added Jun 20, 2017 - 1:36am
>Amazon and its ilk is killing retail brick and mortar stores
An odd way of putting it.
"Amazon and other online stores are able to satisfy consumer wants and needs more efficiently — faster and at lower cost — than traditionally brick-and-mortar retail stores."
There. Fixed it.
Bill H. Added Jun 20, 2017 - 11:05am
Sadly, the major of the technology used to replace US jobs is manufactured offshore, much of it by US corporations with virtually all of their operations (other than the board room) overseas. When it does arrive here in the US, much of the programming and maintenance operations are done by personnel that arrived here in the US using H1-B work visas, who replaced US workers in the name of keeping wages low. And of course, we can't forget the phone based technical support team who could be just about anywhere depending on how low the wages are. In India, they actually pay  tech support reps who can fake a US southern accent more money. I remember talking to a rep from Symantec who called himself "Charlie" who asked me that first usual question as "Have y'all trahhed reloadin the program and rebootin the computer"? He didn't know that I could hear many of the other reps in the background using their normal Indian accent.
George N Romey Added Jun 20, 2017 - 12:14pm
The only way my brother (age 55) has stayed employed in tech is to be the person that trains the Indians at are outsourcing work or coming to the US on HB1 Visas.  And he says its all about cheaper labor.
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 20, 2017 - 12:47pm
Bill H- it is amazing how people supposed to be quite smart are so naive. How brilliant is asking if you have rebooted the computer, and why can't someone write a troubleshooting manual that addresses common problems? Don't we have any technical writers that can imagine the system failing and suggest you reboot it?
Yes, George, they aren't interested in using or training Americans. A university official locally had several of them brought over to help with "research" and promptly farmed them out to a local tech company. Of course when the authorities found out the whole thing took a dive. I guess whatever they though they were going to gain was worth the risk. It's amazing that 1) We don't seem to have this talent (called people)  in America, or if we do, they're asking to be paid well. 2) I'm curious where the educators of this high-tech stuff are- and why can't they teach it to Americans? Are Americans failing to learn this stuff or are the educators failing to teach it?
Leroy Added Jun 20, 2017 - 1:23pm
A month or so ago, I read an article stating Whole Foods was starting to lose market share.  It was seen as a grocery store for elitists.  And, it's true.  I can't afford to shop there on a regular basis.  Everything is expensive.  Its buffet is insanely expensive. Even elitist have a limited budget.
Whole Foods made an impression on my wife the first time she went there.  She saw coconuts but they didn't have a price on them.  She chased an employee down to ask the price.  He didn't know, so he went to find out.  He came back with the price and since they hadn't priced, he would give her two for free.  Not missing a beat, she asked, "Can I have three?"  He complied.  Now she looks for things without a price.
I'm looking forward to AmaWhole.  Can't wait for home delivery by drone.  My wife loves "Amazing."
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 20, 2017 - 1:57pm
Yes, Leroy one of my friend's girlfriend turned him on to Whole Foods and now that's where he shops. I'm told, yes, it's expensive. All they had to tell me was that it is expensive,and I've not been in one yet. Maybe Amazon will lower the prices like it does with everything else, making the world a better place for you an me. 
George N Romey Added Jun 20, 2017 - 3:12pm
Whole Foods has been called "Whole Paycheck" because of prices.  Its a great place to shop but I can't afford it (along with increasing numbers of Americans).  Yes Whole Foods is losing market share to lower cost grocery chains like Trader Joes.  It will be interesting to see if Bezos lowers prices.
Ian Thorpe Added Jun 20, 2017 - 3:31pm
Jeff, don't you get the sense that Amazon are not alone among companies launched on the back of the internet to behave as though they are above the law. Uber are the classic example, not only did they work on the principle that public liability insurance laws relating to transport, but local regulations on operating a taxi service could be brushed aside, but that laws on employees rights and minimum wage regs. were nothing to do with them. Everything seems to be coming unstuck now.
Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter all have problems too.
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 20, 2017 - 3:51pm
Right on Ian. - The technological progress has already exceeded the ability for the law to regulate. There aren't any laws regarding self-driving cars that I am aware of, and a new set of regulations is badly needed. If a robot goes out of control and kills someone, who bears responsibility? The owner, the programmer, the producer of the circuit boards? No clear legal answer at this point in time.
Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter are all international corporations that, while based in the U.S., have international clients to serve. I'm pretty sure you know of the quandary that Microsoft was in when the EU insisted that they open up their operating system so that European software companies could develop apps for the Windows operating system. The European version code is different, as the EU made them reveal the operating code, as far as I know still not public in the U.S. Google rather recently had a very bitter fight with China that they would prefer you not know about.
The global economy is expanding quickly, and borders and laws are meaning less and less. Some people would say the answer is for a global government, but I wouldn't.
Peter Corey Added Jun 20, 2017 - 4:55pm
>He is a capitalist.
Actually, Bezos is an entrepreneur, which is very different from a capitalist.
In any case, anyone with a savings account is a capitalist – by definition.
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 20, 2017 - 5:41pm
Leroy, I'm betting that giving away stuff will be over quite soon under Bezos' rule.
wsucram15 Added Jun 20, 2017 - 6:04pm
Jeff..those are VPNs, the privacy to what you search and look at.  I am in one now and use one most of the time online. It isnt for most people, they dont need it.  But if you like some privacy, from the ISP for a minute its ok.
I had to write a paper in my Marketing class on a Business I liked and one mistake they made.  I was wrong in my projections but I still think a weak spot is the Amazon prime video. Im sure it makes them a ton of money, but only 15% of revenue comes from service sales, but their volume is so high that if you calculate 10 million people paying ALONE for the prime fee, thats 1 billion dollars. You can calculate the rest from there..
But the revenue from their sales..omw, 87% and even if they only make pennies per sale...heavens.  Its why the company is valued at 430 billion, more than Walmart. I believe the only company in the US (retail) worth more is Apple.   Im telling you it was the books (which it still is) and eventually the marketing of that company.  That buyout of whole foods was pennies.   Not sure if it was worth it, but they also deliver restaurant food in your area to your home in 1 hour or less. Not just fast food either, How about that?  In my area I can get food from 95 places, groceries and 4 hour delivery from fulfillment center to my door.  Neat huh?
George N Romey Added Jun 20, 2017 - 7:33pm
Yes Amazon only makes a very, very slim margin.  Its retail business has never been all that profitable despite its stock hype.  In more recent years its been cloud storage lifting earnings but that business is very quickly becoming saturated and being driven on price.  Bezos needs a new gig.
For Bezos I don't think its ever been about the profit as much as the thrill of revolutionizing something.  He is lucky that somehow he has a magic spell over Wall Street so that the company's stock hasn't gotten beaten up.
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 20, 2017 - 9:46pm
Yup, George, there is truth in your words. According to finance expert Jim Kramer, Amazon hasn't made much money, nor have they posted any serious earnings for any significant time, despite working employees 60 hours a week and the other nasty management practices. If Sears worked their employees as hard a Amazon, they'd probably be making tons of money.
Everyone keeps waiting for Amazon to post serious profits. Perhaps their patience is not warranted? Another one you probably never heard of is Tony Hsieh, the present CEO of Zappos, (and worth hundreds of millions) who, in my very tilted and pessimistic opinion, has been very lucky. I said as much in a recent essay and it was not greeted favorably. I thought I supported my position with considerable evidence and realistic projection, but then, the people criticizing my essay must have really wanted a job at Zappos!
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 21, 2017 - 6:16am
The only financial advice to take is from someone who has made a fortune by financial investments. Kramer fits that criterion, and he has recommended some stocks that have paid well.
Ari Silverstein Added Jun 21, 2017 - 11:19am
An employee that works a 60 hour work week do so out of choice, as there is ample legal protections for any employee that believes they are “forced” to work so much as one minute.  As it relates to earnings, Jim Kramer is wrong, Amazon has posted serious earnings and profit for a significant amount of time…see annual report.
Regarding the content of the article above, I have no idea what the problem is with Amazon or the Whole Foods deal.  Amazon is a model corporation and they should be commended for a job well done.  Whole Foods is model corporation too, but kind of lost its mojo as more main stream grocery stores started selling organic foods.  I think it's a great combination and Amazon should be commended again for its forward thinking.  
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 21, 2017 - 11:38am
Ari, the article from the New York Times, hardly flattering 
Quotes from the article:
"At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: 'I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.')"
The company’s winners dream up innovations that they roll out to a quarter-billion customers and accrue small fortunes in soaring stock. Losers leave or are fired in annual cullings of the staff — “purposeful Darwinism,” one former Amazon human resources director said. Some workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal crises said they had been evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover.
Bo Olson was one of them. He lasted less than two years in a book marketing role and said that his enduring image was watching people weep in the office, a sight other workers described as well. “You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face,” he said. “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”
Ari Silverstein Added Jun 21, 2017 - 11:47am
The link didn't work.  I'm sure the article is an opinion piece published by an anti-corporation newspaper.  I'm also sure Amazon disputes all of it.  I have two close personal friends that work for Amazon and both couldn't be happier.  
George N Romey Added Jun 21, 2017 - 12:08pm
I met Tony Hseish years ago when Zappos was only a couple of years old and financially struggling.  He and his people talked to me about coming to work for Zappos but at the time it was right after the dot com crash and Zappos was at best breaking even.  Also, I had no desire to live in Las Vegas where Zappos was then headquartered.  Of course now I wish I had.
As far as Amazon it probably depends on your job in the company.  Programmers are probably protected save having their job out or insourced.
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 21, 2017 - 12:24pm
Cut and paste or click this one works:
George, Zappos has adopted a new management structure called Holacracy-and in The Atlantic of January of 2016, Zappos is undergoing huge turnover, at 30%. Thirty percent turnover would scare me. It should frighten anyone in HR as well.
Cut and paste, this one works:
While I'm not big on pasting, I'm not one to just rewrite their articles. The research that I did was not favorable to either Zappos of Amazon, and the searches did not turn up anything contrary to those documents.
George N Romey Added Jun 21, 2017 - 12:31pm
Zappos pre Amazon was considered a good place to work albeit it definitely catered to millennials.  Zappos really never was that profitable pre Amazon.  The Company was known for great customer service.  Its questionable in the post dot com post if Zappos could have gone public (although we are back to unprofitable dot comes with huge valuations all over again.)
wsucram15 Added Jun 21, 2017 - 1:01pm
Amazon and I parted ways about 3 years ago, actually shortly after I did my project.
I was always enamored at the customer service by them, IDK, I never had a problem and I was always on the go so they delivered everywhere for me.
Then one day I ordered something from one of the third party sellers, to get shipped to me. They ripped me off so I contacted Amazon and they refused to do anything, in fact they refused to remove the seller. No refund..nothing from them.
So I dont purchase from them anymore directly.  I have bought stuff online from other places and it comes in an amazon box, which I find interesting... But I rarely pay shipping, I dont pay for prime and I usually pay a low market price.
Amazon can be they need to clean up their shit.
Ian Thorpe Added Jun 21, 2017 - 1:38pm
Jeff, many of the founder / CEO's of tech giants have gone on record as supporting the idea of a global government. When we look at the company they are in, which includes Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao Tse Tung, Barack Obama, David Rockefeller, Richard Coudenhove - Kalergi (I must post an article on his ideas about social engineering), George Soros, Henry Kissinger, Woodrow Wilson, Bertrand Russell (socialist philosopher and Fabian socialist) among other undesirables.
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 21, 2017 - 1:38pm
 A few years ago, UPS decided the raise the shipping fees for Amazon, and Amazon directed all the shipping to other organizations, and UPS quickly changed their position. Amazon may indeed face the dilemma of large organizations, where little things get ignored while the organization pursues the big things. I've been buying things online for decades, and if Amazon was involved, I wasn't aware of it. I was on eBay when it just used the email of the seller, and you contacted them directly about payment. I bought and sold a lot of college textbooks online, but Amazon never had any good deals at that time. I'm not against Amazon, but I'm not for treating employees like numbers and the old "churn and burn" philosophy of working people to death. I've been there, where I worked until I got sick and my doctor told me to go home and get some rest before the ailment killed me. His (almost) exact words: "people die from this stuff, go home and forget about work for a few days."
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 21, 2017 - 2:28pm
Yes, Ian, because converting to a global government would mostly (in their inflated opinions of themselves) help them. Of course, a primarily fascistic global government (I see no other viable government encasing the globe) that they desire could just as easily turn on them and socialize all they have worked for. They need some political science classes now, don't they? As the elites they are, they think such changes would only benefit them, but political leaders are quick to take advantage of the wealth that others have created, and that rule applies to almost every dictator ever documented. Dictators preserve themselves at the expense of everyone else. Nice observation Ian.
wsucram15 Added Jun 21, 2017 - 6:37pm
I like Ebay, and I have used it since I bought my second computer I think it was.  I then discovered the land of buying and selling online.  My ex-husband made a good second income from this, he had an entire storage facility full of shelved and labeled stuff for sale on Ebay.  He rebuilt his Mercedes AND his Corvette by trading parts, work or money on his PayPal account from the silly stuff he sold.  He had a Harley also, but I don't know if he bought parts from Ebay for that. 
He had a second storage container full of corvette and Harley parts he had bought before he passed away.  My daughter learned a lot from her Dad about Ebay, she sold all the parts and Ebay stuff and made good money.  I think she told me that he made more (this was 10 years ago now) from Ebay than he did from his job.  Im told you cant do that anymore...but Ive only sold small items on there here and there.
I like Etsy also same premise just more individualized.
Oh you know what else I found out about Amazon?  They have a handmade division to compete with Etsy. Called Amazon Handmade.   I dont like it...But I bet they give it a serious try.
Bill H. Added Jun 21, 2017 - 8:01pm
Thanks to Bean Counters, corporations have lost the entire concept of a balance between family life and work.
We are trying to copy the short ultra-productive span of production that Japan exhibited in the mid '60s where workers worked themselves to death, quickly increasing the heart attack rate in a country that was know for it's prior low rate.
How come we never analyze and learn, but just experiment with earlier failures that we should have learned from.
I believe it is simply greed at it's best.
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 21, 2017 - 9:28pm
Nice observation Bill. I think that the millennials saw their parents and grandparents work until they died, and it appears that they are going the opposite direction, where their lives mean so much and work is, well, work, and not much more. Not all of the millennials, but certainly a good portion of them. I have worked with them and my friends have worked with them, and I and my friends do not see a work ethic that we had when we were their age. I personally gave up a lot of "social time" to work, and in the end, it didn't do me any good, nor were there any expressions of appreciation, so I see the millennials refusing to give up "social time" and I can't half blame them. 
You're right on target with the fact that we don't analyze and learn. I think that the people that have analyzed and learned have been largely ignored.There have been a few, but their philosophical viewpoint was rolled over by greed.
Jobs have freed up "social time" only because the digital work can be done at any time, and from almost anywhere. I have been known to take my work, via my laptop, to many places and work away, with a lot of folks probably thinking I'm playing games when I'm doing the work, the digital work. With today's economy, I would like to say that I might someday retire, but at present time that does not appear to be at any time soon, if at all.
Ari Silverstein Added Jun 22, 2017 - 10:13am
As suspected, it’s an opinion piece from a very biased publication.  Take this passage from the article “At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings.”  I asked both my friends if they were encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings and they both said “no.”  I think I know what this whole article is about.  You're a liberal so the enemy will always be large successful corporations like Amazon.  
Peter Corey Added Jun 22, 2017 - 6:26pm
>You're a liberal so the enemy will always be large successful corporations like Amazon.
Yep. When you're a hammer, every "problem" in the universe looks like a nail.
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 22, 2017 - 7:18pm
Peter, excellent point and exceptional insight. Thanks.
Jeff Jackson Added Jun 26, 2017 - 11:11pm
TOWR, AMD, the list goes on. Kramer analyzes stocks, the market, and offers advice on where he thinks the market is going, and no, he isn't always right, but he's not guessing, there is logic and reason in his advice. I bought a bank stock during the Great Recession that is presently five times the value that I paid for it. I can't spend my days analyzing the markets, so I watch him, and yes, I have done OK with a few of them. I have also picked some winners all by myself reading The Wall Street Journal. Try it sometime. The Wall Street Journal has a lot of information, if you know what to look for.