The Ups and Downs of Life in Amazonia

No one said empire building was easy.
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Check out the rest of our 2017 Year in Review package.

According to Bloomberg and Forbes, Jeff Bezos was the richest man in the world for almost all of July 26, with a personal fortune of more than $90 billion. By day’s end, though, he had to settle for second banana to Seattle’s other tycoon, Bill Gates. Truly, a rich person’s problem.

Last year, the hashtag #boycottAmazon trended in India after it was discovered that the online retailer was selling doormats decorated with sacred Hindu deities. This year, karma points were risked again when Amazon was nailed for hawking Gandhi flip-flops, Lord Hanuman underwear and skateboards, and other deity-emblazoned products. Time for a “cultural sensitivity” robot, perhaps?

The company’s “biosphere” building project finally started to take shape this year, part of a massive new $4 billion Denny Triangle development destined to house an employee lunchroom and meeting spaces, and some 65,000 square feet of exotic flora from around the world. 

Adjacent to the new biosphere building, Amazon opened a 24/7 downtown doggie park, which even general-public Fidos and their owners can use. Good Bezos! 

Irony alert: After decimating the industry, Amazon opened its second brick-and-mortar bookstore in the region in Bellevue Square, making it 10 and counting nationwide.

Bezos announced his entry into the grocery market industry by gobbling up Whole Foods Market. The fabled basement-prices guru immediately slashed the grocer’s high prices, triggering some giddy shopping (prices on many items eventually went back up). Clean-up on aisle one?

Meanwhile, back at its headquarters, in a literal landmark deal confirmed October 18, Amazon will be taking over much of Seattle’s Macy’s building. 

Inconveniently, Amazon was forced to delay the public launch of its checkout-less Go convenience stores due to shopper-tracking glitches. (2001: A Space Odyssey’s Hal leaps to mind. “You should not get that beef jerky, Dave.”) And there were rocky receptions to Amazon’s new ready-to-cook meal kits (“kits for dummies,” not foodies, suggested one reviewer) and grocery pickup service in Ballard and SoDo (just Google Seattle Times food critic Bethany Jean Clement’s fishy tale).

In a much-heralded philanthropic move, in May, Amazon announced that Mary’s Place homeless shelter had a permanent home inside its new downtown headquarters, and, in July, the nonprofit food-service training group FareStart opened the first of five restaurants to be set on an Amazon campus.

In June, after a story ran in the Bezos-owned Washington Post about Trump ending an Obama-era covert CIA program (loathed by Moscow, BTW) in Syria, the president launched a tweet attack threatening internet taxation. Sad!

Who’d thunk it? U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis got a personal tour of Amazon by its founder. But then again, Bezos is on a Pentagon advisory board, and his cloud computing service has lots of military clients.... 

On July 27, Amazon achieved an elite monetary milestone, crossing the $500 billion-plus (that’s a half-trillion) market valuation threshold.

On September 7, Bezos announced that Amazon was on the prowl for a second “fully equal” North American headquarters, which launched a cross-continental race of municipalities hoping to lure the tech behemoth.

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