INSIDE AMAZON My Story
Author: Gisela Hausmann
Publisher Educ-Easy Books
Release Date: May 1, 2021
Available at Apple, Kobo, B&N, and Smashwords
The memoir “Inside Amazon” examines Gisela Hausmann’s experiences as a small publisher, a top reviewer, an indie author, and a warehouse associate.
Her story begins in 1997 when she decides to self-publish a book. As Hausmann takes a closer look at Jeff Bezos’ new online bookstore the mass media expert begins to suspect that Jeff Bezos has loftier goals than selling books.
Having the opportunity to take advantage of Amazon’s fantastic PR tools for self-published authors in the late nineties Hausmann becomes a fan. She sees Bezos as “the new Gutenberg” and the “most powerful defender of the First Amendment.”
But tragedy strikes and Hausmann must switch gears. She embarks on a career in the transportation industry, first at Fedex and then at a NVOCC and freight forwarder. A few years later she begins writing books again, on the side.
She earns an excellent reputation as an author of “naked,” no-fluff, no-nonsense non-fiction books and some of her books get featured in major publications. But eventually, the Kindle self-publishing platform loses its appeal for Hausmann. Fake review writers, scammers, questionable “book marketers,” and authors who are mostly motivated by the idea to publish books as a “means of building a passive income” have done their damage.
By 2019, Hausmann is irritated with U.S. politics and the economy; she still remembers living through the Great Recession all too well. Hence, when by chance, she finds out that Amazon opened a warehouse in her hometown she decides to apply for a job. She wants to work her way up at her favorite company.
Though, in the months to come, Hausmann cannot discover any “Amazon Day-1 thinking” at the warehouse she stays optimistic and tries her best to embody Amazon’s leadership principles.
Then, the Covid crisis strikes.
Inside Amazon is compelling because, for the longest time, Hausmann keeps rooting for the company. She does not look at what is going on at the warehouse through the eyes of a labor activist but as a transportation and marketing professional and actively searches for applications of Jeff Bezos’ “Day 1”-philosophy and the company’s leadership principles.
Alas, at the warehouse where she works for 468 days, the transportation professional sees only one of Jeff Bezos’ leadership principles in action – uninspiring (instead of clever) “frugality.”
Q: First, the obvious question – Why did you write a memoir about your two decades of being connected with Amazon somehow?
Lately, I feel that Amazon’s story is being told in a polarized way, either too glorious or too poor. In many business magazines Amazon is praised as the ultimate “Day 1”-company, a company that reinvents themselves every day and in other publications Amazon is denounced for the treatment of their workers.
Both points of view contain some undeniable truths. Still, though I witnessed impressive operations, as a transportation specialist, I could not find any “Day 1”-thinking during the 468 days I worked for Amazon Logistics. In fact, I found that the company was unable to solve issues other professionals such as YMCA counselors or even children solve daily. That is the story that has not been told in the past.
Q: So, when did “your story with Amazon” begin?
In 1997. Having helped my husband to self-publish two books in my birth country Austria, I wanted to publish a book in the United States but here things used to be a lot more complicated. Then, Jeff Bezos began to revolutionize the book selling industry and, eventually, the publishing industry. Because I studied film and mass media, I followed everything he did closely. In my opinion, Bezos was the new Gutenberg.
Q: And when did you start working for Amazon Logistics?
In August 2019. I liked working in the logistics industry. In the past, I worked as a Fedex subject matter expert and as an account manager and also in sales and marketing for an NVOCC (non-vessel operating common carrier) and freight forwarder for a few years. Hence, when, in 2019, I was looking for a job at a cool company, I was thrilled to find out that my favorite company opened a warehouse in my hometown.
Q: Did you encounter any of Amazon Logistics’ problems which have been mentioned in the news lately?
No. I worked at a distribution center and I am proud to say, at age 58, I was one of their best stowers. Distribution centers aren’t brutal environments, because in contrast to fulfillment centers they operate on 6-hour shifts.
While, from the beginning, I saw issues that blew my mind, like awful training, no quality control, and the worst designed internal competition initiative, these realizations did not prompt me to leave. I was enthralled with the company. I was certain that sooner or later I would stumble over an example of Amazon’s famous “Day 1”-thinking. Then, the Covid-crisis struck.
Q: What happened?
Suddenly, there was no denying anymore that a company like Amazon could have done a lot better in ensuring that their workers were safe from contracting the virus. But, instead of applying “Day 1”-thinking and pondering “best solutions,” they pretended it was business as usual.
Meanwhile, because of Covid, Amazon Logistics’ warehouse workers moved 127.1 million bags of dogfood, in boxes that weighed close to 50 pounds. Each one of these packages had to be moved by at least nine workers, in under 12 seconds.
And that was just the dog food.
Q: So, what’s the message of your book?
My memoir tells my personal story.
Still, there can’t have been many persons who admired Amazon more than I did in the past. In 2016, I wrote and published a book which explained how Amazon vendors could get product reviews on Amazon – the proper way. I also released a German edition.
At the time, I called Austrian newspapers long distance, on my own money, explaining how great Amazon was in my opinion. This effort yielded two whole page articles, NYT page sized articles, in Austrian publications.
Unfortunately, three years later, when working for Amazon Logistics for more than a year, I found mostly uninspiring, instead of creative “frugality.” It seems to me that the company has gone from creating irresistible products to trying to squeeze out pennies or even dollars from people they deal with in the two subsidiaries I am familiar with.
Q: What surprised you the most about working for Amazon Logistics?
Amazon Logistics is an efficient company however, to me, it looked like Amazon’s leadership principles which are presented on the warehouses’ lunchroom walls are merely letters on these walls. It is a story which hadn’t been told yet.
Q: You are not selling your book on Amazon; where can people buy your book?
At Apple Books
At Smashwords (which operates in 51 countries)
Also at WH Smith in the UK, FNAC in France and Portugal, Livraria Cultura in Brazil, Angus & Robertson and Bookworld and Booktopia in Australia, Indigo in Canada, Collins in Australia, Feltrinelli in Italy, bol.com in the Netherlands, Paper Plus in New Zealand, Play in Great Britain, Rakuten in Japan, Buy.com (now Rakuten) in the US, PriceMinister in France, Crossword and WHSmith in India, Eason & Son, Ltd in Ireland, Mondadori in Italy, The Paper Plus Group in New Zealand, National Book Store in the Philippines, Pick 'N Pay in South Africa, La Central in Spain, Dogan in Turkey, participating Booksellers Association Stores in the UK, and participating American Booksellers Association stores in the US, and Orbile in Mexico (Orbile is a partnership between two large Mexican book retailers, Porrúa and Gandhi).
Gisela Hausmann has done it again: produced an eminently readable, well-documented, soundly-reasoned non-fiction book that deserves a place on the bookshelves of anyone who has any association with THE GIANT ZON.
One thing I learned in forty years of administration and turnaround management of service-oriented organizations in the health and human services sector of the U.S., England, Canada and West Africa was that MBA’s are insufficient to running effective companies of people. Managers who want to excel need to add MBWA, “Management By Walking Around”—(and listening to frontline associates) to their repertoire. Amazon seems to have missed this point completely.
Oh yes, they have data, but piles of data is not knowledge. And knowledge does not become information—useful knowledge to make necessary, effective change unless it is leavened with the ability to listen to frontline associates and the willingness to incorporate their knowledge and ideas into action.
Gisela Hausmann is a master of information. And her book of her 22 years of study and 15 months of employment at Amazon gives the reader an intimate look into what happened on a day-to-day basis. How “outdated training programs, ill-designed award programs, insufficient boxes and packaging tape, shelves that made it hard for shroter people to do their job and [above all else] what looked like total unwillingness to correct deficiencies,” let Amazon go from “The most powerful supporter of the First Amendment to a company who just ‘spins off’ ideas to make money at the expense of others.”
As a student of management, we are taught not to study present methods of giant corporations, because they did not get to be as big as they are by doing what they are now doing. Ms. Hausmann’s book is as good a case study as any I have seen to drive this point home. Buy it. Read it. And if you are on any level of management, turn the knowledge you gain from the data she gives you into information.
Charles Ferraro, Winner of the Harvard Prize for Innovation, the EXCEL Award for Innovation in the Public Sector, the National Alliance of Business, “Work America Award”, and three American Public Welfare Association Successful Project Awards.