INSIDE AMAZON My Story
Author: Gisela Hausmann
Publisher Educ-Easy Books
Release Date: May 1, 2021
Available at Amazon, Apple, Kobo, B&N, and Smashwords
The memoir “Inside Amazon” examines Gisela Hausmann’s experiences as a small publisher, an Amazon top reviewer, a Kindle author, and an AMZL warehouse associate.
Who is this book for? - Every indie author, seller, warehouse professional and customer who wants to know what’s going on behind Amazon’s “wall of talking points.”
Whereas, usually, Amazon’s story is told in superlatives, Gisela’s memoir offers a ground-level look at Amazon’s publishing platform and the operations at a distribution center.
The Austrian-born self-publisher’s journey begins in 1997 when she decides to publish her first book in the United States. Conscious of the fact that the traditional book publishing and book selling industry were never easy to work with, she believes that a new Internet bookstore – Amazon.com – will help her to distribute her book nationwide.
It turns out to be the right decision. Amazon exceeds Hausmann’s expectations by offering amazing marketing tools previously reserved for authors whose books made the bestseller lists of The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today, free of charge.
Not surprisingly, Hausmann becomes a fan of Jeff Bezos and Amazon.
But, struck by a personal tragedy, Hausmann must put her publisher’s ambitions on hold. She starts working in the transportation industry, where she does well.
A few years later, she is back at Amazon, as the author of award-winning books and a well-ranked top reviewer.
When Amazon’s publishing platform experiences “issues” – fake reviews, plagiarism, "book-stuffing"- scams, and more – Hausmann holds on to her belief that Amazon is a highly efficient organization. She assumes that the company focuses on their big and expensive products instead of relatively cheap ebooks.
Irritated with President Trump’s economic policies and worried about the potential of a recession, Hausmann is happy to find out that Amazon opened a distribution center in her hometown and starts working there.
However, to her utter surprise, she cannot find any applications of Jeff Bezos’ famous leadership principles or his “Day 1”-philosophy. At times, working at the warehouse feels like working for a brand-new start-up.
Things get worse during the Christmas Peak Season.
By the time the Covid-crisis hits, Hausmann knows that the “issues” she sees are systemic but can no longer leave her job. A different kind of recession than the one she worried about has arrived.
Gisela Hausmann ends up working for Amazon Logistics for 468 days.
This is her 23-year story.
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.
So, I told it.