Weekly readings – 15th February 2020

An interesting piece on Lyft vs Uber

An argument for the challenges that Google is facing

This is what a hearing should be. Not the kind that has taken place lately

Spotify is evolving

Oklahoma State’s new identity. In my opinion, the new logo doesn’t look bad at all

This article sheds some light on the secretive S team at Amazon

The government’s revenue depends significantly on the tax receipts from citizens and corporations. So the revenue projection depends much on the assumptions of economic growth which seem too optimistic. It’s important to take into account the feasibility of these assumptions; which the media may not capture fully or an average citizen cares enough about

Weekly readings – 28th December 2019

The last Weekly readings episode of 2019. I have had fun doing this because this serves mainly as my notes. I hope you got something out of these notes

Nadella is killing it at Microsoft and won the Person of the Year crown from FT

Walmart’s strategy in the fight against Amazon.

The World’s Oldest Forest Has 385-Million-Year-Old Tree Roots. The sheer number is

Coolest things I learned in 2019

Rural America Turning to Grocers, High-Fee ATMs as Banks Leave. If I tell this to my dad, who idolizes America, he probably will say I am crazy!

Apple’s secretive work on a satellite project as a company priority

Why your brain needs exercise

This seems to be a massive issue in the future for Amazon, especially when its 3rd party business has become increasingly important

The Dubai – Saudi Arabia route is surprisingly lucrative for Emirates

What’s Amazon’s market share? 35% or 5%?

‘Amazon’s Choice’ Isn’t the Endorsement It Appears

India needs new infrastructure

I am surprised at how well Hello Fresh has been doing

Americans are retiring in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries

Weekly readings – 21st December 2019

Argument against direct listings

What Happens After Prisoners Learn to Code?

Google Culture War Escalates as Era of Transparency Wanes

The Wilderness of Suburban Saigon in 1904. Source: Saigoneer

Popcorn is a serious business at AMC theaters

Why Kansas City’s Free Transit Experiment Matters. Regardless of how this experiment will turn out, it will provide a valuable case study, data and motivation for other cities.

The Man Who Built Amazon’s Delivery Machine

The curtain on Vision Fund and Masa was pulled back a little bit more.

The fall from an icon of Sheryl Sandberg

The horrifying truth behind the track of our location data

Amazon return policies

Today, I learned something new about Amazon return policies. As a Prime subscriber, I used to think that regardless of the reason behind the returns, they would always be free. I was wrong.

As I had to return some items that I didn’t like and there was no fault on Amazon or the manufacturers’ part, I was presented with esentiall two options: drive to UPS or Kohl’s store to drop off for free or pay to have the items picked up. Below are the screenshots when I choose the reason as “Bought by Mistake” or “No longer needed”

Had I chosen something that indicated the return wasn’t my fault, the options would be different

I guess it is sensible and smart of Amazon to implement this control. Otherwise, there would be abuses from customers (myself very likely, I have to admit) and the logistics costs would be even higher than what they are nowadays.

On a side note, the return experience I had at Kohl’s was very smooth. You can actually return Amazon items at any Kohl’s nationwide and all that it takes is QA code which can be stored and shown via your phone.

It made me think: how does this partnership benefit Amazon and Kohl’s? I am speculating here, but I guess this option makes sense financially for Amazon as they piggyback on the scale of Kohl’s logistics or business with shipping partners like USPS, UPS or FedEx. Instead of 100,000 items delivered a month, I imagine the deal with Amazon would bump the number up for Kohl’s. The increased volume can give them the leverage to negotiate a lower unite rate and have Amazon share the extra cost. From Amazon side, it would be cheaper to share with Kohl’s than to handle the entire costs alone.

Additionally, customers are given another option. I can imagine in some cases it would be more convenient to drop items off at Kohl’s stores than packaging and labeling the items.

On Kohl’s side, they might be banking on the fact that as customers have to come in their stores to return items, it will increase impulsive purchase in the stores.

Amazon pays to play

A few days ago, Amazon reported its rare earnings miss, particularly on the bottom line. The primary reasons of the miss were their investments in AWS and especially their one-day delivery.

“We are ramping up to make our 25th holiday season the best ever for Prime customers — with millions of products available for free one-day delivery,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “Customers love the transition of Prime from two days to one day — they’ve already ordered billions of items with free one-day delivery this year. It’s a big investment, and it’s the right long-term decision for customers. And although it’s counterintuitive, the fastest delivery speeds generate the least carbon emissions because these products ship from fulfillment centers very close to the customer — it simply becomes impractical to use air or long ground routes. Huge thanks to all the teams helping deliver for customers this holiday.”

Source: Amazon

A few days later, they announced the removal of groceries delivery fees for Prime members.

While their figures missed expectations, I think they are doing the right thing. Amazon has long been about long term investments and commitment to customer satisfaction. Two-day shipping wasn’t popular until it was introduced by Amazon. It was adopted by other retailers which wanted to compete. Now, Amazon upped their game and took it to another level with one-day shipping and free grocery shipping for Prime members. They are here to play and have the means to. With their AWS making up 62% of the whole company’s operating income and free cash flow up 54% YoY, Amazon has the luxury to make long-term investments to continuously being competitive.

I understand that in some cases, Amazon came across as a bully and deserved some of the backlash. Nonetheless, I think they earned their competitive position. Kobe Bryant spent hours in the gym and took thousands of shots to get to where he was in the record book. Amazon is willing to pay to stay competitive. The question is whether other companies respond accordingly and when.