Valued at nearly $1 trillion, Amazon is one of the most powerful companies in the world. The Seattle-based retail giant employs over 600,000 people and operates 100 sortation and fulfillment centers in North America, sometimes sending out as many as 1 million items per day to customers. But Amazon does more than just retail. Amazon publishes its own books and comics, finances TV shows and movies, operates a Texas wind farm, builds robots, streams music, delivers prescription medications, and operates web services for everyone from Medium to the CIA. And that’s not even counting its high-profile acquisitions, which include Twitch, IMDB, Zappos, and Whole Foods, among countless others.
Nearly all of us use Amazon, one way or another. But what is it like working inside the beast? Over the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you stories from workers at every level of the Amazon empire to find out.
Welcome to The Amazon Diaries.
In June 2017, Amazon acquired Whole Foods Market for $13.4 billion, not only extending its reach as a food delivery service but also picking up some 430 distribution centers — otherwise known as Whole Foods stores — with lucrative, built-in customer bases. As Derek Thompson pointed out in The Atlantic, Whole Foods’ real estate was at least as valuable to Amazon as Whole Foods’ business itself, if not more so. But where did the acquisition leave the human beings who worked in those stores?
One Whole Foods worker OneZero spoke with, “Tyler,” started at the company about 10 years ago. (Tyler requested anonymity for this interview to speak freely about his experience.) In 2008, Tyler had lost his finance job at a health care company. “I started stocking shelves part time, and then after I’d been there for eight or nine months, I decided to see if I could make a career out of it,” he told me. “I’m a food nerd, I like to cook, I used to go and get things at Whole Foods and just really liked things at Whole Foods. And there’s still a lot about Whole Foods that I really love.”