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TK's MORNING BUZZ: Amazon Has Gotten Too Big, Too Fast -- By Not Practicing What It Preaches

31 Jan, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Amazon.com's latest round of losses were stunning, but not unexpected. The same goes for the massive layoffs that racked the e-commerce champ, in which 1,300 employees, or 15% of the Amazon work force, was let go.

Despite the red ink and pink slips, Amazon chief financial officer Warren Jensen put on a happy face for reporters.

"This was a solid quarter for Amazon," he told reporters in a conference call. "Despite a soft consumer environment we learned a lot about our model and what needs to be done for the coming months."

Let's hope so. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos did an admirable job talking up Amazon's belief in customer service at the recent VSDA convention in Las Vegas, but the truth is, empirical evidence suggests Amazon has gotten a little too big for its britches, too fast, and may not be practicing what its chief has been preaching.

I know people who have been buying movies and music and books from Amazon for years, but who are letting up because they have seen a serious downslide in customer service, from shipping times to getting somebody on the phone.

Despite Bezos' well-orchestrated "tour" of the Web site during his keynote address at the VSDA show, there is also a feeling among some customers, including me, that there's simply too much clutter to wade through. I liked Amazon much better when they focused on movies and music and books, which the last I heard still accounted for 80% of their sales.

Now, with Amazon selling household items, cosmetics and even the kitchen sink (literally -- I kid you not!), it's getting tough to browse. You feel like you've wandered into a giant online Wal-Mart -- and all of a sudden you feel overwhelmed and in a hurry to get out, not a good thing for a Web merchant that once prided itself on the "stickiness" of its site and even launched a full-scale auction site (since scaled back) for the express purpose of getting people to linger, longer.

I believe Amazon needs to get back to its own set of basics, which are top-notch customer service and the widest possible selections of books, music and movies you could hope for. I know I've always preached the gospel of diversification, but in this case, there's been too much of an otherwise good thing. Way too much.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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