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Opinion Editorials

Do or die: there’s a store monopoly and Amazon’s the only option left?

(EDITORIAL) The monopoly is growing and competition is fierce, but we should be careful what we wish for – would this monopolistic world really work out to our advantage?

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amazon

It’s a mad world

Convenience is great. Choices are even better.

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Unfortunately, we’re creatures of convenience. But what if there weren’t choices and Amazon is our only option?
Let’s say you wake up one day and your local grocer’s, Target, Wal-Mart, and every other similar brick-and-mortar store had closed their gates for good. Maybe you’re thinking, “Who cares? Those guys are over-priced and suck anyway.”

Hold on now; think about it.

The things we take for granted

It’s an oddly satisfying feeling when you can tour a nearby everything-in-one-place joint like Target, find the thing you were looking for, and beeline toward Guest Services and ask (throwing a sheepish grin of utmost innocence and sincerity), “You guys do price matching, right?”

After the transaction is complete, you walk away with a slightly smug sense of self-satisfaction that you beat the system.

You did get to cut the rest of the normal lines, after all. It was worth it to price check the local shops along with mega e-commerce giants like Amazon, EBay, and the like.

You compared and calculated which retailer offered the most bang for your buck, which granted you the use of coupons, and which scored you the most points/rewards, and then ultimately: which spared you the least amount of hassle possible.

Careful what you wish for

Many would prefer the less-hassley-route, especially if said route has a number of different delivery options to choose from, caters to your every whim, and included a special bonus for introverts: no need to leave the house or have an awkward social interaction with someone in your head over and over again.

And this is how they get you.

The immediate impact of all brick-and-mortar businesses closing down would be the massive amount of job loss.

I’ve worked retail and I’ve slung my share of lattes and when you have little experience in anything else, the job-world can be a terrifying place.

Earlier this year Amazon announced that they would be adding 100,000 jobs despite the crumble of many brick-and-mortar locations (yay jobs!).

But does this offset the loss?

Transitional issues arise

In this hypothetical situation in which Amazon is our only option, hordes of people would be affiliated with Amazon in some way or another: whether as a delivery person, warehouse worker handling packing and shipping, software developer, or PR person; Amazon would naturally expand to include more Amabots (term used to describe someone who has drank the Kool-Aid) under their regime.

Even with the foresight of “destruction-by-Amazon,” many companies would not, or not be able to, financially support the re-training of individuals that may be impacted by such an event.

And what of the shade thrown at Amazon’s treatment of its employees?

Does the person working the cash register at a grocery store typically have on-hand the skillset needed to carry over into warehouse worker or driver roles? Maybe we’ll expect a rise in low pay high labor work or an increase in cardboard sign-carrying cup-jinglers at intersections.

Black market jobs and industries will begin to cultivate.

Devices needed in order to access Amazon will become a hot commodity because let’s face it, not everyone is connected to the Internet of Things.

As a result, internet cafes will also become more commonplace for those that don’t have access, because how else are you going to restock the toilet paper?

Marking their territory

In this brave new world, Amazon will undoubtedly expand to cover any remaining territories.

Take into consideration one of Amazon’s target goals: to deliver product to the consumer as quickly and efficiently as possible.

To do this will require the development of new distribution centers in order to be closer and readily available to a broader audience’s location in order to meet promises of same day delivery.

After all, this is now our only method of obtaining groceries and goods. With ghost towns of malls and grocery stores becoming more commonplace, available retail space is now prime for the taking.

This includes services such as Same Day, Prime Now, Amazon Restaurants, and Prime Pantry – all of which are available through Amazon Prime memberships exclusively.

As Amazon is now the chief-supplier of most goods and services with no immediate or accessible competition, they are free to charge whatever they want, whenever they want.

With a monopoly like this, one could hope that the increase in revenue might go toward a “greater good” such as new and innovative technologies for the benefit of humankind.

While wishful thinking for those affected, where’s the incentive for such a powerhouse?

Why should they?

Forced resourcefulness

So while Amazon is rapidly expanding as a company and as an icon, I don’t think we’ll quite run into Mad Max-levels of dystopian destituteness, but it certainly feels like we’re on the way.

First, things like proxy services, privacy-specialized toolbars, and special barrios of the internet where you can buy and sell just about anything you want will become much more widely accessible. Everyone will learn real quick how to grow gardens or care for chickens when their only option is to have food delivered.

Those living in rural areas who rely on the weekly drive up to town to go to Wal-Mart will likely struggle the most.

Aside from this, we’d have very little reason to leave the house.

I mean Amazon is basically already trying to get us accustomed to the “just a touch of a button away” approach with their Amazon Dash doo-dads. They want us to sit on our butts, totally reliant on them.

So no longer can we (or should we, really) blow our paychecks on Moonpies and whistles, but instead must make intelligent, strategic choices about the things we buy, how much, and when. Glob knows when there’s a sudden price hike on “X” item for some finite amount of time.

Or what of availability of goods? If Amazon doesn’t have it, no one does.

Because of these uncertainties, perhaps we’re more inclined to hit up our neighbor, friend, or family member for a cup of sugar, pain reliever, or a clean pair of socks?

Maybe we rally together in communal boycott of our expected reliance on the system and find ways to look for loopholes to take advantage of in order to stay afloat.

No hate

I love Amazon, I really do, but it’s only because I have them to compare to other things. I’d like to not see them become LexCorp, but in this hypothetical it’s worth considering how drastically different our way of living would become if they did have a monopoly on the market.

#therecanonlybeone

Ashe Segovia is a Staff Writer at The American Genius with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Southwestern University. A huge film nerd with a passion for acting and 80's movies and synthpop; the pop-cultural references are never-ending.

Opinion Editorials

Why soft skills are even more essential in online era

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Since many of us aren’t seeing our co-workers in person these days, our soft skills are even more important in the online working space.

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Skype video chat with person writing in notebook. Soft skills are critical online.

When did we start thinking of “soft” as bad? I mean, we’ve got soft serve (excellent), softball (good exercise), fabric soft-ener (another industry I’m enjoying killing as a millennial). And we’ve got soft skills.

Or at least… I hope we do.

The shift to non-optional remote working has been difficult for a lot of us, especially for everyone who forgets to press mute before making sure the kids behave. But it’ll take more than being hot-mic savvy to make it through the foreseeable future. Brush up on these soft skills while we’re waiting on a vaccine, and it’ll make the coming months (years?) much easier.

1. Tone mastery

Do you know the difference between “Hey, Brenda, can we have a 1:1 at 12:30pm to go over the laser-equipped yoga pants presentation details?” and “Brenda, we need to talk…”?

If not, you might not have a great grasp on how to say with your typey-words what you can no longer say with your facial expressions. You don’t need to throw an emoji or exclamation point into every sentence to get your points across, but you do have the power to keep your coworkers’ heart rates in a safe range by explaining what exactly you need from them in your initial messages.

Use that power wisely.

2. Checking in

There’s no water cooler talk if there’s no water cooler, right?

Making and maintaining connections is more important now than ever, natural introversion be damned. You wanna be a star, don’tcha? Keep up relationships with public shoutouts, inquiries, and reaction images, and you’ll keep up morale while maintaining and boosting your potential for growth in the company.

Even if you’re not a small-talk kind of person, just a drop in for updates, meeting minutes, or sharing a relevant article via appropriate chatrooms and DMs can help hone your soft skills.

“Karen, this MLM article reminded me of your anti-Scentsy tangent you forgot we could all hear, maybe send this to your pushy ex-friend.”

“Hey, Ravindra, how’s the new laptop working out? All good? No ‘Kill all Humans’ protocols like the last one?”

Simple blips like this can add up like couch change. If you’re an admin, make a general chats section, and work in enough time in meetings to allow everyone to have a bit of a chat before getting down to business.

3. Make yourself available

This was important before the pandemic, honestly, but it bears repeating now, especially for everyone in a leadership position. If you’re not making time for check-ins, constantly cancelling meetings, or just generally enjoying being gone when people need you…figure out a way to not. Delegate what you can, bring on a VA, shorten that vacation, whatever you have to do. Everyone’s struggling, and being captain means your crew is looking to you. Don’t let the general air of desperation lull you into thinking a metaphorical keelhauling is out of the question—that extra power still comes with extra responsibility.

Keep yourself from double-bookings, cancellations, and absences as much as possible, and things will continue to improve internally… Even if they don’t in the outside world.

Aesop had a fable about an oak tree and a little river reed. When a storm came, the hardened oak tree fell and died, while the flexible reed bent with the wind and lived. We’re in the storm now, and everyone’s doing their best not to break. Keep yourself rooted friends, but the moral here is to soften up.

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Opinion Editorials

Before you quit your job, ask yourself these 5 questions

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Frustrated at work? Here are 5 ideas utilizing design thinking and exploration tactics to assess if you really are ready to quit your job.

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Man reclining on beanbag with laptop, thoughtful. Considering tactics before you quit your job.

We have all been there. We are in a job that just doesn’t feel right for us. Maybe we strongly dislike our manager or even our day to day work responsibilities. We find it easy to blame everyone else for everything we dislike. We question life and ask “Is this what life is all about? Shouldn’t I be spending my time doing something I am more passionate about?” But, we probably like the regular paycheck… Thus, we stay there and possibly become more miserable by the day. Some of us may even start to feel physical symptoms of headaches, stomach aches, and possibly depression. We also may go to the internet like this person seeking answers and hoping someone else can tell us what to do:

“I feel conflicted but I want to quit my job. What should I do?

I was thinking of quitting my job because I dislike what I do, and I feel I am underpaid.

However last week my colleague tendered her resignation too. Needless to say, if I leave too, my whole department will fall into a larger mess and that causes some feelings of conflict within me.

Should my colleague quitting affect when I want to leave too? How do I go about quitting now?”

We can definitely empathize with this – it’s really uncomfortable, sometimes sad, and hard to be in a position where we feel we are underpaid and we aren’t happy.

So, how can you navigate a situation like this? How do you figure out if you should just quit your job? How can you be an adult about this?

Here are some exploratory questions, ideas, and some design thinking activities to help you answer this question for yourself.

  • Before you up and quit, assuming you don’t yet have your next opportunity lined up, have you considered asking for a raise – or better yet, figure out how you add value to the organization? Would your supervisor be willing to move you in to a new role or offer additional compensation?
  • If you don’t have a job lined up, do you have the recommended AT LEAST six months of living expenses in your savings account? Some would recommend that you have even more during a global pandemic where unemployment is at an all-time high – it may take longer to find a new position.
  • Do you have a safety net of family or friends that are willing and able to help you with your bills if you don’t have your regular paycheck? Would you be willing to put that burden on them so you can quit your job?
  • Why aren’t you job searching if you are unhappy? Is it because the task seems daunting and the idea of interviewing right now makes you want to puke?
  • What would your ideal job be and what would it take for you to go for it?

Many people claim they don’t like their job but they don’t know what to do next or even worse, don’t know what they WANT to do. To offer a little bit of tough love here: Well, then, that’s your job to figure it out. You can go on Reddit all you want, but no one else can tell you what is right for you.

Here are some ways to explore what may be an exciting career move for you or help you identify some areas that you need to learn more about in order to figure out where work will align with your skills, interests, and passions.

  1. Consider ordering the Design Your Life Workbook that provides writing prompts to help you figure out what it is that you are looking for in a job/career. You may also like the book Designing Your Work Life which is about “How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work”.
  2. Utilize design thinking to answer some of your questions. Make a diamond shape and in each of the four corners, write out the “Who” you want to be working with, “What” you’d like to be doing, “Where” you’d like to be, and “Why” you want to be there or doing that kind of work.
  3. Conduct informational interviews with people doing work that you think you might be interested in. Usually these conversations give you lots of interesting insights and either a green light to pursue something or validation that maybe that role isn’t right for you either.
  4. Get your resume updated. Sometimes just dusting off your resume, updating it, and making it ready gives you a feeling of relief that if you did really want to pursue a new job, you are almost ready. Consider updating your LinkedIn profile as well.
  5. Explore what you can do differently. A lot of what we can be frustrated about can be related to things out of our control. Consider exploring ways to work better with your team or how to grow to become invaluable. Tune in to Lindsey Pollak’s podcast, The Work Remix, where she gives great ideas on how to navigate working in current times where there are five generations in the workplace. There may be ways you need to adjust your communication style or tune in to emotional intelligence on how to better work with your supervisor or employees. Again, focus on what is within your control.

You may decide that you need to quit your job to be able to focus your energy on finding a better fit for you. But at the same time, be realistic. Most of us have to work to live. Everyone has bills, so you may continue working while you sort out some of the other factors to help you find a more exciting prospect. Either way, wishing you all the best on this journey, and the time and patience to allow you to figure it out.

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Opinion Editorials

Your goals are more complicated than generalized platitudes, and that’s okay

(OPINION / EDITORIALS) When the tough times get going, “one size fits all” advice just won’t cut it. Your goals are more specific than the cookie cutter platitudes.

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Split paths in the forest like goals - general advice just doesn't fit.

‘Saw.’

“Vulgar, uneducated wisdom based in superstition”, according to the good volunteer compilers at Wikipedia. See also: ‘aphorism’, ‘platitude’, and ‘entrepreneurial advice’.

I’m not saying there’s no good advice for anyone anymore, that’s plain not true. SMART Goals are still relevant, there’s a plethora of cheaper, freeer, more easily accessible tutorials online, and consensus in April-ville is that Made to Stick is STILL a very helpful book.

But when I hear the same ‘pat on the head’ kind of counsel that I got as a kid presented by a serious institution and/or someone intending on being taken seriously by someone who isn’t their grade school-aged nephew, I roll my eyes. A lot.

“Each failure is an opportunity!” “Never give up!” “It’s not how many times you fall!”, yeah, okay, that’s all lovely. And it IS all very true. My issue is… These sunshiney saws? They’re not very specific. And just like a newspaper horoscope, they’re not meant to be (not that I’ll stop reading them).

Example. You’ve been jiggling the rabbit ears of your SEO for months, to no avail. No one’s visiting your site, there’ve been no calls, and the angel investor cash is starting to dip closer to falling from heaven with each passing day.

Does ‘don’t give up’ mean that you use your last bit of cash to take on an expert?

Or does ‘don’t give up’ mean that you go back to R&D and find out that no one actually WANTED your corncob scented perfume to begin with; algorithm tweaking and Demeter Fragrances be damned?

This is the thing about both your goals you make and the guidance you take—they have to be specific. I’m not saying your parents can put a sock in it or anything. I’m thrilled that I’m part of a family that’ll tell me to keep on keeping on. But as far as serious, practical input goes… One size fits all just leaves too much room for interpretation.

When you’re stuck, behind, or otherwise at odds with your growth, are you asking the right questions? Are you sure of what the problem actually is? Do you know whether it’s time to give up a failure of a business and ‘keep pushing’ in the sense of starting another one, or whether you’ve got a good thing on hand that needs you to ‘never say die’ in the sense of giving it more tweaking and time?

No one should have stagnant goals. A pool of gross sitting water is only attractive to mosquitoes and mold. ‘I wanna be rich’ as your business’s raison d’être is a setup for a story about the horrors of literal-minded genies, not an intention you can actually move upon. But that doesn’t mean you need to go hard the other way and get lost in a nebulous fog of easily-published aphorisms.

To be fair, it’s not as if saying ‘Ask the right questions’ is exponentially more helpful than your average feel-good refreshment article, since… This editorial column doesn’t know you or what pies you have your fingers in. But if I can at least steer you away from always running towards the overly general and into an attempt at narrowing down what your real problems are, I’ll consider this a job well done.

Save saws for building community tables.

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