Amazon and Google’s True Advantage


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My colleagues wrote concerning the eye-popping gross sales numbers coming from America’s expertise superstars, together with Google, Facebook and Amazon. Their gross sales and earnings this yr, in the midst of a pandemic, are actually exhausting to fathom. It’s a lot cash, you guys.

But these firms additionally spend gobs of cash, which in flip helps them make more cash.

The capability to spend like loopy — as a result of Big Tech has cash and hardly anybody questions how the businesses spend it — is likely one of the secrets and techniques to why the tech business giants are so troublesome to unseat.

A number of examples: Amazon employed 250,000 full- and part-time workers — on common roughly 2,800 every day within the 90 days that led to September — and then about 100,000 extra individuals in October, the corporate mentioned. Google has spent practically $17 billion this yr on issues like hulking pc gear — that’s about the identical as Exxon’s comparable spending determine for digging oil and fuel out of the bottom.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg talked excitedly on Thursday about spending no matter it takes on futuristic tasks like eyeglasses that overlay digital pictures with the actual world. Imagine strolling down the road and seeing a digital checklist of menu gadgets for the taco store on the nook.

Some of these items, sure, can instantly assist firms generate extra of these eye-popping gross sales and earnings that my colleagues wrote about. When Amazon hires individuals to work in its warehouses or to drive vans, these staff assist push extra packages to your door this Christmas.

But a number of these items, actually, who is aware of. What the heck is Apple cooking up in its analysis labs, on which it spent $19 billion within the final yr? Can Facebook get us to purchase right into a way forward for our world blended with digital pictures? Are Amazon’s gazillions of latest bundle warehouses, transportation depots and pc facilities actually justified? This is the type of stuff which may by no means repay.

And that’s one cause Big Tech is so completely different. Few massive firms get principally patted on the again for spending cash in ways in which could — or could not — repay.

This is a part of the final word dilemma about these expertise giants that dominate our lives and typically our leisure and work hours. They make tons of cash, which suggests they’ve extra money to remain on prime. (Also, governments and rivals say these firms break the principles to benefit themselves on the expense of rivals, hurting customers like us.)

One of essentially the most cringe-inducing phrases in enterprise is “moat.” What this implies is an organization has some distinctive benefit — a globally acknowledged model title for Coca-Cola, or a singular expertise that helps Uber transfer vehicles round effectively — that offers it an unbreachable border of water crammed with monsters.

It’s a horrible, overused piece of jargon. But the tech superstars have a moat. (Imagine me cringing as I typed that.) Their distinctive benefit is entry to massive piles of cash. And they’re utilizing it to dig that watery trench of monsters even deeper.

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Retailers really, really, really want you to start your holiday shopping early, because — well, read this about possible holiday package shipping delays. That means Black Friday and other preholiday sales have already started. The problem is, a lot of times when websites scream DEAL it’s not actually a good deal.

Nathan Burrow from The New York Times’s product review website, Wirecutter, has these tips to make sure we’re not getting fooled by something that promises a discount but is a bad buy:

Comparison shop: The hot item that the website says you can’t find for less anywhere else? Yeah, you probably can. Type the name of the product into a shopping search in your web browser. (If you’re considering a “flash” sale online, first add the item to your shopping cart. Often you have up to 15 minutes to check out, enough time to check on the price.)

Read the reviews: Customer reviews aren’t always reliable. So read up on a product that intrigues you from multiple publications — may I suggest Wirecutter? This isn’t a guarantee that you’re getting a good price, but it will help you avoid getting excited by a sale and buying a junk product.

Use (free!) shopping tools: Websites like CamelCamelCamel.com or Keepa will give you a useful, albeit imperfect, idea of how much a given item has sold for on Amazon over time. That’s a good indication of whether you’re getting a good deal right now, or can wait.

Even when you’re not shopping on Amazon, you can check whether the retailer’s price is a good deal by comparing it to how much the same product tends to sell for on Amazon.

Have an informed plan: Don’t believe the hype, be patient and know that there are good discounts to be found. You may just need to cut through the noise to find them.


The best moment of my week was reading this article about people who are obsessed with the $300 12-foot Halloween skeleton sold by Home Depot. (Also hello to this video of a Home Depot skeleton lashed to the roof of a Mini Cooper.)


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