When I started my law practice in 1983, there was an office supply store named Kellstedts that was located about four blocks from my office in downtown, Peoria. All of the offices that were located downtown bought their office supplies from Kellstedts.
After I set up an account at Kellstedts, the salesperson who was assigned to my account stopped by my office to introduce herself. After that, she stopped by my office at least once a month with a catalog and a printout of previous orders. She was cheerful, courteous, and grateful every time I ordered supplies. She always delivered the supplies within a few days of my order.
During the 1990s, Office Depot and OfficeMax opened “big-box stores” in the Peoria area. At the same time, a couple of large regional warehouse office supply stores opened and sent out huge catalogs full of every imaginable item that could be used in an office. By then, UPS had expanded its operations so products could be delivered within two or three days of ordering from the regional supply stores. Sometime during that time period, because of the competition from the big-box stores and the regional supply stores, Kellstedts closed its downtown office.
After Kellstedts closed, most of the supplies for my office were ordered from Quill, a regional warehouse office supply store that was located in Lincolnshire, Illinois. Although we still order most of our basic supplies from Quill, such as copy paper, file folders, pens, etc., anytime I need something for myself, the first place I go to is Amazon.com.
Amazon allows me to easily search for and research any item that I want to purchase, and since Amazon allows its customers to post comments about products, a quick reading of the comments gives me a clear understanding of the product and whether or not it’s worth purchasing. Since I’m an “Amazon Prime” member, most of the products that I order arrive at my office within two days. If I agree to pay an additional four dollars, I can have the product delivered the day after I order.
I like the experience of ordering from Amazon better than I liked the Kellstedts experience. It’s more seamless and efficient, and I can place an order at any time of the day or night.
I’ve been a customer of Amazon from its beginning, when it only sold books. I’ve seen firsthand the innovative improvements that have taken place to simplify the process of researching and ordering products. Every time a new improvement in the ordering or delivery process takes place, I’m fascinated by the ingenuity behind the improvement.
Because of my fascination with the way the company is run, any time I see an article about Amazon or its founder, Jeff Bezos, I usually read the article. I recently read about how Bezos has been on a mission to convince the companies who sell products on Amazon to use easy-to-open, recyclable packaging for their products. In the past five years, Bezos has persuaded more than 2,000 manufacturers to participate in Amazon’s “Frustration-Free Packaging Program.”
If you read my articles on a regular basis, you know that I frequently write about interesting and fascinating things that I discover. I also write about lessons I’ve learned from family members, friends, mentors, and successful business people. When I can, I use the things that I discover and the lessons I’ve learned to make an important point about how you and I can increase our faith, assist others, develop a more positive attitude, and accomplish more of what needs to be done.
When I read the article about Bezos’s Frustration-Free Packaging Program, I wrote about the program in my June Adoration Meditation.
After I published the article about Amazon and Bezos, I received an email from a weekly adorer who has been in the St. Philomena adoration program since it began in the early 1990s. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call the person who sent the email “Tony.” To the best of my recollection, this is the only time Tony has ever sent a note or commented on one of my articles. Here’s what Tony sent to me:
Dear Mr. Williams,
While I completely agree with you about the spiritual power of “small” things such as the sign of the cross, I respectfully beg to differ with you about the Beatification of Jeff Bezos. Here’s why:
1. Amazon.com is basically the distribution arm for the People’s Republic of China, a communist dictatorship.
2. Amazon distributes pornography, which, as I’m sure you’re aware, is the single most profitable industry on the planet. (By the way, the next time you make a purchase online, keep in mind that if it weren’t for the porn industry which initially designed and implemented it, e-commerce as we know it wouldn’t exist).
3. If you’re not already familiar with the concept of “inverse totalitarianism”, here’s the Wikipedia definition: [Lengthy definition not included here]
4. You cannot serve God and mammon. I think it’s fairly apparent which one Mr. Bezos is serving.
I of course recognize — and thank you — for your tremendous efforts and leadership in forming the Perpetual Adoration program. But the equation, in your article, of the minutiae of the “consumer experience” with the minutiae of our faith response, (in what is supposed to be “The Church Militant”), frankly, worries me. I blame myself first and foremost for it, but I believe we have all become “The Church Mesmerized”.
I very much invite your response.
With kind regards,
Because of restrictions on my time, I am not able to personally respond to letters from people who raise complex issues. However, when I think that a letter raises one or more valid issues, I’m willing to respond in one of my weekly articles. I’m going to address some of the issues that were raised by Tony in next week’s Adoration Letter.
In the meantime, I want to give you something to think about: I’m not sure what Tony is referring to when he says that Amazon “distributes pornography.” My assumption is that he may be referring to some of the books and DVDs that are offered for sale on Amazon, or he may be referring to a service that Amazon offers that allows businesses to rent space on Amazon’s servers (computer hardware) to store videos that are delivered through the businesses’ websites.
I’ll be commenting more on this next week, but I noticed that Tony’s email address is hosted by Comcast, a company that acts as a conduit for millions of users who, because of Comcast, are able to access pornography over the Internet. Without Comcast and other similar service providers, no one would be able to order products or access photographs or video content over the Internet.
I could easily argue that having an account with Comcast is a more egregious offense than ordering products from Amazon, since the monthly subscription payments that are made to Comcast help to fund the transfer of pornography to end users.
The relevant question that needs to be answered is: What are the standards that Catholics should be following when dealing with companies who in some way support pornography, contraception, gay marriage, abortion, or any other modern-day evil? I’ll answer this question next week.