Amazon Ex-Employees Reveal How They Had To Split Bagels And Solicit Donations For Cereal At Office Meetings — Company Prides Itself On Being 'Frugal,' Says 'Accomplish More With Less'

At a glance, Amazon.com Inc.'s market capitalization of $1.33 trillion and a 10.73% year-over-year increase in revenue would give the impression of a company that spares no expense in ensuring optimal working conditions for its employees. 

But recent revelations from insiders and former employees tell a different story — one where frugality isn't just a guideline but a way of life, bordering on the extreme. 

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For example, an internal email thread among former Amazon employees who have since migrated to Google, leaked via a screenshot from the discussion, revealed an incident where employees were required to split a bagel because of budget constraints. 

Yet bagels are just the tip of the iceberg. Further complaints noted the disappearance of boxes of cereal from Amazon office kitchens because they "didn’t represent a frugal mindset." In the same email thread, an ex-Amazon staffer mentioned that employees were encouraged to solicit donations to keep the cereal flowing, adding that spending even a couple of hundred dollars on breakfast items was considered an extravagance.

The narrative extends beyond food and seeps into the day-to-day workflow. One former employee pointed out the difficulty of obtaining tech gear and office supplies. They described how product managers had to push back strenuously to receive an Apple MacBook instead of the standard-issue Windows laptops. The argument? Without the joy and user-friendly experience offered by MacBooks, creativity and productivity could be stifled, lessening a product manager's value to the company.

The emphasis on saving money is also shared by Amazon's top leaders. During an internal all-hands meeting last year, Amazon Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky announced that the company had nearly doubled its operational capacity from 2020 to 2021, and the need for being frugal was more pressing than ever. Employees were instructed to "accomplish more with less," while the slides presented at the meeting stressed that "constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and innovation."

Amazon spokesperson Brad Glasser brushed aside the former employees' complaints, asserting that "frugality" is an essential aspect of the company's Leadership Principles. These principles shape the way Amazon does business and keep the customer at the center of its decisions.

One employee had to endure a long drive from Los Angeles to Amazon's San Francisco office on a Thursday, instead of taking a flight, all in the name of adhering to the company's frugality principle, one of the sources said.

This strict interpretation of frugality spawned a new term within Amazon's internal lexicon: Frupidity. Coined by former Amazon Prime Gaming Vice President Ethan Evans, this combination of frugal and stupidity was mentioned in his blog post critiquing what he called "degenerate" leadership principles.

According to Insider, one current Amazon employee expressed concerns about the slowdown in the company's pace and culture. 

"Everything in general has slowed down," the employee told Insider. "You can only keep that Day 1 culture up until a certain point. It's kind of inevitable."

The employee, along with others who spoke on the condition of anonymity, requested not to be identified as they are not authorized to speak to the media.

See more on startup investing from Benzinga.

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