Lauren Sánchez Asked Kellyanne Conway How to Handle Media Scrutiny

Michael Tran/AFP via Getty
Michael Tran/AFP via Getty

For years, Amazon has struggled to defend its corporate image, as press reports alleged that its delivery drivers peed in bottles, its warehouse workers endured crushing demands, and its aggressive tactics decimated margins for its own retail partners.

In a decidedly unauthorized depiction of the retail giant, The Everything War: Amazon’s Ruthless Quest to Own the World and Remake Corporate Power, Wall Street Journal reporter Dana Mattioli examines the history of the e-commerce giant and its effect on the American economy.

Amazon former CEO Jeff Bezos’ rise was extensively chronicled in Bloomberg reporter Brad Stone’s 2013 book The Everything Store. Bezos’ life has also evolved considerably since Stone’s biography came out: He stepped down as Amazon’s CEO, got divorced, and joined the party circuit with his fiancée, former television reporter Lauren Sánchez.

Mattioli wrote in her preface that she “wanted to focus on those who have been harmed by the company.” Below are a few brief highlights from the new book:

During the Trump administration, Sánchez drew inspiration from an unlikely source.

At a party in 2020, Mattioli writes, Sánchez approached Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway—inventor of the much-derided notion of “alternative facts”—and asked for guidance about dealing with media scrutiny.

“You’ve had a lot thrown at you. How do you handle it?” Sánchez asked. Bezos’ relationship with Sánchez had by then become front-page news across the globe.

Conway opted for flattery, Mattioli reports. “Please, have you looked in the mirror? People are jealous of you,” she said. “I would say they’re jealous because you’re dating him,” she added, referring to Bezos. (The Amazon founder had a testy relationship with Trump in part because of negative coverage about the president in Bezos’ paper, The Washington Post.)

But on that evening, the bad blood seemed not to matter. Conway offered to accompany Sánchez “for a slow jog around the neighborhood,” Mattioli writes, adding, “It was a gesture of goodwill, knowing how seriously Sánchez took exercise.”

Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

Win McNamee/Getty

As Amazon’s leader, Bezos wasn’t just an office nerd.

During a conference in 2016, Bezos joined other business leaders on a trek in the wilderness, which drew inspiration from the television show Running Wild with Bear Grylls. “The group learned how to survive in the woods, made their own stretch­ers, and ate earthworms together,” Mattioli reports. Even Bezos downed one of the worms.

At the end of their faux walkabout, the billionaire hopped into a Cadillac Escalade and departed for the hotel. The rest of the attendees wondered how they would get home. Suddenly, “the booming sound of helicopters” provided the answer. Bezos, Mattioli notes, was averse to flying by chopper at the time, since he “had been in a heli­copter crash years earlier.” (Assuming he’s now changed his mind, Sánchez, a licensed helicopter pilot, can ferry him around.)

Amazon has aggressively tried to seize market share from its competitors—and its own retailers.

According to Mattioli, Amazon’s corporate culture—culling low performers, setting huge growth targets, and demanding that workers adopt a “killer instinct”—pushed some workers to break the rules.

In a 2015 incident described in the book, the company hired a staffer from Trader Joe’s, who didn’t realize she was being recruited to help compete with her former employer. Members of the new hire’s team relentlessly pushed her to share proprietary data, Mattioli writes. The worker ultimately shared some information about top-performing products at Trader Joe’s, but she declined to reveal the grocer’s margins even after she was allegedly pushed to tears. Amazon later fired some of the workers involved in the incident, the book recalls.

An Amazon spokesperson insisted to The Daily Beast that “There is nothing in our culture or way of operating that makes this ‘emblematic’—especially when you consider that this was against policy.” He added that the company does “not condone the misuse of proprietary confidential information.”

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos declined to speak to Mattioli, beyond some feedback he routed through Amazon’s public relations team. But she says she spoke with more than 600 people, just three of whom were supplied by the company for interviews. That includes 17 current or former members of the company’s senior leadership team, who spoke “without the company’s knowledge,” and five current or former board members.

“Prior to getting the book deal, I had written a series of investigations into the company’s business practices. One of those investigations was the basis for Jeff Bezos having to testify to Congress for the first time in his career, so I had a really great base of sources from the jump,” Mattioli told The Daily Beast.

Jeff Bezos testifies before Congress on July 29, 2020.

Jeff Bezos testifies before Congress on July 29, 2020.

Graeme Jennings/AFP via Getty

The reporting process was sometimes dramatic, she recalled. In one instance, “a new source asked to meet me on a corner in Midtown Manhattan so that they could give me something in person. When I went to the location I was handed a manila envelope with the printed-out screenshots of a suicide note that an Amazon employee had sent before jumping off of the roof a few years back,” she said. (The employee survived.)

At the time of the incident, Mattioli continued, “Amazon had deleted the email from everyone’s inboxes, but my source had them for me and that helped build out that scene in the book.”

In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said the message was deleted because it contained “defamatory and inflammatory language directed at other people on the team, and we felt that it was important to protect their safety at the same time we were working to support this employee, his family, and his team.”

As for the book in general, the spokesperson said, “Amazon’s success is the result of continually innovating for consumers and small businesses over three decades to make their lives better and easier every day. The facts show Amazon has made shopping easier and more convenient for customers, spurred lower prices, enabled millions of successful small businesses, and significantly increased competition in retail.”

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