Anonymous Distributor

In a typical December, parcel carriers see their volumes peak mid-month. Last Christmas, however, more shoppers waited until the last minute. Amazon Prime customers, for example, believed they had no reason to order early. In short, the December peak happened as forecast, but within this multi-week peak, was a much bigger spike in activity concentrated in the last few days before Christmas that was just too big for UPS, in particular, to handle.

While all this was occurring, Amazon issued a congratulatory press release that lauded the fact that it had signed up 1 million Amazon Prime members in the third week of December and that demand was so great that it had to suspend enrollment.

But while delivery failures contributed to the profit hit, which the Amazon Prime program played a role in, the bigger hit came from the Amazon Prime program itself. Amazon Prime is a loss leader that enables Amazon to steal market share from traditional retailers.

Amazon’s 10-K demonstrated just how big a drag on profits this program really is. Supplemental information about outbound shipping results showed that for every $1 in shipping fees Amazon collected, it spent more than $2, for a total shipping loss of more than $3.5 billion. That’s not pocket change.

Did you recently notice that the annual fee for Amazon Prime was increased? Well, now you know why.


Have you ever heard about the “Zeignark effect”? It’s named after a Russian psychiatrist who discovered that a waiter could remember incomplete orders more easily than those that were served and complete. Further study showed that people are 90 percent more likely to remember tasks that are undone than those they completed.

That makes some sense, but it also causes tremendous stress rather than pride of accomplishment. There will always be work to be done, but stop and smell the roses — or the crocuses and daffodils — occasionally! You’ll be glad you did!


In a recent Seth’s Blog, Seth Godin had the following to say about money: “Money’s pretty new. Before money, we traded. My corn for your milk. The trade enriches both of us, and it’s simple.

“Money, of course, makes a whole bunch of other transactions possible. Maybe I don’t need your milk, but I can take your money and use it to buy something I do need, from someone else. Very efficient, but also very abstract.”

As we ceased to trade, we moved all of our transactions to the abstract world of money. And in this abstract world, “we’re constantly re-evaluating what money is worth. Five dollars to buy a snack box on an airplane is worth something very different than $5 to buy a cup of coffee after a fancy meal, which is worth something different than $5 in the grocery store. That’s because we get to pretend that the $5 in each situation is worth a different amount.”

The value of that $5 changes in our mind based on what and where we’re using it.

Godin’s conclusion: “Pricing based on cost makes no sense whatsoever, because cost is not abstract. Pricing based on value does make sense because value is abstract.” And that value changes in each situation, just like the value of $5 does for different products and where they are purchased.

My conclusion: What we are willing to pay for something we want has no relationship to the actual cost of the item, but rather the value it has to us. If that’s true or even partially true, how should that affect how we price what we sell in our own businesses?


A sales rep, an assistant and their manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp. They rub it, and a Genie comes out. The Genie says, “I’ll give each of you just one wish.”

“Me first!” says the assistant. “I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.” Poof! She’s gone.

“Me next!” says the sales rep. “I want to be in Hawaii, relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of piña coladas and the love of my life.” Poof! He’s gone.

“OK, you’re up,” the Genie says to the manager. The manager says, “I want those two back in the office after lunch.”

Moral: Always let your boss have the first say.


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