Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

I'm confused.

This is a company that generally didn't appear to care whether it made a profit.

It stared vacantly at Wall Street and snorted like a hungry horse. 

Suddenly, Amazon says it's making a lot of money. The biggest quarterly profit it's ever made.

Even more strange is how the company claims it's making some of it.

You see, Amazon is profiting from North American residents far too slovenly to combine physical movement and shopping. 

The company didn't quite put it that way, naturally.

Please, observe the numbers.

Jeff Bezos's monster made an operating profit on its retail business of $1.84 billion in the U.S.

Worldwide, it's total operating profit on retail was $1.34 billion.

Ergo, North Americans are officially the laziest shoppers in the world. At least, that's how I prefer to see this.

Amazon explained it in far more dreary, occasionally incomprehensible terms.

I always thought that retail was a very low-margin activity at Amazon. 

However, MarketWatch reported that chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky said online ad sales had done well. Margins have improved too. 

Then there's this tantalizing phrase: "Better-than-expected efficiencies in operations infrastructure costs and generally all of our fixed costs."

Might this mean Amazon enjoys a lot of cheap labor?

Honestly, these CFOs speak in tongues that were forked on the cheap.

Here's another Olsavsky gem: "We're seeing a lot of our growth area being fueled by head count that's moving within the company."

That isn't English, certainly.

Does he mean they need fewer people, so are shuffling them around to where they need them or, perhaps, quietly letting them go in favor of robots? I suspect so.

He did manage something a little more comprehensible: "We've seen a greater-than-expected efficiency in a lot of our spend, in warehouses, in data centers, and also in things like marketing."

I recognize that as things like ruthless cost-cutting.

Whatever it all means, Wall Street expected the retail business to contribute $240 million of profit.

And here we are with $1.34 billion. 

I cannot confirm that Amazon's next incentive for Prime membership will be a free exercise bike at home.

Just to keep you North Americans alive, you understand.

Published on: Jul 27, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.