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


I'm twice the writer I was last year.

I made 472 percent more people laugh, 629 percent more people cry and caused 890 percent more people to send me emails suggesting I'm Beelzebub's spawn, lefty liberal filth, a rightist Fascist freak or Scrabble's best synonym for incontinence.

But should you be impressed by my figures? Or might you want to know what the base figures from last year were?

I mention this only because my eyes have been bathing in an end-of-year press release emitted by Amazon.

This might read to some like a glorious testament to unparalleled success. Or it might remind you of the glorious(ly delusional) pronouncements of Julius Caesar, Donald Trump, or Floyd Mayweather.

Amazon declared that this, its 21st Yuletide, was, well, Yuge.

"More than three million members worldwide joined Prime during the third week of December," crows Amazon. Yes, but how many are just enjoying the free period before they decide not to pay actual money? (Figures not available.)

Those very smart Amazon Prime members "doubled their total viewing hours of Prime Video titles, compared to 2014." How many hours did they view in 2014? Ah, that number has not been released.

Then there's Prime Music. "Prime Music plays set an all-time record, increasing more than 350 percent compared to 2014," says the release. What doesn't appear to have been released are, well, the 2014 numbers.

Do you feel a pattern being created before your own eyes?

Might you suspect that, before all these great proclamations were released, senior executives sat down with PR people who then told them whether their results were prime and would play well (or even at all).

These meetings must have been held with several bottles of the finest Retsina at hand, just in case of disagreements or disappointments.

Perhaps they were even held on Christmas Eve -- which was, incidentally, "the biggest day ever for Prime Now deliveries."

How many deliveries was that? You'll be stunned to hear that number seems to have absconded.

There are so many figures in this release that one tends to lament the missing figures more than admire the ones given.

Is Amazon truly so desperate for admiration that it will list so many items detailing its supposed genius? (Answer: Yes.)

Did you realize that "Amazon.com customers purchased enough Rubbermaid 42-Piece Storage Containers this holiday season to pack leftovers for the entire Los Angeles County area." How many is that? How was this calculation made? Ah, the methodology is sadly absent.

But surely we have concrete numbers on this one: "Amazon.com customers shopping on the mobile app more than doubled this holiday."

Sadly, we do not.

Amazon is a quite remarkable company, one that's decided Wall Street is but a silly game that Jeff Bezos and his cohorts would prefer to cock a snook at. In this they are remarkably admirable.

Yet here they are doing what the likes of Apple do when they don't want to give you the actual numbers because they know the actual numbers may not sound too impressive.

Here's another delightful sentence from the release: "Among Amazon devices, the all-new Fire tablet was the #1 best-selling, most gifted and most wished-for product across the millions of items available on Amazon.com since its introduction 15 weeks ago."

Please focus on that sentence for quite a while and decide how impressive it is. Or not.

But I'm not complaining. I'm too busy marveling at this enormous list of "facts" that justify the (Amazon's) view that Amazon is fueled by genius.

Did you know that "Handmade at Amazon sold enough rings this holiday season to give 13 to every contestant who has been on ABC's The Bachelor"?

I didn't either.

How many rings is that? Well, there have been 19 seasons of The Bachelor, and there are around 25 contestants in each series, so 25 times 19 is (goes to calculator app) 475. So now 475 times 13 is (still on calculator app) 6175.

Is that a lot of rings? It sounds like hardly any rings at all to me.

Still, Amazon's customer service is sublime. I've never, ever had a problem with the company in all the years I've been ordering books I'll never read.

I must assume, therefore, that all the numbers Amazon has released are the greatest ever numbers seen by anyone.

The greatest ever numbers seen by anyone in an Amazon press release, that is.