Last week, Amazon shocked many by announcing it was backing out of its deal to place a new headquarters in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, New York. This was just three months after the tech giant revealed it would be splitting its new headquarters between New York and Arlington, Virginia (a suburb of Washington, D.C.).

In reality, though, no one should be surprised by this move. 

That's because of one simple fact that everyone seems to be forgetting:

Splitting the new headquarters between two cities was never part of Amazon's original plan.

Let's go back to September 2017. That's when the world's largest online retailer announced that it was searching for a location for a second headquarters, one that would be what chief executive Jeff Bezos described as "a full equal" to its Seattle offices, and a "second home." The company said it expected to spend upward of $5 billion on a new corporate campus that housed as many as 50,000 employees.

Immediately, in a mad scramble for Amazon's attention, 238 cities submitted proposals. It was like an entire senior class of high school girls all desperately hoping the star quarterback would take them to prom.

Amazon executives took their time. Over a year later, a decision was yet to be announced. 

Then, suddenly, a bombshell: Amazon had chosen not one, but two cities--splitting the massive project between Arlington and Queens.

Uh, what? You're going to take two dates to prom?

While Arlington welcomed Amazon with (mostly) open arms, a small group of politicians and activists in New York made it clear that Amazon was not welcome. The reasons why were complex, but they included worries about a multibillion-dollar tax break given to one of the wealthiest companies in the world, and what seemed like an inevitable rise in cost of living for neighborhood residents.

It was as if the (second) potential prom date's parents started calling every day, explaining why you absolutely should not take their child to the prom.

And how they were going to make your life miserable if you did.

What would you have done in that position?

You might have thought to yourself:

Huh, maybe taking two girls to the prom wasn't a good idea after all. Besides, this other girl's parents really seem to like me.

That's what Amazon thought. It described its reasons for pulling out in an official statement:

For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term. While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.

Some accused Amazon of being unable to take criticism from a few loud voices, even though the majority of New Yorkers were in favor of the company's arrival. They claimed Amazon didn't bother to negotiate, or even discuss.

But that's no surprise, either. Amazon has never really developed a reputation as a kind and gentle negotiator. 

After all, if you don't like its terms, there are plenty of others who will.

In this case, 237 others (to be exact).

Of course, this whole situation was awkward from the beginning. And surely there's enough blame to go around.

A few questions will continue to get people riled up, especially those who live in the Big Apple.

Is the way Amazon left New York hanging at the altar fair? 

Could it all have been prevented?

Should we hate the player, or hate the game? Or both?

Much depends on your perspective.

But there's one question that's not up for debate. We can answer it right now, loud and clear:

Should we have seen all of this coming from a mile away?

You better believe it.

Published on: Feb 18, 2019
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