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Amazon’s Wonka-esque charms baffle investors

In the business world Amazon (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos has become an eccentric force of nature existing just off the edge of the spotlight. He’s in the shadows, a monumentally wealthy man lost between Zuckerberg’s enfante terrible pubescence and Bill Gates’ senior statesmanship.

Bezos is rarely considered in a business context. His appearances are shrouded in PR puffery like the 60 Minutes Drone clip or his sensational rescue from kidney stones on the Galapogas Islands. His visible transactions are a mash up of philanthropy and entrepreneurship with a sprinkle of imagination. Bezos owns the Washington Post, an Apollo 11 rocket and part of Business Insider. He’s apparently funding the construction of a $42 million, 10,000 year clock.

From the available evidence it seems Bezos is assembling an evil lair with a kick-ass gift shop and user-friendly graphics. No one really investigates it all that much. Whenever anyone gets too close to Bezos it seems to hurt his feelings so the world mostly leaves him alone in favor of exploring the mysteries of Elon Musk’s hairline.

Amazon with or without Imagination

It’s impossible to understand Amazon without putting it into the context of it’s Wonka-esque founder. Like Willy Wonka closing his chocolate factory to keep out spies, Bezos and Amazon have locked the gates of the magical fulfillment factories at the heart of the company. All that’s left are the numbers and the waterfall of bliss that flows over shoppers when they ‘One Click.’

Last night Amazon reported a miraculously banal quarter. Estimates were dutifully met and CFO Thomas Szkutak carefully walked analysts through margins and liquidity levels. Skeptics can still question Amazon’s ability to function forever without netting much profit but in this lifetime the company still has enough cash to do whatever it wants.

The Amazon Prime price hike to $99 hasn’t resulted in a wave of customer defections. “Prime subscribers continue to grow,” Szkutak calmly told analysts, “new trials post the increase are growing very nicely.”

As for those magical customer service confections that keep popping up all over the country, Amazon admits to their existence but is cagey on details. “We continue to work to be closer to customers and get great selection ever closer to customers,” Szkutak cryptically says.

If you want more information than that, you’ll have to rely on carefully leaked stories or be one of the lucky few chosen to tour an actual fulfillment center. The company says the centers are “Safer than Department stores.” Presumably that means winners of Golden Tickets to the fulfillment center tours will be kept safe from sociopaths in purple crushed velvet tuxedos but no promises are made.

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