Former Amazon Employees Who Now Work at Google Share Horror Stories


  • Googlers who used to work at Amazon are sharing how much they hated being at the e-commerce giant.
  • Some of the main topics are those they say are Amazon’s overly frugal and competitive culture.
  • The discussion encapsulates striking differences between the two internet companies.

For some Amazon employees, joining the company’s archrival, Google, can be a shocking revelation and a relief.

That’s according to more than two dozen Amazonians turned Googlers who shared horror stories about their time at the e-commerce giant, and appreciation for their new employer, in an internal email thread called “worked_at_amazon.”

Insider reviewed screenshots from this discussion. Followed by almost 2,400 people, the thread is primarily used to connect ex-Amazon employees at Google, but it has become filled with jeers directed at the Seattle company, people on the thread told Insider. These people asked not to be identified talking about sensitive topics. Their identities are known to Insider.

The discussion — which describes Amazon as a penny-pinching, empathy-lacking corporate behemoth compared with Google’s more generous, team-oriented culture — encapsulates striking differences between the two tech giants, at least among some former Amazonians.

“The culture difference is a complete 180. Amazon is a very kill-or-be-killed environment,” one of the people on the email thread told Insider. “At Google, we are encouraged to dig and to ask questions. The culture is warm. The leaders listen and want to be helpful.”

Representatives for Amazon and Google didn’t respond to requests for comment.

‘Frupidity’

A favorite topic of discussion in recent weeks was Amazon’s “frupidity” — a combination of “frugality” and “stupidity.” While frugality has long been a centerpiece of Amazon’s hard-charging culture, these people said the idea had been grossly misused. Insider’s recent report about Amazon’s “Day 2” culture, which cited frupidity, also brought renewed interest to the issue, people on the email thread told Insider.

Frupidity often arose when employees wanted approval for better work devices. One person, who left in 2020, said they had to justify getting an Apple MacBook at work. By default, product managers received subpar Windows laptops and weren’t eligible for Apple devices, this person wrote. 

“I found it ridiculous because there’s no joy in Windows laptops and when there’s no joy, no creativity happens and when there’s no creativity, what’s a PM’s worth?” this person wrote in the email thread, likely referring to product managers.

Another person, who also left in 2020, said his team used to get only single monitors. To game the system, people would get interns for the summer because those temporary staffers got a monitor, too, and after the internships ended, those extra devices remained. (Technically, the monitors had to be returned, but nobody ever did that, this person said.)

“Pretty frupid to save $200 on something that could increase the productivity of an engineer you were paying six figures to,” this person wrote.

In some cases, employees had to buddy up with colleagues who oversaw office supplies, this person added. His team’s policy was to give only one laptop charger per person, for example, but those close to the office-supply manager were able to get a loaner — and not return it until their last day.

One of the people said Amazon Web Services, which is far more profitable than Amazon’s retail business, gave more leeway when it came to expenses. On this person’s team at AWS, everyone had either two monitors or a huge curved Dell monitor and could generally expense a bunch of other stuff, they added.

“I wonder if AWS was a little more reasonable and less frupid for small things,” this person said.

Some people complained up to managers. When Amazon was working on its first iOS app, the team in charge griped about using the “cheapest” MacBooks to do development work and was able to get a slightly better version of the laptops, one person wrote. At Google, every employee, whether they’re an engineer or not, is handed a higher-spec MacBook, and those in development work could get a separate “dedicated workstation” as well, this person wrote.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin on July 20, 2021.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press


At Amazon, it could get petty at times. Two people on the email thread said cereal boxes were taken away from their office kitchens because they didn’t represent a frugal mindset. Another said Amazon used to sell instant-noodle cups for a higher price than the supermarket across the street. In one instance, employees at a staff meeting were told to split a bagel between two people because they didn’t have the budget to order more beforehand, according to another person.

“Eventually, we got told, ‘Spending a couple hundred bucks on cereal isn’t frugal. You are free to solicit donations to try and keep it running,'” one of the people wrote in the email thread.

Frupidity has a long history at Amazon, one person wrote. The phrase emerged over 20 years ago when the company decided to remove aspirin and other medications from the mini kitchens to save money, this person wrote in the email thread. Ethan Evans, a former Amazon vice president who spent over 15 years at the company, recently wrote in a blog post that frupidity was the official name of one of the most frequently “degenerate” leadership principles at Amazon.

How to ‘unlearn’ Amazon ways

The bigger difference between Google and Amazon, according to these people, is employees’ willingness to help each other. 

One person who recently joined Google, after 15 years at Amazon, said the pace and general helpfulness and respect she’s observing at her new job were a “real breath of fresh air.” Going to Google from Amazon was a “culture shock,” another person wrote, because it’s OK to play the new-employee card for the first few months on the job. 

“I have to remind myself that I don’t need to have all the answers by the end of my first week, as I was conditioned to do at Amazon,” the first person wrote.

That also means learning how to “unlearn” the things they picked up while working at Amazon. One person wrote that they were advised by their new Google colleagues to “forget everything about Amazon culture” because it would “not serve you well at Google.” Google works better when “we’re nice people,” one of the people added, saying “the magic sauce for effective teams is empathy.”

“I tend to like everything about Amazon culture better than Google except one thing: how the employees are treated ;),” another person wrote.

Do you work at Amazon or Google? Got a tip?

Contact reporter Eugene Kim via the encrypted-messaging apps Signal or Telegram (+1-650-942-3061) or email (ekim@insider.com).



Read More: Former Amazon Employees Who Now Work at Google Share Horror Stories

2022-09-14 02:04:24

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