As Big Box stores like Target compete against Amazon invaders in the form of Whole Foods, other targets fight to preserve their very lives – and ours.
Recently in corporate news, big box stores like Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond have found a way to fight back against the retail giant that’s taking aim directly at their bottom line. When online giant Amazon purchased the Whole Foods chain last August, customers of both companies were elated at the prospect of the merger and what it could mean in terms of price and convenience. Less than thrilled, however, were Amazon’s brick and mortar competitors which have been losing market share to online sales in recent years. As it turns out, they may have a trump card to play in their strategic game against the Amazon invaders dressed as upscale grocery stores: strip mall lease agreements.
Amazon’s strategic Whole Foods acquisition seemed to be an instant win, by blending the best of both companies while granting Amazon a physical foothold in urban communities across the country. Customers hoped to order items such as electronics, household goods, and books online and pick them up at Whole Foods locations by accessing special lockers where their goods would wait for them. That plan could be nixed if lease agreements allow stores like Target to have their say. Strip malls often have legally binding clauses in lease agreements that allow tenants some leeway in what goes on nearby. For example, they can veto potential neighbors, such as bars or strip clubs, from renting storefronts in the same mall if they feel it would hurt foot traffic to their businesses. They may also be able to exclude Whole Foods stores, especially if they seem like Amazon invaders coming to compete by allowing customers to pick up more than just some Guac-Kale-Mole and pumpkin spice latte flavored beer.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away from American strip malls where retail tribes duke it out over who has the right to provide the public with forgettable tchotchkes and the season’s most disposable fashions, other targets are fighting off their own Amazon invaders. The Waiapi are some of the Amazon rainforest’s most traditional inhabitants. First contacted in the 1970s, they must now deal with outsiders bringing novel diseases and plundering their home.
The first outsiders that the Waiapi met were miners coming to loot. Brazil, looking to become an economic powerhouse through the massive exportation of natural resources like exotic timber and metals, has been making steady inroads towards ruining what’s left of the isolated people that live in the rainforest. People who live in what is likely the most sustainable possible way currently going on Planet Earth are being pushed aside and exterminated by the kinds of diseases we regularly inoculate our children against, so that the modern industrial machine can digest the rainforest and spit out the materials that make the things we buy at Target, Amazon, and all the others. Perhaps most ironically, Brazil hopes to mine gold in the Amazon. I wonder how much of that will go into making the gold coins that people think is a secure investment in the times of turmoil that will come as we destroy the planet’s green lungs?
For their part, the Waiapi are fighting the Amazon invaders as best they can. For some, that means sharpening their poisoned arrows and staying on constant alert for incursions by mining companies. “We’ll keep resisting until the last of us is dead,” said Tapayona Waiapi, 36. Others, like Jawaruwa Waiapi, 31, say that neither fighting nor flight will work. He became the first Waiapi to hold a position in Brazilian politics when he was elected to the municipal council in Pedra Branca. I have my doubts whether either political persuasion or direct action will save the Waiapi and their way of life, though, when the rest of the industrial world is backing the Amazon invaders in our suicidal lurch towards consumerist ecocide. It was nice knowing you, Waiapi. Now, can we pick up our new Kindles at Whole Foods?
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