A look behind Amazon.com’s smile

The Seattle Times has now completed publication of a four-part series on the mammoth local company we all probably know least about — at least in terms of what’s on the inside. “Behind the Smile” is a wide-ranging series that explores Amazon.com’s (AMZN) business practices and local worth, in terms of both economic impact (sizable) and community involvement (nil and arguably stingy).

Amazon.com has doubled down on a downtown Seattle presence and now employs an estimated 9,000 people there, with more to come. That’s a lot of workers in one neighborhood, even an urban one. It’s a company literally in the newspaper’s backyard. Amazon’s cluster of new office buildings is just a few blocks from The Seattle Times in South Lake Union.

Now that the neighbors are settled in, a series of uncomfortable questions are posed. Noteworthy in the Internet age it helped define, Amazon has decided to apply the dubious P.R. strategy of saying next to nothing about itself in response to repeated Times requests for comment and interviews.

Here’s the Times’ own outline of the series:

Part 1: Behind the smile in Seattle

About this series: Examining Amazon’s corporate practices

Amazon a virtual no-show in hometown philanthropy

Bezos invests in space travel, time

Amazon issues statement on its role in the community

Discuss on Facebook: Do corporations have a civic responsibility to their communities?

Part 2: A hammer on the publishers

Amazon trying to wring deep discounts from publishers

Discuss on Facebook: Where do you buy books, online or at a bookstore?

Part 3: Pushing back on sales taxes

States fight back against Amazon’s tax deals

Part 4: Worked over in the warehouse

Amazon warehouse workers fired if goals aren’t met

Amazon recruits work campers to help with holiday rush

Amazon’s statement regarding warehouse safety

Chat with Richard Russo about Amazon, publishing at 1 p.m. Wednesday

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