Lesson plan; Good Bad Billionaire

Stories of entrepreneurship and business are filled with high drama and even higher stakes. In a new podcast on BBC Sounds, Good Bad Billionaire spotlights people who have obtained super wealth, retelling their stories. Episode 1 delves into the story of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, tracking his journey from starting Amazon to becoming one of the world’s richest and most famous people. Source; EuroNewsWeek.

Simon Jack and Zing Tsjeng find out how the richest people on the planet made their billions, and then they judge them. Are they good, bad, or just another billionaire? How one man built an empire selling duty-free then gave it all away to charity. BBC

The podcast “Billionaire” is about the richest people on the planet and how they got so rich. The first episode is about Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.

Click on the picture below to listen to the episode with Jeff Bezos.

Answer these questions:

  1. What is the main focus of the podcast discussed in the text?
  2. Who is the primary billionaire examined in the podcast?
  3. What is one of Jeff Bezos’s ambitious projects mentioned in the text?
  4. What is the significance of the year 1994 in Jeff Bezos’s journey to becoming a billionaire?
  5. How did Jeff Bezos finance the launch of Amazon in 1995?
  6. What was Amazon’s initial business strategy when it came to selling books online?
  7. Why did Amazon’s stock price soar despite the company not generating a quarterly profit for nearly a decade?
  8. What event marked Jeff Bezos’s transition from a multimillionaire to a billionaire?
  9. How did Amazon expand its product offerings beyond books in 1998?
  10. What factors contributed to Amazon’s success, as mentioned in the text, despite controversies surrounding its workplace culture and tax practices?


There have been several controversies involving Jeff Bezos and Amazon over the years. Some of the notable controversies and issues include:

    1. Worker Conditions: Amazon has faced criticism and scrutiny over the working conditions in its warehouses and fulfillment centers. Reports of long hours, demanding quotas, and concerns about worker safety have been raised by employees and labor rights advocates. In response, Amazon has made efforts to improve working conditions and increase the minimum wage for its workers.
    2. Unionization Efforts: Amazon has faced unionization efforts by some of its employees, particularly in its fulfillment centers. These efforts have sparked legal battles and debates about workers’ rights and labor practices.
    3. Taxation: Amazon has been criticized for its tax practices, with allegations that it has minimized its tax liabilities in various countries by using legal loopholes. Critics argue that the company should pay more in taxes, given its size and revenue.
    4. Marketplace and Antitrust Concerns: Amazon’s dominance in e-commerce has led to concerns about antitrust issues. Some have argued that Amazon has used its marketplace to favor its own products over those of third-party sellers, potentially stifling competition.
    5. Data Privacy: Concerns about the collection and use of customer data by Amazon and other tech giants have raised questions about privacy and data security.
    6. Environmental Impact: Amazon has faced criticism for its environmental impact, particularly related to its carbon emissions and packaging waste. In response, the company has made commitments to become more environmentally sustainable.
    7. Acquisition of Whole Foods: Amazon’s acquisition of the grocery chain Whole Foods Market in 2017 raised questions about the company’s expanding influence in various industries and its impact on traditional retailers.
    8. HQ2 Selection Process: Amazon’s search for a second headquarters, known as HQ2, sparked controversy and competition among cities vying for the economic benefits of hosting the company’s headquarters. Critics argued that the selection process was secretive and offered significant tax incentives.

Further reading

Forbes published an article titled “A Hard-Hitting Investigative Report Into Amazon Shows That Workers’ Needs Were Neglected In Favor Of Getting Goods Delivered Quickly” 1. It highlights how workers’ needs were overlooked in favor of speedy deliveries.

The Washington Post reported that state labor regulators allege that working at Amazon exposes staff to an increased risk of ergonomic injury and musculoskeletal disorders due to awkward movements while handling goods2.

The Hill states that Amazon has struggled to contain the spread of COVID-19 among its workforce, with critics blaming the company’s steep work quotas and insufficient protections for high injury rates and disease spread3.

Another Forbes article discusses the grueling working conditions at Amazon warehouses, including timed bathroom breaks, excessive productivity goals, and an unsafe working environment 4.

Essay Questions on Working Conditions at Amazon:

  1. Discuss the challenges and controversies surrounding the working conditions of Amazon employees. What are some of the key issues raised by workers and labor advocates, and how have these concerns evolved over time? Analyze the impact of these working conditions on the physical and mental well-being of Amazon workers and their overall job satisfaction.
  2. Explore the strategies employed by Amazon to optimize its fulfillment centers and distribution networks for efficiency and productivity. How do these strategies contribute to the demanding working conditions experienced by employees? Discuss the ethical implications of Amazon’s approach to labor management and whether it strikes a fair balance between business interests and worker rights.
  3. Assess the role of labor unions and workers’ advocacy groups in addressing the working conditions at Amazon. What initiatives have been taken to improve the situation for employees, and what obstacles have they encountered in their efforts? Examine the potential long-term consequences for Amazon’s reputation and bottom line in response to these labor-related challenges.

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