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Carl's Jr. Begging Amazon to Buy It Embodies the Pain of Late Capitalism

"Our logo smiles, your logo smiles!!!"

by Louise Matsakis
Oct 9 2017, 8:23pm

Image: Shutterstock/screenshot / Composition: Louise Matsakis

Carl's Jr., the fast food chain once known for its ads featuring scantily-clad women, really wants to be bought out by Amazon. In a series of often caps-locked tweets Monday, whoever is behind the fast food chain's social media presence made a very desperate case for Amazon executives to purchase the company, which is owned by CKE Restaurants.

For the last 12 hours or so, Carl's Jr. has been publicly sharing what are supposed to be "business ideas" with the tech company, like a combination deal that includes a book from Amazon and meal from the fast food joint, and a Dash Button that delivers chicken tenders. The ideas come each hour, and will continue until Tuesday.

Carl's Jr. only appears to be running the Amazon campaign on its Twitter page, and not its far more popular Facebook page. While the concepts are clearly jokes, the bid to get bought out isn't.

"This is about generating a conversation about a partnership," Jeff Jenkins, the chief marketing officer of both Carl's Jr. and its sister Hardee's told USA Today. "The tweets are obviously a start to try and see where the dialogue goes." Neither Carl's Jr. nor Amazon immediately returned a request for comment.

Fast food executives are far from the only people trying to start a dialogue with Amazon right now. Last month, the tech behemoth announced it was looking to build a second headquarters outside Seattle, and began soliciting proposals from cities who wanted to be chosen. Over 100 municipalities rushed to prove why they should be picked.

The Carl's Jr. campaign reminded me of the scripted video Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington DC, made explaining why her city should be chosen. The campaign was also reminiscent of the gigantic cactus Tucson sent to lure the company. All three gestures demonstrate the extent to which we are willing to court technology corporations in the US.

It's not hard to understand why attention from Amazon might be alluring for a company or city. The e-commerce company is worth over $400 billion, and is often regarded as efficient and futuristic.

Still, these outward displays of affection toward Amazon and the desire to reap the benefits of its business practices feel weird. It appears as though Carl's Jr. and these cities hope a tech star can solve their problems for them. If your french fry promotion isn't working out, why not see if fully-optimized Amazon could come up with something better? Can't figure out how to bring jobs to your city? Throw some subsidies at Amazon and convince it to move there.

Carl's Jr. isn't short on problems right now. In January, its workers, along with those of other restaurants owned by CKE Restaurants, protested President Trump's then-rumored choice for labor secretary: their former CEO, Andy Puzder.

The workers protested poor working conditions, low pay, and the CEO's $4.4 million annual salary. Puzder was paid more in a day than his minimum-wage workers earn a year, they argued. Carl's Jr. was later slammed with a $1.45 million fine in June for failing to pay its workers the minimum wage in Los Angeles, California.

It's not clear what exactly Carl's Jr. wants from Amazon, or if it would necessarily accept a buyout offer were it to come. Regardless, the campaign says something about the optimism and hope we still associate with major tech corporations, even as they continue to disappoint us.