The stuff that fascinated me was the aside about dyslexia - my oldest is dyslexic, but has worked round it by 'memorising' the shape of words and soaking up a multitude of facts. And also the stuff about 'diverters' like Quality King and their army of lawyers. The whole enterprise is fascinating -- they're like post-Sopranos blue-collar Vectoralists (I'm not suggesting there's anything even faintly illegal about their operation; just that the world of diverters is an opaque, semi-secret world of shifting stock and cargo back n forth and playing the margins (like Amazon China will soon do), and these boys are effectively a front-end market-place for that -- they are arseholes, though. (Chancers, we'd call them in the UK). CargoBros, Logistics Wiseguys, or some name we've yet to make up. Listen to how they talk and how the article-writer reflects that in his own prose). Unsurprised that they employ a 100+ women as packers.
"The conundrum fascinated Tramunti. He'd struggled with dyslexia in school, and like many with it, he'd developed an ability to memorize huge chunks of facts and figures to compensate--as he puts it, "we find workarounds." He began studying all their products, memorizing competitors' prices, watching as new items climbed the rankings. He toyed with different pricing strategies, figuring out formulas for how much they could charge for certain products and still get the sale. They started getting the buy box--and making money--more often.
"Vagenas, a problem solver at heart, loved turning Tramunti's tricks into rules. He and the team had a developer code the tactics into algorithms, and baked them right into their proprietary software. Now the listings had optimal prices. Sales took off. They called the software the Master Brain.
"The Pharmapacks guys love the Master Brain. They protect it the way a star pit master guards the recipe for his barbecue's rub. Or the way Pablo Escobar guarded the source of his ultrapure cocaine. Speaking of which: "You ever seen the movieBlow?" Tramunti asked me one day. He showed me the YouTube clip of the scene in which Johnny Depp, who plays the kingpin drug smuggler in the film, has his product tested by a black-market chemist--who goes gaga over its off-the-charts purity.
""That's us. We've got the Colombian cocaine of algorithms," a proud Tramunti declared.
"And as it did with Depp's character in Blow, life got pretty crazy once the Master Brain's pricing kicked in. Orders poured in. Sales increased sixfold in a year. Neighbors began complaining about the never-ending stream of UPS and postal trucks. They were also unhappy about the warehouse packers who, in the absence of a decent-size company cafeteria or nearby restaurants, plopped down on their lawns each day to eat lunch."