By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – If Washington politicians really want to learn the art of the deal, they should be taking notes on how Amazon is manipulating the search for its second corporate headquarters site.

All you have to do is translate Amazon’s corporate-speak into English.

From the Amazon website:

“Why is Amazon choosing its second headquarters location via a public process? We want to find a city that is excited to work with us and where our customers, employees, and the community can all benefit.”

Translation: By going public with the “promise” (“we expect to invest” is how they put it) of $5 billion in investment and 50,000 new jobs, Amazon touched off a mass scramble so wild it makes the crowds jostling for the latest iPhone look tame. Two-hundred and thirty-eight proposals, all of them stuffed with goodies…um, incentives for investment.

Amazon knew no elected official would pass on the opportunity to tout their city or region and their own bona fides as a rainmaker, and sure enough, they all went on record bidding against themselves without any clear guidelines of what it will take to win the big prize.

Read Boston’s Proposal (PDF)

Back to the website:

“What are the next steps of this selection process? In the coming months, Amazon will work with each of the candidate locations to dive deeper into their proposals, request additional information as necessary, and evaluate the feasibility of a future partnership that can accommodate our hiring plans as well as benefit our employees and the local community.”

Translation: Pony up, boys and girls!

If your local officials thought they were making their best offer upfront, better think again.

Now that’s you’ve made the cut, you’ll have to step up your tax-break and subsidy game, big-time. And with no real time-limit on this auction (“we expect to make a decision in 2018,” there’s that word “expect” again) the sky is the limit.

bid2 Keller @ Large: The Real Art Of The Amazon Deal

Boston’s Amazon bid. (Image credit: City of Boston)

So let’s recap:

Amazon Motors invited everyone into their showroom to ogle the gleaming new Amazon mobile, and wouldn’t let anyone leave until they told both the company and their own family and friends: yes, we want the car… badly. Armed with that information, they are in the process of extracting every last taxpayer dime out of the politicians who fell for their sales pitch.

And who’s to say they won’t get it?

Right now, unless their local media is asleep at the switch, pols in the 218 places that didn’t make the cut are having to answer unwelcome questions about their ineptitude. And their counterparts in the final 20 are trapped into a high-profile negotiation with zero leverage.

Amazon: “We want to find a city that is excited to work with us and where our customers, employees, and the community can all benefit.”

Translation: There’s a sucker born every minute.

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