Amazon is the unquestioned king of online selling, with more than 20 million products available on Amazon Prime alone. Almost 11 percent of Baby Boomers, 16 percent of Generation Xers and 19 percent of millennials use Amazon Prime. In 2015, there were 304 million active accounts on Amazon, with about 54 million Prime members. In 2014 alone, Amazon sold more than 2 billion products. So in other words, you’ve probably heard of Amazon by now.
What you may not have heard about all the secrets of Amazon’s success is what the company did to get where they are and how they treat their employees even after getting to the top. You may not know about the secret war going on behind the scenes of the tech industry, or about how Amazon managed to become the go-to online destination for your holiday shopping. You may not know much about the mad genius who runs Amazon, or the other weird stuff he’s invested all that consumer money in. You may not even know that Amazon got its start by taking advantage of book distributors. And everything you may not already know about Amazon is probably going to really freak you out, once you do.
15. There Is An Elite Club. You Can’t Join.
A small amount of Amazon reviewers may receive an invitation to join Vine, an elite group of reviewers who get cool stuff for free. It’s totally true. Every month, Vine reviewers get a list of products they might like to review. Each Vine member gets to select two items from the list they’d like to get a look at. Even better, they get to keep both items — as long as they provide a review of those items within 30 days of receiving them. And according to Amazon, the reviews don’t even have to be positive. Talk about getting something for nothing.
14. Amazon Started As A Bookstore
And if you don’t remember that, don’t worry — no one does. Amazon.com began in a garage, and in the early days it sold only books. No, the books were not in the garage. Every time an order came in, an Amazon employee would find the book online and then have it shipped right to them. Upon arrival, the book was repackaged and shipped back out as an Amazon product. That really doesn’t sound like a business model that works, but somehow it did. Amazon.com’s very first sale was a book titled Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought.
13. They Kind Of Cheated
Back in those early days, Amazon used book distributors to get good deals on books that could then be resold. The only trouble was, many of those affordable book distributors required a 10-book minimum purchase. Amazon didn’t have the money to buy 10 copies of the same book when they only need to order just one to fill an order, so they cheated. Every time a customer order was filled, the Amazon staff would order one copy of the one book they needed — and 9 copies of a book on lichens that was perpetually out of stock. Lichens get such a bad rap.
12. Amazon Already Owns It
If you like a site online, Amazon probably already owns it. The company is famous for snapping up hot internet properties. The company’s holdings include online shoe seller Zappos (a purchase that cost them $1.2 billion), Twitch, IMBD, Audible, Goodreads and Box Office Mojo, among others. In 2013, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought “The Washington Post,” a move that many found to be completely inexplicable. Don’t forget about Kindle, the e-reader that totally changed the way the world looks at books. One of Amazon’s newest hot commodities is Alexa, the voice-activated assistant that everyone wants. If you try to boycott Amazon and their related holdings at any point, good luck.
11. The 10,000-Year Clock
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is funding a 10,000-year clock. As the name would suggest, this timepiece is will keep time even 10,000 years from now. It’s being constructed inside a mountain in Texas, and can only be accessed through a series of tunnels. This project has cost Bezos millions of dollars of his own personal money. The clock will be self-maintaining, and the location is very important. The clock is being constructed within a mountain in the arid, dry region of West Texas to withstand the test of time — pun intended. The clock doesn’t measure time in minutes and hours, but in centuries and millennia. And though it sounds unbelievable at best, this is actually a cuckoo clock. Every time another 1,000 years pass, a cuckoo will sound to announce it. And no, we are not making this up.
10. Amazon.com Is Stuffed With Bizarre Items
Forget about looking around on Wikipedia or casually browsing Google. Amazon’s where you want to go if you want to find some weird stuff to ogle. You can buy just about anything on Amazon, and that includes such bizarre items as Unicorn Meat, A Sack of Shit, Irish Accent Gum and even the Official BS Button. Get creative and start typing random things into the search bar, and Amazon’s probably selling something a lot like whatever you just typed. In the past, the site even sold loose diamonds. More recently, Amazon is selling groceries — and yes, that includes dairy products. So, how brave do you feel?
9. The Warehouses Are Populated With Robots
Amazon’s warehouses are so huge, employees can quickly wear themselves out looking for products to fill the orders coming in from customers. That’s why Amazon has filled their warehouses with robots that don’t get tired. Amazon purchased robotics company Kiva System in 2012 for just about $775 million, and they’ve put that acquisition to good use. As of 2016, there were 45,000 robots working in 20 fulfillment centers right along with the human employee. The robots can go as fast as 5 mph. The warehouse robots are not the only mechanical employees Amazon hires. There are also robotic arms that move heavy objects around the warehouses to save the employees extra labor.
8. You Could Be Using Amazon Maps Right Now, But…
Way back in 2005, Google Maps did not exist and the world of mapping technology was pretty wide-open, though it’s hard to imagine now. Back then, Amazon developed a program known as A9 that would provide street-level photos and driving directions to users. The company put digital cameras on their trucks to take the photos, and hoped to integrate the technology into the Amazon Yellow Pages search engine. Sadly, A9 didn’t really become popular with Amazon customers. Chief algorithm officer Udi Manber ended up leaving the company. He went to work for another tech company on a program that was later known as Google Maps. Ouch.
7. Amazon Ruthlessly Buys Out The Competition
Why does Amazon have all the stuff you’re looking for and can’t get anywhere else? Because Amazon goes out and buys what they want from other retailers, so you have to get your stuff from Amazon. It’s true. In anticipation of the 1999 holiday season, Amazon employees purchased all the Pokemon toys they could from from Costco and Toys R Us locations all over the U.S. They even cleaned out the Toys R Us website, so parents buying Pokemon stuff that year had to go to Amazon to get what they wanted. Is it diabolical, or just good business?
6. The Company Owns An Ice Age Cave Bear
Jeff Bezos is a bit of a strange guy, and that’s coming from people who know him personally. For example, Bezos shelled out a surprising $40,000 to acquire the skeleton of a cave bear. These massive animals roamed the Earth during the Ice Age, and were among the largest mammals ever to live. Cave bears were much larger than today’s biggest bears, and therefore much more frightening. Bezos kept the bones in his office at Amazon briefly before having them moved to the lobby of the company headquarters in Seattle. It’s true. If you go to the corporate offices there and walk into the lobby, you’ll see it.
5. Amazon Invents Holidays
You probably know about Cyber Monday, but even lots of Amazon users don’t know about Prime Day. This happens every July 12, and it’s a day full of special deals and offers just for Prime users. They get exclusive offers and bargains on thousands of items all day long in hopes that it will inspire them to buy stuff from Amazon all day long. Prime Day is a pretty new online holiday, founded only in 2015, but soon it’ll be just like Christmas in July. Which, let’s face it, is totally the point of Amazon Prime Day. Just make sure you’re primed for shopping.
4. The Meetings Are Super Weird
If you want to go work at Amazon, prepare yourself for a work environment that’s really different from all the rest. Meetings at Amazon begin in total silence, which is a pretty bizarre corporate culture and one you aren’t likely to find at any other big company. In order to emphasize critical thinking among staffers, the meetings at Amazon corporate offices begin with a 30-minute reading session where employees learn more about the topic at hand. PowerPoint presentations are banned from these meetings. Also, it’s important to note that meetings at Amazon take at least 30 minutes to end. Yikes.
3. For A Billion-Dollar Company, Amazon Is Really Cheap
All that cool stuff at Google’s corporate offices? Amazon ain’t got nothing like that. Compared to other billion-dollar tech companies that are brimming with awesome perks, Amazon is kind of crappy to work for. When you get hired, you’ll get a backpack with a power adapter, orientation materials and a laptop dock. If you resign from Amazon, you are asked to return these materials. And your cafeteria food isn’t free, you have to pay for it. Amazon is so cheap, in fact, all the light bulbs are taken out of the vending machines in order to save on electricity. That’s some serious penny-pinching.
2. Amazon And Google Are At War
Though only insiders really know about it, for years Amazon and Google have been engaged in a bit of a war to procure the best engineers in the tech game. This may or may not have originated with Udi Manber, who left Amazon’s failed mapping program to help create Google Maps. When Google started hiring engineers for their Project Aura in 2015, they hired many engineers from Amazon’s Lab 126. The Lab 126 division is somewhat mysterious, but it is known that this group works on hardware for Amazon. Several engineers left Amazon to join the project. Google and Amazon have found themselves in direct competition when it comes to certain products and services. For instance, both companies provide cloud computing, online shopping and streaming services.
1. And Then There’s Jeff
If it’s true that geniuses are kind of crazy, Jeff Bezos must be some sort of genius. He’s famously sarcastic with his employees and even rude, making nasty remarks when he hears ideas he doesn’t like. Bezos has said that he prefers to work in an adversarial atmosphere where there is almost-constant friction, so that’s what he tries to achieve at Amazon. No one will be surprised if you don’t run right out to try and get a job there. You can communicate directly with Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org. If a customer has a valid complaint, he’ll send it to the right person so your concerns can be addressed.
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