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51 Amazon-ing Facts
Amazon began in the garage of founder Jeff Bezos’ home in Bellevue, Wash.
Bezos originally wanted to name the company “Cadabra” as in “Abracadabra.”
Another potential company name Bezos liked was “Relentless.”
When the website first went live it only sold books.
The first book sold was Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies by Douglas Hofstadte.
According to the new book by author Jeff Stone, in Amazon’s early days a bell would ring in the office every time someone made a purchase.
There was also a huge programming error in the early days that would let customers trick Amazon into sending them money.
In 1997, Barnes & Noble sued Amazon alleging that its 1990s slogan, “Earth’s Largest Bookstore,” was false.
As the company grew exponentially, early employees were expected to work no fewer than 60 hours per week. Amazon’s practice of hiring so many seasonal workers originated after the insane holiday season of 1998.
Today Amazon has more than 117,000 employees worldwide and shows no signs of stopping its rapid expansion.
Amazon’s fulfillment center in Phoenix, Arizona, is made up of 1.2 million square feet.
To help ease the burden on its warehouse workers, Amazon now uses robots to assist in retrieving items.
In developmental stages the Kindle was named “Fiona” after a character in The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson.
Amazon holds a patent on 1-click buying and licenses it to Apple.
Bezos is said to be a very tough boss, one who doesn’t shy away from exploding at employees.
Many former Amazon employees have gone on to found incredibly successful businesses.
Amazon once listed a book about flies for $23,698,655.93.
The company lost $4.8 million in August 2013, when its website went down for 40 minutes.
Despite being the CEO, Bezos only makes $81,840 per year.
Bezos chose Amazon.com for two reasons: one, to suggest scale (Amazon.com launched with the tagline “Earth’s biggest bookstore”) and two, back then website listings were often alphabetical.
Amazon’s warehouses have more square footage than 700 Madison Square Gardens and could hold more water than 10,000 Olympic Pools.
Amazon’s current logo was designed to depict a smile that goes from A to Z. “This signifies that the company is willing to deliver everything to everyone, anywhere in the world.”
Amazon.com employees spend two days every two years working at the customer service desk. This includes the CEO. This practice is to help all workers understand the customer service process.
Amazon owns 10 percent of North American E-Commerce. Office Depot, Staples, Apple, Dell, WalMart, Sears, and Liberty all own another 10 percent of the market, the same size as Amazon. That leaves 1,000+ retailers to all fight for the remaining 80 percent.
Greg Linden, a former Amazon employee who invented the recommendation engine, described Amazon’s initial frugality. Linden writes, “The quintessential example of Amazon’s frugality was the door desk. Leave it to Jeff Bezos. Buy a wooden door, preferably a hollow core wooden door with no holes pre-drilled. Saw a couple 4″ x 4″ x 6′ pillars in half. Bolt them to the door with a couple of scary looking angle brackets. Put it in front of a programmer. Door desk.”
Amazon’s unique users are 5x more valuable than eBay’s. Amazon’s average unique user brings in about $189 while eBay’s brings in just $39.
In 2009, Amazon.com bought popular online shoe retailer Zappos.com in an all-stock deal worth about $1.2 billion.
Many of Amazon’s book distributors required them to order 10 books at a time. But in the early days they couldn’t afford to so every time they needed to fill a customer’s order they would order the one book they needed, and nine copies of an obscure book on lichens which was always out of stock.
Three days after launch, Bezos got an email from Jerry Yang, one of the founders of Yahoo, asking if they’d like to be featured on Yahoo’s What’s Cool page. Bezos said yes, Yahoo put the site on the list, and orders skyrocketed.
By the end of its first week, Amazon had taken in over $12,000-worth (£7,969; $AU16,553) of orders.
During Amazon’s first month in business, it received orders from customers in 50 US states and 45 countries across the world.
The office had a bell installed that would ring every time someone made a purchase. Within a few weeks, sales were happening so frequently that they had to shut it off.
In the early stages of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, his wife MacKenzie, and Amazon’s first-ever employee Shel Kaphan held their meetings inside their local Barnes & Noble store.
In the company’s first year, Bezos hired mobile billboards to drive by Barnes & Noble stores displaying the question ‘Can’t find that book you wanted?’ along with Amazon’s website address.
In the early days of Amazon, Bezos got employees pick out the 20 strangest titles sold every week and awarded a prize for the weirdest. Some of the reported winners included Training Goldfish Using Dolphin Training Techniques and How To Start Your Own Country.
Despite big sales and a healthy customer base it took almost seven years for Amazon to start making any real money. It was January 2002 before it reported its first profitable quarter, making a modest $5 million (£3.3 million; $AU6.9 million).
Proving just how seriously he takes customer service, Bezos had Amazon’s packaging redesigned after an elderly customer complained. She said she loved ordering books from the site but had to wait for her nephew to come over and tear into the difficult-to-open packaging before she could read them.
Amazon counts the CIA as one of its customers, after it secured a $600 million (£398 million; $AU827 million) deal with the agency in 2013 for cloud computing storage, which is part of Amazon Web Services (AWS).
A building at Amazon’s Seattle site is called Rufus, named after a Welsh corgi who was the pet of an employee. The dog liked to attend meetings and became something of a company mascot. There was also a superstition that Rufus had to tap his paw on the keyboard to launch a new feature on the website.
In an effort to reduce the number of unmotivated warehouse employees at its fulfillment centers, Amazon launched a Pay to Quit program in 2014. If a worker hands in their resignation, they’ll get $3,000 (£1992.25; $AU4138.42). By 2017, the amount is expected to be $5,000 (£3,320.42; $AU6,897.36). Less than 10% of the first wave of staffers offered the deal took them up on it.
Today, Amazon has more than 90,000 full-time employees across its 50 fulfillment centers and 20 sorting centers in the US alone.
When the same-day Prime service was launched in Manhattan, New York, the company claims one customer got their item – an Easy-Bake Oven – in a record 23 minutes.
On Cyber Monday 2014, Amazon sold more than 300 items per second. Forbes estimates the company’s net worth sits at $175.1 billion (£116.28 billion; $AU241.55 billion).
At the ripe age of three, Jeff Bezos is said to have disassembled his crib with a screwdriver because he wanted to sleep in a big-boy bed.
Ted Jorgensen, Bezos’ biological father, was a high-wire unicyclist who became estranged from his young son after Bezos’ teenage mother left him and subsequently remarried. Today, Jorgensen owns a small bicycle shop in Arizona, and only recently discovered that his son had become one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs.
PowerPoint presentations, for instance, are banned by the company. Instead, all meetings begin with a silent, 30-minute reading session about the topic at hand. This is to emphasize critical thinking over oversimplified stats.
Amazon encourages teamwork, but suggests that teams on each project are limited to the number of people who could theoretically be fed by two pizzas.
Amazon stands in stark contrast to the slew of tech companies that offer awesome and absurd corporate perks. Cafeteria food isn’t subsidized, light bulbs have been removed from vending machines to save electricity, and new hires receive a backpack containing a power adapter, a laptop dock and orientation materials – which they are asked to return if they ever resign.
Bezos reportedly fields questions from the public at firstname.lastname@example.org. When valid complaints arise, he forwards them to appropriate employees with a simple – though slightly terrifying – ‘?’ in the body of each message.
Bezos met his wife, MacKenzie, when he was working at a hedge fund in the nineties. “My office was next door to his and all day long I listened to that fabulous laugh,” she told Vogue in 2013. “How could you not fall in love with that laugh?” They got engaged three months after they began dating and married three months after that. They have four children – three boys and a girl.
In addition to the Post, Bezos founded space travel company called Blue Origin in 2000. He is also spearheading the construction of a 10,000 Year Clock inside a mountain range in West Texas.