Amazon - Inside the Retail Giant
Amazon - how all started
Jeff Bezos had in mind this simple idea of delivering books to your door by using his fiber optics and engineering skills. What does that mean, you may ask? How about traffic and metrics? How about chart flows and patterns?
The internet was already a reality by 1992. He had a few books to sell, what was the best viable way? A website and a catchy name for this baby. First thought of some kind of a miracle in the title phrase: "abracadabra!" Why not? "innovative and appealing to the ever evolving cyberworld. That's when he designed cadabra.com in 1994. Yahoo came a few months later.
But, few weeks after setting the servers in Seattle, his lawyer got hold of this name. He heard the word from far away. "honestly, sounded like cadaver Jeff, I mean, if you want to make huge sales on Halloween, you are welcome to keep it!" Bezos thought for a second, "what's the next word after a-b or a-c?" His lawyer checked the dictionary. "ac,ad, al, am... like early morning, you know?" Jeff got the word right into his tongue. "Yes! Amazon! As powerful as a delivering force with a soft touch at your fingerprints!"
The new name was chosen: AMAZON. Back in the day (1995) all the websites were listed alphabetically -- we depended so much on phone directories. Google was still a garage project from Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
And the First Book They Sold?
Was it the Bible? A Vatican Conspiracy? The Anunnaki or Shakespeare's Hamlet? Nope! The first book sold by Amazon.com was an esoteric volume of essays on artificial intelligence and the future of computing edited by Douglas Hofstadter called Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought. The volume combined essays by Hofstadter and other members of the Fluid Analogies Research group focused on the concepts of fluidity, analogy, and their relationship to using human-like intelligence to solve complex computer-based problems. What a first option in the world of publishing! How did Jeff survive with this simple title? "Strive for innovation and a positive mind."
In his own mind was so much going on: Customer experience - traffic - sell - selection - lower cost structure ---- lower prices. Bingo!
John, the way he saw it - raw and unfiltered.
We were lucky to get this interview. John Ardilla wanted to tell his own story "sooner and not later" - the amazon philosophy at work. He reached to us through another website. He wanted to be real, bluntly real. What he revealed was appalling. Let's hear from him and edit whatever needs to be changed to protect his identity. By the way, he learned to use this philosophy in his every move. He added this, "don't forget the pinball - all the lunch rooms had a pinball, that was Jeff's trademark from the 80's"
On His Own Words
We began our Journey on the first months of 2015. The average hired "associate" had to take a test to meet their criteria. As we see it now, they wanted reliable minds to make the most of profiting for them. Seems that Jeff Bezos was trained out of the books of 1984. Our minds are powerful from the first day of our lives. Amazon knows that, and looks for the best in us. There were two singles words dangling in our minds: profit versus customer's needs. The essential motto for an industrial power nowadays.
Amazon grew faster than projected by economic analysts. At one point they wanted to buy or rent the FedEx Boeing 777F cargo, but opted for ground service. The warehouse expanded into megalithic fulfillment centers. John worked in several of them. He was growing with Amazon, EVERY package at a time. Here is what he told us. "These humongous warehouses solved the volume problem. They needed super employees as well."
Is this why Bezos won the title of the worst boss, worldwide in 2014?
"He is very pragmatic I must recognize. I was on my way to become a manager, but was hard to break into a tight group. Believe it or not, it's a jungle inside those walls as well."
Okay John you are at the door of this fulfillment center. It's your first day. Break it down to us!
This was our first location. The rules were set from the beginning. "Work hard, have fun." In other words, "work as much, you will be rewarded. Make the best of your experience with us. We have you, we own YOU, until we find out you are no longer on the same path as us. Customer is priority. No matter how you show up for the day, every package will meet our customer's expectations. We measure and rate your skills. If you slow down, you will be heading to the door. No one is guaranteed a job. You agreed and signed to comply."
We don't hear these words from the outside, unless you worked for them, huh?
Amazon started by delivering a single book, then grew from the cliché "garage start up." The customers tried the next level and Jeff took the challenge. By the time we arrived for the first day of "basic" training, million of boxes were around us. Pallets with Zip Codes were being set up. We got our training hands on. Pallets had to be build as quickly as possible. Biggers and heavier sizes at the bottom, smaller and middle sizes filling the gap all the way to the top of the pallet.
On the third day, we were already sorting oncoming packages and boxes straight from the trailer, right up into these web of synchronized belts. Pretty much close to those used by FedEx and UPS.
Our second journey began at inbound. We had to sort incoming loads from other countries, where labor was cheap - you might guess where they came from. Amazon would separate the bulk and stow them in separate racks. The customer's needs got increasingly demanding and challenging. Millennials began to make money, the trend was shifted to fit their needs. Robotic dollies were engineered to store every item imaginable. Here we have to stow as fast as possible. We had to scan the product and make sure where to store it. Our metrics DID NOT met their demands. Somehow they raised the bar and we could not keep up. Perhaps they wanted to renew their team every 3 to 6 months?. At 13.25/hour they would check your every minute performance. They would come to you to congratulate or demand improvement. If you were not a lead or a manager, you had to get faster and better. Of course we had our breaking point and let this idea of working as super humans. By the way, some employees were helped and cheated by scanning hundred of CD'S and small items. We thought that was unfair, and decided to take a break from Amazon.
So, after a break you went back to them?
They invited me to come back via email. They are a pain in the neck when it comes to meet their customers' demands.
Here things were different. This warehouse was like a gigantic super store. Perishables like milk, eggs and meat were on the frozen section. The mentality was basically the same: exercise before being assign to a determined task. Customers were the regular shoppers that found a reliable cyber shopper that could do the shopping for them!
The savings were average, but they found their customers: seniors, soap opera stars, handicapped citizens, and even the shy people from Walmart dot com. Lots of wasted caned food, piling up for donation. Expiration dates were carefully checked and updated. A gigantic machine with a non stop 24/7 delivery force.
They kept me there this time. I was good with numbers, I knew where was the milk, the avocado, the baby spinach, the Honest drink, and the jumbo dozen eggs.
To Be Continued?
John Ardilla stayed at the last facility. A cool environment for a hot summer. The pay was not that bad as he told us. One last thing he wanted to add: "the first aid and nurse suck in here!"