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Amazon Home Services (amazon.com)
341 points by theatraine on Mar 30, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 238 comments



I don't think this is game changing. Home Depot and Lowe's are already in that space and they haven't changed it. The reason is that construction is refactoring and debugging much of the time.

Typical houses are built on the LAMP stack, not Rails. A lot of configuration and many of the conventions embodied are Rick 's and Rick ain't around. There are lots of corner cases built into any structure, and clean quick and straightforward pricing models by necessity come with lots of caveats. There's often a reason a light switch needs replacing that's bigger than just swapping out a part. The old one is still there because replacement was nasty work.

Throw a retail model at this and people expect refunds just because. I no-shit-know someone who had no problem taking back fresh from the ground annual flowers to Home Depot at the end of the season for a refund. The fact that new waste pipes won't work that way is why contracts matter. Good plumbers are busy and paid well, Amazon can't Uberfy them. It's not a commodity skill like driving a clean late model car. Sawzalls are involved and expert experienced judgement is required. They'd do better with web developers because they would nit have to solve the locality problem.


> I no-shit-know someone who had no problem taking back fresh from the ground annual flowers to Home Depot at the end of the season for a refund.

And when he did, they asked him for his driver's license. There's an annual limit to how much you can return without a receipt. Home Depot doesn't care so much, because if you're returning things that way ... they're just giving you store credit. You're going to have to buy something again and eventually, you'll end up spending lots of money there. It works out for them in the long run.


The person kept the receipts. It was systematic behavior.


Well, with receipts you have a 90 day window ... so if he's returning them within that window, then he's really not doing anything sketchy because that's really Home Depot's policy and intent. They tend to be pretty lax with returns. He may have brought the receipts, been outside of that window, and the cashier simply told him to take away the receipts because it was too long ago, scanned his driver's license, and gave him store credit anyway.

Lowes, Ikea, Bed Bath and Beyond, they all operate the same way. They'd much rather you buy lots of stuff and return some of it, then buy a few things.


I knew someone who worked at refund at home depot for a while. Heard official policy was to refund anyone if they argued enough.

She told me stories like someone coming in with a 3 year old, completely ripped shower curtain and getting a refund.

So to be honest, I'd have no problem believing that they'd refund cash old flowers at the end of the year.


Improvements to real property [e.g. waste pipes] on the other hand, can't be returned. That's why mechanic's liens exist.


Remember Amazon Menus? (Scanned menus of local restaurants) Remember Amazon Movie Listings? Remember the "drone delivery"? (It makes no sense on the face of it, and will never happen. But it was a big press release.) Remember Amazon scanned catalogs (eg: Mail order catalogs selling things in competition with Amazon, that you could search) Remember A9? (Amazon's answer to google, biggest mainstream mention was being used as a verb once on The OC in 2006ish.)

Amazon makes dozens of "products" every year, to do press releases, to sell more Amazon stock/keep the stock price high. Most of these products never become real.

Even AWS was a fake product-- they claimed it was "the infrastructure that ran Amazon.com", which was a straight up lie. (I worked for the company at the time.) All they had was S3. This product stuck to the wall and grew and became a real product over time, and so they backfilled.

This strategy works for them because when something disappears (remember google glass? Yeah, it really is gone, it made no sense to begin with, but they won't admit it) .... nobody remembers it.

Amazon wasted so much time on nonsense. We had 4 reorgs a year and a lot of chaos because they were constantly spinning up random teams for BS initiatives -- many of whome were nothing more than a press release.

I'm not saying this is wrong (except the dishonesty about AWS)...just that Amazon announcing a product doesn't mean Amazon will be providing that product.


I'm surprised to see this framed so negative. What they do is essentially being the lean huge startup. They launch a product, gather initial feedback, and if it turns out promising (like AWS) they double-down. If it doesn't work, they kill it. I think it's actually nice to see such a rapid-iteration product development done by a company with that many resources and talent.


It is a negative because Amazon doesn't have that many resources or talent. They are short on engineers. The people building things like amazon movies are being taken off of key things like product search. Bugs I fixed there were regressed in later years and are still broken-- this is key product sales bugs that are still there. The team I was on that wrote the code got dissipated away.

Here's a key thing that people miss about amazon-- it is NOT a tech company. It should not be mentioned along with Google, Apple & Facebook.

Amazon is a retailer, most of the employees are retailers and the whole management structure is retail guys. Not engineers. Outside of AWS there's very little engineering resources at all given what they need to do, just to maintain the core business.

They're running 20 year old code that 10 years ago was crashing regularly-- eg Amazon.com going down so you can't b uy cell phones or whatever.

I've worked for a lot of startups and a lot of big tech companies, like Apple, Microsoft etc. Amazon is not a tech company.

If you're an engineer you should never go work there-- the management is all non-engineer types. My bosses training was to be a prison guard! He could barely handle excel but was criticizing our code. His boss was no better- a DMV reject. (literally), and all the way up to Bezos who is not an engineer either.

My boss, by the way was dealing weed in the PacMed garage to other employees. The entire team left because he was such an asshole-- and he got promoted as a result!

Company is pretty much a joke.

I know on HN you're not allowed(?) to say negative things about big "tech" companies. I may be shadowbanned for ti, but Amazon was a terrible, TERRIBLE place to work. Microsoft had too much bureaucracy and was too "corporate" for me, but you can understand why they were the way they were-- amazon on the other hand was absolutely terrible. It's run by people who are extremely arrogant and have no regard for anybody -not investors, not suppliers, and least of all employees. It is the most employee hostile place I ever worked. All advancement is political and because of stack ranking its really easy to stab people in the back. Terrible company. (I've had a lot of jobs, worked for disorganized startups-- but the key difference is whether management gives a damn about employees or not. Amazon they don't, they're hostile, everywhere else has not been that way- even bad management is usually just incompetent, not hostile.)


Seems like you had a very bad experience at Amazon, but you are also spilling a lot of lies about the company, and I'm afraid people might buy it.

Amazon is way more than a tech company, and the tech side of it is indeed just a portion of the overall organization, but your use of quotes on "tech company" is just derogatory and unnecessary. I have very little contact with "business" people, and they in no way determine how much I get paid or what I work on, they are there to support the business and are accountants, financial managers, etc.

> It is a negative because Amazon doesn't have that many resources or talent. They are short on engineers.

Who isn't? Most companies are short on talented engineers.

> Outside of AWS there's very little engineering resources at all given what they need to do, just to maintain the core business.

Shows how little you know about the company. Instant Video is huge, Website is huge, other/restricted projects are huge, and there are a lot of engineers on all those teams. Thinking AWS holds most of the engineers really shows how uninformed you are.

> If you're an engineer you should never go work there-- the management is all non-engineer types.

As an engineer, your manager WILL BE a former SDE. If you are a manager, however, then maybe your manager may not have been an engineer.

> All advancement is political and because of stack ranking its really easy to stab people in the back

The type of "stack ranking" people refer to as being evil is not the same that's practiced at Amazon (it's barely stack ranking at all). And you saying that advancement is political, just shows that you're disgruntled with the company, this is just not true (for engineers at least).

The other points you make are either subjective or anecdotes, but overall I think you just hate the company for some reason and are spilling every negative interaction you ever had.

I truly hope talented people don't buy on your negativity. Amazon is definitely not a terrible place to work at, even though it does have some problems (what company doesn't?).


The amount of horror stories coming from Amazon like this one:

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/245561031/content?start_page=1...

and you being so defensive about a simple comment are NOT a good sign about a company's culture and image.


The he-said/she-said of these comments makes me think that nobody is actively distorting, but that it's just such a big company that different people can have wildly differing experiences.


There are people who are low level enough to maybe not have seen this stuff.

But I also saw stuff that, like that letter, I consider to be wrong. The latter refers to criminal actions-- I am not a lawyer so I can't say whether what the company did was illegal or not, but I certainly thought it was wrong.

One thing about that letter that rang true in my experience was that the company does not follow its own internal policies or handbook.

Amazon HR was dishonest to me, deceptive and engaged in what I consider to be fraud.


How does me, a single person and a simple SDE, being defensive (was I being defensive just because I wanted to clear up misconceptions?), says anything about an entire company's culture and image?


You called him a liar. That's pretty defensive.

Personally, I have no trouble buying a lot of what he's selling, not least because I've seen his posts around here for a good while and he seems like a decent sort, but it also dovetails with my own experience. YMMV, but I'm not calling you a liar.


It seems fair to call someone a liar if you know they've said something factually untrue. (I'm no weighing in on the debate itself, but it's possible for someone to be factually wrong and it's appropriate to highlight that when it happens.)


You can be correct in the face of untruth and still be shitty and defensive about something; remember that Reddit storm when the CEO beefed with a fired employee?

I'm somewhat doubting that MCRed is lying, because he has some credibility to me through a history of good and productive posting, but it's possible.


Not to butt in, but if someone says something untrue, they are a liar. If I accused Amazon of killing babies, that would be a lie (I hope?), and you wouldn't be being defensive by calling me out for it.


Strictly speaking, it has to be knowingly untrue for it to be a lie. It is possible to just be wrong.


For the record, everything I said was true, and after calling me a liar, he effectively admitted it!


This. I don't know any other major tech company that generates these horror stories with such a reliable regularity.


If I was lying, may Amazon's lawyers strike me down and take me to court! I would love to reveal my experiences there, and of course, the truth is an unbeatable defense. I certainly have more salacious tidbits than the Ellen Pao trial revealed. Including personal experiences with Jeff Bozo.

>Thinking AWS holds most of the engineers really shows how uninformed you are.

Telling a lie about me to attempt to impeach my point is what's known as ad hominem.

>As an engineer, your manager WILL BE a former SDE.

FALSE. During my time there I had multiple managers (due to re-orgs.) and NOT ONE of them was a former SDE.

Not one of them was competent enough to manage programmers. None of them knew what a service oriented architecture was, or how version control worked (they thought of it as a backup), or how to write a simple program in ANY language. And this was true all the way between me and Bezos.

>The type of "stack ranking" people refer to as being evil is not the same that's practiced at Amazon

FALSE. It is exactly the same, with managers having to lobby, and whole teams of people who are "out of favor" with an upper manager getting lower salary because of the higher level stack.

>I have very little contact with "business" people, and they in no way determine how much I get paid

You impeach yourself by admitting that Amazon uses stack ranking which directly contradicts this claim.

Amazon is a terrible place to work at-- in an extensive career, it was, by far, the worst job.

Not only because of the problems, but because the management doesn't give a damn, and is actually hostile to employees-- that's what makes it really bad.

All companies have problems. Amazon has fundamental disrespect for engineers.


Bederoso, I really liked your balanced comment, versus MCRed's derogatory one. I have worked at AWS for 6+ years and left a little over a year ago, and I pretty much agree with all the corrections you made.

I think Amazon is not an easy company to work at, mostly because engineers are squeezed like lemons but they don't benefit much from it. However, this can also happen at "cool" startups, or other large companies such as Apple.

Also, a couple of things are lies (but every company has its own set of lies); AWS was never based on Amazon's extra capacity, but that's something that came out and stayed there for years. And also, the "large volume, low margins" is not true in the case of AWS.

Other than that, I think that I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to have worked there; I've learned a ton and thanks to that I got a job I couldn't dream of ten years ago.


>> If you're an engineer you should never go work there-- the management is all non-engineer types.

> As an engineer, your manager WILL BE a former SDE. If you are a manager, however, then maybe your manager may not have been an engineer.

Totally untrue. I spent many years at Amazon, with most of my managers being managers by trade and half of them being openly non-technical.

>> All advancement is political and because of stack ranking its really easy to stab people in the back

> The type of "stack ranking" people refer to as being evil is not the same that's practiced at Amazon (it's barely stack ranking at all). And you saying that advancement is political, just shows that you're disgruntled with the company, this is just not true (for engineers at least).

If you are not a manager, you do not have direct visibility into this process and cannot make this claim. If you are a manager, then you're aware that every department is run very differently and should also be aware that some of them are very political.

I'm curious on what you think separates Amazon's interpretation of stack ranking from the "bad" versions, or how it is "barely" stack ranking at all.


> As an engineer, your manager WILL BE a former SDE.

This is not strictly true. I was at Amazon for 4 years (2004 - 2008 in Supply Chain and Retail), I had 3 managers. Only 1 of them was a former SDE.


Hum, interesting, but SDMs still need to know how to code, it's even part of the interview process, do you know if this is true 100% of the time?


Don't get me wrong. My managers were (are) extremely smart. They did know how to "code" for the most likely definition of the word code. But that doesn't mean I would trust them to write a feature or to review what I wrote. They just didn't have the day-to-day knowledge to know what did and didn't work in the code base I was in.

And do I know if what is true 100% of the time? Asking coding questions in a SDM loop? I have no idea. While I was there, I was only on TPM and SDE loops.


In my experience, similar time there, three managers, none of them knew how to code, and their managers varied- one was decent, one was a DMV reject.

But when I say they couldn't code, I mean that literally-- for one example degree in criminal justice, no knowledge of software practices, etc. This isn't another way of saying they were "bad programmers". No bad programmers can make great managers.


"barely stack ranking" means stack ranking, which speaks a lot to the type of organization that would employ it against software engineers. It may be effective for certain types of workers--sales people, for example--but it's disastrously inappropriate for creative professionals.


There is a significant difference between "stack ranking" and "forced distribution rating scale." Most companies use the latter, the former is much more rare.


The practice at Amazon was like Microsoft in function. %20 were "underperforming" no matter how well they did. It was rolled up from team, to group, level, etc.

Politics was a huge factor. If a team worked really hard during the quarter and got a lot done, but hadn't shipped their feature yet, they risked all bering in the "underperforming" category, simply to allow a peer team to have more "over performers" to reward them-- for actually delivering or for sufficiently sucking off the appropriate boss (or not getting knives in your back.)

There were a lot of (metaphorical) blowjobs and knives in the back in that organization.

Which is what you have to have when ALL of the management is non-technical.

You can't have a meritocracy when the people assigning ratings are incapable of judging merit.


Could you expand a little on how Amazon does stack ranking in a more palatable way? As a consumer, I love Amazon, but I have heard a lot of horror stories first-hand from an Amazon employee about this very thing.


You won't get fired for no reason, but you do get compared with your colleagues.

But you also won't get promoted just because of seniority, most of what people say about being hard to get promoted is true. However, there are only 3 SDE levels if you don't count Principal, so SDE II has a very large range of pay rates, and you don't need to get promoted to get a higher pay. Higher levels are all about being a better leader and influencing more people. There are people who spend 10 years as SDE II and are happy with it, because they don't care about leading others, they just care about doing their job, and this is fine.


Thank you for your response. I haven't actually heard any complaints about promotion. Most of the noise I've heard has to do with firing, namely that less-tenured managers feel pressure to get rid of a higher percentage of their team members than managers that have a lot of years and political capital built-up in the company.

However I suppose that it stands to reason that perhaps that phenomena is due to the fact that greener managers may have greener engineers working under them who are perhaps more prone to mistakes or may not be a good fit.


Not true, if you are in the lower %20 you will get fired. That's the pressure to "get rid". Of course they will let you "resign" instead of get fired, and if you refuse they will give you a financial incentive to resign. This keeps the "stats" better, and probably where boredoso gets his nonsense.

But here's the real kicker that makes the company so stupid- if you're on the lower half of the rank, you're blocked from moving to another team.

Even though the HR policy is that your manager can't block you from an internal transfer, that's not reality. Which means when you're wrongly assigned to a team with a bad manager or a bad fit, you better bounce quick, or you're stuck there until you leave the company.


Can you imagine what they (Amazon) are trying to achieve with the "can't transfer if you're in the bottom 50%" policy? I can understand your frustration but at its core there has to be some sort of quasi-reasonable objective for the policy.


I'd assume it's literally because their management philosophy holds that half of all employees are not good enough to deserve being rewarded with a transfer. Or perhaps they're trying to protect managers running poorer-performing teams from getting hit with so many outgoing transfer requests.


So if you make a mistake at Amazon your job is on the line? Wouldn't that incentive developers to be extremely risk adverse and play politics? Is it a "mistake" to get assigned to a project that is doomed? And what about the whole learning from your mistakes or the idea of mentoring?


Yes, although it has to be a little more complicated than 1 mistake => in trouble, I think this is essentially the complaint of a lot of stack ranking dissenters.


> He [Bezos] attended Princeton University, intending to study physics, but soon returned to his love of computers and graduated summa cum laude, with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in electrical engineering and computer science

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Bezos#Early_and_personal_l...

I guess that's not engineering though.


WOW. From interacting with him on bug reports, I'm surprised to read that. I think the problem was he was never a practicing engineer, so he didn't understand things like unit tests, the fact that we need to fix a bug in october, or make a change in october for the thanksgiving weekend-- we got told to defer on something that he then filed a ticket for the middle of the night before thanksgiving.

Etc.


> I know on HN you're not allowed(?) to say negative things about big "tech" companies. I may be shadowbanned for ti,

I despise this meme. You are allowed to say negative things about big "tech" companies, especially here on HN. What you aren't allowed to do is act childish about it. Which is exactly what you do when you say things like this. And I tend to down vote when I see commentary like this, because regardless of what else you have to say, this type of commentary is what hurts conversation. Clearly, you are wrong about the culture of HN.


I'm wrong about the culture of HN?

I've been on this site since 2006 or 2007. I've earned 5,000+ karma on most of my previous accounts. Everyone of them was shadowbanned at one point or another.

In one case I linked to a scientific paper about global warming that does not agree with global warming hysterics. That was the only post in several months at the time and the only commentary I added was "these guys disagree!"..... shadowbanned. For linking to a peer reviewed paper!

Another time, the last comment was talking about how I had met Grace Hopper. Nothing negative in it, Nothing "childish". Just relating how she gave me a "nanosecond". Shadowbanned.

I stopped putting effort into this site for several years because of that-- why try to discuss things with an extremely ideological and narrow minded group (which HN really is) if you're going to get banned for disagreeing?

I only created this account because I don't care. I do expect to get shadowboxed because the moderators of this site, in my experience, are unethical.

But of course, those who believe in rigid narrow minded censorship are incentivized to believe that all those who were shadowbanned were being "childish".

Because of course you want to believe you're broad minded and that criticizing Amazon is allowed, and the like. (Hey maybe it is, so far I've been allowed to.... but that's the thing about arbitrary shadow bans, you can't know what's verboten and what's allowed.)


My experience matches yours precisely. Certain viewpoints here are ruthlessly censored, to the point of insanity. The justification is always "that is so wrong as to be offensive", which of course is absurd to a community that purportedly values free speech.

If the views are so absurd, why not allow them to stand and be downvoted? Why the need to flag and ban?

For example, regarding the Pao issue, numerous reaction articles from differing viewpoints were instantly flagkilled.

I find that HN is a group of clever people who conform an extremely narrow ideology.


>And I tend to down vote when I see commentary like this, because regardless of what else you have to say, this type of commentary is what hurts conversation.

What absurd nonsense. If we are having a rational discussion we only care about what he has to say, not how he says it.

Leave the doublethink and doublespeak for the politicians, it doesn't belong here.


When you have a company the size of Amazon (100,000+ employees, thousands of engineers) I think its very dangerous to make sweeping generalizations about the culture based on one person's experience.


When you work in PacMed, where the entire company was basically located at the time, you pretty much rub elbows with people across all departments (literally, you're stuffed in there so close) and so you can make sweeping generalizations about the engineering team behind Amazon.com. Without making any comments about warehouse workers and the like.

Which is what I did.

This is also not one persons perspective, but a common perspective in Seattle, so common that I knew about it in 1996, repeatedly heard horror sorries for the next 10 years ,and still went to work there after hearing horror stories from other ex-employees. Yeah, they caught me at point where I was a bit desperate.

In seattle, the horribleness of working there is pretty widely known.

Not sure why its so shocking and unbelievable here on Hacker News.


I'd say most people here are concerned about the engineers. The culture around the warehouses is pretty well understood, from my experience.

Even if we were talking about 100,000 engineers, though, I think it's fair to make a generalization about the culture. Companies have a lot of autonomy in deciding the nature of interactions between the employees as a group, and especially between employees and their superiors.

Also, people make similar generalizations all the time around small towns and neighborhoods (with often dubious accuracy, sure), but the only difference is one's structure develops bottom-up, and the other top-down.


And culture comes from the top. Right from Jeff Bezo himself.

One of the things that has since become a red flag for me is that Amazon is very cult like.


You sound like a bitter ex-employee. Why would you ever waste your energy on trashing a former employer? Go build something else - it's a much better use of your time.


I have built something else. Several other else.

I do think it's unfortunate that Software Engineers are held in such low regard.

Calling me "bitter" is just blaming the victim.

I'm here so that other engineers can be forewarned about a bad actor in our midst.

I think that's a good use of my time because I hate how engineers are disrespected, and increasingly so.


Because he doesn't want other people to waste part of their lives at Amazon?

His experiences there mirror mine. I've warned people away from going there for exactly the same reason. Amazon treats their employees like shit.


book recommendation: "Seeing Systems: Unlocking the Mysteries of Organizational Life" Barry Oshry http://books.google.at/books/about/Seeing_Systems.html?id=wt... and read read the sections "pinball" & "manager of the heart" now http://books.google.at/books?id=wtK9aFmM9zgC&pg=PA3&source=g...


It's kind of ironic how condescending you are towards amazon stemming from what seems primarily based upon them not being a "tech company". In school, you probably had the jock type people looking down on you, and now that you are in your own subculture of tech oriented people, you've taken their place at the top of the arrogance pyramid.

I think you need to reevaluate your outlook on giving advice. You seem to have a preference for more tech oriented companies which is perfectly fine, but their are a lot of other people on HN that aren't as techie as you. Don't trash a company and shout advice to everyone based on your own personal preferences for work.


The person who warned me about Amazon -- before I ever applied there-- was not an engineer. She was a receptionist. She'd worked in the main office in a low level office job. She told me the company had no respect for employees.

I was foolish (and a little desperate) when I applied at Amazon. Because I had been told.

This has nothing to do with them not being a tech company-- I just don't like tech people misclassifying them.

This is all about them disrespecting their employees. Not having competent managers for engineers is a form of disrespect. But all the sexist, obnoxious and rude things done to my friend who was non-technical are also disrespectful.

This isn't about me being "arrogant" at all.

This is me just warning you about a terrible experience I had!


Personal attacks are not allowed on Hacker News, even when someone else's comment is wrong and/or unduly negative.

Please respond to negativity on HN with less of it, not more. Otherwise the threads spiral into toxicity.


The problem is that they are using the Amazon brand to position it. This helps in gaining initial traction, but in the end damages the brand in two ways:

- people do not know what to associate amazon with (it's just a bookstore, right?)

- when they kill off too many project, or too many projects fail, their brand value hurts.

There are other businesses that have many, many product lines, but the most succesful ones (Procter & Gamble, Unilever) almost never use their core brand name and just invent new brands. It makes it more difficult to start, but is better for your brands.


But what about companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple etc? They have the same strategy as well. They use their brand to gain that initial traction and test out a new product.

And I disagree with you about a discontinued product hurting their brand. No-one remembers Amazon menu, Amazon movie listings, Microsoft Courier, Google Catalogs, Wave, Google labs etc.


people do not know what to associate amazon with (it's just a bookstore, right?)

In my experience people couldn't care less about "brand identity" in general.

Nobody (outside our tech filter-bubble) cares what Amazon does or doesn't do beyond their shopping and book business.


I don't think brand identity is about getting people to care; it's about creating an association in their mind, so that when they need X, they'll think of Y, instead of conscientiously having to think about where to get it.

Google is a good example, since their brand identity is strongly linked with web search. When people want to find something out, opening google.com is often an immediate reaction; they don't wonder if they should use a different search engine, or even look it up somewhere else. It's immediate and unconscious.


>Nobody (outside our tech filter-bubble) cares what Amazon does or doesn't do beyond their shopping and book business.

So true.


> people do not know what to associate amazon with (it's just a bookstore, right?)

I disagree. I think most people know. Amazon was once a bookstore, then it changed; it's now the website where you buy things. If you're in IT it is also the major host for cloud computing.

There it is in a sentence (two for IT specialists). Does this leave out major things like video? Sure, but you asked about the brand, and that seems pretty clear: that website where you buy stuff.


But if nobody remembers them, as MCRed says, does it really hurt their brand?


Well, they stick around for years. When I found the mail order catalogs they were 3 years old.

Amazon.com runs on a lot of 20 year old code because they've never been able to upgrade it, because there's so much cruft. Amazon menusand all that create cruft.

There are bugs I fixed in 2006 that came back in 2009 and are still there-- the team that I was on when I fixed them no longer exists because the people got pulled off for nonsense "products" like menus etc that eventually got canned.

It's not just that they are trying things, the things they are trying take engineers out of their key talent pool-- which is pretty shallow to begin with because Amazon is a very anti-engineering company. (Really they hate engineers at the executive level.)

Most of the site at this point is cruft while engineers run around chasing nonsense that will never be in production more than a year.


In what way do they hate engineers?


Also curious about this. What does "at an executive level" mean?


I don't believe cloud computing had anything to do with "just a bookstore" either and it turned out pretty well for them.


> - people do not know what to associate amazon with (it's just a bookstore, right?)

Amazon is an online hypermarket, and I don't think that's even remotely a secret.

People understood the company mission of Sears, Roebuck, & Company, a hundred years ago, and they can certainly understand Amazon's today.


One of the Amazing things about Amazon, compared to, say Microsoft, and which has since become a huge red flag for me is the culture is very cult like.

Amazon management is very adept and focosed on blowing smoke up the skirt of employees. "Today is day one!" Even the use of "door desks"-- that cost the company more money than actual desks would-- is done to perpetuate the "we're just a startup, rah rah rah" BS "Culture".

Its' gross manipulation but it also results in people who buy into it being REALLY dedicated to their beliefs-- because deep down people want to believe and Amazon gives them that (even though it then turns around and abuses them.)

They do this for a reason-- by having these mantras and these beliefs about the company, it makes people not believe the negatives or think the negatives don't represent the whole company.


unless you are working on something and they tell you one it's done and you are getting reorged.

or you just end up on a product that makes no sense, but gotta do it because someone wants it/promised it.


> Remember the "drone delivery"? (It makes no sense on the face of it, and will never happen. But it was a big press release.)

You mean the drone delivery they're actively testing in the UK? The drone delivery they're fighting with the FAA about? The drone delivery they just testified before Congress about?

They're spending an awful lot of time, money, and political capital on something that makes no sense, will never happen, and was just a press release.



Last week, Amazon's VP of global public policy testified before the Senate Commerce Committee[0] about the FAA's delays in approving testing in the US that they've already begun in other countries. An FAA administrator testified in the same hearing. This comes more than a year after Amazon's initial announcement on December 1, 2013.[1]

This is the same VP, by the way, that testified before the same committee in January on net neutrality.[2]

Are you suggesting he's lying to Congress?

Last year, Amazon hired for their Prime Air team, among other high-profile individuals, a former NASA astronaut, a Keyhole co-founder, and a mess of aerospace vets and MIT grads.[3]

Argue all you want about its viability, but this is not "a press release" or "april fool's joke".

[0] http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/mar/24/amazon-con...

[1] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-unveils-futuristic-plan-d...

[2] http://recode.net/2015/01/21/congress-still-bickering-over-n...

[3] http://techcrunch.com/2014/08/20/despite-faa-setbacks-amazon...


I'm very very skeptical but, by all indications, Amazon does appear to be quite serious about it however much it initially looked like a PR stunt.


Ah, they hired Paul Viola. He's a major talent.


It's also active in dubai. If you order any govt. documents, it is delivered to you via drone


Amazon drone delivery WILL happen. This will be completely disruptive to how stuff is consumed. Amazon being able to reach any point in an urban environment from its outskirts, at any time of day, within minutes and at a cost of just cents, will completely change consumption patterns (at least for existing Amazon users).

Once something has such a strong financial implication, any other obstacle in its way is going to crumble (not to mention that the technology is mature enough today to perform this; the barrier is regulation, and that can change with enough money at stake).


I can't tell if this is sarcasm or not.


Dead serious. The technology is there, the economics are there - it just seems outlandish as an idea, but for no real good reason.


The economics are definitely not there yet. The insurance alone would make it prohibitively expensive. Then you need a lot of infrastructure due to low range. Light drones also can't fly when it's too windy, too rainy, too cold. And they can only carry a very small subset of usual shipments (limited size and weight).

Automated cars on the other hand...


I see the drones as a last mile delivery solution. Rather than flying the drones all the way from the distribution centers to peoples' houses, they could drive their trucks out to your neighborhood, and then release a set of drones to deliver packages the 'last mile'. This would allow them to deliver a bunch of packages at once without the driver getting out of the truck, and larger packages could still be hand delivered for the time being.

Also, I'd imagine that the drones would be (remotely) human driven at least the first few times they drop off a package, so they can learn where to drop off the package (similar to how Google handles training their self driving cars). After that, they could drop it off automatically, but hand off control to a human if the environment looks too different.


Howre they going to solve the pet problem? I can see curious cats / dogs trying to have a go at the drones.


I can imagine all the people complaining about how they have been waiting for three hours for an Amazon drone delivery while a hurricane rages on outside.


also most of northeast will be blocked off for multiple months in winter due to snow accumulation on streets and on people's doors


> it just seems outlandish as an idea, but for no real good reason

I imagine safety and power issues, talking to friends who research drone tech.


And payload. A drone just can't carry any significant weight.


[deleted]


Those kind of drones are not the kind of drone that can deliver a package, unless that package can survive a ballistic delivery to the ground.

Sure, by shaping the drone into a winged vehicle you can get the payload capacity up and make it move quickly as it goes from waypoint to waypoint on a "delivery route", even in windy conditions. But now you can't deliver the package itself neatly onto the ground adjacent to obstacles like you could with a quadra-copter.

If someone can figure out a reusable payload delivery parachute or something like that with the ability to keep itself on course even in windy conditions to hit a drop point on the ground from a couple hundred feet up, and make it work with packaged goods the size of a small book or video game, then it has a chance.


Not sure what the deleted post is referencing, but Google is using a fixed-wing design. To deliver the package, you tilt the entire drone up to do VTOL. At this point you can lower the package. In theory, it will work and have higher efficiency than a multicopter design. I'm not sure whether or not Google has had any success with it.


That is interesting as hell and I hope it works out; I had a vague sense VTOL wasn't a practical power/weight option for something battery powered.


You have been droned


The urban environment represents the greatest challenge.

For starters. "To your door" urban drone delivery would be nearly impossible as most urban dwellers live in condos, apartments or densely populated areas where landing or hovering presents real-world, safety, security and logistical concerns most likely impossible to overcome.

The best case urban scenario is Amazon "drop off points". Basically small Amazon stores strategically located throughout a city with designated landing zones for their drones and close proximity to the recipient - so the recipient (or the delivery person) only needs to walk a few blocks max.

In this scenario you're still looking at a "real person" to get the package to the door though.

"To your door" sub-urban and rural (the outskirts as you call it) in theory may be more doable as dwellings tend to have driveways, yards and space. However the challenges of urban still exist. And landing (hovering) on location, on private property adds greater complexity from a safety and legal perspective.

Amazon has an uphill battle to wage with regards to the legality, rules, regulations and safety of operating unmanned air vehicles over "built up areas" in general. Current pending and existing regulations lean towards flightpaths and fly-zones that ensure drones can land safely in the event of an emergency requiring immediate decent (eg. a crash landing).

This means flightpaths over built-up areas of cities and towns in general would be extremely expensive (funding, insurance, lobbying) and most likely impossible under today's regulations.

No matter how safe they're deemed, drones represent a hazard to persons and property, and as such they'll be highly regulated. Amazon won't be able to fly them anywhere, anytime soon. It will take time.

Now, with all that said, a couple years ago the FAA Modernization and Reform Act was signed, providing funding to the Federal Aviation Authority to establish safety rules that deal with all of the above. The funding as I mentioned has already begun ... to the tune of $60 billion or so.

We'll see how the FAA strikes a balance between corporate interest and public safety.

In the mean time Amazon Drone Delivery is mostly a marketing / PR tactic to generate interest and buzz. Strategic in the sense that, on the surface, it sounds like something the public would like to see. It's exciting! Progress! Get the public on your side and "fast-tracked regulation" becomes much more realistic.


> For starters. "To your door" urban drone delivery would be nearly impossible as most urban dwellers live in condos, apartments

Many such structures in densely-populated areas have large, flat, mostly-empty roofs. (Hell, some of the apartment buildings in my little urban area of ~40k people have flat roofs, as do most of the local dorms.)


And Amazon will co-ordinate the retrofitting of these roofs to allow safe and easy access?

Have you ever been up to a typical apartment or condo roof top? Sometimes there's a common area or party area - not suitable for leaving a pile of random packages though. Otherwise it's full of HVAC and utility stuff.

There's no way on earth my condo board would approve the costs involved in allowing residents up on the roof or having security collect packages from the roof. It's hard enough for security to deal with packages at the front door.


> And Amazon will co-ordinate the retrofitting of these roofs to allow safe and easy access?

Easy roof access is typically the default. Landlords sometimes cut off access and a shitstorm ensues. Lawyers sometimes get involved, since it's legally hairy to cut off access to previously-accessible common areas.

> Have you ever been up to a typical apartment or condo roof top?

Several, and you can examine thousands more for yourself on Google Maps, if you like. They're not, typically, "full" of anything. They're mostly empty space.

> Sometimes there's a common area or party area - not suitable for leaving a pile of random packages though.

I'm not sure why not, but even so, there seems little risk of there being a "pile". The whole point is delivery in 30 minutes. Why would you pay for 30-minute drone delivery if you weren't going to be there to pick it up soon after?

> There's no way on earth my condo board would approve the costs involved in allowing residents up on the roof.

What costs are you imagining?

> It's hard enough for security to deal with packages at the front door.

It eludes me why you think tenants picking up their own packages from a roof is more trouble than having security (which doesn't even exist in many such buildings) deal with it.


Ahh I guess you don't live in an area with RAIN and WINTER where anything not bolted down to the roof generally gets blown right off.

The costs are significant if there isn't a prebuilt common area (rooftop patio). Because of safety, accessibility and liability concerns. Sure it's a big flat space, and it may be accessible in case of emergency, but it wasn't designed for regular use. These surfaces are designed for HVAC, roofing material and drainage of rainwater.

You want a safe drop location for drones that's also resident accessible and safe?

You're going to have to retrofit the roof to meet spec. Even if you already have a rooftop patio. And that means condo board and / or property management approval.


> Ahh I guess you don't live in an area with RAIN

I grew up in Washington and Oregon, west of the Cascades. And if you're ever in Taipei's Songshan or Xinyi districts during the monsoon and see a crazy white guy not using an umbrella, you've probably caught me on yet another foolishly-agreed-to business trip.

As an expert on being heavily peed on by the sky, I can assure you that rain does not easily or quickly penetrate things like the hard plastic containers Amazon Prime Air will be delivering items in. (I guess you never watched the video?)

> and WINTER where anything not bolted down to the roof generally gets blown right off

I'm in eastern Washington now, where our regular 60+mph storms are more of an autumn thing.

Tornadoes are fairly rare throughout Washington, but when they do happen, they are, of course, concentrated in spring and summer, like the one we suspect touched down on our property in western Washington in the 90s.

But regardless of the time of year, if the weather is that bad, the drone probably won't be flying.

> Sure it's a big flat space, and it may be accessible in case of emergency, but it wasn't designed for regular use.

They get regular use anyway.

> You're going to have to retrofit the roof to meet spec.

Any particular spec, or just a fuzzy concept that I'm to assume must exist somewhere to forbid this de minimis usage?


It's an idea that is DOA. It will never work because it will never be economical, nor safe.

If you think about it for a few minutes, you'll realize it's a joke-- like an April Fools joke.


I'll address some points here.

1. Safety: drones - multirotors, specifically - are very safe devices, inherently. They are incredibly simple (4-8 motors and no other moving parts). If they are dangerous, it's only because of lack of investment by the manufacturers to make mission critical hardware/software. That's the next step in the drone ecosystem though, as commercial use is gaining traction (multirotors are barely 6 years old now, IIRC. Mission critical flight systems haven't had time to develop). Furthermore, octocopters (8 motors, and there are variants with more) have built in redundancy (assuming a reasonably intelligent flight controller) against the loss of each motor.

2. Cost: An Amazon drone could be manufactured for few thousand dollars - $3k is the RETAIL COST of a DJI drone that can fly 10kg overall weight (drone, payload, batteries). That means at scale, and without retail margins, Amazon could make them for less than $10k, even if they are much larger and more sophisticated. The only wearable is the battery, and these can do many cycles (500+) before needing replacement, when properly managed. Other than that, the cost of maintenance are simply nonexistent.

3. Flight time: Simply irrelevant on an urban delivery service. An off the shelf commercial drone today can fly 10kg AUW for 20 minutes easily, lets say 12 minutes if flying at 40km/h - that means it has a range of 8km (and that's basing on simple off the shelf stuff, not purpose built and optimized systems). Manhattan is 3.7km wide and 21km long, meaning that with a handful of automated battery replacement hubs you can cover the its entire span.

4. Fleets and carrying weight: These drones will fly non stop, carrying up to 10kg at each payload. That covers 95% of the typical Amazon order and probably 99.5% of the things that you need just this second. The drones will fly non stop - I can't imagine needing more than a few dozens to cover a large city.

Bottom line: the technology is definitely within reach; I'd argue it's there, just needing some rich commercial entity to tie all parts together, test and certify. Nothing here awaits a scientific breakthrough to be made possible, and I'd say that technologically, it's easier (and probably safer) than self driving cars (which no one doubts).


I'm very doubtful of drone delivery until battery tech advances at least 10x.

In dense, built-up areas there is no space to land. You can't fly between buildings and land on a sidewalk in Manhattan, and where would you leave the package there?

In rural and suburban areas, where houses have backyards, the flight range starts to be a problem. Amazon isn't going to build a full warehouse every 5-10km, even "drone depots" seem doubtful with that density. With "drone depots" instead of proper warehouses, the packages would still have to be trucked in, so 1-2 day delivery instead of 1-2 hour delivery, and the only motivation would be cost saving over traditional mail carriers.

Perhaps if batteries become a lot more capable, then having drone depots every 20-50km in suburbia might end up profitable over paying for mail.


While I agree with you that space to land is an issue, in terms of trucking in packages to smaller depots, Amazon already does this in some markets like the UK, where it is investing heavily in regional depots and doing "first level" delivery from their large warehouses to the smaller depots themselves.

Here it depends on quite high population density in the regions they are putting depots, which still has the landing space issue, but e.g. their two London depots puts them within possible delivery distance of several million people with front or back gardens. A large proportion of the ones who don't have private gardens have communal spaces.

The bigger problem than where to land for me would be how to handle "handover" to their customer without ending up leaving packages in plain sight in areas where it's easy for someone to snatch it.



And what about signal jamming or drones being shot down? Not only for package theft, also to strip or steal the drones themselves? I'm really curious how robust this delivery method is against external manipulation and general human misbehavior. Or say there's a defect - some structural damage - and a drone crashes or loses its 10 kg package into a front screen of a car driving on the interstate. Honestly, I don't see a way this could work. Not because delivery by drone in densely populated areas is economically and technically unsound. Because of... other stuff.


The problem with drones is that they're insecure. People will shoot them down for fun, and even if they don't, whenever they land they'll have to leave their packages in places that are either insecure or exposed to the elements. If it really takes off, you will need ways to manage "drone traffic" and insurance will be extremely expensive.

To top it off, they will simply not work on most days in Northern Europe, where rain and strong winds are common. I think the evolution of airplanes (which "we" believed would soon replace cars, back in the '20s) showed the problems we will always have with flying: it's a messy affair at the best of times.

I applaud Amazon for its faith in robotics, but I'd argue that we're more likely to get self-driving vans (which will either carry a very relaxed delivery guy, or will let people like supers open van doors with a code), or other incremental disruptions, before we see a wide deployment of delivery drones.


> People will shoot them down for fun

I hear this a lot, along with comments about self-driving cars being unusable because 'people will run in front of them to make them stop', and I just don't get it. In what country would it be deemed legal and normal for people to shoot down drones? Do people take pot-shots at light aircraft? Why would people suddenly want to shhot at drones? The same with self-driving cars - people don't run into traffic to make human drivers stop, although they would certainly try their best not to run you over, so why would they start doing it with self-driving cars. I've also heard the argument that people will vandalise the cars, destroy the LIDAR sensors and so on, but yet we don't have spates of people throwinf paint over the windscreen of normal cars. I think it says more about the mentality of the commentors that about the peeibilities for automated vehicles, flying or driving.


I'm not sure it is really that big of a fear, but shooting at people is totally psychopathic. Random property damage happens WAY more often than random murder.

Shooting down a drone is like throwing a rock in a window or graffiti. In a lot of areas, those crimes are a huge problem.


> In what country would it be deemed legal and normal for people to shoot down drones? Do people take pot-shots at light aircraft? Why would people suddenly want to shhot at drones?

I don't think it would be at all routine. But I can imagine trouble-making adolescents doing that (here in the US). Probably wouldn't be make-or-break for drones. But it would be an interesting challenge for Amazon -- how can we retrieve this equipment and how can we investigate its attack/distinguish from part failures?


The security concern (for the drone and the contents) is a bit overblown to me. What about all those ATM bank machines in all sorts of "insecure" places? We've somehow figured out how to keep money inside a machine that is unattended. The amount of theft that occurs on those things is minuscule and banks put the cost of such theft into their profit calculations.

The Amazon drone won't take off unless you confirm in advance (using the app) being able to accept the package, and you need to enter a code at arrival for it to release it to you. I am sure the drone can call for help, and keep lots of video and other evidence of what happened to it.

Ultimately, Amazon just calculates the loss of 1/10000 drone packages into their profit calculations.


We solved that by making ATMs unmanageably heavy. Not the best option for a drone.


Yeah maybe it's not the same solution. But it's a solvable problem, I believe. I trust that the Amazon team had this conversation 2 years ago, and came to some conclusion that the risk was manageable. Would they send their lawyer to congress fighting FAA regulations if an 8-year-old kid with a pellet gun could knock one out of the sky?


> 1. Safety: drones - multirotors, specifically - are very safe devices, inherently.

Aside from that whole thing where they have a dozen or so whirling knife blades that could take off a body appendage, or the fact that one small power failure or an inflight impact with a bird or a wire turns them into 30 pound falling lethal skull crushing objects.


> 1. Safety: drones - multirotors, specifically - are very safe devices, inherently.

The first or second time the blades on one of those drones hits a kid, drone delivery will be as dead as the Segway.


Yeah I heard that some kid once got hit by a bicycle, that's why those have been banned for years. Oh, and right, I once bumped into someone in the street, I guess that's why they closed down the streets.

But yeah, things might possibly go wrong from time to time so best not to try. Giving up is always they best thing.


Are you OK with your kid taking a copter blade to the face for the team? Wait, I mean, for Amazon?


Are you OK with your kid taking a FedEx bumper to the face for the team?


I'm pretty sure FedEx drivers don't drive on lawns, porches, decks, pools, or walkways, but perhaps things are different where you're from.


I'm pretty sure delivery vehicles have been involved in injury accidents since the horse-drawn carriage days.


I'm pretty sure we have a century of training people/kids to stay off the roads because roads are dangerous. Flying drones /everywhere/, including your fenced in yard, makes /everywhere/ dangerous.


Yeah, my comment wasn't bashing drones. I think drones are great (outside government use) .... I just know Amazon well enough, and amazons business well enough to know this is a joke.

When I say it's a joke I'm not being pejorative.

Amazon regularly releases press releases and propaganda designed to make the company look good but that have nothing to do with its products or that aren't real initiatives. This is one of them. IT's purely propaganda.

you're making a lot of assumptions about the economics and quality advancements of control software in your response-- - you're assuming pie in the sky comes true.

I'm note.


do you mean to say drone's are more expensive than people ?


Their drones could easily be $30k+ a pop, and if they crash, need maintenance, irretrievably fly out of range, or simply become targets of angry people wanting to break them... all problems frequently encountered with high grade hobbyist drones.... then their value vs. an employee is questionable.

Crucially we're not even talking about R&D efforts, insurance, regulatory clearing costs, and probably the biggest cost, legal mishaps - and I mean very serious lawsuits - even toy-like DJI Phantom drones can fall/ crash and kill people.

I could see drone delivery to rural areas... but urban areas I don't think it's feasible at all, at least not for a long while.


And anyway, driverless cars are happening. Why do you need a drone when the robo uber taxi had a robot arm in the boot and delivers packages during slow times of day?

Drones could be useful for a lot of things but if the problem is delivering heavy packages cheaply to places with road access, they are not a rational choice.


> And anyway, driverless cars are happening.

By "happening" you mean "not used for any real purpose besides research or demonstration anywhere in the world" presumably.


We have cars navigating america autonomously as we speak. [1]

From a regulatory perspective, I think driver-less cars are making better progress than drones, because auto regulations are more relaxed than air.

[1]http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3006700/Driverless-c...

... Oh god I just linked the daily mail. Sorry I'm at work and picked the first link when I googled.


Just for comparison, I had phones (flip-phones, mind you) from Samsung, LG, and Motorola with NFC in 2006. We could use them at MCD's, 7-eleven, and a few other places. Fast-forward 9 years and there has been little uptake, except that there are phones actually available to people with NFC, and acceptance is more commonplace.

In general, people take much longer to adopt new technology than we would like to see.

edit: grammar


No, actually we don't. From your article's headline:

"Two people will be in the specially rigged Audi in case of emergencies"


If the basic drone delivery model were viable, it seems to me as if today it would be viable to have a Kozmo 2.0 sort of service in urban areas. It might have higher labor costs (not at all clear as you could use pretty low wage workers) but it would have a whole lot less capital requirements and we know how to do it today. I guess Amazon is doing this in a very limited way with Amazon Fresh.


Drones that don't accidentally kill toddlers and pets and create liability nightmares? Yes, considerably more expensive than a minimum wage delivery human.


But currently, delivery doesn't happen for anywhere near minimum wage. A fully-loaded UPS or FedEx driver probably costs $100k or close, and those trucks look pretty expensive...


Sure, but when a delivery man decapitates little Poppy, he's criminally liable, rather than the delivery company.


Calculate how many drones you need to deliver just one truck worth of parcels. Keep in mind you need drones capable of flying across the city carrying heavy stuff. Even if you limit them to only light and small packages, there's still a range problem.


Somewhere along the way it seems people are forgetting everything that has to happen before that stuff is quad-coptered to your doorstep a few minutes after you (via clever marketing) determine you need something as quickly as possible.

The relentless march of consumerism will completely disrupt how things are consumed, but I am not sure making "getting stuff" so painlessly easy is great for humanity.


Am I the only one who can picture thieves shooting these things out of the skies and running off with the packages?

I guess it's no different than following the UPS truck and taking the package after they've left, but intercepting a drone farther away (say, over a field somewhere) is probably less conspicuous.


I suspect during transit, the drones will be hundreds of meters up (partially to mitigate risk of what you describe, and also to stay as out-of-sight as possible), so you're looking at shooting a small moving target hundreds of meters above you. Seems like a non-issue for the most part unless large numbers of highly trained snipers decide to become package thieves.


Can't wait to see hundreds of flying, buzzing drones zooming around the city.


> We had 4 reorgs a year and a lot of chaos because they were constantly spinning up random teams for BS initiatives -- many of whome were nothing more than a press release.

To me, who served 15 years of corporate coding dronery for a Fortune 100 company, that sounds totally awesome.

In all that time I served on three teams.


> Even AWS was a fake product-- they claimed it was "the infrastructure that ran Amazon.com", which was a straight up lie. (I worked for the company at the time.) All they had was S3. This product stuck to the wall and grew and became a real product over time, and so they backfilled.

Citation for this lie please. Because parts of your statement here do not really make sense. For instance that S3 was at one point they only service they had.


I think you misunderstood: the OP is saying that S3 was the only service that Amazon was actually using internally at the time out of the initial AWS service offering, even though AWS as a whole was sold as "the infrastructure that runs Amazon". I thought AWS started with EC2 & S3? Anyone got a link to a reliable history?

(Fwiw, I’ve heard the same thing the OP says elsewhere.)


> I think you misunderstood: the OP is saying that S3 was the only service that Amazon was actually using internally at the time out of the initial AWS service offering, even though AWS as a whole was sold as "the infrastructure that runs Amazon".

I can't even find sources of such a claim at the time the first offering of AWS occurred. The claim has made that as of 2010, 100% of amazon.com traffic goes via EC2 which I believe is likely as it has been mentioned by Amazon engineers.

That AWS was not built for amazon first and foremost has been said from the start. Jeff Bezos himself said early on that why only build it for themselves when they can sell it.

> I thought AWS started with EC2 & S3? Anyone got a link to a reliable history?

AWS's first service was SQS which launched two years before S3. EC2 launched half a year after S3.

There is a bit of history here: http://jeff-barr.com/2014/08/19/my-first-12-years-at-amazon-...


Do you not remember yourself how AWS was initially pitched?


Isn't that equal to startup or seed investor culture? To me it is the only way to discover new markets or market strategies. It is the best thing Amazon can do and they have the money for these adventures. As a developer, this must be a dream environment to work in, even when only 1 idea in 10 works out.


Nope, not if you aren't coming up with the ideas.


My perception, based on hearsay, is that Amazon is a high turn over, burn out kinda place. Even recruiters say that.

Doesn't mean it's true but the perception is out there.


You make it sound like every non-existent product was a failure, at that many were press-release driven. But companies do try weird things just to see what sticks sometimes.

> (remember google glass? Yeah, it really is gone, it made no sense to begin with, but they won't admit it)

This is an example. Glass was clearly an experimental product to gather information. It was advertised, priced, and distributed like one. If you think it was a failure or is dead, you paid little to no attention to the life cycle.

Throw something at the wall, see what happens, refine, try again. Refining the experiment or using the information to go pursue something else isn't failure. I would assume that Amazon has a similar philosophy, at least to some extent.


Same could be said about Google, except Google gets a dedicated userbase and then shuts the service down.


I read the whole comment and wasn't sure what the point was, other than to display your still lingering AMZNPTSD?

"Amazon makes dozens of "products" every year, to do press releases, to sell more Amazon stock/keep the stock price high."

That's quite a leap of logic. Really thought it would have been that $90B of annual revenue that was keeping the stock high.


"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." - Thomas A. Edison


Drones are still going:

http://techcrunch.com/2015/03/30/canada-proves-fertile-groun...

Don't forget they started in books and now sell pretty much everything. Also, the kindle seemed to work out pretty well.


Look up GOOG-411 which was a service they used to collect speech and language data in addition to providing services to the public. I'm sure people had a similar opinion to yours about GOOG-411, but it was incredibly valuable them. Sometimes companies disguise data collection as a service.


The drone delivery at least seems to still be a major ongoing effort on Amazon's part:

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/mar/30/amazon-tes...

Amazon's been making a lot of press lately leaning hard on the FAA to shorten up their paperwork lifecycle for outdoor testing in the US, as well as eliminating the regulatory requirement for line-of-sight flight.

If drone delivery is a dead project, Amazon doesn't know it yet.



This isn't really 'new' -- this has been in the pipe for a while, and they've vetted a lot of service providers so I expect that with that amount of investment in it Amazon Services is going to be around for a while.

If it eats your lunch, my condolences.


You forgot to mention Amazon fire phone but that was a real product developed over 4+ years


Doesn't google do this same thing?...


I thought having local service providers would be cheaper. So I compared some of their prices with Walmart and Best Buy.

TV Wall Mounting (my won mounting bracket): Amazon: $229, Geek Squad: $149.99

Tire installation Services (2 tires): Amazon: $69, Walmart: $12 each

Car Stereo Installation: Amazon: $120, Best Buy: $64.99

I think there is a large market for local listings (e.g. Angies List, Groupon Local etc) but their prices are way too high.


The Amazon guarantee would go a long way with me. Something goes wrong, I don't have to worry about battling it out with the contractor. I call Amazon and let them deal with it.

I can't say it's worth double the price until I actually need to use one of their services but I would definitely accept a premium for the hassle free service.


Putting tires on a car is a commodity service of the sort that if something goes wrong the biggest problem isn't getting a full refund. With construction there's still a messy contract that needs to get sorted out, and Amazon is charging double the going rate to maintain a reserve for often having to mobilize a crew twice. They have to because every building contains a different bag of hurt buried in its walls. The people who are experienced enough to reasonably predict what's buried are unlikely to need to give Amazon a cut because they are already busy.


You'd pay double for a guarantee?


Why is that so crazy? Depending on the service cost, my time could be worth more than having to deal with the headaches of finding and dealing with a trustworthy vender.

Consider we're talking about $150 installation for something in my house, like a TV. That could mean knocking holes in the wall. Searching Yelp reviews and interviewing contractors can be time consuming. Then, if something goes wrong, my wall could be ruined. Taking the contractor to court to recover damages is a massive investment.

That might not be worth the trouble if I could have Amazon send someone and cover all headaches. It becomes dead-simple. "I'll just use Amazon's guy"

There's no question, it's a premium service, but you're getting real peace of mind with it. It's not like you're only paying for a brand name, you're also getting a guarantee from a trusted company.


Even Geek Squad's rate is too high. Mounting a TV onto your wall is not a hard thing to do. Find studs, attach mount to wall, attach mount to TV, put on wall. I've done it several times. Granted, it's not fun, but it's not I'd-rather-pay-$150-to-not-do-this non-fun.

Even if you're a high-paid professional it's likely cheaper to do it yourself (assuming opportunity cost for this time was work, and not, you know, enjoying your weekend).

(IMO the TV wall mounting prices are completely out of line with the difficulty of the task. Compared to tire installation that takes more time, tooling, and personal risk, I'm really surprised that it costs so much.)


"Compared to tire installation that takes more time, tooling, and personal risk,"

Don't forget liability, most failure modes involving tires cascade into personal injury auto accident. I would guess the most likely epic fail of similar likelihood for a TV installation would be dropping the TV while installing it. Or maybe drilling into a water pipe while installing it, either way death is quite possible with cars and highly unlikely with a TV.

Two things always "get" me about hiring a pro even though I can afford it. The first is I do it exactly the way I want it. Not possible to install my TV 3 inches too far to the right or some idiot company policy to minimize liability or whatever. The second is the opportunity cost of hiring a pro is astounding. A pro is going to have a 4 hour window 9-1 next Tuesday so I need to take time off work and cancel my life for four continuous weekday hours, but I have a SSD awaiting installation on my desk at home and if I get a half hour wednesday night around 8:14pm I'm fine, my window for me to do it is dynamic and hyperflexible and much narrower than a pro and if I'm interrupted its simply not an issue. Its just more convenient to do it myself than to deal with someone else. I could afford to hire someone to take the trash bag from my kitchen to the trash can by the garage, but the hassle of contracting with another person exceeds the minimal hassle of walking it out there myself.


Most of the services aren't available in my area so I didn't look too deeply, but the costs as a whole look pretty high. All of the assemble-something types of tasks look to be in the $200 range. While none of these fall into the "what fun!" category for me, they also don't fall into the "pay as much as the thing cost for a 2 or 3 hours of uninteresting but not difficult work" category either.

Frankly, I mostly know how to get hold of somewhat expensive professionals to do tasks that I can't easily do myself. What I want is cheap labor to do things I don't want to spend the weekend doing.


> Even if you're a high-paid professional it's likely cheaper to do it yourself

A lot of people aren't looking for the cheapest option, they just want it done right, without hassle.


You have a higher opinion of the value of Amazon's guarantee and brand in this space than I do. You're talking independent contractors here (just like Home Depot and many others use today) and you can expect lots of outcomes between didn't show up or didn't do the promised task and did a perfect job. Even with contractors I know and trust, things don't always work out perfectly when you're dealing with unexpected problems on the fly.

For me, the potentially interesting aspect is "handyman" type tasks that fall outside the range of services you can have done through Home Depot, Sears, my local plumber or electrician, etc. Though I would guess it's significantly more expensive than you can get from giving someone local some cash (assuming you can find the right person).


> ou have a higher opinion of the value of Amazon's guarantee and brand in this space than I do.

In my personal experience, they're one of the highest rated companies I've dealt with, in terms of customer service. They've earned that credit with me over the years that I've purchased items from them.


Oh, they've been fine with me as well. But with products, "good customer service" translates into "stick it back in the box, put on this label, and set it out for UPS to pick up." Dealing with a lot of home improvement/repair projects that aren't quite perfect seems more complicated. The model can certainly work for a lot of well-defined tasks but, then, I can get things like appliance or straightforward minor plumbing repairs done pretty straightforwardly today. And they look pricey for assembling furniture and the like.


Amazon can now let me hire a goat herder[0] to get my lawn eaten down. Is there anything they can't sell?

[0] http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UBYDXXQ/ref=vas_sf_GoatGrazing


We wanted flying cars, instead we got goat rentals. :D


At least we're on our way towards Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.


And Goat Simulators.


And the Mohammed simulator that involved goats made by someone on 4chan...


To be honest I'm surprised they don't sell flying cars on Amazon. Unless Alibaba got there first...


This is a real thing, large companies including bay area tech companies use them to graze lawns instead of just mowing. There was even a Shark Tank pitch.


I was aware of that, I just hadn't thought that Amazon would start selling this sort of service.


Ah, agreed. It is strange for mainstream, not sure it's worth it to get an average house lawn chewed down by goats.


And you don't get nutrients out of the soil (in the form of grass) that you take somewhere else. It's a good thing, and goats are cool (if they can't go near your car and eat parts of it.)


Simply there to grab publicity. Someone in marketing this heard the word 'viral' and read about Goat Simulator and something clicked.


I don't quite get all the cynicism.


It can also eat down your shrubbery.


> Is there anything they can't sell?

Sports physio treatments?


It will be the first of April in two days' time, mind...


Looks like they took all the contractors offering home service deals through Amazon Local (which has been running for 4 years in 36 states) and turned it into a service menu instead.

Which is genius.

I've gotten a leaking toilet fixed, leaking roof inspected and patched, garage door springs replaced, and a noisy heater tuned up at fixed prices by buying "deals" for them through Amazon Local when I needed something done.

The experience is a million times better than finding a new contractor in the yellow pages for all these kinds of jobs. So many of them now charge a "service call fee" just to come out and do a quote, and won't quote even simple jobs over the phone. If their quote is too high, you've just thrown away money (and wasted half a day) without getting the problem fixed.

I am super enthusiastic about what Amazon's doing here and hope they stay in this market. Looks like I'll finally be putting in that exhaust vent in the bathroom that doesn't have a vent hole cut.


Right now I work in the largest company in this field, Sears Home Services. And we're moving to Seattle... so this should be interesting!

I think anyone's first thought when Amazon gets into a business is that it's dominance is inevitable. Not so sure in this case, I've made tons of marketing pages just like this, hardly a guarantee of success. They'll have to do the hard work of convincing people they can provide quality service. You can't just return a home renovation if it goes wrong.


Really hate when web sites assume you live in the US. Don't make me click around menus and finally ask for US Zip code (And don't assume Zip codes have 5-digits only).


> And don't assume Zip codes have 5-digits only

Aren't ZIP (it's an initialism, Zone Improvement Plan) codes by definition a US-only thing? Even in countries that don't call them post/postal codes, they're not known as ZIP codes.


Pedantically, yes. Practically, no.

Basically everybody in the US uses the phrase "zip-code" informally to mean postal code even when talking about international addresses.


I've never run across anyone in the U.S. who refers to postal codes as zip codes.


> I've never run across anyone in the U.S. who refers to postal codes as zip codes.

Say what? Where in the U.S. do you live? I've been all over, and I've never once heard them called 'postal codes'; always and every time 'zip codes.'


I've only ever heard "postal code" in the South.


You must live in a different U.S. than everyone else. It's clearly the other way around.

https://www.google.com/search?q=site:usps.com+"zip+code" returns 120k results

https://www.google.com/search?q=site:usps.com+"postal+code" returns 372 results


To be honest, everyone should refer to these as postal codes or at least address codes. No one refers to the ZIP code as Zone Improvement Plan code anyway.. so what is the use of these code in the real life?


'should'?

What's wrong with calling them Zip codes? That's how they're written everywhere.


Good grief, I was talking about referring to international postal codes as zip codes, which I thought was what this thread is about.


I've only heard of ZIP pronounced as a word and not spelled out like you'd spell out CPU. I'd call it an acronym.


Amazon.com is their US site. If you're there, you've effectively walked into a store in Seattle. If you want a store not tailored to the US market, you'll need to visit one of the sites they've made for other countries (where this is probably not available yet).


> Amazon.com is their US site.

That's exactly the problem. .com <> US

Initially this kind of behavior was "quaint" and amusingly "typically American". But in 2015 it's just f-ing annoying.


> But in 2015 it's just f-ing annoying.

So's complaining about something that's been the de-facto standard for 2+ decades.


You aren't aware of their localized .uk, .de, .jp, etc sites for they have for their markets in other countries?


.us should be for US stores. .com is more universal.


Back when Amazon was registered I doubt anyone was using .us for a company website, so changing everything to point to that years after the fact would probably do more harm than good to the business, plus the fact that they at the start were only US based, so a .com at the time would have and still is the best choice for a US based brand identity.


At the time, sure. But since then they've added a bunch of country-specific domains. The store aimed at the USA could be hosted on a .us domain by now.


Why would they want to break or redirect thousands (millions?) of existing links and confuse many non tech people who get redirected to a .us site?

Sure it might make us on HN feel good that .com does not equal USA and we are the center of the world, but it would make little sense otherwise.


Well, it would stop confusing the other 2 billion people on the internet that aren't in the USA.


I think the crowd here over estimates how tech savvy everyone else is, or whom actually are aware of the .us domain, and also care enough to think it should redirect there.


But we already see that non-tech-savvy people go to Amazon.com from the UK and expect to be able to buy things that they can't buy. Having a .us domain would be less confusing, for most of the people on the internet.


If you visit the amazon.com site from outside the US it should tell you you're visiting the US store and recommend you visit the local site in your country with a button that looks like your country's flag.


So, anyone not targeting every nation on earth must not use GTLDs?


Why?


Don't ask me, ask the people complaining about US stores using GTLDs.


True. But if they can "personalize" the price they show me when I buy books, why they can't personalize the web site and tell me these services are not available in my country?


This is how you know it's just as much investor marketing as it is to get early adopters excited; they want their overseas investors to know that they're not just sitting on their laurels this quarter.


They better do something meaningful. AMZN investors are not impressed lately. Some of them waited for an year to be break-even :) But that's different story...


The is certainly space for a "Uber/Airbnb for home services", but I am not sure Amazon will be it. What startups are in this space, and do they have any traction?



Task Rabbit is pretty good and well known, and now there's Magic which sits on top of it. There's a lot more but they're smaller.


To me, Magic seems like a ChaCha that takes your credit card number and makes a few calls. That's fine, but it seems that places like Task Rabbit and Amazon Home are attempting to guarantee some level of satisfaction and results.

I've seen a couple other startups like Magic too. It's basically paying people to google for you. That might disrupt the personal assistant space but probably not the market for home services.


I always thought TaskRabbit was for unskilled jobs. More assembling IKEA desks than plumbing and electrics.


There is are many including http://www.pro.com, http://www.redbeacon.com, http://www.homeadvisor.com/. Apparently the first one is backed by Bezos Expeditions! http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-09-24/pro-dot-com-...


Recently launched Super Fast Yellow Pages: http://www.superfastyellowpages.com/


Seems like Taskrabbit sort of fills this space at the moment, unaware of other startups in the space though



Given the price that Angie's List is trading at - $370m market cap on $315m in sales - I'm surprised someone like Amazon doesn't just acquire them to jump start a business like this.


I think as an idea, it's great and there has to be a large market for it.

Of course, I'm in India and I personally might opt for a service like this. There are some startups here but noone of the size and 'integrity' as Amazon.

I'm not sure about the old-school family type people who'd rather go to a local plumber, or carpenter to get their work done.


I first thought this was going to be "AWS for your home server", and then of course I was disappointed.


It's interesting but I don't understand what problem this solves, at least in the area of home improvement.

The problem in this area is finding someone you trust and is competent. I don't see how this solves that.

For lower skilled work I guess there might be something here.


> The problem in this area is finding someone you trust and is competent. I don't see how this solves that.

Amazon is extending the trust you have for their brand to local workers that they've screened. They'll even guarantee your satisfaction. That's how they're solving trust and competence.


For a second I believed this was an april's fools joke due to:

http://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Home-Services-Hire-Grazer/dp/B0...


Amazon seems like the Walmart of internet services. Amazon will find a niche that is profitable then, drive down the margins in that sector and bankrupt companies in its wake.


This is cool, my wife saw a report on one of the morning talk shows and mentioned it. Glad to see a reputable company (Amazon) who knows the consumer and how to deal with lots of small businesses is going to be a goto point for sourcing home project help.


It looks like if there is any company that can pull off a service like "magic", it will be Amazon instead.


Do they offer IKEA furniture assembly services?

This usually is a torturous process.


I believe IKEA offers that locally through partners. That being said, someone on Fiverr might be willing to help.


Amazon is a company which has no clear vision...


I had attempted to bring a product like this to life a while back: http://gigyard.com/

Maybe I should re-visit it.


Exactly what zipcodes DO support goat grazing?


Goat Grazing? Maybe targeted for April 1?


I don't remember when I last saw an ad so badly shot. Seems like any typical VC-backed startup that would appear on HN would do a better job.


2 days early for April Fools


Mechanical Turk for your house, soon to be replaced by real AI. Everyone wants to be the next plantation owner.




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