10 Mind Blowing Facts About Amazon

Your favorite online marketplace was once a garage marketplace

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Falling closely behind Walmart and CVS, is the third-largest retailer in the world. But what sets Amazon apart from its competitors is that everything is sold and purchased online. There’s no physical storefront. There’s no way for customers to see any products in person. The entire business model is built on trust, customer satisfaction and immediacy. The convenience that Amazon shopping offers their customers has brought this once small, and a bit unorganized, startup to the top. Here are ten facts about Amazon that might just blow your mind.

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1. When Amazon only sold books, a bell would ring in the office every time someone made a purchase

Most people don’t remember the days when Amazon was only an online marketplace for books. During the company’s early days, Barnes & Noble was a top competitor. CEO Jeff Bezos hired mobile billboards to drive near Barnes & Noble stores with signs that read “Can’t find what you wanted?” along with Amazon’s web address. Amazon went by the tagline “The Earth’s Largest Bookstore” until Barnes & Noble sued the company in 1997, stating the slogan was false. Amazon won the case and continued to use the slogan.

2. Amazon meetings were once held at Barnes & Noble

Bezos, his wife MacKenzie, and their third employee, Shel Kaphan, would meet in Barnes & Noble to discuss the business model and plans for the company. In 1996, Bezos met up with Barnes & Noble owners with hopes to partner but was rejected because they already had plans to launch a website soon.

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3. Amazon has a Pay to Quit program

Sounds kind of amazing, right? The program was launched in 2014 and currently offers employees $10,000 and three months’ salary to quit. The offer does come with a twist and is meant for entrepreneurial employees that want to be their own boss. A worker must join the Delivery Service Partner program, running a fleet of delivery trucks for Amazon where potential annual profits for business owners could be as much as $300,000.

4. Amazon breeds founders

Former Amazon employees have gone on to found top companies like Jason Kilar, the founder of Hulu and Vessel, and Charlie Cheever, the founder of Quora.

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5. Amazon began in the garage of founder Jeff Bezos' home

During the company’s initial beginnings, orders were processed in the garage of Jeff Bezos’s home in Bellevue, Washington. The servers used for Amazon required a lot of power, making it common for a fuse to blow when using a hairdryer or vacuum cleaner. The house has since been sold and the garage was converted into a living room. An oversized mailbox still remains, as it was installed by Bezos for large orders.

6. Bezos is said to have a temper with employees

In a lengthy book excerpt on the life of Jeff Bezos, writer Brad Stone asked employees what it is like working with the Amazon founder. The results were a bit shocking. Sarcastic phrases like "Are you lazy or just incompetent?" "I'm sorry, did I take my stupid pills today?" and  "Do I need to go down and get the certificate that says I'm CEO of the company to get you to stop challenging me on this?" are not uncommon. The book states that Bezos is “...capable of hyperbole and harshness...and over the years has delivered some devastating rebukes.”

7. The company once lost $4.8 million when its website went down for 40 minutes

In August 2013, Amazon services shut off for approximately 40 minutes. At the time, the company was bringing in a revenue of $120,000 per minute. What seems like a short time for a company to be down, was super costly for Amazon.

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8. Work life balance hasn’t always been a company value

In 1998 Amazon was extremely under-staffed for the Christmas holiday season and required employees to take a graveyard shift in the fulfillment centers. Several workers brought in family and friends to help meet demands. In the early beginnings, employees were also expected to work 60 hours per week, at minimum.

9. Amazon's Kindle was originally named Fiona

‘Fiona’ came from a character in The Diamond Age, a futuristic book by Neal Stephenson. The novel is about an engineer who steals a rare interactive textbook to give to his knowledge and learning-obsessed daughter, Fiona. 

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10. Amazon tried to build their own action site to beat out eBay

When eBay first launched in 1995 Bezos purchased a $40,000 skeleton of a bear from an Ice Age cave and posted it in the lobby of the company’s HQ. Obviously, the idea failed because most of us haven’t heard of the site today.

Related: What Everyone Bought on Amazon in June

Related: Dream ‘Celebrity Deathmatch’ Fights: Richard Branson vs. Elon Musk, Tim Cook vs. Jeff Bezos

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