What You Might Not Know About Amazon

Sure, sure, like most of us, you use Amazon often to buy things online and have them delivered to your home without the hassle of actually having to go out to the store. So, given your buying familiarity with Amazon, you might think you know quite a bit about the company. But perhaps there is much more to know.

Indeed, in a recent book by Brad Stone, titled “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon,” profiled by Business Insider, much is revealed that you might not know. (And yes, big surprise, you can purchase the book on Amazon).

So, you might know that when Amazon launched in 1995, it was a web site that only sold books. And you may know that from that early start, founder Jeff Bezos wanted Amazon to become the “everything” online shopping experience. But getting on to more obscure facts: Bezos originally wanted to name the company “Cadabra.” Ultimately, he was convinced otherwise, because that sounded too much like “cadaver.”

In the beginning, whenever a purchase was made on the site, a bell would ring. Could you imagine that happening now? The Amazon office workers would go deaf from constant bell ringing.

Here is an ironic surprise — early on, Bezos, his wife, and the third company employee held meetings in a local Barnes and Noble.

Bezos back in the day, believed that employees should work at least 60 hours per week. This one may be a bit less of a surprise. But suffice it to say, the concept of work-life balance was not embraced.

Amazon was caught flat-footed by Christmas season 1998 — not having enough hands on deck to deal with online orders. Going forward, it was vowed that there never again would be insufficient labor to deal with demand; and hence, the later hiring of seasonal workers.

Did you know that Amazon tried to launch its own “auction” site to compete when eBay came into its own? This represents one of Amazon’s failures.

Prior to Google’s Street View, Amazon started a project called Block View. Amazon dropped this project in 2006, and then Google ran with Street View starting in 2007. This is another failure of Amazon, among many successes.

Here’s one for you — in the early 2000s, Amazon’s operations manager encouraged employees who had reached important goals during the tense holiday season to let rip primal screams to ease tension.

You may use a Kindle, but that was not the originally contemplated name for the device, which instead was “Fiona,” based on a character in a futuristic novel. However, “Kindle” prevailed given its suggestion of starting a fire.

Finally for now, apparently Bezos was very harsh at times with employees and could be quite explosive. Accordingly, it is rumored that he hired a coach to help him with his tone.

Did you learn anything new?

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please email him at ejsinrod@duanemorris.com with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual partners.