Hundred Percent Interviews: – Let’s talk about the pre-history of Amazon. Were you a tech wizard back when the internet was first gaining prominence?
Jeff Bezos: Not at all. I was the kind of guy who, it usually took me 30 to 45 minutes just to change my watch for Daylight Savings Time. I wasn’t a tech guy. And I didn’t live in Silicon Valley.
– Where did you live?
Yonkers. I lived in Yonkers. And I didn’t do technology. I did, however, realize that the internet was growing exponentially.
– Most of our readers don’t know what the word exponentially means.
In this context, it means, like, really, really fast.
– OK. So, you saw the internet growing, and then you created Amazon.com?
No. Not at first. In 1993, I started a website called iceicebaby.com.
– Like the Vanilla Ice song?
Well. No. My site didn’t do rap music. At iceicebaby.com, we sold actual ice. As in, you could go to iceicebaby.com, and purchase a seven pound bag of ice for $3.18. So, yeah. Keep in mind that cool beverages were really popular back then. You know? We wanted to get in the internet’s growth, as well as the cool beverage trend. Hence, iceicebaby.com. But the thing is, the logistics of selling ice through the mail, those logistics just don’t work too well logistically. You know what I mean?
– Are you saying that you shipped packages of ice, and the ice melted?
– So what did you do next?
I started Amazon.com in 1994. Amazon is a site very similar to iceicebaby.com. However, iceicebaby.com specialized in ice, while Amazon.com specializes in non-ice. All forms of non-ice. Well, I mean, at first Amazon focused on just books.
– Why books?
Well. The thing about books is, people read them. Also, books don’t melt during shipment.
– What was Amazon.com like in 1994?
That first year, we only had three books for sale. Farmer John’s Almanac, The Autobiography of Pee Wee Herman, and 101 Uses For Bicarbonate Soda. Then in 1995, we stuck with those three books. Then in 1996, we expanded to six books, and also two brands of toothpaste. Then in 1997, we went back to our original strategy of offering three books, and no toothpaste. In 1998, we got rid of all the books, and we went back to selling ice. And then in 1999, we offered a selection of 1.3 million different books. And over the years, we’ve added a wide variety of other products.
– Early on, did you think you’d be able to compete against the likes of Barnes and Noble and Borders?
Yes. What I did was, I went into various Borders and Barnes & Noble locations throughout the country, and I tapdanced for hours a day. And people were mesmerized by me. Tapdancing is very mesmerizing.
– I guess so.
So, yeah. If you want to be an entrepreneur, I mean, it’s not enough to just say, “OK. I have a good product or service.” You know. That’s what the BETAMAX guys did. They just said, “OK. We have a good product or service. BETAMAX.” But as we all know, BETAMAX never established itself as the mainstream video format. Most people were all like, “BETAMAX is gay. We use VHS.” This was back when it was socially acceptable to call things gay. But, you know, BETAMAX was not successful, even though it was a good product. In business, sometimes you gotta put on those tap dancing shoes and go on the road and make things happen. That’s what I did, and also what Colonel Sanders did.
– Colonel Sanders tapdanced?
Well. I meant, metaphorically. He tap danced metaphorically.
– Did you also tap dance metaphorically?
No. I tapdanced literally. Colonel Sanders tapdanced metaphorically. As in, he walked around with, like, a bolo tie and a white suit, and he had a cane, and he attacked people, and he told them to eat chicken or open a KFC franchise. The point is, he didn’t just stop at having a good product or service. I mean, he knew his chicken was good, especially since he used lots of MSG. But he knew that business is not just about having good chicken, literally or metaphorically. You also need to do some literal or metaphorical tapdancing.
– Right. OK. Let’s talk about the current operations of Amazon, a company that does over $100 billion a year in sales. How does your company fulfill all its orders? What is it like in those warehouses?
The thing is, we don’t have warehouses. Because, I mean, think about it. We have a jillion items for sale. It would be really hard to put them all in one place, and then, like, let’s say you order a cow bell, and a pair of Adidas, and a bucket filled with jello, and those three things are in completely different parts of the warehouse, so, like, it’s gonna take forever for us to put all that stuff in one box. That’s why we don’t have any warehouses at all.
– So how do yo fulfill orders?
That’s the secret of our business. We don’t fulfill orders. What we do is, we just take your money and run. You know what I mean? We don’t send you anything. You order stuff, and then we charge you, and then we make you forget about it all. We call you up, and we use a mind control technique, and you don’t even remember that you paid $98.43 for a cowbell, Adidas, and a bucket filled with Jello.
– That’s fascinating.
Yeah. I mean, fulfilling orders–that’s doing business the old fashioned way. We’re an innovative company.
– And what about drones?
The hell with ’em. Who needs drones? I’m not even 100% sure what a drone is. People keep on asking me about drones. I don’t know what they are.
– OK. Thanks for the interview.
No problem. Also, if you want 99% off any purchase at Amazon, use this promo code: ICEICEBABY.
– How can you afford to give people 99% off?
We can afford it, because we don’t fulfill any orders.
– Oh. Yeah. OK.