May 6th, 2011
Amazon is suddenly hiring new employees for customer service centers in six different states. Is this yet-another clue that Amazon’s planning to release a tablet-sized computer soon?
Just Wednesday Amazon announced they were building a new customer fulfillment center in Washington — 500,000-square-foot facility creating “several hundred” new full-time jobs. But last week Amazon also tucked six different press releases onto their web site, each one advertising a new hiring campaign at Amazon’s order fulfillment centers in one of six different states. (“Candidates should be highly motivated with drive, ambition and a passion for providing customers a first-class shopping experience.”) The press releases cite new hiring in each of the following regions.
The press releases are identical, except that there’s no mention of any technical support openings in the press release for Kentucky. And in addition, according to the Seattle Times “Amazon is looking for hundreds of additional technology workers for its expanding headquarters complex in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.
It’s hard to imagine why Amazon suddenly needs so many new employees all across the country — unless they’re anticipating a sudden spike in purchasing. And it seems to me that that “trigger” could be the release of a tablet-sized computing device. Amazon would pre-load the devices with a slick shopping application, and would probably offer ways to connect the devices into their discount shipping program. If Amazon were planning the release of such a device, they’d definitely want to build up their ability to fulfill the extra orders!
And there’s one reason why Amazon would need service centers all across the country. Amazon’s “Prime” shipping program specifically promises free two-day shipping on orders — and a discount on the even speedier one-day shipping. Maybe Amazon anticipates a flood of new tablet owners signing up for the Prime” program, making it even more important to fill orders from a nearby state, ensuring the speedy delivery times while reducing Amazon’s own shipping costs.
Of course, it’s possible that Amazon.com is just expanding beyond its current capability. “Many years ago, Amazon’s requirements reached a point where many of our systems could no longer be served by any commercial solution,” Jeff Bezos revealed Wednesday in a letter to shareholders, because “our key data services store many petabytes of data and handle millions of requests per second.” Maybe he’s learned a lesson — especially since this year Amazon’s sales have been 38% higher than they were for the same period a year ago. But it’s also possible that he’s learned a different lesson from Amazon’s experience with the Kindle.
Namely, the value of selling consumers a really cool device which lets them buy things from Amazon.com.