The Secrets of Life at Amazon

The Internship

Last year they made a movie about trying to land a job at a high-tech company, just to enjoy all of its amazing perks. But this week Amazon’s CEO revealed some of their own employee benefits, and they’re absolutely mind-boggling. What’s it like working at Amazon? They’ll give you money for taking classes that can help you get a better job somewhere else, and when you finally quit, they’ll give you thousands of dollars more!

And there’s also some very strange perks that could only happen on a Kindle…

Here’s Amazon’s original list of employee perks. But it was just last Thursday when Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, shared some wild new stories about how Amazon’s been “empowering” their employees. In a detailed letter to shareholders, Bezos revealed that now Amazon will actually pay 95% of an employees tuition for classes in high-demand fields like nursing or airplance mechanics. Wait a minute — are those skills even relevant to careers at Amazon? No! That’s what’s so stunning about this program. “The goal is to enable choice,” Bezos explains, since for some employees Amazon’s just going to be a stepping stone to a job somewhere else, and “If the right training can make the difference, we want to help.”

But there’s an even more drastic program which takes this philosophy to the extreme. The name of the program is “Pay to Quit,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like. “Once a year, we offer to pay our associates to quit,” Bezos explains. First it’s $2,000, and then the next year it’s $3,000, and then $4,000 the next year — all the way up to $5,000. “The headline on the offer is ‘Please Don’t Take This Offer’,” Bezos explains, but it encourages employees to really think about what they’re wanting from their careers. “In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”

And to keep employees even more happy, Amazon let’s many of them work from their homes. For example, if you’re calling Amazon’s Kindle support line, they may end up answering your call from their own apartment! “This flexibility is ideal for many employees…” Bezos points out, either because they have young children, or just because they prefer working from home! Just keep that in mind the next time you press the Mayday button on your Kindle Fire HDX — because you may be seeing video of an Amazon support staffer from their very own home!

In fact, that led to the strangest stories in Bezos’s letter — about some of those only-on-a-Kindle moments. Imagine being the Amazon employee who answers a customer’s call for help, only to discover that their question is: Will you marry me? This has happened 35 different times, according to Bezos. And another 648 times, Amazon employees have answered a Mayday call, only to discover that the caller wanted to sing them a song!

And sometimes the request is even stranger: Can you read me a bedtime story? “Pretty cool,” says Bezos — who points out that that’s happened at least 3 different times. Will you sing me “Happy Birthday”? That’s happened at least 44 times. I don’t know what’s stranger — the fact that customers are making these strange requests, or that Amazon is counting the number of times that it happens. According to Bezos, there have been 109 different times when a customer’s contacted Amazon’s Mayday support line to ask: “Can you help me order a pizza?”

And Bezos points out that — by a very slim margin — customers prefer ordering from Pizza Hut instead of Domino’s.

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