Amazon Celebrates 20 Years

Twenty years ago this July, Amazon sold its first book from Jeff Bezos’s garage. Since then it’s gotten slightly bigger. How well do you know Seattle’s e-tail behemoth that will one day swallow the world?

By Matthew Halverson July 13, 2015 Published in the July 2015 issue of Seattle Met

Jeff bezos illustration lcpcuy

See answers at the bottom of the page.

1. Amazon was almost called Cadabra. Why did founder Jeff Bezos change the name?

a.  Because it sounded too much like Cadbury 
b.  Because it sounded too much like cadaver
c.  Because it sounded too much like cat in a bra
d.  Because it was just a really dumb name

2. Which of these was the first book sold on Amazon?

a.  Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama
b.  Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought, by Douglas Hofstadter
c.  To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
d.  The Man Who Would Be King, by Rudyard Kipling 

3. Although based in Washington, Amazon is incorporated in Delaware. Why?

a.  Over the last century the state has enacted several business-friendly laws, attracting more than 50 percent of publicly traded companies in the U.S.
b.  That’s where Bezos buried the first person who crossed him.
c.  It was the dying wish of his business professor at Delaware Technical Community College.
d.  He just liked the shape of the state.

4. True or False:

After suing Amazon for trademark infringement in 1999, Minneapolis-based brick-and-mortar Amazon Bookstore—which had already been in business for nearly three decades—agreed to a settlement that saw it relinquishing ownership of its name and then licensing the name back from the online giant. 

5. Amazon’s stock dropped $12.18, or 26 percent, in one day in June 2000. Why?

a.  Rumors began circulating that Bezos was ill and might need to step down.
b.  A nationwide wood pulp shortage raised the cost of cardboard 40 percent.
c.  Lehman Bros. released a 27-page investment report eviscerating the company, claiming it “will run out of cash within the next four quarters, unless it manages to pull another financing rabbit out of its rather magical hat.”
d.  A Forbes reporter overheard Bezos saying, “You know what I think would make a great investment? A newspaper!”

6. Finish this Bezos quote: “One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to ______________________.”

a.  invent your way out
b.  cry for help
c.  wait until you’ve been delivered, at which point a loyal Amazon shopper will most likely return you to a fulfillment center, where
 a friendly Amazon employee will be happy to restock you on our shelves. Oh, you want to go home? I’m sorry, once you’re in our system, there’s no escape.

7. In 2014 a local blogger used census data and his own Amazon employment estimates—roughly 15,000 new hires in Seattle since April 2010, 75 percent of whom were male—to explain what phenomenon?

a.  The “tech bro-ification of downtown”
b.  The rising cost of hoodies and flip-flops in Seattle
c.  His inability to find a date
d.  The arrival of the “SLU pew, a stench to rival the Tacoma Aroma” 

8. What, as some business analysts have speculated, is the ultimate goal of Amazon Fresh, the company’s grocery delivery service, which rolled out in Seattle in 2007 and expanded to San Francisco and New York this decade?

a.  To copyright the word fresh
b.  To develop a nationwide same-day delivery network for many of its nongrocery items
c.  To encourage healthy eating habits so customers can live longer lives and spend more money at Amazon
d.  To bankrupt Safeway, against which Bezos had carried a years-long grudge after an employee failed to double-bag his groceries one time, which led to the loss of a really expensive jar of sunflower seed butter 

9. Before the Kindle was launched in 2007, its code name during development was Fiona. Where did the Kindle team get that name?

a.  From a book by Seattleite Neal Stephenson, in which a man steals a valuable interactive textbook for his daughter…named Fiona.
b.  Bezos is not only an avid fan of the singer Fiona Apple, but he also thought it would be a sly dig at competitor Apple, which wouldn’t release its first tablet for nearly three more years.
c.  Bezos is an avid fan of the band the Knack and had for years believed the song “My Sharona” was actually “My Fiona.”

10. Amazon bough Zappos, the online shoe and clothing store, for $1.2 billion in 2009. Which of these does its CEO, Tony Hsieh, have inked on his head?
Quiz pic ijylqb
11. What did Andrew Heumann of the architecture firm NBBJ say was the inspiration for the three massive plant-filled biospheres planned for Amazon’s new South Lake Union corporate headquarters?

a.  “I’m not at liberty to say.”
b.  “We wanted to replicate the atmosphere of the Amazon rain forest—without the piranhas and anacondas and poisonous frogs, of course.”
c.  “We know from research that just the act of taking a walk in nature can lessen brain fatigue and stress.”
d.  “When I think of Amazon employees, I think of animals at the zoo trapped in cages.”


Credit nbbj fx6gtu

Courtesy NBBJ


12. One of the stranger revelations to come out of a 2011 lawsuit in which actress Huong Hoang sued IMDb—an Amazon company—for publishing her real age was that when dealing with customers the site’s employees use aliases from an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Which one?

a.  I Confess
b.  North by Northwest
c.  Shadow of a Doubt
d.  The Girl Was Young

13. In 2012, Amazon acquired robot manufacturer Kiva Systems and booted up 15,000 of its automatons at fulfillment centers across the country. In what way did Amazon encourage its employees to “cooperate” with the bots?

a.  By suggesting that humans read to them during their lunch break
b.  By holding an annual humans-and-droids talent show
c.  By labeling each robot with the name of an actual warehouse employee
d.  By requiring attendance at weekly screenings of The Terminator

14. In 2012 Washington, DC, resident Seth Horvitz mistakenly received a Sig Sauer 716 Patrol rifle after placing an order through Amazon. What had he actually bought?

a.  Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway, by Dave Barry
b.  a 39-inch LCD TV
c.  a bathrobe
d.  a Sig Sauer 522 Commando rifle

15. Match the once-promising kinda-famous actor with his/her comeback show produced by Amazon Studios.

a.  A corrupt judge listens to God and becomes a vigilante.
b.  A dysfunctional family bonds over its family business: guns.
c.  A young oboist learns that New York’s classical music scene is a little spicier than it seems.
d.  High school girls are getting sick—through technology?—and a doctor investigates.

i.  Mozart in the Jungle,  Gael García Bernal
ii.  Hand of God, Dana Delaney
iii.  Hysteria, Mena Suvari
iv.  Cocked, Jason Lee 

16. According to research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, the average customer spends $625 a year at Amazon. How much is spent by the average subscriber to Prime, the $99 annual membership that offers free two-day shipping and access to a Netflix-like streaming service?

a.  $600
b.  $900
c.  $1,200
d.  $1,500

17. How much did a two-story building in the heart of Amazon’s South Lake Union territory—last sold in 2007 for $3.5 million—fetch in January 2015?

a.  $3.6 million
b.  $6.2 million
c.  $9.5 million
d.  $1 billion

18. Which of these can you not hire someone to do through Amazon Home Services, which launched in spring 2015?

a.  Assemble your treadmill
b.  Unclog your drain
c.  Check your home for bedbugs
d.  Replace your windshield wipers
e.  Clear your land with goats
f.  Be your personal Amazon shopper  

19. In February 2015 the CIA’s chief information officer ominously announced that a project for which it had contracted Amazon had achieved “final operational capability.” To what was he referring?

a.  Drones that provide domestic surveillance and next-day shipping
b.  The launch of Amazon Email Service
c.  The rollout of the agency’s cloud-computing infrastructure
d.  The uploading of Jeff Bezos’s consciousness to the Internet so he can become the Internet

20. Which of these descriptions has been applied to Jeff Bezos’s unmistakable laugh (which allegedly sank a deal to acquire eBay)?

a.  A pulsing, mirthful bray
b.  A shotgun… It can be a little scary, actually
c.  A cross between a mating elephant seal and a power tool
d.  All of the above 

21. Why did Stephen Colbert flip Amazon the double bird in a June 2014 episode of The Colbert Report?

a.  It was delaying shipment of books from publisher Hachette—including Colbert’s own—over an e-book pricing dispute.
b.  It raised the price of Amazon Prime from $79 to $99.
c.  It refused to carry his books, which Bezos had called “seditious, subversive, and flat-out un-American.”
d.  Bezos insisted on pronouncing the silent T in Colbert.

22. Which of these is an actual passage from a review of the Fire Phone, the company’s disastrous 2014 entree into
the smartphone market?

a.  “…the Fire Phone is a remarkably efficient shopping machine. But it’s not a very good smartphone.”
b.  “It’s not that simple, it’s not intuitive, and the alternatives it offers for Google’s app suite just aren’t as good.”
c.  “When you look past its purchasing powers and its fringe benefits—which can’t be ignored—what you have left is a relatively unexciting handset.”
d.  “Should you buy It? Nope. Definitely not. None of the Fire Phone’s flaws are totally insufferable, but there’s just no reason to suffer them at all.”
e.  “The user interface on the Fire Phone, like the Fire Tablets, is a bloody mess.”
f.  All of the above

23. What was Jeff Bezos’s salary in 2014? 

a.  $81,840
b.  $818,400
c.  $8,184,000
d.  81,840 souls on which to feast

24. What is this, available on Amazon for $27.95?
Untitled 1 ccpimy

a.  A one-pound skirt steak
b.  A one-pound replica of human muscle
c.  A dog toy made to look like a pound of human muscle
d.  Amazon Meat, the next generation in laboratory-produced synthetic foodstuffs

25. When will Amazon overthrow the United States government and institute a consumer-based oligarchy?

a.  Take a deep breath, Chicken Little.
b.  They couldn’t really do that…could they?
c.  Hopefully never.
d.  It already has.


Answer Key

1 b, 2 b, 3 a, 4 True, 5 c, 6 a, 7 c, 8 b, 9 a, 10 a, 11 c, 12 b, 13 c, 14 b, 15 a Delaney, b Lee, c Bernal, d Suvari, 16 d, 17 c, 18 f, 19 c, 20 d, 21 a, 22 f, 23 a, 24 b, 25 Let’s not think about it.

Filed under
Show Comments