And I said, “No, we need – it’s my brilliant insight — we need knee pads”. I was very serious, and this person looked at me like I was the stupidest person he’d ever seen, and like, “I’m working for this person. This is great” And said, “What we need is packing tables”
And I look at this person and I thought that was the smartest idea I’d ever heard. The next day we got packing tables, and I think we doubled our productivity.
That early stage by the way of Amazon.com where we were so unprepared is probably one of the luckiest things that ever happened to us because it formed a culture of customer service in every department of the company, every single person in the company because we had to work with our hands so close to the customers making sure those orders went out, really set up a culture that served us well, and that is our goal to be earth’s most customer-centric company.
And I think this is zero now which I am suspecting means in the meantime it’s trying to turn over to questions. So I will do so.
So we have time for about three questions.
Female Audience: [Inaudible]
Jeff Bezos: The balcony always gets kind of neglected, isn’t it? Yeah, okay, go ahead.
Female Audience: [Question Inaudible]
Jeff Bezos: What advice would I give to an Internet startup company now? Well, my advice would be the same for any kind of entrepreneur and that is make sure that you are focused on something you’re passionate about. So if you look at the early Internet companies they were started and focused on doing something that they thought was very interesting long before the Internet was fashionable in any way. We are currently an underdog once again. We’ve been in business for six years and there was exactly one year where we were not the underdog and that was 1999.
I like the underdog years because it makes – I like it when all the people we hired, their parents told them they were crazy. Like that was kind of the good era, fortunately it’s back. In 1999, all the parents were like, you know, given their brothers and sisters high-fives, my son is working at Amazon.com. So that’s a very – you can’t follow the fashion when you’re trying to do a start-up company, or I think really anything in life. But you have to — as an entrepreneur if you’re going to build a company, pick something you think is interesting, that has the intersection of genuinely creating real customer value and just stay right there and let the wave catch you.
Male Audience: Grant Hutchins from Oklahoma. I was wondering what were some of the other products you considered and also on kind of a personal note, you sell a lot of books but do you ever read them?
Jeff Bezos: On the list — the list was built by looking at mail-order sales. So when I got the original list, it was sorted in order of size by mail-order. So for example, apparel is a very large mail-order category. So apparel was near the top of the list. That’s — the things that were – that ended up near the top of the list were books as number one obviously. Music, videos, computer software, computer hardware, those were the kinds of things near the top of that first ranked list — and I’m sorry – I am terrible at multipart questions. What was your second question?
Male Audience: I asked, do you read books very often?
Jeff Bezos: Do I read books? Yes, in fact, I do. In fact, my parents will attest to the fact that I was difficult to punish as a child because I was quite happy to be grounded. And I’d stay in my room and read. I’m a big science-fiction fan and that’s probably – I’d say at least half of my reading is science fiction and it has been ever since I spent the summers at my grandfather’s ranch which I had to say I know that we’re having geography problems with the entire city but that was in Texas, not New Mexico. In fact, it’s only about 90 miles from where we are right now. But so that had a little sort of Andrew Carnegie style library in that town and which is very tiny library but like – I have been a third of the collection which was all donated by citizens of this 3000 person town. But a third of the collection was science-fiction, because there was this one guy in town who loved science fiction.
And so that’s been a long love affair. And then my wife inflicts good fiction on me every once in a while and which I wasn’t loving but my favorite novel is Remains Of The Day.
Male Audience: Hello, my name is Ian. I am from Los Angeles. I’d like to thank you for Amazon.com. It saved me many times. I couldn’t get the book at my local bookstore but that’s not what I want to ask.