Amazon’s Annual Shareholder Letter Talks Drones And Grocery Delivery, Not Sales And Supreme Court Cases

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Amazon’s annual shareholder letter from CEO Jeff Bezos is out today, and it includes a few juicy details on Amazon’s products, services and future plans, though not any hard data like how many dang Kindles Amazon has sold, of course. But some of the more interesting items on the report include updates on Amazon Fresh expansions (the company’s online grocery delivery service), Amazon’s “Pay to Quit” program which will pay unhappy warehouse workers to leave the company, and, oh yeah, they’re totally doing delivery by drone.

Totally, like that was not a PR stunt at all. Nope.

Drones!

In case you missed it, “Prime Air” was introduced at the end of last year as an in-house experiment which had Amazon testing delivery of small packages by autonomous delivery vehicles (drones). Bezos referred to them as “octocopters” in a 60 Minutes interview during which the company showed off the technology. The drones can reportedly carry packages of up to 5 pounds for 10 miles, which could mean you could take delivery in 30 minutes or less. You know, like pizza.

Of course there are a few issues with those plans, including commercial regulations, the placement of Amazon warehouses outside of densely populated urban centers where drone delivery makes sense, and not to mention the fact that gun-toting Americans could easily make “free stuff from the sky” a fun, new national pastime.

But no matter, drones are definitely in the works, says Bezos today:

“The Prime Air team is already flight testing our 5th and 6th generation aerial vehicles, and we are in the design phase on generations 7 and 8.”

7 and 8! So that’s like any day now!

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Amazon Pays (Warehouse) Workers To Quit

The company also revealed its “Pay to Quit” program, borrowed from its own Zappos division, which will pay Amazon’s warehouse workers up to $5,000 to quit their jobs. (Yes, just “fulfillment center” employees, mind you. Developers wanting seed money as they run off to build their own startups are out of luck.)

Explains Bezos:

It was invented by the clever people at Zappos, and the Amazon fulfillment centers have been iterating on it. Pay to Quit is pretty simple. Once a year, we offer to pay our associates to quit.

The first year the offer is made, it’s for $2,000. Then it goes up one thousand dollars a year until it reaches $5,000. The headline on the offer is “Please Don’t Take This Offer.” We hope they don’t take the offer; we want them to stay. Why do we make this offer? The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.

Usually people want an honest day’s wage in a safe work environment with reasonable goals and decent working conditions. Not, you know, this.

Oh, and workers also want to be paid for the half hour they’re required to wait in line to leave their workplace so they can be searched for stolen goods - a case that’s made its way to the Supreme Court, in fact.

Groceries

Amazon also offered a little tidbit regarding its grocery delivery service, Amazon Fresh, which is now available in Seattle, L.A. and San Francisco. Bezos confirmed the service is expanding to new markets, as has been previously reported, but was vague on the details:

We’ll continue our methodical approach – measuring and refining Amazon Fresh – with the goal of bringing this incredible service to more cities over time.

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Everything Else You Already Knew

As for the other highlights, much of it is a rehashing of things Amazon watchers have already heard, but it’s handy to have it all spelled out in one place.

A few of the notable stats and details:

  • Prime: over 1 million customers joined in December; now “tens of millions” of members worldwide; 20 million+ eligible products.
  • Prime Instant Video: 40,000+ movies and TV episodes; exclusives include: Downton Abbey, Under the Dome, The Americans, Justified, Grimm, Orphan Black (OK, Amazon, thanks for this one), Suits, and kids programs SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, and Blue’s Clues. Some of the originals include: Alpha House, Bosch, The After, Mozart in the Jungle, and Transparent.
  • Kindle: You can read it on a plane during takeoff and landing! Amazon says it tested this on a plane once using 150 Kindles.
  • Publishing: CreateSpace, Kindle Singles, and Kindle Direct Publishing were joined in 2013 by Kindle Worlds, the literary journal Day One, eight new Amazon Publishing imprints; Amazon Publishing also launched in the UK and Germany.
  • Fire TV: No, they won’t talk sales numbers. Offers over 200,000 movies and TV episodes; lets you access Netflix, Hulu Plus, VEVO, WatchESPN, and more.
  • Appstore: over 200,000 apps, nearly 200 countries; added Amazon Coins.
  • Audible: “millions” of customers and audiobooks; nearly 600 million listening hours in 2013.
  • AWS: 280 services and features added in 2013; 10 AWS regions around the world, including the East Coast of the U.S., two on the West Coast, Europe, Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney, Brazil, China, and a government-only region called GovCloud; 26 availability zones across regions and 51 edge locations for its content distribution network.
  • Employees: a few details about various programs including Pay to Quit (see above); Virtual Contact Center (a work from home program); Career Choice (pre-paid tuition); Veteran Hiring (hiring armed forces)
  • Warehouses: 96 fulfillment centers and is on its 7th generation of fulfillment center design; YOU CAN TOUR THEM!: www.amazon.com/fctours is a whole site about how awesome it is to work in Amazon’s warehouses.
  • HQ: “Added 420,000 square feet of new headquarters space in Seattle and broke ground on what will become four city blocks and several million square feet of new construction.” Nothing about the crazy, soap bubble design.
  • Amazon Fashion: …is getting serious: new 40,000 square foot photo studio in Brooklyn and now shoot an average of 10,413 photos every day in the studio’s 28 bays.
  • Sellers: Fulfillment by Amazon grew more than 65% last year.
  • Pay with Amazon: No numbers regarding adoption. Some customer called Cymax Stores, an online furniture retailer, is using it and it’s just great for them. “More in 2014.”
  • Amazon Smile: Charity program. Numbers? Total donations? Nah.
  • Kindle’s MayDay button:

Mayday Tech Advisors have received 35 marriage proposals from customers. 475 customers have asked to talk to Amy, our Mayday television personality. 109 Maydays have been customers asking for assistance with ordering a pizza. By a slim margin, Pizza Hut wins customer preference over Domino’s. There are 44 instances where the Mayday Tech Advisor has sung Happy Birthday to the customer. Mayday Tech Advisors have been serenaded by customers 648 times. And 3 customers have asked for a bedtime story.

Good to see Amazon taking informing shareholders seriously, yeah?

Read the whole thing here.

Image credits: Aim.org, Amazon