SEATTLE, WA — Amazon insiders report that the company is in talks with school bus companies to create a partnership in which the buses and their passengers will help handle Amazon’s increased delivery demands during the holiday season.
As for how the proposed school bus partnership would work, Amazon employees say packages for certain neighborhoods would be retrieved by the bus drivers at a local warehouse before picking up the schoolchildren at the end of each school day. The drivers would then distribute packages to the children according to each child’s exact block of residence.
“Suppose a child lives on a block where two homes are due to receive packages; he or she would be given those packages to drop off on their way home from the bus,” said a company representative.
According to paperwork outlining the plans for the unique partnership, school bus companies would be paid for these services. As for the children, they will receive academic credit and grades for their work as part of a “Kidternships for the Holidays” program tied into schools’ curricula.
“We are especially proud to be able to provide children and their families with this experience. It is our belief that if children can handle taking on jobs like paper routes, they can assist us with delivering packages. In exchange, we are pleased to provide them with academic credit and valuable work experience,” said one Amazon representative.
Other company sources, however, say the initiative benefits Amazon more than the children.
“Since this program is not a job but is tied in with class lessons and homework, it’s exempt from child labor laws. I have to admit it’s a clever workaround, but we all know it primarily benefits us,” said an Amazon employee who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A teacher from a local school who will be involved in the program agrees. “I have never seen our lesson plans get changed so quickly; even those of us who work here can’t get that done very easily. I don’t know exactly what Jeff Bezos did to get this program rolling so quickly, but I hear it involves implying schools won’t get their own packages delivered on schedule if they don’t agree,” said the teacher, who asked to be unnamed. “And people would be surprised to know that we get a lot of our school supplies from Amazon. We’re as reliant on it as the public is,” she added.
As for how Amazon plans to handle packages that arrive late or damaged, or are not delivered at all, school representatives state harsh penalties will be involved.
“We’ve been forced to…I mean, we have decided to expel children who do not successfully deliver their packages. They will also receive failing grades for that task. This will be made very clear to our students as well as their families at the start of the program, and we do not anticipate any major problems that can’t be resolved,” said a school official involved in outlining the partnership’s arrangements.
Calls to Jeff Bezos as well as Amazon’s official media liaison were not returned as of press time.
Note: This is yet another “fake news” article by me; I was inspired to write it after reading a true piece on Mashable about Amazon partnering with taxicabs to deliver packages during the holiday rush. I responded on Twitter by joking that they should think of doing this with school buses and kids — and then realized I should write about it for fun! Hope you enjoyed it. 🙂
In today’s news, it was reported that the price of the still relatively new Amazon Fire Phone has been slashed to just 99 cents. Yes, CENTS. Here, see for yourself.
It should be noted that that’s the price if you take a two-year contract with AT&T, the phone’s exclusive provider. Still, that’s a steep markdown considering the phone launched just a couple of months ago in July at a price of 199 DOLLARS with a two-year AT&T contract.
The TV report I saw said that this drastic price cut appears to be in response to poor sales of the phone, saying it has been “struggling.”
I have some thoughts on this “struggling” product, which I feel shouldn’t be dismissed just yet — I think we may one day be surprised by its longevity and eventual popularity.
First, some background
I don’t own the phone, although I have been intrigued about buying it for two reasons. First of all, I like Amazon and their products; for example, I own their Kindle PaperWhite and find it great. So I’d be open to a phone made by them. Secondly, I don’t currently own a smartphone; I still have an old flip phone. (Stop laughing!) So for me, this would be a fine transition into the smartphone realm.
However, I do see that people who already have a smartphone won’t necessarily be compelled to switch. The Fire Phone’s operating system is a custom-built version of an Android system, so it doesn’t offer the full spectrum of Android functionality; for instance, from what I’ve read, you can’t use many popular Google apps and services on it.
According to this article by Ryan Whitwam for Extreme Tech, “When you buy a Fire Phone, you get Amazon’s services in place of Google’s. That means no Chrome, Play Store, Google Play Music, Google Drive, or Gmail. Instead you get Silk Browser, Amazon Appstore, Cloud Player, Cloud Drive, and Amazon’s generic email client.”
Clearly, this makes the Fire Phone less than appealing to customers who are used to a full-fledged Android operating system and enjoy these Google services, or those with an iPhone and the wide range of apps and services available on that system as well.
Once you add in the fact that customers would have to use AT&T, you can see why the Fire Phone does have some issues; I know I personally prefer Verizon, so this aspect alone has been a major reason why I decided against movin’ on up into the smartphone world with this phone even though I was initially excited by it. So it’s even more understandable to me why someone who already has one, especially if they’re not already an AT&T customer, would hesitate to make this change.
I also didn’t like Amazon’s advertising strategy for the Fire Phone at first. Have you seen the commercials for it, featuring pretentious kids schooling adults around them about how great it is? If not, here’s one of them, from the Fire Phone’s YouTube channel:
When I first saw these ads, I thought, “Does Amazon really want its phone to be considered a kids’ phone?”
Yet think of this advertising strategy in light of what Apple did over the years to position itself as a leader in the tech industry: early in its history, and even today, Apple has made deals with schools to provide them with computer equipment for free. This has been a great charitable move on their part, but let’s be honest — there’s also a benefit to them as well. They’ve wanted Apple to be familiar to kids in order to plants the roots for a strong customer base in the years to come; their view from the outset was that the system you first learn on is likely to be the one you’ll buy later on. This approach has been well-documented; take a look at this article by Todd Oppenheimer in TheAtlantic,which mentions how Apple “shrewdly” went about turning “legions of families into Apple loyalists” with strategies like this.
So my guess is that’s what Amazon is striving for, too — gaining customers in the future by planting the seeds now. Step one: target kids in the ads and now slash the price so low there’s really no barrier to getting one. That way, parents are more likely get the phone for their kids — or better yet, kids may proactively start begging their parents for one.
Then, who knows, maybe some parents might actually be more open to switching their own phones once they have exposure to it from their kids; but even without that, those children may one day be loyal Fire Phone customers due to their exposure to it at an early age. I mean, I know I have a fondness for Apple computers to this day from my time learning on an Apple IIe in school! So it just might work, and is likely the best advertising approach Amazon could use at this phase in the Fire Phone’s existence.
It’s not just about the phone
Besides, I don’t think the Fire Phone is supposed to be a powerhouse product on its own, but rather a driver of increased sales for Amazon overall. This fits in with the business approach commonly used by Jeff Bezos of Amazon, who’s always been more focused on long-term standing versus short-term gain. Some examples:
Even in Amazon’s early days, Bezos wanted to offer products more cheaply to build a strong customer base, even if it was at a loss to Amazon in the moment.
He was also willing to direct customers to other external sites if they searched for a product he didn’t sell; the goal was to make Amazon a customer’s first stop, even if that meant referring them on to other businesses when necessary. (I’ve noticed Amazon still does this to this day, although their inventory has grown so much it’s rarely necessary to be directed to an external site now.)
Jeff also allowed customers to post negative reviews of products before anyone else did so; people found that shocking at the time, saying it would adversely affect the site’s business, but Jeff wanted customers to view Amazon as a place they could trust buying from, as well as a one-stop-shop where they could both research and purchase the right product for them.
Amazon has also sold its hardware, like its Kindle e-readers and tablets, relatively cheaply; the focus has typically been on gaining customers and purchases for accompanying electronic books and services versus on sales of the hardware itself. Similarly, its Fire Phone offers Firefly which makes it easier to identify and purchase products directly from Amazon; you can read more on that feature in this CNN article by Doug Gross, which confirms this approach and says that “the Fire Phone is designed to pull you into Amazon’s growing universe of products and services and then keep you there.”
So to me, the Fire Phone is just another example of Amazon hardware being offered at low prices in order to boost its sales in other areas. This makes the phone a win-win situation for Amazon; I can see loyal Amazon customers enjoying that benefit, and Amazon is positioned to really benefit from that convenience to the customer. The phone becomes just one small part in its overall strategy to increase sales even further.
Plus, down the line I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon’s phone offers better features than it does currently, much like the evolution of the Kindle, which took years to develop and improve.
So, don’t dismiss the Fire Phone just yet. It may seem to be “struggling,” but that’s only if you look at it in black-and-white terms, on a standalone basis. I believe it has some tricks up its sleeve that may just position it for long-term success in ways many might not expect — and besides, it’s just one part of Amazon’s overall, big-picture approach for ongoing growth in the future.