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OM in the News: The Drones Will Have to Wait at Amazon

December 27, 2018

Instead of charting a future that makes drivers obsolete, Amazon is so dependent on them it’s copying FedEx to build a network of independent couriers around the country in a frantic effort to keep pace with demand that peaks in December. Jeff Bezos captured the world’s imagination when he appeared on CBS’s “60 Minutes” and pledged to fill the skies with package delivery drones. “Five years on, Amazon’s CEO is betting on decidedly more terrestrial technology: drivers.,” writes Material Handling & Logistics (Dec. 18, 2018) 

Bezos this summer issued a call-to-arms to aspiring entrepreneurs, offering them a chance to earn $300,000 a year by starting their own businesses making Amazon deliveries. All for as little as $10,000 up front, far less than the $250,000 it takes to open a fast-food franchise like McDonald’s or the $1 million required to buy a typical FedEx delivery business. Instead of charting a future that makes drivers obsolete, Amazon is so dependent on them it’s copying FedEx to build a network of independent couriers around the country in a frantic effort to keep pace with demand that peaks in December.

So far, Amazon has attracted tens of thousands of aspirants eager for a ground-floor opportunity serving the fast-growing company led by the world’s wealthiest man. Applicants go through phone interviews followed by several days of training. In just a few months, hundreds of new businesses have sprouted up around the country that employ thousands of drivers.

Shipping is one of Amazon’s fastest-growing expenses and consistently outpaces online sales growth. The company must find cheaper ways to deliver packages or its e-commerce business could be unsustainable without further price hikes.

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this delivery approach?
  2. Would your students be interested in joining such a business?
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