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Amazon: We Can Ship Items Before Customers Order

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the attn-estate-of-philip-k-dick dept.

Transportation 243

An anonymous reader writes "The WSJ is reporting that Amazon has obtained a patent for 'anticipatory shipping,'' and claims it knows its customers so well it can start shipping even before orders are placed. The technique could cut delivery time and discourage consumers from visiting physical stores. In the patent document, Amazon says delays between ordering and receiving purchases 'may dissuade customers from buying items from online merchants.' Of course, Amazon's algorithms might sometimes err, prompting costly returns. To minimize those costs, Amazon said it might consider giving customers discounts, or convert the unwanted delivery into a gift. 'Delivering the package to the given customer as a promotional gift may be used to build goodwill,' the patent said. Considering the problems that can arise when shipping something a customer did not order anticipatory shipping has the potential to backfire faster than an Amazon drone can deliver."

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243 comments

Will they also bill me? (2)

Sven-Erik (177541) | about 3 months ago | (#46007259)

Well, as long as they will not bill me before I have ordered I have no problems with this...

Re:Will they also bill me? (5, Interesting)

dhanson865 (1134161) | about 3 months ago | (#46007273)

Nope they won't charge you, the article says the items are held at a local level waiting for a matching order to show up before it knows where/who to deliver to so the billing process isn't predictive, just the inventory/distribution/shipping is.

Re:Will they also bill me? (5, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 3 months ago | (#46007355)

Nope they won't charge you, the article says the items are held at a local level waiting for a matching order to show up before it knows where/who to deliver to so the billing process isn't predictive, just the inventory/distribution/shipping is.

Yes, to the surprise of nobody, another badly written headline is a terrible summary. All distribution chains do this already -- What Amazon has patented is a particular set of data mining methods in the hope that it will result in a slight increase in efficiency in this process.

Of course, to anyone who's studied caching problems in CSci... this patent would be almost painfully obvious. It's the same thing we've been doing in computers since, erm... the 80286 days. But when you're a large company in America, the rules don't really apply to you.

Re:Will they also bill me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007385)

Obvious as long as you don't worry about warehouse and inventory issues.

I think no one has pushed for it, because it could turn into a logistics nightmare. At least computers will generate less errors than a human version of this.

Maybe this is a sign that software may start to make up the more than a decade it fell behind hardware.

Re:Will they also bill me? (4, Interesting)

schlachter (862210) | about 3 months ago | (#46007455)

It's pretty different from a standard caching operation.

It's more like a massively parallel distributed caching operation where the act of caching something removes it from the original data source until it is uncached, and where latency is at least a day or two and cost is very high.

The real innovation is knowing what to cache with enough confidence to act on it...with a granularity of a single customer.

Re:Will they also bill me? (5, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#46007517)

...with a granularity of a single customer.

They don't need granularity to a single customer. If Amazon can find 100 people in a city that have a 50% chance of ordering a product, then they can pre-ship 50 to that city's local distribution center. Then when approx. half of them actually place their orders, most of them will get it quickly, even though Amazon didn't know precisely which people would actually order. This will work better with more popular items, where the hits and misses are more likely to even out.

Re:Will they also bill me? (2)

db10 (740174) | about 3 months ago | (#46007927)

Then that's nothing new, that's JIT inventory forcasting.

Re:Will they also bill me? (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#46008049)

Then that's nothing new, that's JIT inventory forcasting.

Except that there is no inventory. When the predicted shipments arrive at the distribution center, they are immediately either sent out to the customers or returned to the originating warehouse.

Re:Will they also bill me? (4, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 3 months ago | (#46007625)

It's pretty different from a standard caching operation.

Okay... and your argument for this is...

It's more like a massively parallel distributed caching operation where the act of caching something removes it from the original data source until it is uncached, and where latency is at least a day or two and cost is very high.

So it's the same predictive logic used for caching, except it takes longer, and it has a queue hung on the side. I don't call that "pretty different" from a structural standpoint. "Pretty different" for me would be the difference between a predictive caching algorithm and, say, TCP/IP flow control algorithms, which also try to be predictive, but have very different constraints.

Either way, this is neither an unusual, innovative, or in any way exceptional application of decades-old algorithms and information processing engineering. It should not be patentable, and that was my point... not quibbling over whether it's "slightly" different or "pretty" different... to qualify for a patent, it must be truly groundbreaking, not merely taking existing formulas and process and adapting it.

Re:Will they also bill me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007463)

It's the same thing we've been doing in computers since, erm... the 80286 days. But when you're a large company in America, the rules don't really apply to you.

But the patent doesn't contain the words "on a computer" therefore it's new!

Re:Will they also bill me? (5, Funny)

temcat (873475) | about 3 months ago | (#46007515)

It's the same thing we've been doing in computers since, erm... the 80286 days.

Refreshingly, at this time, the novelty will be in the fact that it is NOT on the computer!

Re:Will they also bill me? (1)

russotto (537200) | about 3 months ago | (#46007977)

Refreshingly, at this time, the novelty will be in the fact that it is NOT on the computer!

Indeed. On that note, I've just submitted a patent application for a method for scheduling elevator cars in a multi-elevator building. It's based on well-known hard disk array head scheduling algorithms.

George Costanza disapproves (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007527)

>since, erm... the 80286 days.
>implying Intel invented caching
>implying mainframes weren't doing caching before Intel was even a company

Re:Will they also bill me? (5, Insightful)

TheGavster (774657) | about 3 months ago | (#46007633)

There is still room for novelty in solving a traditional, well-explored CS problem in the physical space, largely because the cost of operations is different. In a computer, quicksort is the accepted way to sort data without foreknowledge of how it is mixed. Sorting railcars using quicksort would be a terrible idea because you can't swap arbitrary cars in constant time (https://www.americanscientist.org/issues/issue.aspx?id=369&y=0&no=&content=true&page=5&css=print). In this case, Amazon may well have developed a novel caching scheme that is efficient in the space of their distribution network, which likely has a different topography than the memory of a 286.

Amazon patents (1)

oldhack (1037484) | about 3 months ago | (#46007907)

One-click purchase, pre-distribution based on "wish list" and purchase pattern, Amazon patent folder's gotta be a bag of laughter. But a tearful one for the society as a whole.

Re:Will they also bill me? (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 3 months ago | (#46007935)

But when you're a large company in America, the rules don't really apply to you.

Sure they do, Just a different set of rules.

Re:Will they also bill me? (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 3 months ago | (#46007839)

Amazon has already been doing this a little. One time they sent me a printer cartridge and some baby wipes that I never ordered. I asked them what I should do with them and they said to just keep it. The baby wipes actually had sunscreen so I used them on myself while cycling last summer, and the printer ink I gave to staples for a $80 store credit, which I then used to get a free soda stream. It was actually pretty great!

Re:Will they also bill me? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46008037)

So you willfully participated in retail fraud. Hope you get hit by a car on your next biking trip, you dishonest fuck!

Re:Will they also bill me? (0)

nurb432 (527695) | about 3 months ago | (#46007373)

They cant legally bill you for something you did not order.

Re:Will they also bill me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007449)

Not yet anyway. I am sure they (Amazon) are crafting legislation to this effect as I write this. Don't think for a second that business is not writing the Laws at this point in time.

Re:Will they also bill me? (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 3 months ago | (#46007915)

There is a long legal history of companies not being allowed to send unsolicited merchandise that you much return if you don't want to pay for it. Collectable stamp companies used to do this. They will still let subscribers be part of their 'approval' programs, where collectable stamps are sent out periodically, but the customers need to be in a formal agreement with them.

Prior to the new laws, companies would put ads in pulp magazines like 'buy this big bunch of foreign stamps for only ten cents!' and once they had your address they'd start sending you bunches of stamps unsolicited and then bill you if you didn't send them back.

Re:Will they also bill me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46008189)

And you even don't have to send it back. At least in Germany, where they changed the laws after a couple of sketchy companies send unrequested goods and tried to bully the recipients into paying for them.

Re: Will they also bill me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007643)

Actually there is a law on the books . If anyone sends you anything that you did not order. It's yours free of charge. They are not allowed to even ask for you to send it back.

Now that I know this (1)

mrmeval (662166) | about 3 months ago | (#46007265)

I can forgo ordering from them and keep what they send me for free.

It's the law. :)

Where, what law? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007321)

People say that, but they never cite anything.

Re: Where, what law? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007393)

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/39/3009

Google is your friend

Re:Where, what law? (5, Informative)

taustin (171655) | about 3 months ago | (#46007421)

Is The FTC [ftc.gov] a credible enough source for you?

Q. Am I obligated to return or pay for merchandise I never ordered?

A. No. If you receive merchandise that you didn’t order, you have a legal right to keep it as a free gift.

Re:Where, what law? (1)

dbraden (214956) | about 3 months ago | (#46007911)

Interesting, I was unaware of that. Furthermore, unless they re-label the delivery as a gift, it's actually illegal for them to send it unsolicited. From the link you provided (emphasis mine):

You, the consumer, may only legally be sent two types of merchandise through the mail without your consent or agreement:

        Free samples which are clearly and conspicuously marked as such.

        Merchandise mailed by a charitable organization that is soliciting contributions.

And in these two cases, you can consider the merchandise a gift if you wish. In all other situations, it is illegal to send merchandise to someone, unless that person has previously ordered or requested it.

Sooo... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007271)

Basically I just need to understand their pattern of deliveries and make them believe I want things at a certain rate and then they'll automatically give me discounts and gifts just by refusing that I really want the item once in a while?

I disagree with what Anonymous Coward will post (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 3 months ago | (#46007281)

I have determined in advance that the future posts by Anonymous Coward will be rubbish.

Re:I disagree with what Anonymous Coward will post (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007331)

Dickbutt.

Re:I disagree with what Anonymous Coward will post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007367)

Internet anonymity and privacy is a fundamental right that Slashdotters must fight for, lest we lose it in to rapacious government officials and businessmen.

Except on Slashdot, where we like to bully people for posting anonymously.

Re:I disagree with what Anonymous Coward will post (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 3 months ago | (#46007933)

Everybody who posts from a logged-in account, with a very few exceptions, is just as anonymous to their peers here as anyone who posts as Anonymous Coward.

Re:I disagree with what Anonymous Coward will post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007407)

It's funny that you mention that. The reality is that it's often best to browse all comments here, including ones by Anonymous Coward that haven't been modded up, or even those that have been modded down. Almost all of the best comments I've ever read here (that is, those worthy of bookmarking or even printing out for later reference) have been posted by Anonymous Coward. Sure, there are some particularly shitty comments from Anonymous Coward, but they're more than offset by the extremely good comments. It's rare to see the same level of insight from posts from "non-anonymous" users, perhaps because they're more concerned with maintaining a "reputation" than engaging in meaningful, and often controversial, discussion.

Re:I disagree with what Anonymous Coward will post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007485)

How do we know that "Michel Colman" is your real name? How are we to know that you're not using a realistic-sounding pseudonym of some sort here, in effect posting anonymously? Are you able to provide any proof of your identity?

Cool.. Free stuff! (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 3 months ago | (#46007285)

Yes, please start shipping me items i did not request.. I like free stuff coming to my house.

Re:Cool.. Free stuff! (2)

HiThere (15173) | about 3 months ago | (#46007845)

Just think of all the free mail and e-mail you get without ever asking for it. More! Calling it junk mail and spam is just being abusively hurtful.

Someone should... (4, Funny)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 3 months ago | (#46007291)

Tell Amazon that while smoking weed might be great, but that the ideas you get while baked aren't often that good.

Dood! Like wouldn't it be like awesome if we could like invent this like really cool time machine and like go to the future to see like what people have bought, and then like go back to when these people like sat down at their computers to think about buying something, and like it shows up right then! They'll like think its like magic!

Dood! that's frikken awesome! Now where's my goddamn Fritos!

Let's say JK Rowling writes a new book (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007313)

A lot of her loyal readers will buy it, with 100 percent probability. But maybe they've already picked up a copy from B&N or somewhere else?

And that's the best case. Just because someone has bought a bunch of Beyonce CD's let's say, doesn't mean they're guaranteed to want to buy the new one.

I just don't see it.

Re:Let's say JK Rowling writes a new book (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | about 3 months ago | (#46008115)

What Amazon needs is a way of saying "any new JK Rowling book that comes out, please send it to me". That way it is the customer's choice, and you get what you're really interested in, not what some algorithm predicts you might like.

Alternately, if they sent email saying "Hey, we see you've ordered JK Rowling books in the past; did you know there's a new one coming soon? Click here to preorder", theyd' get a lot of extra sales. You'd see the email weeks before you saw the book in B&N, so you'd be more likely to buy from Amazon (especially since it would be a lot cheaper).

Gift? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007343)

Well i WAS thinking about buying that diamond encrusted solid gold buttplug...

But i decided not to... And now its here!

Yay?

Re: Gift? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007639)

I don't think diamond encrusting and butt plugs would go together very well. Just saying...

Where did they get that idea? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007363)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HA_gwzx39LQ

Hardly New (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007381)

"According to the patent, the packages could wait at the shippers’ hubs or on trucks until an order arrives."

This is no different than an old fashion retailer stocking the shelves with things he thinks customers will buy.

Didn't McDonalds do this first? (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 3 months ago | (#46007389)

I seem to recall McDonalds started doing this 20 or 30 years a go, although obviously not to the level of analyzing the orders of individual customers. But basically they studied patterns of how much of each menu item is ordered, parsed by location and time of day, so that when you walk in the Filet o' Fish you're about to order is already cooking.

Other fast food vendors have since followed suit, as have big box retailers.

It's basically a specific application of "just in time" inventory practices that's being adapted to Amazon's business model. Definitely smart, but I'm not sure it should be patentable.

and BK pushed have it your way! (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 3 months ago | (#46007519)

McDonalds used to give you a hard time if you wanted your food a different way.

Other places push fresh food not food that has been sitting under a heat lamp.

Re:Didn't McDonalds do this first? (2)

pipedwho (1174327) | about 3 months ago | (#46007553)

Definitely smart, but I'm not sure it should be patentable.

I'd go as far as saying it should definitely not be patentable. This is the most obvious embodiment of a typical just-in-time manual practice "on a computer".

Any patent awarded should err on the side of invalid until proven valid, not the other way around. Just like proving guilt is required before someone can be deprived of freedom, so should a patent be held to the same standard before it can be used to deprive others of freedom to pedal their wares.

every brick & mortar store in existence (2)

bob_jenkins (144606) | about 3 months ago | (#46007399)

Every brick & mortar store in existence stocks its shelves with items they hope people in the local area will buy, before the people buy them. You can patent that?

I'll Bet That Amazon Can Make It Work (2)

rueger (210566) | about 3 months ago | (#46007405)

On a regular basis I hear from people exhorting me to abandon Amazon.com and only buy books at my local bricks and mortar retailer.

Although quaint, the truth of the matter is that my local bookstore a) doesn't have what I want, when I want it. b) may or may not be able to order it reasonably quickly and c) has higher prices.

Amazon has succeeded where most other on-line retailers have failed because of one thing: they are very, very good at giving customers what they want. They mastered long-tail retailing before most people had heard the phrase. I can return to their web site after a year or two and they'll usually manage to actually suggest items that I would want to purchase.

Plus, and this is the big plus, they manage to make it really, really easy to find what I want and buy it.

Plus, and this matters at least as much as service, I actually trust Amazon to give me good service, not pass my credit card number on to random Russian mafia, and to take care of me if I have a problem.

(OK, the trust issues are pretty subjective, and for sure someone will jump up to say "Yeah, but this happened to my buddy one time...," but that's the point of trust: if you've got it you can move past the glitches that happen.)

(And given the seemingly endless string of credit card data breaches, it's probably good to not trust Amazon with that info either)

This is stupid (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 3 months ago | (#46007417)

With predictive algorithms and loads of local warehouses, which they already have or are building, they can already give you same day/next day delivery.

What are they going to do? Predict to the exact minute you order something, a day or two in advance, and have the package arrive within the hour of order? That is the only way they could do better than they are already doing.

And it seems to me, if you are going to try this predictive ordering, you put the merchandise on the trucks, but do not actually deliver it that day unless you get the order before drop off. It would not cost any more money to put a few boxed of popular good on trucks, and drive them around all day, and update the drivers schedule on the go with new orders. You do not even have to predict individual people, just groups, which is actually doable and easy.

Re:This is stupid (1)

redback (15527) | about 3 months ago | (#46007771)

For that idea to work, it would have to be Amazons own trucks, rather than UPS/Fedex/USPS

"Here's your gift from Amazon!" (1)

rnturn (11092) | about 3 months ago | (#46007419)

``Of course, Amazon's algorithms might sometimes err, prompting costly returns.''

Has the law changed? At one time, if a company sent you something you didn't order, is was within your rights to merely keep it.

I will be charging Amazon a ``handling'' charge if they want to insist on me returning an item they shipped to me that I didn't order. My time and fuel costs for driving the item to a UPS store for the return are going to be compensated for.

Re:"Here's your gift from Amazon!" (2)

Courageous (228506) | about 3 months ago | (#46007539)

No, the law hasn't changed at all. But that's not what they're referring to here. Amazon ships the item to a local dispatch point, and holds the final leg of the shipment until the last possible minute. If that final order doesn't materialize, Amazon is being charged for the charge to the local distribution point (and back).

Re:"Here's your gift from Amazon!" (1)

Enry (630) | about 3 months ago | (#46007551)

Or hoping that someone else in the area purchases the item.

Re:"Here's your gift from Amazon!" (1)

rnturn (11092) | about 3 months ago | (#46007663)

I can see why they might be concerned about the returns costs even if that's what they're doing.

I ordered an IT book a couple of months ago and Amazon keeps sending me emails about other stuff I might be interested. I shudder to think how in the world they think that shipping another book on object oriented assembly language (kidding... that's not what I ordered) to the local shipping depot is going to be all that good for Amazon even if there was someone in my immediate vicinity that wanted to order such an item. Same goes for the CD I ordered from them a while back. It was from an artist that's rather obscure and I can't imagine too many others who'd be ordering the same music. (Though it be nice to know there were like-minded music listeners nearby. But please dear $DIETY, let's not get Amazon into the business of disseminating that sort of information; we all have enough trouble maintaining what little privacy we still have.)

For the things I might order from Amazon, I can't see how this shipping practice is going to keep me from going out and buying it at a local shop. Amazon's already killed off 99% of the local bookstores and music stores making Amazon the only place to order those items. As for the expensive items like big screen TVs and the like... why on earth, given the videos we've all seen with delivery drivers tossing electronics over fences and damaging them, would anyone buy something like that from any place other than a local store that delivers it themselves?

Great Idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007425)

As long as I do not have to pay. Well just back charge to Jeff Bedsore. Ha

'may dissuade customers from buying items from on' (0, Troll)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 3 months ago | (#46007445)

I will tell you what dissuades me from buying from Amazon, the the 50% broken package delivery rate, and that their "Customer Service" is just a robotic platitude response system. I have tried, there is no way to actually talk to a real person, or to get anything else but one of a few algorithmic responses.

Re:'may dissuade customers from buying items from (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007483)

Click "Help" Contact Us, select your order, and have them call you.

--Sam

Re:'may dissuade customers from buying items from (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007541)

no way to actually talk to a real person

I wouldn't go that far. The last time I received the wrong item, I was able to talk to a real person in less than three hours of trying. They make it very hard, but it hyperbole to state that there's no way to do it.

Re:'may dissuade customers from buying items from (2)

chris200x9 (2591231) | about 3 months ago | (#46007631)

How is this modded up to 2?! I know it's anecdotal but I've never had a broken package and I can always get someone on online chat if I need. Amazon has the best customer service I've ever experienced. It's not really too visible but you find help on the bottom of the page then click Problem With an Order? then contact us on the left side. From here you can send an email, get a call, or chat with customer service.

Re:'may dissuade customers from buying items from (1)

chris200x9 (2591231) | about 3 months ago | (#46007637)

Also paying for return shipping? Come on now how is this not great customer service.

Re:'may dissuade customers from buying items from (1)

TheFirebyrd (2801069) | about 3 months ago | (#46007781)

You really don't seem to be trying. You can not only talk to a person, you can have them call you. I've never had a broken package (though let's be fair, broken packages are usually the fault of the carrier unless there's poor packaging, and Amazon goes overboard with that) and the customer service I've received from Amazon is better than any I've received from other companies.

Re:'may dissuade customers from buying items from (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 3 months ago | (#46007859)

I saw that. But I strongly prefer email. Do you actually get a person, with the power to do stuff if you/they call?
Considering the ridiculously algorithmic responses I got through email I was guessing that they might just have a service with voice recognition and speech capabilities for the phone.

And you are not trying if Amazon is considered pretty good service. In real companies you get to talk with charming, profession people, who customizes every message and who have the power to grant/customise anything they like.

Re:'may dissuade customers from buying items from (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007991)

So what you are saying is that you did not actually try to talk to anyone. You just chated with the email robot. If you are going to go that route why not just use the chat feature. I am not familiar with Amazons, but I know that Dell and others email the chat log to you.

It's a predictive supply chain (5, Insightful)

gregor-e (136142) | about 3 months ago | (#46007475)

Amazon is merely pushing the tendrils of predictive modeling down a level in their supply-chain. No, they're not going to actually deliver something to you before you order it. But experience tells them, through predictive modeling, that someone in your immediate neighborhood is likely to order more boiled peanuts in the next day or so, so they simply box them up, put them on a truck and once that truck gets to your neighborhood, they lie in wait. Sure enough, Bubba Hatfield, your neighborhood transplant from the land of dixie, gets him a hankering for some more boiled peanuts which, for some reason, they never have on the shelves in the local grocery store. He'd really rather buy some off the shelf at a local store, on account of how bad his craving is, but knowing there's some boiled peanuts on the way will help salve his itch a little, so he fires up his browser and finds him some of that bliss in a can. Now, what to his wondering eyes does he see? Under delivery options, there's a new 'IMMEDIATE DELIVERY' option for just $5. What? Are they going to use a rocket to send a can of boiled peanuts all the way from wherever the hell Amazon is all the way out here? He skeptically reads the 'more information' link about this new delivery option. All it says is they guarantee delivery in 30 minutes or less, or his peanuts are free. What the hell? Yeah, an extra $5 for a can of peanuts is ridiculous, but the thought of being able to eat some of those heavenly morsels within just a few minutes is too much. He selects IMMEDIATE DELIVERY and punches the buy button. The friendly Amazon truck, which just happens to have boiled peanuts among its cargo, adds Bubba's address to its current route. In 27 minutes, 30 seconds, an incredulous Mr. Hatfield is gazing, teary-eyed, at a can of purest dixie delight right there in his hands.

Re:It's a predictive supply chain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007731)

Such a shame there's no 'funny and informative' mod.

Just A Small Question (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 3 months ago | (#46007479)

Yes it is true that I am going to order a 60" TV, but does Amazon's patent decribe from whom I am going to order my TV from?

Re: Just A Small Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007711)

Does it really matter? If it's the same product, Amazon can just shuffle inventory with the other vendors. Besides, it seems like half the stuff sold on their site is "fulfilled by Amazon

You mean like store inventory? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007507)

Hasn't this already been done by stores which carry items I might buy in their inventory, so that when I come in, I can buy things right there and then? They anticipate what I will buy, and have it on the shelf.

How is something like this worthy of a patent!?

There has to be a way to hack this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007535)

to bankrupt amazon

pinky, I think we have some work to do

When will then be now? (1)

LordNimon (85072) | about 3 months ago | (#46007557)

Colonel Sandurz: Try here. Stop.
Dark Helmet: What the hell am I looking at? When does this happen in the movie?
Colonel Sandurz: Now. You're looking at now, sir. Everything that happens now, is happening now.
Dark Helmet: What happened to then?
Colonel Sandurz: We passed then.
Dark Helmet: When?
Colonel Sandurz: Just now. We're at now now.
Dark Helmet: Go back to then.
Colonel Sandurz: When?
Dark Helmet: Now.
Colonel Sandurz: Now?
Dark Helmet: Now.
Colonel Sandurz: I can't.
Dark Helmet: Why?
Colonel Sandurz: We missed it.
Dark Helmet: When?
Colonel Sandurz: Just now.
Dark Helmet: When will then be now?
Colonel Sandurz: Soon.

leading to a more interesting DoS attack (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46007583)

If someone can figure out what triggers the early shipping it would lead to an interesting Denial of Service attack. I am sure there are safeguards in place, but you never know...

physical stores (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 3 months ago | (#46007613)

It used to bother me, Amazon and the like causing the gradual downfall of physical stores, but for a large part, there is precious little differentiation. Whatever gadget I am interested in is often sealed in hard plastic so there's no way to interact with it, to do anything, really, besides look at it and read the specs, which I could do at Amazon (and there are customer reviews). I used to buy higher priced gear at brick and mortar stores because there was usually someone knowledgeable who could answer detailed questions, but that doesn't seem to be true anymore either. I suspect there will be a time when stores will only be for impulse purposes, and even for that we may go the direction they're going in Japan, where practically anything can be purchased from a vending machine.

Likely misconceptions (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 3 months ago | (#46007689)

They're probably not going to fully deliver anything you didn't order. What rights would they have to claim it back?

What they can do is start getting stuff closer to you - shipping it to the local warehouse, even putting it on the back of the truck before you've committed to buying it. This is probably where the free gift/discount things will kick in, as it may work out cheaper for them to do that then retract the item at such a late stage.

Alternatively, of course, like the drone thing, it could just be another publicity stunt. And oh look, it worked.

Gaming the system (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 3 months ago | (#46007805)

It will take people very little time to game the system. They will figure out some way to buy a slew of little things that then let them lead up to a 55" TV being sent for free. Often these ML algorithms have trouble with edge cases. So you pick a pen, wishlist a pen, order a pen, pick a pen, wishlist a pen, order a pen for a few rounds, then you load up your wish list with 1000 55" TV. Maybe the system gave you a 1 in a 1000 chance of actually ordering the 55" screen but with 1000 of them in your wishlist it becomes quite certain that you are going to order one.

Or some other ingenious scheme. ML can come up with interesting solutions but disaster awaits when human common sense is out of the loop.

Re:Gaming the system vs. Utility Model (1)

retroworks (652802) | about 3 months ago | (#46007879)

Good point.... Human ingenuity in a free market is indeed a beautiful thing. The potential value that Amazon might write off a premature delivery could incentivize some portion of buyers to, as you say, game the system. BUT, of course there will be others who will treat it as a utility, not taking time to "game the system", and instead pocket the convenience of delivery. Trash collections, electricity, gas, etc. make this likely.

In many US cities, diesel fuel delivery trucks "pre-fill" commercial truck fleets, saving the fleet owner drivers trips to the gas station. It was a new fuel sales model, and creates a savings for the fleet owner. A "gaming" fleet owner could claim, once, that the fuel wasn't needed and get free fuel, but he gives up the convenience of future delivery, "gamers" will be dropped from the model, and over time, Amazon will only service Utility Model clients.

It's a good model for consumable commodities like ink cartridges and office paper, and potentially high turnover items like cameras and cell phones, if the consumer (multinational corp) is a big enough consumer.

No, it's not prospective shipment to the customer (2)

Animats (122034) | about 3 months ago | (#46008069)

Read the patent. It's not about shipping unordered items to the customer. It's about shipping items, packed for delivery to an undesignated customer, to a shipping hub near the customer. If the customer orders it as predicted, a box gets a full delivery address on the label and goes on the truck; if not, it's held, sent back, or sold to someone else.

Amazon can sometimes avoid air shipment, yet still provide fast delivery, by doing this. The patent is about analyzing those tradeoffs in real-time and optimizing. This takes careful management, or the final shipping hubs will choke with boxed unsold inventory. The final hubs aren't full scale fulfuilment centers with big inventory, order picking, and packing; they're just box handling operations. If the system detects a partial truckload going somewhere and empty space at a destination hub, that's a good time to preposition some items likely to get ordered soon.

The level of coordination this implies is impressive.

Sex toys and fetishes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46008071)

People are going to be getting a lot of sex toys and fetish supplies in the mail real soon now.

"Customers also purchased.." Takes on a whole new meaning!!!

Sounds more like... (1)

dohzer (867770) | about 3 months ago | (#46008199)

This sounds more like they want to send you something they think you might want, and oh, if you can't be bothered sending it back, you might as well just buy it.

next: "amazon precrime" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46008253)

does the "minority report" item also get shipped ?

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