It was Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay. It’s a very funny book about archaeologists in the future who uncover a motel from our era and try to figure out what everything was for (the “porcelain sarcophagus,” for instance). I was going to read it to my daughter, who was 11.
I wasn’t the first person to place an order with Amazon. Supposedly, that was a guy named John Wainwright who, in 1995, purchased some light reading, a book called Fluid Concepts And Creative Analogies: Computer Models Of The Fundamental Mechanisms Of Thought (pictured here, with the packing slip bearing the original Amazon logo).
So maybe I was the first normal person to place an order on Amazon.
But even if I wasn’t, jumping on the Amazon bookwagon in 1996 was a big leap of faith for me. It was probably the only time in my life I could be considered to be an early adopter of anything. Usually, when something new comes along, I wait until they develop something to replace it before buying in. For instance, in 1999, I bought Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery from Amazon. On VHS.
But I was early to online shopping. I’d been a heavy mail order shopper before the Internet came along. My philosophy was always, “If you can’t get it delivered, you don’t really need it.” I’d get catalogs and call to order. Now, with the Web, I didn’t even have to talk to a human being. How great was that?
Anyway, Motel of the Mysteries was the only order I placed with Amazon back in 1996.
In 1997, I placed three, all books. They were for my daughter, I think, because I doubt my wife or I were heavily into Todd Stasser’s “Help, I’m Trapped…” series. In 1998, there were 10 orders, and I started getting CDs. I placed 36 orders in 1999, including the first electronics item–a Palm Pilot for my wife. It’s amazing how many things I’ve ordered from Amazon in the past 20 years about which we can now say “remember those?”
In fact, when I mentioned the ancient Palm Pilot to my wife last night, she asked, “What did that do again?” I had to explain that it was sort of a prehistoric iPhone, only without the phone. Or the music. Or the camera. Or the apps. Or the Wi-fi. Or the…
“So it was an address book?” she asked.
“Yeah, and a calendar, I believe. And maybe you could take notes on it.”
She shook her head, wondering how she ever could have gotten through life with such a thing.
By 2008, my yearly Amazon orders were numbering consistently in the 70’s or higher. 2009 was my highwater mark of the decade, with 99 orders, including a funnel cake starter kit, also, I assume, for my wife. I’m fairly certain that neither the Palm Pilot nor the funnel cake kit is still in her possession. I do not recall if she ever made any funnel cakes.
I’ve had two down years this decade, 2013 and 2014 (58 and 41 transactions respectively). I don’t know why I placed so few orders, or how Amazon managed to survive. My daughter, now all grown up, got married in 2014, so maybe I couldn’t afford to buy much that year.
My record is 109 orders in a year. The year was last year. I’m already on pace to top that this year. Needless to say, our UPS guy hates us.
Keep in mind that, when I say “109 orders” I don’t mean “109 things.” Many orders had many more than one item.
In case you’re wondering why I’ve been keeping such meticulous records of everything I buy on Amazon, I haven’t. It’s all readily available on Amazon–everything you’ve ever ordered. There’s lots of stuff I’d just as soon not be reminded of. There was the Southern Enterprises Loft Portable Indoor / Outdoor Fireplace I got my wife for Christmas in 2012 instead of the fire pit she really wanted. She used it exactly once, to roast marshmallows. The case of 24 Real Flame Gel Fuel cans I purchased to go with it is, I believe, still under the bed in the guest room. Maybe, one day, the guest room will get really cold and we’ll use them. (This link will take you to my post about this ill-advised purchase.)
Over the years, I’ve also bought a lot of media organizers for media I no longer have to organize because it became obsolete. Our garbage collector probably hates us, too. Or maybe he just happens to own a lot of neatly-organized cassette tapes.
What’s the point of all this? I believe that Amazon should give out an all-time great customer award, and that I should win it.
It would have to be based on some sort of algorithm that combines how long you’ve been a customer; how many orders you’ve placed (1,027 in my case, and that doesn’t include the rest of my family); how many things you’ve bought (don’t ask); how many categories of items you’ve purchased (all of them, I think, except maybe hunting equipment); and how much money you’ve spent (if Jeff Bezos has kids, I’ve put them through college). Then you’d get extra points for the number of Amazon devices you own (we have two Kindles); whether you’re an Amazon Prime member (duh!); and whether you’ve used any of their other services (I’ve self-published books, and we stream videos). And I should get extra credit for having once been a stockholder. Plus, I have an Amazon Visa card.
I think I’d at least be in the top five all-time great Amazon customers.
And I think my prize should be a check equal to the amount of money I’ve spent. That way, I can buy a nice home in which to retire…
…as soon as Amazon starts its real estate division.
See you soon.
UPDATE: When my wife read this post, she produced, from the pantry, the still-in-her-possession (but unopened) canister of funnel cake mix. Here’s the thing: we moved in from New York to Connecticut in 2011, so she actually packed that into a box so it could remain unopened in a new state. When I asked her why she felt the need to move with it, she replied, “You never know when you’ll want funnel cakes.”
I can’t argue with that.