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Transportation Businesses Patents

Amazon: We Can Ship Items Before Customers Order 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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Amazon: We Can Ship Items Before Customers Order

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 19, 2014 @04:41PM (#46007391)

    People say that, but they never cite anything.

    39 U.S.C. Section 3009

    Or, an explanation in layman's terms by the USPS. []

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

    by taustin ( 171655 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @04:45PM (#46007421) Homepage Journal

    Is The FTC [] 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.

  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @05:02PM (#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.

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @05:20PM (#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.

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @07:58PM (#46008601) Journal

    My wife has about 30 items on her baby registry at Target doesn't know which of her friends will buy each item, but they can be pretty sure that most of them will be purchased. It would make sense for Target to go ahead and ship these items to the local store or distribution center and have them sitting by the loading dock.

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