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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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  • by gregor-e ( 136142 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @04:53PM (#46007475) Homepage
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 19, 2014 @05:00PM (#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!?

  • by TheGavster ( 774657 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @05:22PM (#46007633) Homepage

    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 ( 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.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.