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Trigaux: Amazon again pushing boundaries on customer delivery

You can almost anticipate the Amazon news release coming in, say, 2020.

In a new service called Prime Ahead, Amazon announced today it will offer delivery of a wide range of goods to its Amazon Prime members in the Tampa Bay area at least one hour before its customers even realize they want what arrives at their doorsteps. Amazon said its new service will save customers the effort of thinking of something new to buy.

Okay, I made that up. But is it so farfetched? Maybe not. Amazon clearly is focused on rapidly narrowing the time between a customer's decision to make an online purchase and a product's at-home arrival.

Amazon in May unveiled Prime Day, giving residents who are members of its Amazon Prime program in Tampa Bay and 13 other metro markets free same-day delivery on orders of $35 or more. The service previously cost $5.99.

Now Amazon again is upping the ante. In a service dubbed Prime Now, Amazon is expanding its $7.99 one-hour delivery service to Seattle (where Amazon has its headquarters) and three other Washington cities. The service is available to Prime members via a mobile app.

Need it within two hours rather than one? Then the delivery is free.

From 8 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week, Prime members can order items such as wine and beer, ice cream (presumably still well frozen), and televisions, among other things.

Says Amazon: The service aims to save customers a trip to the store.

Local retailers take note.

Prime Now first launched last December in Manhattan, a logical location given its customer density and high incomes. This week's expansion of that service in the Seattle area is probably a warmup to broader availability.

There's no word yet on when (or if) this latest Amazon step in shrinking delivery times will reach the Tampa Bay market. Given Amazon's extensive warehousing expansion and recent additions of thousands of jobs in west central Florida, it's a good guess it won't be long. Amazon's longer-term interest in delivery via drone already has received widespread attention. Amazon's latest round of improved delivery services comes on the heels of a controversial piece by the New York Times that raised disturbing questions about Amazon's Darwinian workplace. The story characterizes Amazon's professional workers who, while well paid and often working on world-altering projects, are pushed to the breaking point with many burning out and leaving the company.

The story sparked huge feedback and a brisk debate about what commitment level it takes to work at any company that's trying to disrupt how an industry does business — just as Amazon has shaken the foundations of retailing and delivery. Amazon's success this summer, eclipsing the market value of retailing giant Wal-Mart, is startling and only adds credibility to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' nurturing such a demanding workplace.

A recent Tampa Bay Times story featuring interviews with technology and entrepreneurial leaders and workers in this metro area found many saying the hypercompetitive culture at Amazon can also be found among businesses here trying to break new economic ground.

While this latest workplace clamor plays out, I'm going to skip the local movie house in favor of an online Amazon movie and wonder how long it will be before Amazon delivers a frosty six pack to my door — before I've even realized I'm thirsty.

Contact Robert Trigaux at