Amazon Office Desk

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Amazon Office Desk

Amazon has its own set of stories from the early days. One of the most frequently repeated is the origination of the “door desk”. Back in the mid-90s, when Amazon employed about a dozen people, team members would gather on the floor in the 400 square foot warehouse to pack shipments. As sales started to accelerate and these packing sessions extended into the late hours, working on the floor became uncomfortable. Jeff’s first idea (kneepads!) was quickly scuttled for a better one: packing tables. After a quick trip to Home Depot, tables were assembled from solid-core doors, four-by-fours and metal brackets. These packing tables became door desks and are standard Amazon office furniture today.

Amazon Office Desk

However, an essay in today’s Wall Street Journal called “Jeff Bezos of Amazon: Birth of a Salesman,” compels me to comment on one aspect of the pervading myth of Amazon’s creation and early years. You can read elsewhere about the truth behind other parts of the creation myth, especially in Robert Spector’s fine and exhaustive look at Amazon’s early years, Get Big Fast.

Amazon Office Desk

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Add a sleek look to your home office with this solid wood desk and hutch. The three drawers and multiple storage compartments are perfect for storing paperwork, files and office supplies. Featuring a white painted finish, this desk will complement most room décor.

Amazon Office Desk

I recently hired an assistant and needed to set up a quick workspace for her (and for me, too) so, of course, I immediately turned to Amazon Prime and was excited to stumble upon this inexpensive white Parsons desk. I ordered two with the idea of pushing them together so that I have a larger workspace when I’m alone. It will also give us enough room for laptops when the two of us are working alongside one another. Today, I’m sharing three different ways to style this versatile piece in your own office!

Amazon Office Desk

I had lunch with Jeff in October 1996 when I was a bit in the doldrums about what I was going to do next with the business. He invited me to join Amazon, which I did. But what I remember most was, after lunch, walking into his office in the Columbia Building, and seeing a rack of blue colored shirts, his trademark at the time, and the door-as-desk. I laughed. I looked at the threadbare carpet and spartan furnishings, and said, “Investors must love this.” He gave me his patented laugh.

Amazon Office Desk

As I recently shared, my husband and I just bought our first house and with it came a huge, new office for me. I fell in love with the office in my last house (see the tour here), but what my new office lacks in natural light and wood floors, it makes up for in sheer space. I can’t wait to get it organized and to decorate. In the meantime, I needed a desk because my old one is being used in our kitchen right now.

Amazon Office Desk

The part that got me was the door-as-desk myth, which has been cited since Amazon’s founding as a way in which the company confounded standard business practice and was frugal during its very early startup days. This is a complete crock, and I would suspect that no one associated with the company, including Jeff, ever necessarily put forth a cost savings for these ersatz desks.

Amazon Office Desk

The myth was in place: the door-desk was part of the story about Amazon’s creation, and it was part of what every visitor to the company’s headquarters saw. It spoke of a particular ethos about spending and intent. And I will note that Jeff and company were extremely, but not unreasonably, tight with spending. Money wasn’t spent on stupid things, either by executives or staff. (Later, the company probably wasted billions on setting up and closing down warehouses that weren’t right for them until they figured out the formula for where they should be located and run.)

Promising review: “This desk is perfect for my bedroom office. Very sturdy and modern. Great price! Holds my printer, laptop, and all my stationery, including a lava lamp. A+ in my book.” —John

But this isn’t a story about a scrappy solution to a workplace challenge or opting for Home Depot over Ikea. To Amazonians, the desks represent something important: they are a symbol that the investments that matter are those which benefit the customer. As a company, Amazon values frugality, which it defines as making informed financial decisions with an eye on the customer; it sees frugality as the breeding ground of resourcefulness and invention.

Several years ago, I said I would no longer publicly comment about my time in 1996–1997 as Amazon.com’s catalog manager. Why? Because my knowledge and memory were so out of date, and I did not keep a journal during that period. It would be silly for me to provide commentary about a company that I had only been with during a period of explosive growth—now no more recently than 14 years ago.

In the very early days of the company, I’m sure the doors made more sense. They had very little room or time, and were trying to husband cash. Doors have a large surface area relative to most desks, and Amazon was in a garage and then a couple of industrial/warehouse spaces before they split the warehouse (down south of the viaduct) and the offices (in the heroin district of Seattle near Pike Place Market) before I joined.

“These desks serve as a symbol of frugality and a way of thinking. It’s very important at Amazon.com to make sure that we’re spending money on things that matter to customers,” said Bezos, 34. “There is a culture of self-reliance. (With the low-tech desks) . . . we can save a lot of money.”

Most of us have to work at least five days a week. Sometimes we enjoy it, but many times we’d rather be doing something else — like vacationing. But since most of us never really take vacations, why not make it feel like you’re on vacation at your desk?

Promising review: “A great desk for limited space, I like how it can be hung for individual height. My husband had no difficulty assembling or hanging it. Other reviews stated that it was not sturdy, but attaching the back strip to wall studs makes this a very solid unit.” —Julie

And finally, a fun and feminine space to work! I love having mood boards above my desk. I change out the images every few weeks to keep myself inspired and refreshed. The pink lamp was a Target find, and I love the texture added by the Serena & Lily chair.

The doors were expensive, built to an arbitrary height, heavy, difficult to move, and horrible for body health because of the bad ergonomics. That’s when I started having to see an acupuncturist for carpal tunnel and related problems. And also note that these were exterior doors: moving a exterior door through an interior door frame with legs permanently attached is a tricky task. At the time, a slightly smaller desk (or even a sturdy banquet table) would have cost 1/3 to 1/2 the amount and worked far better.

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