Is Amazon a legit company?

I was recently reminded that the truths we hold as self-evident as technophiles are not universal (sorry, American friends). Specifically, even a company as old, big and ubiquitous as Amazon still has room to grow and skeptics to convince.

2 recent anecdotes illustrate this:

1) I was having dinner with friends at their home when their teenage daughter came back from a day out and asked her parents for help. Let's call her Maria.  Maria wasn't able to find a book required by her school at the local bookstore so she wasn't sure what to do. Her mother suggested that Maria should call a few other stores and she offered to drive her in the following days if required.

I asked Maria whether she was going through all that trouble because Amazon didn't carry that particular title or she needed it right away to do last minute homework. She answered that she had heard of Amazon but wasn't sure how exactly "it" worked. Her mother followed on by asking "Is Amazon a big company? Is it safe to order from them? Where is their warehouse?"

Candidly, I was stunned. I thought that Amazon had long ago crossed the chasm into the mainstream. I honestly never thought that a 40-year old, educated, iPad-carrying professional city dweller would not know enough about Amazon to trust ordering from there.

2) I sent a link to a bike trainer to a cycling friend asking him for his advice. His response? Something along the lines of "Yeah, this is the model I recommend and the price is great. But you'll really order it from Amazon? How do you know it'll be in good condition?". I thought that his second question was a simple confusion with eBay/CraigsList. When I asked him to clarify, he told me that he didn't understand how someone could sell a "legit" new product for 20% less than what it was advertised at the local bike shop. He was not aware of the scale and efficiencies that allowed Amazon to be so competitive [1].

Again, I was surprised by this conversation. Amazon has been consistently featured in the mainstream/mass media in the past few years and here you have a 34-year old who didn't really trust them. Not because he had a bad experience with them but simply because he was wary of the economics.

The 2 examples above just show how hard it is to create an enduring, pervasive brand. No matter how big you are, there are still people who never heard of you. The great news is that opportunities for growth are just endless.

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[1] There are definitely many good reasons to support your local bike shop, but that's a topic for another time.