on May 31, 2002
Mike's book is terrific -- both very funny and extremely well-written. I can vouch for most of the second half of the book -- he really did find stock option information for the entire BizDev department in the bathroom, and his boss really wouldn't speak to him for months after Mike caught him playing Rogue. It sounds like these stories are made up, but they are not. (Which, I guess, makes them even more horrifyingly funny).
I have to admit that I disagree with Mike's main conclusion -- that we were just spinning our wheels at Amazon, scurrying around but not getting anywhere. The truth is, we have built a great company here, and I am glad to be a part of it. Some of the reviewers who provide blurbs for the the book seem intent on using it to buttress their pre-concieved (and ill-informed) notions about "the New Economy hangover" or "the pointless toil inside an industrial madhouse". Don't believe the hype. Everyone's experience at Amazon is different, and all I can say is that I wouldn't trade mine for anything.
on May 23, 2002
There have been many books about the dot-com "revolution," but most have been written by still-rich CEOs of failed ventures who seem to have forgotten about the hundreds of people who worked below them, or else have been business analyses of what went wrong. Though I did not work at a dot-com, many of my peers did, and I was interested in reading something that captured more of the heart of the experience for the average employee. Daisey has done this beautifully. As its cover promises, this book is really funny, but it also is quite moving and honest. His story of being seduced by the dream of a better life just around the corner, just out of reach, is all too believable. It captures an important moment in the life of my generation, the total fall-out of which we've all yet to see.
on June 6, 2002
Self-described Gen X slacker and dilettante (and now author and comedian) Mike Daisey responded to the following ad in the *Seattle Weekly*:
CUSTOMER SERVICE TIER 1: LAME TITLE - COOL JOB. He says "the rest of the ad mentioned good pay, flexible hours, and a `hip and quirky work environment." Thus began his endeavours within our Host here at Amazon.com. In the beginning, he says, life in Amazon Customer Service "was half socialist boot camp and half college party dorm." He later was promoted to "Business Development." It is an often humourous glimpse within the belly of this beast - fleas and all. (I was going to say "warts and all," but then we're talking about Dog Years here - and there is some discussion in the book about employees bringing their dogs to work, and I'm going to talk about Pets.com in a minute - so I modified the metaphor.)
I don't know how true the information is - some of it would explain events that have occurred in this reader's experiences with Amazon.com. Hmmm. And his description of the Dot.com frenzy, especially the rise and fall of Pets.com, is entertaining and astute. Darn, I miss that sock puppet dog!
on June 5, 2002
Then you'll find this book to be hilarious! I love Amazon, don't get me wrong. But this book is great! Pokes gentle fun at our favorite company.
on October 14, 2003
Yes, this book is about Amazon, but that is only a side issue. This is more like Dilbert moved into this decade. It is funny, insightful and accurate. There are some sexual references, so it may not be for youngsters, but it is probably no more than they hear in school anyhow.
So, what is the point of the book? It is humorous, which is good. It also helps the rest of us who are stuck in similar situations to laugh at things and get us through it. Although the "letters to Jeff" are a bit off for me, everything else smacks true-to-life for most people, especially the same generation as the author (which might include you and me).
It is easy reading and can be read in small chunks of time (great for reading in your "library" or while standing in line). While it is funny, it probably will not make you embarrass yourself if you are reading in public.
on June 14, 2002
Mike Daisey has a gift for taking perfectly ridiculous situations that he found himself in the middle of and making them not just humorous but side-splittingly funny. I've seen the play on which this book was based, and the book isn't a transcription. In fact, it's an entirely new level: it's a love story. Well, two love stories. One of the love stories is about him and his now-wife, and her sensible, grounded, occasionally wild-party animal advice and behavior. The other love story is about a crush on a company and its founder (well, this company that you're reading the review on).
The book waxes and wanes both love stories, though you know he's going to wind up with the girl, not the stock options and the guy.
I worked at Amazon.com before Mike's tenure, and I recognize many of the portraits in the book. I left before I lost my soul to overwork; the corporate culture was a thing of beauty when I was there. I still work for a living, and Mike works incredibly hard to turn the grist he got during the height of dotcom insanity into a beautiful set of life lessons that, hopefully, we'll all take to heart. I know I did and still do.
on June 10, 2002
As a former technology help desk representative, I found this book hit the mark too many times. This book was hilariously funny.
I found myself remembering the utter futility of working while the system was down. This book shows us the constant four alarm fire that is customer service and the average guy's desperation on escape without poverty. It is a love story between a man and a corporation. A seduction of corporate success without money and the promises made then broken.
Daisey recounts the absurd yet true time he spent as a CS rep at Amazon only to reach a higher level of absurdity.
A great read.
If Amazon didn't carry _21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ Amazon.com_ (Free Press) by Mike Daisey, that would be a news story in itself, and would get the book more publicity, and so they are carrying it. Or Amazon is happy to take constructive criticism. You can decide on the best explanation, but Daisey has seen the commercial Internet revolution firsthand, and he doesn't like what he saw. He worked for a couple of years as a wage slave at Amazon.com, and since everyone there had the habit of changing the period they worked into what is supposed to be the equivalent time in a dog's life, he has titled his memoir. It is a very funny and rather touching account of his life within "Earth's Biggest Selection."
Motivated mostly by fear of dental decay, he telephoned an answer to the _Seattle Weekly_ ad which started: "CUSTOMER SERVICE TIER 1: LAME TITLE - COOL JOB." Perhaps he should have been worried when they called back five minutes later, but he had a peculiar hankering in this time of his life for a Real Job. Maybe he should have wondered when all the desks were made out of used doors. It turns out he was in love. He fell in love with Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. Everyone was in love with Bezos, who was supposed to personify the Internet revolution, but especially in the eyes of the Amazon staffers, the resiliently cheerful CEO who dressed like a regular guy, had a receding hairline, and had an unforgettable and frequent laugh, was "...a god, the still point around which the Amazonian world revolved. Religions have their popes and prophets, and we had Jeff." The love did not seem to translate into efficient service. "The weirdest thing about the entire structure was how totally unnecessary it was. We never spoke to anyone on our team with regard to our work. You were surrounded by coworkers but you never needed to have meetings or `interface' with anybody. The only people you spoke with were four to six hundred customers a shift." There was a constant monitoring of performance, like how long it took a representative to handle a call. When their "call resolution time" needed buffing, they just started hanging up on people for the quickest of resolutions. When they transferred a complaining customer to higher management, it wasn't to higher management at all, but to the next cubicle over. There really wasn't time to find love or a life outside the company, and in the New Economy we were learning that enlightened folks slept where they worked - why shouldn't they take all their other pleasures there, too?" As a result, "...those who weren't previously attached spent every waking moment sleeping with one another." (Can it be that those good folks who take care of editing and posting these reviews are putting up with the same environment?)
Eventually, dismayed with bureaucratic silliness and a firm that was meaninglessly expanding without making money, and whose stock during those times was fudged to look far better than it was, Daisey had to had to ask himself, "... titles aside, pride aside, what was I actually _doing_? Nothing." Deciding that being a directionless artist had been no better than being a directionless office drone, and worried to think he had succumbed to dot-com greed, he said goodbye to Jeff and his empire. Hilariously, he was such a red hot commodity after leaving Amazon that headhunters started calling him all day to sign him on as an e-commerce veteran. He turned this irony and all the others into a one-man show (which opened the day after his Non-Disclosure Agreement with Amazon lapsed), and this book that grew from it. It is written in a breezy, joking style that shows the raconteurship which would power a stage performance, but there is plenty serious here about what is wrong with commerce, e-commerce, and the service sector. And for those of us who like Amazon, and write reviews to help others use Amazon well, we can only hope someone in the organization is taking the serious parts seriously.
This is a very funny book about the author's career with Amazon. But if you are reading this to learn about Amazon, that's only part of the story.
Mike Daisey is the ultimate slacker and proud of it. Raised in rural Maine, Daisy migrates to Seattle after a liberal arts degree specializing in acting. This is not the type guy who ends up as the next Mel Gibson but rather he's working his acting gig in garages in Seattle. Obviously this type career will require money from natural sources, real jobs.
After a distinguished career in the temporary services industry, Daisey latches on to the Customer Service dept. at Amazon.com. Keep in mind this is the early stages of the company with massive software problems. This required lying and tap-dancing by the Customer Service representatives. While some may be uniquely qualified for this job, Daisey was not and during this frustrating period was rescued with a job in business development, clearly a step up.
While this job put him closer to the heat of Jeff Bezos, the Amazon icon, the Internet hype days were quickly ending. Daisey was caught in the trap and lost his job. How he describes this wild ride from slacker, to Amazon brainwashed devotee, back to normal slacker is a humorous story of our times. I recommend this book for anyone interested in Amazon, the Internet culture or youngsters coming of age in the 90's.
Mike Daisey, self-styled "slacker" and "dilettante" finds himself forced to accept his first real job--guess where?--at our favorite company, amazon.com. And according to him it was a disaster. He loves the excitement of the company, he loves Jeff Bezos, he drives his family nuts with amazon[.com] slogans and mantras, but he is a lousy employee. He may have been the worst customer service rep in the company's short history. See, he doesn't like work and so, mostly, he doesn't do any. And as he tells us about his misadventures he makes fun of everything that happened. The company, the dot-com bubble, the fellow employees, and mostly--himself.
And that is what makes the book funny, and not just silly. Mike is a man who can laugh deeply at himself. And as he laughed at himself and built his shortcomings to unbelievable proportions, he had me laughing with him. I haven't laughed this hard in years. Mike is the Dave Barry of dot-com. And, in spite of his total ineptitude in customer service he is a man you want to like, a man with heart, a man who has a good woman who stays with him and keeps him grounded.
Now, in his post-corporate incarnation, Mike is doing performance art and his book is ranked no. 1967 (today) on amazon.com. Not bad for a slacker. Buy this book today and laugh your head off!