Whole Foods plans layoffs as part of reorganization involving merchandising, operations, HR, and tech teams

whole foods market

Whole Foods is planning layoffs as part of a larger restructuring of its business, the company confirmed to Insider on Thursday.

Whole Foods told Insider that it expects the layoffs to impact a small, but at this point unknown, number of corporate employees, and that employees who work at its stores and distribution centers will not be impacted.

In a press release, the Amazon-owned grocery chain said it’s planning changes involving its merchandising and operations, team member services, and technology teams in order to sustain its pandemic growth.

“These changes are designed to improve support for our stores and distribution centers as we remain committed to delivering an exceptional customer experience in stores and online,” Whole Foods said in the release.

The company said it plans to merge its global and regional merchandising teams, “realign” its team member services group, and shift its technology team “to focus more on skills required for software engineering and technical product and program manager roles.”

Whole Foods has seen explosive growth during the pandemic, with online grocery sales tripling during its second quarter of 2020 as the pandemic forced Americans to stay home.

The company has also faced pushback from its front-line store and warehouse employees, some of which who say it hasn’t done enough to keep them safe from COVID-19 and have criticized its hazard pay and healthcare policies.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best deals and sales happening on Amazon right now – save on a Vizio 4K TV, iPad Air and Echo Show 5

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Amazon Best Deals and Sales 2x1

Amazon’s dynamic pricing strategy can make shopping tricky for the average consumer, but if you know where to look⁠ – and when to act fast⁠ – Prime members can save a ton of money.

We’ve gathered all the best discounts currently available on the retail giant. Below you’ll find one-day sales via Amazon’s Gold Box promotion, exclusive coupon codes, and, of course, deals ranging from tech, fashion, and gaming all the way to home goods.

Due to the unpredictable nature of online shopping, prices may change without warning.

For more ways to save, check out our round-up of the best spring-related sales, Grill Week discounts, and the best sales going on right now.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Best deals on Amazon brand products

amazon echo show 5

Echo Show 5 with Blink Mini (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Smart Plug (medium)

Best Amazon tech deals


40-Inch V-Series 4K UHD LED HDR Smart TV (medium, Preferred: Amazon)AirPods Pro (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Deco S4 Mesh WiFi System (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Powerbeats Pro (medium, Preferred: Amazon)iPad Air (4th Gen., 256GB) (medium, Preferred: Amazon)C922x Pro Stream Webcam (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Evo Select MicroSDXC (128GB) (medium)

Best Amazon home and kitchen deals

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Flavored Honey Sticks (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Silicone Microwave Popcorn Popper (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Weighted Blanket (15 lb) (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Memory Foam Full Body Pillow (medium, Preferred: Amazon)MT-720 Robotic Vacuum (medium, Preferred: Amazon)

Best Amazon lifestyle deals

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Hum Smart Electric Toothbrush Kit (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Pedal Exerciser (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Bandana Print Reversible Face Mask 3-Pack (medium, Preferred: Amazon)

Best Amazon gaming and entertainment deals

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Naga Pro Gaming Mouse (medium, Preferred: Amazon)

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Amazon was blamed for killing malls. Now its higher-paying jobs may be choking the restaurant industry’s comeback.

amazon warehouse
  • Restaurants are struggling to staff workers after laying off employees at the onset of the pandemic.
  • Amazon’s hiring spree and higher pay is eating into the US restaurant labor force, an expert says.
  • Fast-food chains are working to lure workers back with incentives, but it may not be enough.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As restaurants struggle to find workers, one expert says Amazon is partly to blame.

Amazon has long been a disruptive force in the US market. In 2016, Amazon was blamed for killing off malls and retail chains like Borders and Circuit City through its low online prices. Now, the company may be starting to eat into the food-service industry’s workforce.

The online retailer’s higher pay poses a threat to minimum wage jobs and workers are fleeing the food-service industry for roles at Amazon warehouses and other online retailers, Daniel Zhao, a senior economist at Glassdoor told Bloomberg.

At the onset of the pandemic, the restaurant industry was forced to lay off 5.9 million workers – over half of its 10.6 million-person workforce, according to federal data. While restaurants were bleeding workers, companies like Amazon went on hiring sprees, increasing its personnel at fulfillment centers by 50%. In 2020, the online retailer hired an average of 1,400 new workers a day, The New York Times reported. On Thursday, the company announced it plans to hire another 75,000 workers in the US and Canada for its fulfillment centers, as well as transportation sector.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurant servers flocked to companies like Amazon. Last spring, job searches for “Amazon” from restaurant servers increased over 600% on Glassdoor, while searches for warehouse positions from the same group also increased over 200%.

Now, restaurants are developing incentives to lure workers back. At the same time, Amazon is beefing up its own hiring perks.

Jobs at restaurants are becoming increasingly less appealing for workers

At Amazon, wages start at $17 per hour, compared to minimum wage restaurant jobs which can pay as little as $7.25 per hour.

One Miami chef, Phil Bryant, told The Washington Post that Amazon’s higher pay has forced many restaurant workers to reconsider their careers paths. He said many of his former coworkers are asking themselves, “If I can make $17 per hour at an Amazon warehouse, but only $14 per hour as a line cook, a notoriously hot, stressful, intense job, why would I do that?”

Workers are also questioning the future of the restaurant industry. Bryant said workers are asking, “If this whole industry can deteriorate overnight and leave everyone unemployed, is this really stable enough to go back to?”

Amazon warehouse
The inside of an Amazon fulfillment center in Robbinsville, New Jersey on December 2, 2019.

Sylvia Allegretto, the Co-Chair of the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the University of California, Berkeley, told Insider she doesn’t see the issue as a labor shortage. She pointed out 10 million people are still unemployed in the US.

For many restaurant workers it simply isn’t worth the risk, she told Insider. Even workers that haven’t found better-paying jobs are likely hesitant to return to work due to the risk of getting COVID-19, as well as the lower operating levels at restaurants, that will likely cut into worker’s tips and overall profit.

Customer-facing jobs have become increasingly dangerous for frontline workers during the pandemic. Workers have been forced to impose mask mandates to disgruntled customers and faced significant backlash. They have also been at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Restaurant jobs can be particularly grueling. One former restaurant worker, Bettie Douglas, told Bloomberg she found relief when she quit her job at a sandwich shop and started working at Rainbow USA Inc, a clothing store that also sells merchandise online. She unpacks boxes and tags clothing now, instead of running dishes, registers, and taking orders.

The labor shortage has only exacerbated the issue, making the food industry even more strenuous by pushing workers to take on extra shifts and work short-staffed in order to compensate for the shortage. A recent survey from One Fair Wage found that over half of restaurant workers are considering quitting because of low wages, as well as outside opportunities.

“There’s been days I’ve worked 16 hours because we just couldn’t get coverage for it,” a McDonald’s manager told Insider’s Kate Taylor last month.

Many food chains are implementing incentives to compete with Amazon and lure workers back

On Monday, Chipotle announced it would raise average hourly wages from $13 to $15 by June. Other chains like McDonald’s and Taco Bell are offering signing bonuses and referral programs. One Florida McDonald’s was even paying people $50 to come in for an interview, Taylor reported.

But, even so, restaurants will struggle to compete with companies like Amazon, as the giant continues to boost pay for hourly workers. In April, Amazon boosted spending on entry level workers by $1 billion, rolling out raises to over 500,000 hourly employees. On Thursday, the retail giant boosted its incentives, advertising a starting pay for 75,000 new workers of $17 (up from $15) and tacking on sign-on bonuses of up to $1,000. New hires with proof of a Covid-19 vaccination will also receive an additional $100 bonus.

Furthermore, Amazon is only one of many reasons restaurants are struggling to find workers. Insider’s Ayelet Sheffey reported that many workers may make more on unemployment benefits than in their prior work. They also may be deterred by the continued concerns over COVID-19 and the need to provide childcare at home. On Wednesday, Taylor reported McDonald’s was blaming the labor shortage on enhanced unemployment benefits, though she also noted chains could solve the problem by paying workers more.

Restaurants and bars currently employ 1.6 million – or about 15% – fewer people than before the pandemic, according to federal data. The labor shortage makes it increasingly unlikely that the industry will return to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon, researchers at Glassdoor said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic may leave a lasting imprint on the U.S. labor market, permanently changing the hiring landscape both for restaurants and for the other industries hiring the millions of former food service workers that have flocked to new roles during and after the pandemic,” Glassdoor researchers said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Activists ask MacKenzie Scott to help fund their efforts to stop Amazon from building its Africa headquarters on sacred native land

mackenzie scott
MacKenzie Scott and Jeff Bezos divorced in 2019.

  • Activists in South Africa asked MacKenzie Scott to help them block Amazon from building on sacred lands.
  • Indigenous Khoi leaders say Amazon’s planned Africa headquarters would have harmful environmental and cultural impacts.
  • The group also wrote to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, but said he hasn’t responded.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Barely two years after Amazon faced backlash over its elaborate public search for a “second” headquarters, the company’s plans to build its Africa headquarters in Cape Town, South Africa, are coming under fire.

This time, indigenous activists and other local community groups have criticized Amazon’s plans to set up its new campus on land that is environmentally and culturally sacred to the first nation Khoi people.

One of those groups, the Observatory Civic Association, is turning to a high-profile source for help in their fight to block the Amazon-led development: MacKenzie Scott, who divorced Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in 2019.

“We appeal to you to intervene to bring Amazon to its senses,” OCA chairperson Leslie London wrote in an open letter to Scott, adding: “If you wish to assist our struggle for justice in the courts, we will welcome your financial assistance.”

London said the group, which has partnered with more than 60 Khoi and other NGOs and civic groups, also wrote to Bezos, but that he didn’t respond.

Scott and Bezos could not be reached, and Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

The backlash concerns a planned mixed-use development in Cape Town called The River Club, which would span roughly 37 acres, with Amazon set to be the main tenant, according to South African news site IOL. While Cape Town city officials approved an initial concept for the project, it has faced fierce criticism from many native Khoi groups, according to the OCA’s letter and various media reports.

London wrote in her letter the proposed development disregards the history of the land, where the Khoi fought against colonial expeditions and land grabs by the Portuguese and Dutch.

“We think [Scott] can influence Bezos and Amazon to avoid making the biggest business mistake of their lives. Amazon will forever and irrevocably be associated with modern-day colonial dispossession,” London told IOL.

Other tech billionaires, such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, have faced criticism for attempts to acquire land originally occupied by indigenous people, with critics calling such moves examples of “neocolonialism.”

But the OCA said Amazon’s proposed headquarters also poses serious environmental concerns and would violate Cape Town’s established climate resilience policies, since it would involve pouring 150,000 square metres of concrete into a flood plain. (Concrete infilling can exacerbate the flood damage caused by heavy storms, for example, like what happened in Houston, Texas, during Hurricane Harvey).

The proposal as it currently stands, London wrote, “must surely be of deep concern to anyone who believes in a world where environmental protection, justice and heritage, particularly for First Nation groups, should be adequately considered in development decisions.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Jeff Bezos used to test Amazon’s Echo Show by asking Alexa to play videos mocking Trump

Jeff Bezos and Donald Trump
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, left, and former President Donald Trump.

  • Jeff Bezos used to test the Echo Show by asking Alexa to play videos making fun of Donald Trump.
  • Bezos and Trump have long been at odds, stemming from Bezos’ ownership of the Washington Post.
  • Trump also criticized Amazon over matters like the USPS and its attempt to win the JEDI contract.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and former President Donald Trump have never exactly seen eye-to-eye. And while Trump’s animosity toward Bezos was more public, it appears that Bezos, too, poked fun at Trump behind closed doors.

Brad Stone’s new book, “Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire,” chronicles much of Amazon’s last decade, including Amazon’s shift into new product categories, like the Amazon Echo. Bezos was the mastermind behind the creation of the Echo and its built-in virtual assistant, Alexa, and was hands-on in the testing process for new devices – including the Echo Show, Amazon’s first Echo with a video screen, in 2016.

According to Stone, Bezos demoed a prototype Echo Show on multiple occasions and would ask Alexa to play videos that mocked Trump: “Alexa, show me the video, ‘Donald Trump says “China,'” and “Alexa, play Stephen Colbert’s monologue from last night.”

A vice president who was at the demos told Stone that Bezos would then “laugh like there’s no tomorrow.”

‘I’m an inexperienced trash talker but I’m willing to learn. :)’

Bezos’ and Trump’s animus toward one another extends at least a year earlier, to the winter of 2015, when Trump began tweeting about the Washington Post, which Bezos purchased for $250 million in 2013. Trump tweeted that Bezos only owned the paper to keep “taxes down at his no profit company, @amazon,” adding in a follow-up tweet that the Post is a tax shelter. (There’s no evidence to support these claims, and Bezos’ ownership of the post is separate from his role at Amazon.)

According to Stone, Bezos emailed his senior vice president of corporate affairs, Jay Carney, later that morning with the subject line: “Trump trash talk.”

“Feel like I should have a witty retort. Don’t want to let it go past,” Bezos wrote, according to emails obtained by Stone. “Useful opportunity (patriotic duty) to do my part to deflate this guy who would be a scary prez. I’m an inexperienced trash talker but I’m willing to learn. :)”

Carney recommended that Bezos say nothing back, but Bezos still wanted to engage with Trump, eventually responding with a tweet that offered to reserve Trump a seat on a Blue Origin rocket, also owned by Bezos, and included the hashtag “#sendDonaldtospace.”

A spokesperson for Amazon declined to comment on Bezos and Trump’s relationship.

Read more: Jeff Bezos responds to employee question about his resignation as CEO, says Amazon can ‘out-survive any individual in the company, including, of course, myself’

Trump and Bezos clashed several more times during Trump’s presidency

The squabble would play a role behind the scenes during several high-profile incidents in Bezos’ personal and professional lives.

In January 2019, Bezos announced his divorce from his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie – soon after, his affair with TV host and helicopter pilot Lauren Sanchez was outed by the National Enquirer. The ensuing tabloid scandal led to speculation that there were political motivations behind publishing the story: David Pecker, then the publisher of Enquirer-owner AMI, is a longtime Trump ally.

Trump’s antipathy toward Bezos would impact Amazon’s business dealings as well. Trump alleged in 2018 that Amazon was hurting the US Postal Service by not paying it enough to deliver packages, a claim he repeated several times over the years. Amazon produces billions in revenue for USPS, according to documents that leaked last year.

Trump later became involved in the competition between Amazon, Oracle, Microsoft, and others to secure a lucrative Department of Defense contract known as JEDI. Trump spoke publicly about complaints he was hearing about Amazon, and Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., called Amazon “shady and potentially corrupt” in a tweet about the situation.

Microsoft ultimately won the $10 billion contract in 2019, and Amazon has publicly stated that it believes Trump’s “repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks” against Amazon and Bezos are the reason it wasn’t awarded the contract.

Amazon later challenged the decision in federal court, and the ongoing litigation may now result in the Pentagon pulling the contract altogether.

Read the original article on Business Insider

These 12 people started their dream businesses from scratch. Here are the biggest lessons they learned from self-publishing on Amazon, writing copy, and hand-dying their own yarn

Examples of how to start your business, including dog walking, a food truck, urban farming, hair care, and dyed yarn.
A record number of people started new businesses last year, including dog walking, urban farming, and food trucks.

  • The pandemic upended many lives, but it didn’t overturn the entrepreneurial dream.
  • Applications for an employer ID reached 1.1 million through September 2020, a 12% increase from the prior year.
  • Here are 12 guides on how to start any business, from a modest urban farm to a food truck.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The pandemic upended many lives, but it didn’t overturn the entrepreneurial dream.

A record number of people started new businesses last year. New applications for an employer ID in the US reached 1.1 million through September 2020, a 12% increase from the same time period in 2019, according to an analysis of US Census data by The Wall Street Journal.

For those who want to chase their entrepreneurial passions, here are 12 guides on how to start a business, from a dog-walking empire, to a modest urban farm, and even a food truck.

1. Copywriting business

sarah turner
Sarah Turner Agency offers freelance copywriting for clients in the medical and health sectors, content marketing strategy, and training programs for future copywriters.

Sarah Turner launched her eponymous copywriting agency in 2013, after leaving her job as a research assistant.

Sarah Turner Agency offers freelance copywriting for clients in the medical and health sectors, content marketing strategy, and training programs for future copywriters. Last year, Turner booked $2.6 million in revenue, according to documents verified by Insider. 

Read more about how Turner launched her copywriting business. 

2. Website flipping

Chelsea Clarke is the founder of Blogs for Sale.

Chelsea Clarke is the founder of Blogs For Sale, a company that flips little-known websites into desirable online businesses that can generate $16,800 in a year.

Clarke said her startup took off last year as more people sought online revenue streams during the pandemic. In 2020, she earned $127,000 from flipping 13 websites and brokering sales for 50 more sites, documents reviewed by Insider verified. 

Read more about how Clarke built her website-flipping business. 


3. Instagram side hustle

Today, Plant Kween has 311,000 followers and collaborates with brands like Spotify on curated content.

Christopher Griffin’s Instagram account, which is under the moniker Plant Kween, is devoted to pictures of the 200 plants living in their Brooklyn apartment, tips on caring for the greenery, and useful botanical knowledge. 

They started the account in winter 2016 — as a means of learning about something new after graduate school — grew it steadily to 311,000 followers and collaborates with brands like Spotify on curated content.

Griffin couldn’t disclose what they earn with the music-streaming service but a partnership with the fashion line Tonle, that sold $42,000 of non-binary clothing last year, netted them around $8,400, according to Tonle. 

Read more about how Griffin built their Instagram side-hustle. 

4. Urban farm

Joanna Bassi
Here’s how Joanna Bassi built an urban farm from scratch and her advice for fellow farming entrepreneurs, including how to pivot during a pandemic.

Joanna Bassi turned her unused backyard — measuring 150 feet by 75 feet — into an urban farm that could grow fresh produce for local establishments.

Bassi started from the ground up in January 2018, and by the following year, she netted nearly $6,000 in revenue from selling at farmers markets and local restaurants, according to documents viewed by Insider. 

In 2020, the pandemic temporarily closed Bassi’s restaurant clients and hurt business. She still managed to book nearly $7,000 by creating new revenue streams. 

Read more about how Bassi built her urban farming business. 

5. Pet care and dog-walking business

dog tricks
You can teach your dog to shake your hand with a simple command.

Jill Nelson took over her friend’s 15-year-old dog walking and pet sitting startup Hot Diggity in 2015. Since then, she’s scaled the Seattle office, opened a Vancouver location, and purchased Hot Diggity’s Portland, Oregon, outpost. 

Revenue for Hot Diggity’s three locations sank between 2019 to 2020 — Portland had the most drastic decline, falling from $2.1 million to $986,000, according to documents verified by Insider — but Nelson said the company weathered the storm and is already seeing an increase in bookings. 

Read more about how Nelson built her dog-walking and pet care business. 

6. Hand-dyed yarn business

Jake 1
Kenyon shared his advice for launching a business around your passion, building community support, and how he stands out in a crowded market.

In January, Jake Kenyon left his full-time job as a speech pathologist to pursue his side hustle: A hand-dyed yarn business called Kenyarn. The pandemic drove many consumers to crafts, like knitting and crocheting, which helped boost Kenyon’s business.

Kenyarn’s gross sales jumped from $33,000 in 2019 to $125,000 last year, and he’s on track to surpass that figure this year, according to documents viewed by Insider. 

Read more about how Kenyon built his hand-dyed yarn business. 

7. Food truck

food truck
Alessio Lacco and Sofia Arango opened a pizza-focused food truck, tapping Lacco’s 15-year background making Neapolitan pies and the truck he already owned.

Alessio Lacco and Sofia Arango launched Atlanta Pizza Truck last August as way to make money during the pandemic.

In its first five months of business, the couple booked $82,000 in sales, according to documents reviewed by Insider. In the first three months of 2021, they netted $53,000 in sales and believe they are on track to at least double sales from 2020.

Read more about how Lacco and Arango built their food truck business. 

8. Hair care business

Stormi Steele

Stormi Steele used to make hair care products in her kitchen while working in salon in 2012. She’d mix over-the-counter ingredients, such as flaxseed oil and vitamin E, in an effort to create a solution that would help her hair grow. 

Today, Steele is the founder of Canvas Beauty Brand, which booked nearly $20 million in revenue last year.

Read more about how Steele built her hair-care business. 


9. Pop-up bakery

abby love
On January 21, Abby Love opened her first bakery, Abby Jane Bakeshop, in Dripping Springs, Texas.

When the opening of Abby Love’s bakery was delayed due to the pandemic, she launched 10 pop-up bakeries around Dripping Springs, Texas to keep her brand alive, attract new customers, and boost revenue.

Love partnered with local businesses for her pop-ups, choosing establishments that didn’t sell baked goods and attracted the kind of customers who would appreciate her locally-sourced ingredients.

Read more about how Love built her pop-up bakery business.

10. Craft brewery business

Chris and Avery_HTB_LittlePondDigital
Christophe Gagne and Avery Schwenk are the cofounders of Hermit Thrush, a Brattleboro, Vermont-based brewery that exclusively makes sour beers.

Christophe Gagne and Avery Schwenk are the cofounders of Hermit Thrush, a 7-year-old Brattleboro, Vermont-based brewery that exclusively makes sour beers. 

Today the brewery has 21 taps and its canned varieties are sold in 9 states, plus DC. The brewery’s most popular concoction, Party Jam, is a collection of fruit-forward sours that typically sells for $19.99 on the company’s website. What’s more, Hermit Thrush booked $1.5 million in revenue last year, according to documents viewed by Insider. 

Read more about how Gagne and Schwenk built their craft brew business. 

11. Furniture maker

Matthew Nafranowicz, a master craftsman, started doing upholstery work more than two decades ago.

In 2002, Matthew Nafranowicz opened his furniture upholstery storefront, The Straight Thread, in Madison, Wisconsin. 

Furniture upholstery represents an estimated $1 billion market in the US, and government data shows it employs roughly 30,000 people.

Read more about how Nafranowicz built his furniture upholstery business. 

12. Self-published author


Sally Miller is a self-published author who’s written and co-authored 15 books on Amazon. She made $9,000 in royalties in January, her highest amount to date, according to documents viewed by Insider. 

“It meets my two criteria, which is that I’m making money and doing something I really enjoy,” said Miller, who built a following through her subject matter, which focuses on how people can make money through various entrepreneurial ventures, like Airbnb and ghostwriting.

Read more about how Miller built her self-publishing business. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

42 truly unique gift ideas available on Amazon, from a burrito blanket to a Morse code bracelet

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

  • Amazon is the “everything store” and stocks just about any product you can think of.
  • That includes plenty of truly cool and unique gift ideas if you’re willing to do some digging.
  • We scoured the site to find the best unique gifts, from handmade goods to funny finds.

best unique amazon gifts

While Amazon may not be the first place that comes to mind when looking for unique gift ideas that feel extra personal, you can find great options if you know where to look. For example, Amazon handmade offers locally made and artisan products from small businesses around the country and Amazon has even curated gift lists and ideas catered to different hobbies, styles, and more. You can also shop Amazon’s portal to specifically support Black-owned businesses.

We did the tough work of scouring Amazon to find truly singular and cool gift ideas. And with a little digging, there are plenty more unique gifts to be found.

Here are 42 cool and unique gifts ideas, all available on Amazon.

Beautiful bookends that double as decor

unique amazon gifts geode bookends

JIC Gem Agate Bookends, $29.69

These gorgeous geode bookends add a magical touch to home decor and come in a range of colors from teal to amethyst. You can also choose from various weights and they come with rubber bumpers to ensure bookcases and shelves don’t get scratched.

A drool-worthy cozy blanket

Under $25 CASOFU Burritos Blanket

Casofu Burritos Throw Blanket, $19.99

This whimsical tortilla blanket is both funny and functional. Many from a cozy flannel fabric, it comes in four sizes from 47 to 80 inches. And just in case they have a food obsession beyond burritos, you can also opt for pizza, waffle, or pie blanket options.

A fanny pack for hands-free organization on the go

Under $25 EGOGO Travel Sport Waist Pack Fanny Pack

EGOGO Travel Sport Waist Fanny Pack, $16.99

For hikers and day-trippers, this handy fanny pack has plenty of zippered pockets to keep essentials like their phone, keys, and credit cards organized while on the go. Made from a durable and water-resistant nylon, it even features a spot to keep their water bottle and the waist strap tightens to ensure a good fit.


A rainbow-hued vase

unique amazon gifts crystal vase

Magicpro Crystal Flower Vase, $34.99

With its eye-catching design and rainbow hues, this crystal vase makes for an elegant centerpiece or mantle addition with or without flowers.

Gourmet popcorn for movie night

Unique Amazon gifts movie night

Urban Accents Movie Night Popcorn Kernels and Seasoning Variety Pack, $22

Take your next Netflix night to the next level with this popcorn pack. It includes three types of kernels, plus five seasoning options that range from Spicy Chili Lime to Cheezy White Cheddar for a customizable treat.

A fun inflatable lounger

unique gifts amazon inflatable lounger

Wekapo Inflatable Lounger Air Sofa, $38.98

From a backyard hangout to a beach picnic, this inflatable lounger will come in handy as a comfy seating option. No pump is required, it comes in a handy carrying case, and it’s available in 16 different colors and patterns.

Decorative tealights to add some greenery

Unique Amazon gifts tea light candles

SanSeng Succulent Tealight Candles, $9.99

If even simple succulents seem like too much work to care of, these cute candle tealights are handmade in the shape of cacti and succulents are a fun touch of green decor for any space.

A cool planet lamp

Unique Amazon gifts Planet Lamp

UooEA Saturn Lamp, $23.99

You may be seeing trendy moon lamps popping up, but you can make your gift even more unique by opting for this Saturn lamp. The dimmable LED lamp has seven different settings and you can even set it to change colors to a bright hue. Easy to move from room to room, it lasts for up to eight hours after each charge.

A trio of flavorful honey

bees knees honey

Bushwick Kitchen Bees Knees Honey Sampler Gift Set, $49.99

If they can’t bear the thought of a meal without something sweet, upgrade their condiments with this set of funky flavored honey from Bushwick Kitchen. 

A cute reusable bag

Amazon gifts under $50 Baggu

Baggu Standard Reusable Shopping Bag, from $12

Whether it’s used to carry their groceries or random knickknacks, everyone needs a good reusable bag. We love the original Baggu. It can hold up to 50 pounds of stuff, but can also be folded down to fit in your pocket. It also comes in tons of fun colors and patterns.

A calendar for the dog lover

Amazon gifts under $50 We Rate Dogs

WeRateDogs 2021 Calendar, $13.83

If you ask us, there is truly nothing better than 365 days of dogs. The calendar comes from the same brains behind WeRateDogs’ popular Twitter account, and don’t worry, every dog receives a rating of at least 11/10.

A starry sky light projecto

unique gifts amazon star projector

IYUT 3-in-1 LED Ceiling Galaxy Light Projector, $32.99 

This fun light projector brings the night sky inside and features 10 lighting colors, three brightness levels, and three speed settings. It also includes built-in speakers and works with smartphones via Bluetooth or USB to play music as the lights twinkle around you. 

A diffuser disguised as a houseplant

cactus diffuser

Round A’round Cactus Room Scents, $32

A cactus is a fun way to add some color to your desk or countertop, but if you’re not ready to be a plant parent, go for this instead. It’s actually a diffuser — it’ll fill your room with a nice floral scent — but it looks like a cute potted plant. 

A keychain for hot sauce lovers

Unique Amazon gifts Tabasco

Tabasco Hot Sauce Keychain, $11.88

They’ll never have to endure a flavorless meal again. This mini bottle of Tabasco sauce comes with a keychain for spice that goes wherever they do. 

An easy attachment to make homemade pasta

unique amazon gifts kitchenaid pasta attachment

KitchenAid Gourmet Pasta Press Attachment, $129.99

If your giftee already has a Kitchenaid stand mixer, get them this attachment that lets them easily make their own fresh noodles. Six different interchangeable discs mean they can switch between noodle types, including spaghetti, bucatini, rigatoni, fusilli, and large or small macaroni.

A solar power bank for on-the-go charging

unique gifts amazon solar charger

Solar Power Bank, $28.99

For outdoor and camping enthusiasts, this 10,000mAh wireless power bank works as a standard charger, but can also run via solar power as a backup option when outlets aren’t available. Its compact size makes it easy to pack and it also comes with dual flashlights and a compass kit.

A retro rice cooker

dash, $35

Dash Mini Rice Cooker, $19.99

This little gadget not only cooks rice but can make stew, oatmeal, soup, pasta, veggies and more. The style and colorful enamel coating add a retro look to their kitchen.

A bracelet with a hidden message

amazon unique gifts morse code bracelet

IEFWELL Morse Code Bracelets, $12.99

These beaded sterling silver bracelets aren’t just stylish — they also spell out fun messages in Morse code. Choose classic options like “BFF” or “I Love You” or fun phrases like “Tribe” or “She Did.”

A cute and practical phone holder

Unique Amazon gifts phone holder

Dinosaur Silicone Phone Holder, $10.99

This endearing little dino isn’t just a piece of decor, it can actually can hold their phone. It comes in over ten colors, so you can find one in their favorite color.

A hydrating face cream that the French swear by

embryolisse, $25

Embryolisse Lait Cream Fluide, $35

French pharmacies are known for their readily-available, high-quality skincare products. Gifting your buddy a ticket to Paris may be out of the budget, but you can still snag them some of these cult-favorite products, like this seriously hydrating face cream.

A little fan to deal with their unpredictable office temperatures

Unique Amazon gifts fan

Fred & Friends Little Big USB Fan, $17.38

Office dwellers know how unpredictable temperatures can get. To save them when their office (or home office) transitions from an icebox to a desert, gift them this little portable fan. It’s small, mobile, and plugs into any USB for a quick, cold breeze. 

A bunny-shaped speaker with good sound

Unique Amazon gifts Bunny Speaker

AEO Bunny Bluetooth Speaker, from $19.99

This compact Bluetooth speaker may not be the best around, but it’s surely the cutest. Shaped like a little bunny with floppy ears, you get your music and a fun piece of decor too. 

A punny apron that reminds them of their favorite show

got apron, $38

GOT “Dinner is Coming” Apron, $25

If you’re looking for the right gift for that special person who loves “Game of Thrones,” is always cooking, and has a great sense of humor — we think we’ve found it. 

A bright and colorful hamper

hamper, $71

Pehr Designs Pom Pom Hamper, $81.99

No one wants to see a giant pile of dirty laundry on the floor. Help them conceal their mess with this hamper, which is actually nice to look at and adds a pop of color to their room. 

Relaxing bath salts

Unique gifts Amazon Herbivore

Herbivore Botanicals Coconut Bath Soak, $22

Everyone deserves some relaxation, which is why this calming bath soak makes such a great gift. Inside there’s dehydrated coconut milk, vanilla, and Himalayan coconut CO2 extract, which together help soothe the skin and calm the mind.

A candle that smells just like home

homesick, $30

Homesick Scented Candle, $33.19

One of our editors asserted that “candles are the most classic gift of all time.” We have to agree, and while there are many to choose from, we love the sentimentality and customization Homesick candles offers. They have candles made to smell like each of the 50 states, many cities, and even experiences like watching Friday night football or taking a road trip. No matter where they call home, one of these candles is sure to bring them a rush of nostalgia.  

An insulated pint glass that keeps your brew cool

Unique Amazon gifts BruMate

BruMate HOPSULATOR, $24.99

If they like their beverages ice-cold, they’ll appreciate this thoughtful bottle holder. It can hold 12 oz. cans, 16-ounce cans, or be used as a pint glass holding 16 fluid ounces, so it’s really a three-in-one gadget. When they need a break from beer, this is perfect for keeping their water bottles chilled too. 

A creative journal that’ll help them get some sleep

Unique Amazon gifts Nocturnal Journal

“The Nocturnal Journal” by Lee Crutchley, $16

A great night’s sleep is essential to our well-being, but getting those eight hours each night can be easier said than done. If you know any night owls who need to catch up on their sleep, this journal will make a great gift. It’s full of prompts, illustrations, and questions to put their minds at ease when they’re up in the wee hours of the night.

A cute purse for the wine lover

unique amazon gifts wine purse

Insulate Wine Clutch Bag, $24.95

For the wine lover in your life, this bag does double duty as a cute outfit accessory and an insulated bag to easily bring along a bottle of wine to that house party, backyard barbeque, or picnic at the park. It comes in numerous pattern and color options, including nautical stripes, black tweed, beaded patterns, and more.

A pack of sticky notes to keep them on track

Unique Amazon gifts Knock Knock

Knock Knock “To Accomplish” Sticky Notes, from $11.47

For the friend who likes to keep it really organized, help them stay on track with this thoughtful set of sticky notes. With categories like “To Ponder,” “To Remember,” and “To Buy,” they can keep track of everything they need to accomplish in the near future. 

The cutest hot chocolate mugs

marsh mugs, $38

Ceramic Marshmallow Hot Chocolate Mugs, $20.99

Imagine the warm and fuzzy feeling that you get sipping on a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows. These mugs embody that and all other kinds of cozy feels. 

A phone case for Disney lovers

mickey case

OtterBox Symmetry Series Disney Classic Case (iPhone 7/ 8), from $25.50

There are plenty of Mickey-themed gifts for the Disney lover in your life. We love this phone case because it not only has a cute design but the signature durability of OtterBox, too.

A breakfast station with everything they need to make the most important meal of the day

Unique Amazon gifts Nostalgia

Nostalgia Breakfast Station, $79.99

If a classic American breakfast sounds like their perfect morning, give them this clever kitchen gadget that can do it all — crunchy toast, crispy fried eggs, and a hot cup of coffee. 

A fruity hand cream that’ll look great on their counter

Unique Amazon gifts peach cream

TonyMoly Peach Hand Cream, $10.20

This rich hand cream is made with shea butter and peach extract to moisturize seriously dry skin. We love the refreshing, light peach scent and the adorable container, which looks just like a peach. 

The perfect socks for pizza lovers

pizza socks, $26

Pizza Socks Box (4 pairs), $25.99

From pizza ovens to pizza apparel, there’s no shortage of gifts catered to pizza lovers out there. We’re partial to these socks for their packaging, which is made to look like an actual pizza in an actual pizza box. 

Simple illustrated prints to hang around the house

Unique Amazon gifts Dream Big Printables

Dream Big Printables Botanical Prints (set of 4), $19.97

Finding unique home decor that’s also affordable can be a tough feat, but these artistic prints check off all the boxes. The illustrations of plants make a great addition to their kitchen, or even their bedroom if they want to show off their green thumb.

Reusable lunch bags that they’ll actually want to use

Unique Amazon gifts Diweiya Reusable Snack Bags

Diweiya Reusable Snack Bags, $11.99

Plastic bags are an unnecessary expense when you could just have reusable ones. Their environmentally-conscious and frugal sides will thank you for these sandwich and snack bags, which are dishwasher safe and BPA free. They’ll save a ton of money and plastic waste by using these, plus the colorful patterns are much more fun than clear plastic. 

A travel pillow that actually works

trtl, $30

Trtl Travel Pillow, $39.99

We’ve sung the praises of the Trtl Pillow before — it’s an essential for any traveler. The cozy and supportive neck pillow is a great gift for any frequent travelers or anyone who’s about to head out on a trip. 

A cutting board of their favorite place

bamboo board

Totally Bamboo State Cutting Board, $29.99

Entertainers and those with state pride will love this cutting board. You can find a board shaped like any of the 50 states or Puerto Rico, each laser engraved with important landmarks, cities, and sights. It’s a fun, personal gift that they’re sure to love. 

A portable printer that lets them print instantly


HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer, $95.99

Nowadays, most of our photos live on our smartphones and social media apps, but many of us still love getting to look through or hang up printed pictures. This portable printer lets them do that super easily and with no wires so they can print pictures in a snap.

A charging stand for all of their devices


elago Charging Hub, $26.99

This gift is a no-brainer for loyal Apple users. Instead of dealing with a tangle of chords from charging all of their products, they can streamline with this singular hub, which has a designated spot for their iPhone, Airpods, and Apple Watch. 

A gift set made for an at-home spa day

unique amazon gifts bath salts

Live by Being Bath Salt Gift Set, $56

Your giftee will be saying “aah” when they use this set of three calming bath salts during their next deep soak. All three blends are made with Dead Sea salt and enhanced with essential oils to hydrate skin, relieve stress, and relax the muscles. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

32 useful graduation gifts under $100 that are Amazon Prime-eligible

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

What generation of Kindle do I have
Amazon’s Kindle makes a great gift for grads who love to read.

  • College and high school graduation gifts can have a big impact and help recent grads celebrate.
  • Below are 32 great gifts for graduates, all under $100 and eligible for Amazon Prime 2-day shipping.
  • Need more gift ideas? Check out all of our gift guides here.

The best graduation gifts for high school or college students honor an accomplishment and empower their next stage, whether it’s helping them plan for their future or feel settled once they move away.

And you don’t need to spend much time looking for a thoughtful gift. Whether you’re looking to send your graduate a bouquet of flowers, a useful kitchen gadget, or a wise book, you can find quick, unique options on Amazon. Below, you’ll find a list of 32 quick, thoughtful gifts under $100 that come with Prime shipping.

32 Amazon Prime-eligible gifts your graduate will love – all under $100:

A cookbook that can teach anyone how to cook anything

How to Cook Everything

Gift “How to Cook Everything,” $18.91 

The title says it all. If they’re going to be spending their life’s new chapter with more responsibility and independence, they’ll appreciate this ingeniously organized — and deliciously simple — cookbook. It begins with easy recipes for the basics and, later, offers up more advanced variations, making it especially great for learning.

Tech that helps them find misplaced items

Tile Pro

Gift the Tile Pro, $89.99

Ensure they spend minimal time hunting for essentials such as keys or their wallet. Plus, the new and improved Tile Pro device is louder, has a better battery life, and boasts a longer range. It’s also compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant.

Great, affordable over-ear headphones

Audio-Technica ATH-M20X Professional Studio Monitor Headphones, Black hanging in a row

Gift the headphones, $49

Headphones are a great addition to life no matter what they’re being used for — commutes, studying, travel, or relaxing at home. This pair is the best affordable over-ear headphones option we’ve found yet; They’re comfortable and have excellent sound for the price. You can read more here

A fun board game that’ll last all night


Gift “The Settlers of Catan”, $41.27

A game they can play with family and friends is a nice way to ensure they’ll always have something enjoyable to do — rain or shine. “The Settlers of Catan” relies upon strategy and sometimes luck to build civilizations — and can last for hours.

The best, one-stop introduction to personal finance we’ve found

I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi

Gift “I Will Teach You to be Rich,” $7.04

This is the book that Insider’s Executive Personal Finance Editor Libby Kane says she recommends (and gifts) the most. According to Kane, it’s “ideal for new grads and younger folks who need a game plan for adulthood,[and] also a straightforward, accessible, no-nonsense checklist for anyone who wants to take more control of their money and their life, no matter where they’re starting.”

A minimalist planner

Amazon graduation gifts 2021 planner

Gift the Lemome Planner, from $15.99

This planner will help keep them motivated and organized by giving them a place to jot down their daily agenda. It’s available in a small and large version, and both sizes come with a sticker pack for added fun.

A book about capitalizing on the huge choices to make in your 20s

Defining Decade

Gift “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter — And How to Make the Most of Them Now,” $15.50

The decisions you make in your 20s can greatly impact the rest of your life. The best defense is a good offense and your grad should know now, before any life-altering events crop up, how to get the most out of their “defining decade.”

A portable printer

HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer, $99.95

Gift the HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer, $77.99

Sprocket uses Bluetooth and the free HP Sprocket app to make printing photos from social media accounts, smartphones, and tablets relatively seamless. This way, grads can decorate easily without needing to figure out where and how they can print on the cheap.

An Amazon gift card so they can buy whatever they need

grad gift box

Gift the Amazon.com Gift Card in a Graduation Cap Box, from $25

If you want to gift cash so your grad can buy whatever he or she wants, but don’t actually want to hand over a stack of bills, an Amazon gift card is a nice way to gift that same freedom and utility. Amazon has virtually everything a new grad could desire, so they’ll be able to buy something they genuinely want — and they know what they need better than anyone else.

A book that focuses on positive psychology

the happiness advantage

Gift “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work,” $15.14 

Graduates are bound to be excited about classes ending, but continuing education can actually be a great thing when it’s self-directed and at their leisure. Grads might even realize a few months out of school that they’re actually starved for something new to think about.

And for more inspiration, be sure to check out our list of the best books we read in quarantine.

A toolkit for unexpected leaky faucets

cartman tools

Gift the Cartman 148-Piece Tool Set, $26.99

After graduation, the stress of a first apartment usually includes putting together furniture, Googling how to fix leaky faucets when the landlord won’t pick up, and enticing friends to help mount a living room TV in exchange for pizza.

This toolset isn’t the most strictly “fun” gift, but it’s absolutely necessary. Your grad will be thankful for the tools needed to handle whatever life throws at them, and while this isn’t something they’d immediately buy for themselves, they’ll definitely be thankful for it when the time inevitably comes.

A Hydro Flask tumbler to keep drinks hot

Hydro Flask, $22

Gift the Hydro Flask 32 oz. Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle, $44.95

If they’re commuting to and from their first job or post-grad internship, a great tumbler like this double-wall, vacuum-insulated one will not only keep hot drinks hot for up to six hours and cold ones cold for up to 24. More importantly: it may also stop them from developing a $7 daily Starbucks latte habit.

An Instant Pot for no-hassle meal prep

Instant Pot

Gift the Instant Pot DUO60 6-Quart 7-in-1 Multi-Use Pressure Cooker, $89

If the idea of tossing raw ingredients into a pot in the morning and coming home (or to a dorm) to a cooked meal appeals to them, the Instant Pot is every recent grad’s best friend. It’s an easy gateway into cooking, and it cuts down on how many dishes they’ll have to wash.

An Echo Dot for an unobtrusive smart gadget

echo dot

Gift the Echo Dot (4th Gen), $49.99

The Amazon Echo Dot is a small, unobtrusive personal assistant that can help set timers while they cook, report weather and traffic, and perform more helpful tasks without taking up much room.

The Dot is also really easy to use and it’s a plus that it’ll work with any Amazon tech purchases they make in the future since they’ll be in the same smart-home ecosystem.

A journal that helps make a 5- or 10-year goal feel realistic

Best Self Co. Journal

Gift the BestSelf Co. The SELF Journal 2019, $31.99

The Best Self Co. Journal helps people map out their five- or 10-year plans in a manageable way. It’s a nice low-pressure way to provide growth and direction after graduation whether they’re on their way to college, their first full-time job, or traveling.

*Note: The BestSelf Co. Journal is currently out of stock.

The best coffee maker you can buy

Graduation gifts unddr $100 on Amazon Cuisinart

Gift the Cuisinart Coffee Plus 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker, $99.95

The Cuisinart coffee maker is easy to use, and its built-in hot water system allows for easy access to tea and oatmeal as well. In other words, it combines convenience with great coffee and it’s perfect to use before work or class. We voted this model the best coffee maker you can buy overall in our buying guide.

A cult-favorite book about self-discovery

The Alchemist

Gift “The Alchemist: 25th Anniversary Edition,” $12.99 

There’s a reason “The Alchemist” has become such an undebatable classic and has sold millions of copies around the world. It’s a tale of wonder, self-discovery, and the wisdom needed to accurately evaluate — and build — a meaningful life. It’s transcended generations, but it’s particularly helpful for those facing life’s big questions in their 20s. 

A candle that smells like home

homesick candles

Gift the Homesick Scented Candle, $34

It’s hard to put a finger on just what makes home smell like home, but one whiff of a Homesick candle will help them recall sweeter times. Uniquely specific scents are made to capture the spirit of states, cities, and even memories like road trips, backyard BBQs, and cooking in Grandma’s kitchen. If your grad’s far from home, this affordable candle is a meaningful gesture.

A weighted blanket

ynm weighted blanket

Gift the YnM Weighted Blanket, $69.90

Similar to the comfort created by swaddling babies, weighted blankets utilize deep-touch therapy to help get deeper, more restful sleep while also helping to reduce anxiety and stress. This fan-favorite option from Amazon is relatively affordable and highly popular. Read more in a personal review here.

A media streaming stick

amazon fire tv stick

Gift the Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote, $49.99

The Fire TV Stick is Alexa-enabled, so grads can lazily leisurely control content like Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, STARZ, SHOWTIME, or CBS All Access by voice. They can also stream  Pluto TV, IMDb Freedive, and others for free. 

A portable waterproof speaker

jbl speaker

Gift the JBL Flip 4 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker, $79.95

This under-$100 Bluetooth speaker with nearly 5,000 five-star reviews on Amazon is ideal for grads who want great sound quality and durability on a budget. This one is waterproof and can withstand less-than-gentle handling.

A wireless charging pad

Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charging Pad, $30

Gift the Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charging Pad, $33.99

This wireless charging pad from Belkin works with iPhones and Qi-enabled Android devices. It has a little indicator light that lets you know when it’s charging, so you’ll never have to guess if it’s working.

An Alexa-enabled car charger

Amazon graduation gifts ROAV

Gift the ROAV by Anker Alexa-Enabled USB Car Charger, $29.99

Give their car a smart upgrade with the Alexa-enabled Roav Viva. Not only can the device charge their smartphone, but it can also answer questions about the weather or traffic, play music, and even tell them the news without distracting their eyes from the road or hands from the steering wheel.

An easy way to track down their phone or wallet

Tile Mate Essentials pack

Gift the Tile Mate with Replaceable Battery, 2-Pack, $47.58

You can’t go wrong with a tracker for their keys, wallet, or phone. The Tile Mate is compact, thoughtful, and useful for everyone — you might want to pick up a second pack for yourself.

An inexpensive way to make cold brew at home

Takeya Cold Brew Maker

Gift the Takeya Patented Deluxe Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker, from $19.99

The Takeya Cold Brew Maker is an inexpensive, easy way to make cold brew from home and can save them hundreds of dollars a year. Find a full review here.

A fun outdoor game


Gift the Spikeball 3 Ball Kit, $59.95

If they love spending time outdoors or are moving to a new city for college or work, a game like Spikeball is a great way to meet new people and hang out with friends. 

Coasters that remind them of home

map coasters, $25.99

Gift the City Map Coasters, Set of 4, $25.99

These handmade coasters are a nice, subtle way to pay homage to a hometown or college town. They’re made with natural Sapele wood and have elaborate details of their city like Detroit or Tokyo. 

A NutriBullet for easy smoothies


Gift the NutriBullet Pro 13-Piece Set, $79.99

Whether they’re moving in with roommates or finally moving in alone, they need a NutriBullet. It’s convenient, doesn’t require a ton of space, and makes fruit smoothies in under 30 seconds. This is particularly great for anyone who can’t finish fruit or veggies fast enough; if it gets a little too ripe to eat, throw it in a smoothie to avoid waste. 

Fresh flowers to decorate their space

Amazon graduation gifts tulips

Check out Amazon’s selection of fresh flowers

Send your grad beautiful fresh flowers to spruce up their space.

An e-reader


Gift the Kindle, $64.99

The Kindle holds hundreds of e-books (some of which can be downloaded at a discount), has a glare-free screen, and is able to go weeks without needing to be charged. It’s great for grads who might have long commutes on the train or someone who just loves to read.

An external portable battery

Gifts for coworkers Eleject

Gift the Elecjet External Battery, $49.99

The Elecjet PowerPie can charge their many devices quickly while they’re on the go, and it’s our best overall battery pack of 2021.

Gift cards for their many expenses

Starbucks gift card

At the end of the day, the most helpful present is a gift card that can help get them through what is likely to be an expensive life change. Below are a few options for everything from books to travel. 

Everything: Visa Gift Card / Amazon Gift Card / Gift Amazon Prime Membership

School books: Amazon Gift Card

Coffee: Starbucks Gift Card

Entertainment: Netflix Gift Card / Fandango Gift Card

Transportation: Uber Gift Card

Furniture: Amazon Gift Card

Music: Spotify Gift Card

Groceries and food: Whole Foods Gift Card / Chipotle Gift Card

Tech: Amazon Gift Card

Travel: Southwest Gift Card / Airbnb Gift Card / Amtrak Gift Card

Read the original article on Business Insider

Amazon trained Alexa in secret by hiring unsuspecting people to ask questions in a room filled with hidden prototypes

Echo Dot
  • The Amazon Echo was an ambitious project for the company and took years to create.
  • Author Brad Stone broke down how Amazon created Alexa in his new book.
  • The company collected speech data from thousands of workers while keeping the project a secret.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon quietly laid the groundwork to eventually leapfrog Google and Apple in the virtual-assistant race by secretly collecting data on speech patterns from thousands of unsuspecting workers, a new book reveals.

When the idea behind the Amazon Echo was first pitched in 2011, executives expressed doubt.

“This is going to be hard,” Amazon’s senior vice president of device, Dave Limp, told Insider’s Eugene Kim he recalled thinking at the time. “It foretold a magical experience. But it would require a lot of inventions.”

The device was stuck in Amazon laboratories for years before the company had a major breakthrough and launched the program that made Alexa “smart.” Author Brad Stone broke down the process of how Amazon created Alexa in his new book “Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire.”

“Internal testing with Amazon employees was too limited,” Stone wrote. “They would need to massively expand the Alexa beta while somehow still keeping it a secret from the outside world.”

In 2013, the team tasked with developing the Amazon Echo launched a data-collection program in partnership with the outside firm Appen, Stone reports. Appen rented out homes and apartments in Boston and filled the rooms with different kinds of electronics, from microphones and TVs to tablets and gaming consoles, according to the book.

Meanwhile, they hid around twenty early versions of the Amazon Echo throughout the rooms. A spokesperson for Appen was not immediately available for comment.

Temporary contract workers were then paid to walk through the rooms, reading scripted questions from tablets. Stone said the scripts asked participants to ask “open-ended requests.” The Echo speakers were off, so Alexa did not respond to the requests, but collected the data and sent it back to a team of Amazon employees who broke the requests down into specific queries that Alexa could easily understand.

The process was repeated six days a week for six months, according to Stone. The data-collection process was so successful that Amazon expanded into 10 other cities.

“It was a mushroom-cloud explosion of data about device placement, acoustic environments, background noise, regional accents, and all the gloriously random ways a human being might phrase a simple request to hear the weather, for example, or play a Justin Timberlake hit,” Stone wrote.

The program was not without its struggles. Stone said neighbors at the various locations would often get suspicious of the people going in and out of the residential locations. At one point, a neighbor in Boston called the cops concerned that the residence was being used as a drug-dealing or prostitution ring. The police were shown around the house and the location was quickly shut down after they left, according to Stone.

Some of the contract workers themselves were even suspicious of the program, he reported. There were often instances when the workers would refuse the job immediately after seeing the setup of the rooms. Others mocked the program.

“One Amazon employee who was annotating transcripts later recalled hearing a temp worker interrupt a session and whisper to whoever he suspected was listening: ‘This is dumb. The company behind this should be embarrassed,'” Stone wrote.

But Amazon’s covert project was far from a waste, about a year later the Amazon Echo was released and eventually became a major hit for the company.

Through Alexa’s savvy, the company was able to overtake Apple and Google in the virtual assistant space, even though Siri was released three years before the Amazon Echo. In 2019, the Amazon Echo accounted for the largest portion of the global smart speaker market share at 31.7%, according to consumer electronics research expert Lionel Sujay Vailshery.

An Amazon spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Jeff Bezos once got so frustrated with Alexa’s lack of intelligence that he told Alexa to ‘shoot yourself’ – and Amazon’s engineers heard it

Amazon Echo
Amazon’s Alexa is set to answer people’s queries, from the weather to CDC guidelines.

  • The test models of Amazon Alexa-powered devices frustrated employees and even Jeff Bezos.
  • Engineers once heard Bezos tell the device to “shoot yourself in the head.”
  • Other testers said it was a stupid product and would hardly respond correctly.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When Amazon was first testing what would eventually become “Alexa,” some workers and even the company’s CEO Jeff Bezos were frustrated with its performance, according to a new book about the business.

Bezos tested the Alexa-powered device – then a project referred to as the “Doppler” – at his home in Seattle.

“In pique of frustration over its lack of comprehension, he told Alexa to go ‘shoot yourself in the head,'” according to author Brad Stone’s new book, “Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire,” which was released Tuesday.

Engineers who reviewed interactions with the device heard Bezos’ comment and thought the project was done for.

Read more: Big Tech has a new battleground: self-driving cars. Here’s how Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, and Sundar Pichai hope to capture the $290 billion market.

Hundreds of Amazon employees also tested out the device and complained of its lack of intelligence.

One manager, who had to fill out a spreadsheet every week explaining what questions he asked and how the device responded, said, “It would hardly ever give me the right answer.”

Another tester said it was a stupid product, adding that the device was “doomed” because it “didn’t work for shit.”

But eventually engineers at the company figured out how to make the “Doppler,” smarter. In 2014, Amazon released the first version of its novel Alexa device. Within five years, the company sold more than 100 million devices with Alexa built in.

Use of the Alexa devices soared during the pandemic, as people started using them more to connect, and even to find out what day of the week it was. Now, it has helped people find where to get a COVID-19 vaccine and schedule an appointment. Amazon didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on this story.

In his last shareholder letter, Bezos said that when he started the company in 1997, “we hadn’t invented Prime, Marketplace, Alexa, or AWS. They weren’t even ideas then, and none was preordained. We took great risk with each one and put sweat and ingenuity into each one.”

Read the original article on Business Insider