Rebecca Tyrrel: 'I like to imagine Amazon’s ‘chief fulfiller’ in saffron robes, working quietly in the style of a monk tutor'

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The Independent Online

Who knew that at Amazon, a warehouse is not a warehouse but a 'fulfilment centre'? How big a part this mildly Orwellian euphemism has played in Amazon's rise to become the world's premier retailer is unknowable. But it is hard to believe that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos would be routinely hailed as 'the new Steve Jobs' if he presided over anything as prosaic as warehouses.

On the ladder of modern euphemism 'fulfilment centre' hardly challenges 'collateral damage' (the needless slaughter of civilians). But it does have the clear edge over 'logistics', as road haulage has become known. Fulfilment, after all, takes us beyond that stab at making the late Eddie Stobart seem cool and on to a higher plane of spiritual satisfaction. I like to imagine the chief fulfiller (formerly 'foreman') of a fulfilment centre in flowing saffron robes working quietly to a background loop of Zen aphorisms in the style of Grasshopper's blind monk tutor in Kung Fu.

In commercial terms, no one is more centrally fulfilled than Bezos, whose personal wealth has soared to almost $20bn (£12.5bn). As an infant, Bezos was so fixated on completing his kindergarten tasks that his Montessori teachers, unable to capture his attention, would pick up his chair to move him. Like Jobs, he started out in the family garage, where – perhaps inspired by the Wacky Races' Prof Pat Pending – he tried to create a vacuum cleaner that turned into a hovercraft.

As a teenager, he founded the Dream Institute, a summer school designed to encourage creative thinking, mingling the high-minded and entrepreneurial in the classic modern-American fashion by charging his siblings an entry fee. Like Martin Luther King, he had a DREAM. Unlike Dr King, Jeff Bezos appears to have achieved it for himself, and for anyone whose nightmare is queuing in HMV to pay twice the Amazon price for a boxed set of Downton Abbey.

Those he has in mind in offering FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon) are not his staff, let alone himself. It is the beloved one-click customer, who can now depress a single key and purchase One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of, for just £8.46, within 24 hours. Fulfilment indeed.