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Amazon’s Latest Delivery Estimate: Two Minutes

August 15, 2017

Jeff Bezos loves speed. First it was next-day delivery with Prime. Then it was same-day. Amazon Now upped the ante with in-the-hour provision of, well, whatever you need inside an hour. And AmazonFresh Pickup has groceries ready for you within 15 minutes.

Amazon’s latest trick is getting an order to you in two minutes flat. It's the e-commerce giant’s new Instant Pickup offering, which is being rolled out at five college campuses, including University of California, Berkeley, with more claimed to be on the way.

The service isn’t quite as impressive at it may seem at first blush. Customers order from a list of several hundred popular items via the Amazon app—think headphones, candy, and, naturally, Echo Dot smart speakers. Employees then scurry around a storage room, pop the items into a locker within a couple of minutes, and send the customer a bar code that can be used to unlock a door and retrieve the loot. Definitely fast, but not the kind of full-on choice that you might have hoped for.

By this point, of course, it’s clear that Amazon wants to take over physical retail as well as digital, with its recent acquisition of Whole Foods, real-life bookstores, and a range of retail experiments taking place in Seattle. With Instant Pickup, though, it seems to be taking a weirdly labor-intensive aim at ... vending machines. And Amazon's director of student programs, Ripley MacDonald, tells Reuters as much, explaining that he sees the system being perfect for ordering a can of soda, and even going so far as saying that the firm considered, but ultimately rejected, full automation of the service.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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