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In 2015, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the United States by market capitalization. Amazon is the third most valuable public company in the United States (behind Apple and Microsoft), the largest Internet company by revenue in the world, and after Walmart, the second largest employer in the United States. In 2017, Amazon acquired Whole Foods Market for $13.4 billion, which vastly increased Amazon's presence as a brick-and-mortar retailer. The acquisition was interpreted by some as a direct attempt to challenge Walmart's traditional retail stores.
Amazon has attracted widespread criticism for poor working conditions by both current employees, who refer to themselves as Amazonians, and former employees, as well as the media and politicians. In 2011, it was publicized that at the Breinigsville, Pennsylvania warehouse, workers had to carry out work in 100 °F (38 °C) heat, resulting in employees becoming extremely uncomfortable and suffering from dehydration and collapse. Loading-bay doors were not opened to allow in fresh air, due to the company's concerns over theft. Amazon's initial response was to pay for an ambulance to sit outside on call to cart away overheated employees. The company eventually installed air conditioning at the warehouse.
In July 1995, the company began service as an online bookstore. The first book sold on Amazon.com was Douglas Hofstadter's Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought. In the first two months of business, Amazon sold to all 50 states and over 45 countries. Within two months, Amazon's sales were up to $20,000/week. In October 1995, the company announced itself to the public. In 1996, it was reincorporated in Delaware. Amazon issued its initial public offering of stock on May 15, 1997, at $18 per share, trading under the NASDAQ stock exchange symbol AMZN.
Amazon.com's product lines available at its website include several media (books, DVDs, music CDs, videotapes and software), apparel, baby products, consumer electronics, beauty products, gourmet food, groceries, health and personal-care items, industrial & scientific supplies, kitchen items, jewelry, watches, lawn and garden items, musical instruments, sporting goods, tools, automotive items and toys & games.
In addition to pulling in hosting revenue from companies like Disney, Netflix, and Spotify, AWS is also the backbone of the company’s own internal infrastructure and the underlying foundation for its Alexa digital voice assistant. It is a major competitor to Microsoft and its Azure platform, as well as Google’s cloud computing division and the cloud businesses of IBM and Oracle. AWS is so important to the integrity of the apps and websites we use that a rare S3 outage, which is the web hosting pillar of AWS, took out large swaths of the internet.
Many U.S. states in the 21st century have passed online shopping sales tax laws designed to compel Amazon.com and other e-commerce retailers to collect state and local sales taxes from its customers. Amazon.com originally collected sales tax only from five states as of 2011, but as of April 2017, Amazon collects sales taxes from customers in all 45 states that have a state sales tax and in Washington, D.C.
Vince Offer is a famous director, comedian, and commercial pitchman who made his name promoting the ShamWow. Using his natural charisma and his ability to add double entendres to his pitches, Vince turned the commercial into a major career move. The ShamWow itself is one of the most successful cleaning products on the market today, and Vince himself has gone on to pitch several other As Seen on TV products.