MONEY online shopping

7 Things You Probably Had No Idea Amazon Sold

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What do autographed vintage Air Jordans, environmentally friendly baby wipes, cheap wine, and plumber recommendations have in common? You can find them all at Amazon.com.

On Monday, Amazon announced the official launch of Amazon Home Services, a marketplace and recommendation tool to help people find, schedule, and pay for services like home cleaning, lawn care, and handyman jobs. The new service is obviously competing in the same space as user review tools like Angie’s List, Yelp, and Porch, but at least initially Amazon customers can’t weigh in with reviews or star ratings of the services booked. Instead, Amazon simply says all of its professionals are handpicked and fully insured, and if anything goes wrong with a job it promises to “work with customers and the pro to ensure the job gets done right or provide a refund.”

Amazon’s entrance into the sphere of contractors and professional home services may seem a little out of left field. But the move makes total sense in light of the company’s overarching mission—to become the destination for anyone wanting to find and purchase pretty much anything.

Here are a few other seemingly odd retail categories that Amazon has ventured into recently. They haven’t all been successful. In fact, some have basically been flops. But when you’re trying to take control of the marketplace for selling everything under the sun, a few misfires and false starts should be expected.

Fine Art
Amazon Art launched in the summer of 2013 as a marketplace selling tens of thousands of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other works—including some originals from masters like Monet and Norman Rockwell, with list prices into the millions of dollars. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some in the highbrow art world have been skeptical about the idea of one-click ordering, say, a Rembrandt.

Renowned economist Tyler Cowen pointed out the absurdity of being asked to pay $4.99 for shipping for a “mediocre Mary Cassatt lithograph” listed at $185,000, and wrote that he hoped Amazon Art was “a doomed venture.” The New Yorker noted that actually selling and profiting from high-end art may not be the point for Amazon: “Regardless of whether Amazon Art revolutionizes the art world, it will contribute to the perception that Amazon is working to create: whatever it is you’re looking for, you only need to remember one U.R.L.”

Fresh Flowers
About the same time Amazon was getting into fine art, it quietly launched The Amazon Curated Flowers Collection, in which the e-retail giant would be selling and shipping flowers directly to customers. Apparently, the venture didn’t work out. Recode reported that the Collection was kaput within a few months, and now the only flower bouquets that can be ordered through the site come from third-party vendors.

Diapers & Baby Wipes
Another venture that seems to have not worked out as well as Amazon wished was its recent entrance into the diaper business. Last December, the company began selling Amazon Elements, its own brand of high-end, environmentally friendly diapers and wipes. Less than two months later, bad feedback from customers pushed Amazon to discontinue the diapers and take them off the market, at least until design improvements could be made. Amazon Elements Baby Wipes, meanwhile, are still listed for sale at the site, where they get a 4.5-star rating.

Collectible Coins
Amazon’s Collectible Coins marketplace hit the site last May, allowing shoppers to search, browse, and buy thousands of rare and historical authenticated coins from dozens of dealers. Like Amazon Art, the coins purchased via Amazon can be priced into the millions, and Amazon gets a cut of every sale—reportedly 5% to 20%.

Sports Memorabilia
Among the wide selection of autographed sports collectibles currently up for sale on Amazon is a pair of 1985 Air Jordan sneakers ($48,788 + $4.49 shipping) and a baseball featuring Lou Gehrig’s signature ($71,264.99, with free shipping!). Amazon got into sports memorabilia in 2012, and it has a section for TV and movie collectibles as well.

Wine
The Amazon Wine marketplace was introduced in 2012 in about a dozen states, with shipping on up to six bottles priced at a flat $9.99. The service has since expanded for delivery to more than a dozen other states, and the site—no stranger to price wars—has been competing aggressively on wine promotions, notably with 1¢ shipping on many orders.

TIME Careers & Workplace

This Is the Most Effective Way to Approach a Slacking Colleague

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Don't get mad and ask a simple question

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

“You’ve had three months to do this project. I gave you extensive directions, asked you if you needed help on four separate occasions, and checked in with you on a weekly basis. What do you mean we’re not going to be ready for the event on Saturday?!?”

That’s what I wanted to say to my employee who approached me explaining that she didn’t, in fact, have things ready for Saturday’s event. Instead, I paused for a beat, smiled, and said:

“Thank you again for agreeing to lead the charge on this—I know how busy you are! It sounds like we have a lot of ground to cover before the event on Saturday. What ideas do you have for making up that ground? I know you’ll be able to make this a success, which is why I chose you for this role in the first place.”

I’m the editor-in-chief of an online magazine. We have a staff of 70 and an intense publishing schedule, so it’s a huge role—and I delegate a lot. Unfortunately, those I delegate to aren’t always as invested as I am.

A couple of months ago, I would have used the first approach on my slacking team member. However, I quickly found that getting angry—although satisfying—didn’t motivate my staff. Instead, they would get defensive and resentful.

I had to change my tactics. That’s when I discovered the magical question: What ideas do you have for… (finishing this on time, placating the customer, responding to the client, doing things better in the future, whatever else you think is required to fix the thing you messed up)?

This question is effective for multiple reasons:

  • It forces the person you’re asking to acknowledge he or she has created a problem.
  • It gives him or her an instant way to alleviate that problem.
  • It asks him or her to think of more than one solution.
  • It makes you seem understanding and sympathetic.
  • It allows the person to be less defensive, since you’re not being accusatory or suggesting you’ve lost faith in him or her.

When I asked this question to the woman organizing Saturday’s event, she responded:

“I’m busy, but that’s no excuse! So is everyone else on our staff! I know I let you down, but I’m going to focus all my energy into making this event happen. First, I’ll call every caterer in the area to see who’s still available. Maybe we can offer them free publicity so they’ll ignore how last-minute it is? Also, I was thinking…”

There’s no way I would’ve gotten a reply this helpful if I had listened to the urge to yell at her.

Even if you’re not in a position of power, you can still use this principle—just slightly alter the question. Say you’re the one who’s messed up. After owning your mistake and apologizing, ask your supervisor, “What would you do in my situation?”

Once again, it’s effective in a variety of ways:

  • Your boss is now looking at things from your side, making him or her more empathetic.
  • You get at least one potential solution.
  • You show you’re serious and proactive about fixing your mistakes.
  • You’re flattering your boss by asking for his or her opinion and help.

When I realized I’d made a promise to a client I couldn’t keep, I immediately went to my supervisor, explained what had happened, and said, “I’d love your insight into how to handle this. If you were in my shoes, what would you do?” She thought for a bit, then gave me a three-part plan for making it up to the customer.

This technique is especially useful when you have no idea how to resolve a conflict—and don’t want to admit your cluelessness.

As both a leader and an employee, I used to think I needed to have all the answers. Now I’ve found I just need one question. Problem solved.

More from The Muse:

TIME Careers & Workplace

Why a Personal Website Is Your Best Asset (and How to Make It Good)

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It's a small move with a big difference

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

I see a lot of résumés—from friends, prospective FinePoint collaborators, and associates. A résumé is great, but it’s static—it signifies only one page of who you are as a person.

Nobody can or should be reduced to a page, especially in this age of multiple careers and diverse interests. Showcasing yourself on an 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper is increasingly difficult. And it shouldn’t be how it’s done anyway.

Being in the business of helping founders and leaders with their personal brands, voice, visibility, and profiles, one of the things I nearly always recommend is a personal website. But this isn’t true just for clients; it’s true for everyone. You need your own site no matter what the level of your career. Having a personal page should be considered by everyone. So whether you’re in college or a CEO, not having a personal website is a missed opportunity.

Control

There is only so much you can control online, particularly when it comes to your name and profile. There are things you can barely control (like a person whose name is close to yours who happens to have great SEO), and some you can, like LinkedIn. However, with platforms like LinkedIn, you’re still limited to their layout, their buttons, their prompts. You can’t edit the code on your Facebook page, and so, by having your own website, you are in 100 percent control of the conversation surrounding you. And that’s nearly the only time that happens.

Not only are you in control but you are able to show your personality, character, color, animation, video, audio–not to mention accolades–and they’re all displayed, in a way that is unique to you. Think about your professional goals–and then about what you can put on your page to highlight why and how you can get there.

Personal websites get people jobs. I hired someone flat out because of her website (it was a play on Beyonce’s, so I just had to).

The technicalities

There are a ton of easy-to-use platforms–such as Wix, Weebly, or WordPress–for creating a personal site. All of these services are free (at least at the basic level), and make producing your website a lot easier than it looks. This is the biggest reason, clients tell me, that they don’t have their own websites–fear of the technical aspects. But it’s just not that hard. You can also hire great designers, but for the first version you can always play with looks and layouts on your own with one of these programs.

Ten years ago I interviewed for an internship at a PR firm, and I remember the CEO saying, “If you don’t remember anything else, at least buy the domain of your name.” (I guess I didn’t remember much else, but I did remember that.) Buy every iteration–.co, .org, .me. You never know what will happen: Someone with a name similar to yours could become famous (for good or bad), or someone could potentially harm your online reputation by using your name in a URL.

Keeping track

Having a personal website means you can also use it for your own purposes, not just to show others who you are. A personal website can house and track interesting projects you’re working on and media mentions of you or your company, or it can keep all of your writing in one place. I use my site as a database for everything I’ve written in the past nine years, as well as everything that has been written about me. This is easy for business development emails, but it also allows you to really take a look over the work that you’ve done. All in one spot. Whenever I write something new, I immediately put it on the site. By making that a common practice, I don’t have to try to remember pieces I wrote five years ago.

Show, don’t tell

You can talk yourself blue in the face about a work experience, but nothing proves in an interview or meeting that you know how to produce a great video like one you created that someone can link to, send around, or watch to see what your skillset is like. A personal website isn’t restricted to pieces written and accolades, but can also display your side interests, hobbies, photos, and more.

It’s all about creating the conversation, versus having to control and change the discussion. A personal website is the easiest way to assert who you are, and to display it.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Success Is Controlling How You Spend Your Time

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Successful people control how they spend their time—and the money is just a nice thing that comes along with that

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

I blew the mind of one of my Babson College students this morning.

Like most people, he believes that success is measured by how much money you have and how much money you make. By that measure, there is no single individual who is the world’s most successful.

After all, Bill Gates—whose net worth totaled $79.6 billion according to Forbes‘s January 29, 2015, tally—probably has the most money, but I sincerely doubt he makes the most money every year.

That title probably goes to a hedge fund manager. For example, Ray Dalio—who runs $120 billion (assets under management) Bridgewater Associates—pulled in a cool $3 billion in personal earnings last year, according to Forbes.

But if you believe that success means both having the highest net worth and getting paid the most every year, then neither Gates nor Dalio is successful.

That’s because the pursuit of the most wealth or the highest annual income is success only if you keep winning every year. Otherwise, you are going to spend time trying to figure out how you can get to be number one—rather than taking pleasure in what you have achieved.

Simply put, unless you’re top dog, the unpleasant view never changes.

It is for this reason that somewhere along the way, I figured out a different definition of success–success is controlling how you spend your time–that blew the mind of my student this morning.

Just to be clear: I am not declaring a vow of poverty. In fact, I believe that for many people, controlling how you spend your time is the kind of success they can achieve only after they have earned enough money that they no longer have to worry about paying their bills.

Many people never achieve that level of financial security. But I do not believe that a net worth of $80 billion is necessary to get to the point where you can cover your likely future obligations.

If you get there by doing what you want to be doing and it makes you happy, then I consider you successful.

But if you get there by working a grinding job that pays well but makes you miserable, then you need to stop and ask yourself whether you should get off the hamster wheel and figure out what you really want to be doing with your life.

My advice to the student was to think about what he has enjoyed doing in the past and what has been less interesting to him. Based on that self-assessment, I suggested that he should make some guesses about what he would like to do.

He should then apply three tests to those hypotheses:

  • Am I passionate about the work?
  • Am I one of the world’s best at doing this work?
  • Will the market compensate me well enough for it?

Generally, people do not know whether, say, investment banking, consulting, running a startup, or asset management will satisfy all these tests.

Therefore, I advise students to seek out informational interviews with people in those fields. The networking practice they get in trying to set up these interviews will be inherently valuable.

Once they set up such interviews, I advise them to ask people how they would answer the three above questions.

For example, in the informational interviews, students might ask the following:

  • In your company, are there people who are really passionate about their work? What do they do differently than those who are mostly there to pay their bills?
  • In your field, what are the key things that the most talented people do that differ from the ones who are merely competent?
  • Is the compensation that people receive in this field satisfying or frustrating? What is the difference between people in your company who feel fairly compensated and the rest?

If students conduct 10 to 15 such interviews, they should be able to assess whether they would be happy working with people in that field.

And it would be even better for them if those informational interviews led to internships that would allow them to immerse themselves more fully in those fields.

To my mind, my students will achieve success only when they are happy in their work—and to do that, they must be passionate about it, excel in their field, and receive positive recognition from the market.

I don’t know Gates or Dalio but it seems to me that they control how they spend their time—and the money is just a nice thing that comes along with that.

TIME

Pot Is Making California’s Epic Drought Worse

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Pot growers are using more water than previously understood

Marijuana growers in Northern California are worsening local effects of the historic drought that has gripped the state for the past four years, according to a new study from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Creeks in Humboldt County, a major pot-growing region, are going dry during the May-September outdoor growing season, which also happens to be the driest period of the year, even when there is no drought.

The average marijuana plant consumes about six gallons of water a day. The report compares this to another Northern California plant: wine grapes, which take about 3.3 gallons per day (one-to-one comparisons of two totally different plants are a blunt measure, but still give a roughly useful basis for comparison).

Based on analyses of stream-flow data, aerial observation, and estimated demand, the researchers found that pot growers are in some cases using more water than local creeks can support, putting local wildlife — including the salmon and trout that use the streams — in danger. Young salmon spend their first year of life in those streams before heading to the ocean, spending two years there, and returning to spawn — that is, if there’s enough water. If there isn’t, they can die. This disrupts not only the fishing industry, but the whole food chain, since many local critters feed on fish.

Water diversion is “likely to have lethal or sub-lethal effects on state-and federally-listed salmon and steelhead trout and to cause further decline of sensitive amphibian species,” according to the Fich & Wildlife report.

The study indicates, as have earlier ones, that a majority of creeks studied in the area are at risk.

With other farming industries, such a problem could be tackled head-on. But marijuana’s murky legal status makes that next to impossible. Under state law, pot is legal in California for medical use. But, because it remains illegal for recreational use, and — especially — because it remains totally illegal under federal law — it’s very difficult to regulate. Pot growers in general try to keep as incognito as possible. They don’t apply for permits or create other records that would allow the government to amass data.

Generally, farmers are required to secure permits to redirect water from creeks or to release wastewater. That applies to pot growers, too, but the requirement hasn’t been strongly enforced. The California Water Resources Control Board has lately begun to step up enforcement efforts, but state laws are vague on the details of when permits are needed. That, combined with the reticence of pot growers, means addressing the problem will be a major challenge.

Meanwhile, the drought goes on, with no end in sight. The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains, a major source of California’s water, is now at only 9% of normal levels. As this is happening, the pot industry is growing fast. The Fish & Wildlife report estimates that the amount of land devoted to marijuana cultivation nearly doubled between 2009 and 2012.

TIME Autos

Here’s Your First Look at the Resurrected Lincoln Continental

The signature full-width taillamp features advanced light-through-chrome technology.
Lincoln Media Center The signature full-width taillamp features advanced light-through-chrome technology.

Gone are the trademark fins and rear-hinged ‘suicide doors’ of the 1960s

Ford Motor Co is resurrecting the Lincoln Continental as its top-of-the line luxury sedan, betting that the classic name will help rebuild the brand’s image in the United States and China.

Ford’s Lincoln will unveil a prototype of the future Continental sedan on Monday ahead of the April 3-12 New York auto show, which will also feature many of the Continental’s future rivals, including the Cadillac CT6 sedan from General Motors Co, a new Jaguar XF sedan from Jaguar Land Rover and a bevy of super-premium models from Daimler AG’s Mercedes Benz.

Ford retired the Continental name in 2002, after over 40 years and nine generations of cars, including, most famously, the adapted convertible in which President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas in 1963.

Ford has long since joined its rivals in using letter and number codes for most models. But memories lived on in China, where Continentals had been the car of political leaders and celebrities. China now is the main market for premium sedans such as the Audi A6 or A8, the Mercedes S-class or the BMW 7-series.

Ford executives say they were surprised to learn that the Continental name also had legs in the U.S., where grandly-proportioned Continentals from the 1960s had prominent cameo roles in movies such as the popular “Matrix” science fiction series.

What clinched it, said Ford Chief Executive Mark Fields, was that early designs for the next large Lincoln sedan “weren’t as good as we wanted them to be.” About 18 months ago, Fields said he and other senior executives decided to call the car the Continental based on the positive research.

“Immediately, people’s eyes lit up,” Fields said. The show car debuts a new look for Lincoln, with a grille and stance that lean more toward Jaguar or Maserati than Cadillac or BMW.

When it launches next year, the production Continental will be the latest salvo in a $2.5 billion renovation of Lincoln. In the U.S., the brand lags well behind BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Cadillac and Lexus. Lincoln’s U.S. sales are up 1.2% for the first two months of 2015, lagging the 9.2% increase in the overall market.

By 2020, Ford wants to expand Lincoln sales globally to 300,000 vehicles a year, about triple current sales, Fields said.

Ford is in the early stages of relaunching Lincoln in China, with 11 dealerships and 25 planned by the end of 2015. Ford has not announced plans to build Lincoln vehicles there. GM says it plans to build the CT6 in China and at its factory in Hamtramck, Michigan.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com and includes information from Reuters.

TIME

5 Networking Mistakes That Keep You From Getting Ahead

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Every single roundup of career advice out there talks about the importance of networking. Less talked-about but just as important is doing it correctly. You might think you’re doing all the right things by hanging out near the boss at the sales retreat or passing out your business card to everybody you meet at the trade show reception — but in reality, bad networking technique can do as much damage to your career as not networking at all.

Here are some common pitfalls experts warn against falling into.

Relying on online social networks. Yes, LinkedIn and its ilk can be a great way to further your network, but the point of networking is to actually, you know, meet people. James Jeffries, director of career development at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, says this is a mistake young workers especially need to be conscious of, since they grew up having simultaneous online and real-life relationships. “As networking becomes synonymous with online networking… they can neglect the importance of actually meeting up with people for coffee, making a phone call, or showing up at an event. So far online connections have not supplanted these traditional interactions,” he says.

Staying in your comfort zone. Mingling with others at corporate, industry or alumni functions isn’t going to be nearly as effective if you just hang out with people you know. Yes, it’s a good idea to catch up with acquaintances, but unless you push yourself out of your comfort zone and meet new people, you’re limiting the effectiveness of your networking, says Amanda Augustine, job search expert at mobile career network TheLadders. “Casual networking events at local watering holes can quickly turn into mini-reunions with the friends you already see on a regular basis,” she says in a post on the company’s blog. Augustine says you should set a goal of talking to three new people at every event you attend. “They have the most potential to expand your network the furthest,” she says.

Doing the business-card “drive-by.” Some people take the other extreme when it comes to networking. They’re so determined to meet as many new people as possible that they have it down to a science: A quick introduction, handshake and then they’re pushing their business card into the person’s palm and moving on before the other person can catch their breath. “Networking is not a race to distribute as many business cards or get as many cards as possible,” career coach Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta advises on the blog of her consulting firm, OliveBlue. To be effective, networking needs to be about relationship building, not card collecting. It’s not and will never be just a numbers game.

Focusing on what’s in it for you. “Networking can be described as the process of interacting or engaging in communication with others for mutual assistance or support,” Akpoveta says. The mutual part is key here. If you’re always asking what somebody can do for you, it’s going to get old quick. Find out what the other person needs or is interested in, and make that happen. “We need to change our mindset from focusing on not just what we can get, but to also what we can give,” Akpoveta says. If you’re known as a person who can deliver, people are more likely to remember you — and more likely to reciprocate when you’re the one asking for a favor or a referral.

Not following up. This sounds like a no-brainer, but how many of us have been rifling through a desk drawer and stumbled across the business card of someone who would make a great contact — if only you’d emailed them back when you met them months ago. “Think of each networking event as a speed dating exercise,” Augustine says. “If you get someone’s phone number but never call them afterwards, the evening was a waste.” Shoot off a quick note following your meeting. It doesn’t have to be elaborate: Just say, “Hi, it was great meeting you. I wanted to make sure you had my contact info, too, because I’d like to stay in touch.” Even a brief email can get the ball rolling.

TIME Smartphones

Watch the Samsung Galaxy S Evolve Before Your Very Eyes

The Android-powered iPhone rival has come a long way

The Samsung Galaxy S has come a long way since it first launched in 2010. With its latest versions — the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge — set to go on sale on April 10, take a look at how the Android-powered iPhone rival has changed over the years:

Evolution of the  Galaxy S
gadgetlove.comEvolution of the Samsung Galaxy S

For a larger, interactive version of the GIF, head over to gadgetlove.com.

TIME Law

Apple CEO Tim Cook Warns Of Discriminatory Laws Sweeping U.S.

Tim Cook
Eric Risberg—AP Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks in San Francisco on March 9, 2015

"America’s business community recognized a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business"

Apple boss Tim Cook decried in the Washington Post what he called discriminatory legislation proposed in more than 20 states, following a controversial law signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence that appears to allows the state’s business owners to refuse service to same-sex couples.

“America’s business community recognized a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business,” Cook wrote in a Post op-ed. The 54-year-old referenced the Indiana bill that critics say enables LGBT discrimination on the grounds of religious freedom.

Cook argues that leading companies like Apple must oppose the growing trend of such legislation in places like North Carolina and Nevada, as the laws will ultimately hamper job growth and economic prosperity.

Read more at the Washington Post

TIME Transportation

This Glow-in-the-Dark Spray Could Make Cycling at Night Way Safer

A new safety initiative being tested in the U.K.

Car giant Volvo is turning in a slightly different direction for its next project: cycling safety.

Last week, the automaker and its partners unveiled a reflective spray called LifePaint, which cyclists can spray on their clothes and bicycles to boost safety at night. The spray, which is reflective for up to 10 days, is invisible in daylight but becomes bright white at night when a car shines its lights on a treated surface.

LifePaint, created in partnership with design firm Grey London and Swedish startup Albedo100, is in trials at six cycle shops in London and Kent. If it proves popular with cyclists, Grey London said in a statement, the project will expand domestically and beyond the U.K.

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