Why Amazon Is Opening A Brick-And-Mortar Location In New York

The e-tailer is reportedly enlisting bike messengers to get packages to customers in one or two hours.

Why Amazon Is Opening A Brick-And-Mortar Location In New York
[Photo: Flickr user FaceMePLS]

In October, Amazon signed a 17-year lease for a location in the shadow of the Empire State Building in New York City. The online retailer has since played it coy when asked for details about its plans for the site.


Now Amazon’s goals for the brick-and-mortar space are coming into focus. According to a new report in the Wall Street Journal, it looks like the location will be used as a centralized hub to speed up same-day delivery in Manhattan using bike messengers.

The service is being called Amazon Prime Now, and it looks like the e-tailer is putting together a fleet of the city’s fastest cyclists to schlep around your stuff. An insider describes the scavenger hunt-esque recruitment process to the Journal:

Amazon has been holding time trials with messengers from at least three courier services to pick the speediest and most careful for its delivery fleet, the person said. During the trials, messengers are given an address and told to bike there within the allotted time. Once they arrive, they are required to take a photograph of the building’s address and return to the ground floor of the Amazon building, which is referred to by bike messengers as “the base,” the person said.

The new warehouse-slash-delivery hub is said to have a lounge, complete with foosball and air hockey tables. Any messenger enlisted is reportedly paid $15 an hour, and works in 8-hour shifts. Amazon Prime Now’s goal is to get certain types in merchandise into the hands of customers within one or two hours.

For same-day delivery, bicycle couriers are currently more practical than Amazon’s in-the-works drone delivery program, which is stalled by Federal Aviation Administration rules against commercial use of flying robots. Amazon on Sunday warned the FAA it would move its drone research abroad if the restrictions were not loosened.

[h/t: Wall Street Journal]

About the author

Chris is a staff writer at Fast Company, where he covers business and tech. He has also written for The Week, TIME, Men's Journal, The Atlantic, and more.