In 2019, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is a billionaire many, many times over. And Amazon? It's one of the biggest companies in the world, of course.
But way back in the summer of 1998, Bezos' Amazon was still a fledgling startup — and Bezos was using a recycled door as a desk.
It wasn't just Bezos who was using the makeshift desk, though.
"His desk, and the desks of the two other people he shared the office with, were made of doors mounted atop 4 × 4 wooden legs, braced with triangular metal pieces," Netflix's first CEO Marc Randolph writes in a newly published Wall Street Journal story. "I suddenly realized that every desk I'd seen in that office was the same."
The recycled door desk has gone on to become a legend within Amazon — the company even created a video showing how to create your own:
But the makeshift desks weren't a measure of Amazon not having enough money to pay for, you know, actual desks.
Instead, as Randolph remembers Bezos telling him, it was a "deliberate message." Specifically: "It's a way of saying that we spend money on things that affect our customers, not on things that don't."
It may sound extreme, but it's this obsessive focus on customers above all else that defines Amazon — and that has defined Amazon's leader, Jeff Bezos, as the company has grown from an early ecommerce company to an international retail giant.
That focus on customers over all else has been the driving force of Amazon's approach to a variety of industries, and serves as the company's mission statement. "We will continue to focus relentlessly on our customers," is the first bullet point in Amazon's infamous 1997 letter to shareholders in the section that lays out the company's "fundamental management and decision-making approach."
There's also another, slightly more straightforward reason why early Amazon employees ended up using recycled doors as desks: "We happened to be across the street from a Home Depot," Amazon employee number five, Nico Lovejoy, said in an Amazon blog post last year.
When he and Bezos looked at desks in the Home Depot, then look at doors, the latter were far less expensive — "so he decided to buy a door and put some legs on it."