Amazon offered to clean my house this morning.
I went to its homepage and there was an ad for maid services vetted by Amazon and fulfilled by a third party. Price is usually Amazon's strong suit – not so here. The rate they quoted me for my ZIP code was nearly three times what I pay a small, locally owned company now, and it didn't cover as much.
If I wanted a "deep clean," I could pay $80 more, but it would only add cleaning of the fridge and oven, and the inside of the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Still, booking looks convenient, and convenience is another major Amazon selling point.
"If you want to survive, you have to sell something that Amazon doesn't," said Heather Kalisiak, owner of Martinsville Soapworks, which has sold artisan bath and body products since 2002. She has a shop on Webster Street in North Tonawanda, which is a few doors down from Handmade WNY, an artisan boutique run by her daughter Talia.
The problem with that is, Amazon sells things shoppers never would have imagined an online business would sell before. I mean, with one click, you can order a Christmas tree, a swingset, even a house.
Amazon has steamrolled brick-and-mortar retail, and it's getting into new industries all the time.
Right now, when it comes to offering services, Amazon acts as a third-party contractor. It's much like when you order a tile floor from Home Depot, and the store contracts a local person to install it for you. It funnels work to those contractors. But Home Depot contractors earn 19% less than the national average contractor's salary, according to employment website Indeed.com.
Amazon also has a history of squeezing low prices out of its vendors. That's good for consumers, but bad for locally owned, small businesses. And who is to say Amazon won't build its own team of plumbers and housekeepers in the future? I mean, the company drops packages out of the sky, stranger things have happened.
So what other kinds of jobs does the e-commerce juggernaut have its eye on?
Plumber. Just when you thought the trades were the only occupation safe from technology, Amazon gets into the plumbing business. Amazon offers mostly basic services from third-party partners so far, such as fixing leaky faucets, unclogging drains, changing out old toilets and installing garbage disposals.
Mechanic. Amazon does tires, axles and brakes. It will replace your headlights, install your car stereo, replace your radiator and install your bumper or trailer hitch. For the most part, the website hooks you up with a local garage, where you'll take your vehicle to have the work done.
Electrician. Amazon will install your under cabinet lighting, smart thermostat, HDTV antenna, hard-wired smoke detectors, light fixtures and replace electrical outlets, plus a range of surveillance and Wi-Fi setups.
Other trades are affected, too. You can place an order to have someone install your central air conditioner, your laminate floor and your kitchen tile, clean your air ducts, caulk your windows, patch your drywall, move your furniture, clean your carpets, replace your laptop screen and tune up your water heater.
Car dealer/sales. You can go to Amazon right now and buy a car. American or foreign, used or new. Just pick your specs, click your color and you're in business. Technically, when you're ready to buy, Amazon will take you to the automaker's website. But how long do you think that will last?
Lawn and garden. Who needs the neighbor kid when Amazon will mow your lawn, weed your garden, clean up your yard, prune your trees, trim your hedges, clear your gutters and spread your mulch?
Music teacher. Even musicians aren't safe. Amazon offers guitar and piano lessons.
But there are other opportunities. Amazon offers some pretty specific consumer services I've never seen offered anywhere else. They'll set up your desktop computer, program your smart remote or keyless entry system, haul away your old couch, TV or Christmas tree; and they'll assemble just about anything: your crib, chicken coop, trampoline, sauna, basketball hoop, office chair or pool table. But they don't offer any of those services in the Buffalo Niagara region yet, which means you can.
There are other services they do already offer here, but they aren't widely advertised. You can jump on those, too, for now.
They seem to pay pretty well. For example, Amazon will install car seat covers (four for $93), set up computer printers ($62), mount flat-screen TVs ($99), hang holiday lights ($215 for two hours), back up computer data onto an external hard drive ($64), hang photos ($88 per hour) and coach people how to use email ($83).