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3/30/2015
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Goats, Now Available From Amazon

The new Amazon Home Services will help you find a wide variety of professional home improvement resources.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge: Night At The Museum
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge: Night At The Museum
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Amazon can now help you rent goats and perform aerial yoga, though not necessarily at the same time.

On Monday, the company launched Amazon Home Services, an online market for professional services. Customers can use the service to hire "handpicked pros" for jobs related to home improvement, landscaping, appliances, electronics, and automobiles, among other things.

Home Depot and Lowe's already offer similar online markets for home-oriented professional services, to say nothing of search-oriented services like Angie's List and Yelp. But Amazon's familiar and widely used e-commerce interface may appeal to those who are looking to hire service professionals.

Amazon Home Services is now available to varying degrees in major US metropolitan areas, with the highest density of services offered in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

People seeking grazing goats will be disappointed unless they live near Seattle. Goats turn out to be an ecologically friendly and cost-effective way to clear brush and reduce the danger of fires. The "Hire a Goat Grazer Beta" option was unavailable in San Francisco Bay Area zip codes and other parts of the country.

(Image: Jennifer Morrow, CC BY 2.0)

(Image: Jennifer Morrow, CC BY 2.0)

Mike Canady, owner of California Grazing, which rents goats to Silicon Valley firms such as Google, as well as various local government agencies, hadn't heard that Amazon had gotten into the goat business.

In a phone interview with InformationWeek, Canady suggested that his business wasn't really set up to deliver goats on demand to individual homeowners. He said he dealt mainly with large clients and large areas of land – parks, airports, drainage channels, and multiple yards through homeowners associations.

Amazon Home Services extends to training, just as Google is getting out of that business. In 2013, Google launched a service called Helpouts, to connect customers with online experts selling services and education. On April 20, 2015, Google plans to close Helpouts because it didn't grow at the expected rate. Google hasn't fared well when it comes to paid knowledge services for consumers: It closed Google Answers in 2006 and Knol in 2012.

[ Is your best friend ready for FitBark? Read 7 Cool Wearables For Pets. ]

Amazon is offering a Happiness Guarantee, in which it promises to "work with you and your pro to help ensure the job gets done right," or to provide a refund. If that doesn't happen, or leaves damage unaddressed, customers can file an Amazon A-to-Z Guarantee claim – if the service is eligible – to obtain reimbursement of up to $2,500 for unsatisfactory jobs. Beyond that, there's always court, for which there's not (yet) a one-click resolution option. Amazon also says that if customers find the same service from the same pro elsewhere for less, it will match the lower price.

Consumers may find Amazon's involvement appealing because ordering through Amazon.com makes pricing clear and simplifies payment and scheduling. Amazon said it won't charge customer credit cards until work has been completed.

Amazon said it only hires pros it has invited to participate in its service, though it allows anyone to apply to be invited. The company said that it runs a background check on businesses, which must provide Amazon with required business licenses and proof of insurance, and that individual service providers who travel to customers' homes must pass a six-point background check. Presumably, goats are exempt from such scrutiny.

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
3/30/2015 | 7:03:26 PM
New Services
Should be interesting, but time will tell if it will fly. Often these things require more work than anticipated. But, perhaps Amazon has got most of it down to technical enablement.  I'm all for more competition for Angie's list, but would really like some startup/company to come along and knock off Craigslist with a more user friendlly and encompassing interface
pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Ninja
3/30/2015 | 8:05:38 PM
Re: New Services
@jastroff,

Many have tried & failed. Some standout but most is still niche based. Craigslist still holds the throne as an everything-service.
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2015 | 9:56:52 AM
Re: New Services
>> Many have tried & failed. Some standout but most is still niche based. Craigslist still holds the throne as an everything-service.

Why do you think that is? It's true, but it would be nice to have alternatives to CL.
glenbren
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glenbren,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2015 | 11:19:32 AM
Re: New Services
After all the slimeball things I've heard about people advertising on Craigslist, I would be afraid to go to anyone's door to pick up something, so I don't use it. In Canada we have Kijiji, which is similar to Craigslist, but more popular here, and doesn't seem as slimey (maybe only becuase I haven't heard similar stories about it). Amazon's service seems more trustworthy at least. If only there were such a thing for people who live outside the big cities.
pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2015 | 9:31:42 PM
Re: New Services
@jastroff,

Choice is an interesting thing. Most people think the more options they have, the better. In most cases, it's the opposite. So having less choice is better. In CL's case, what they offer works.
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
4/1/2015 | 4:20:23 PM
Re: New Services
>> Choice is an interesting thing. Most people think the more options they have, the better. In most cases, it's the opposite. So having less choice is better. In CL's case, what they offer works.

Sounds like you are talking about choices and boundaries (options). You seem to be in favor of boundaries. If that works, that's fine. In the case of CLs, more choices might be better. I'm sure they are on the way.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2015 | 1:36:32 PM
Re: New Services
Sounds like a promising service, and although goats sound ridiculous on the surface that doesn't mean there isn't demand for them.

I can think of a few areas in my neighborhood that could benefit from a goat coming in and cleaning up some things...
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2015 | 2:33:03 PM
Re: New Services
@danielcawrey

When I saw this article I laughed, because my good friend just started her own "goat farm" a couple years ago. She is on the West Coast and started with just a couple "pet" goats, now she is breeding, rescuing, trading, and buying goats all the time. I be she would love to be able to shop for goats on Amazon. Haha.
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2015 | 2:29:25 PM
Re: New Services
@Jastroff

I could not agree more about Craigslist!!! The least appealing interface I have ever dealt with. My husband uses the site all the time, I would like to see someone come along and give us something better too!
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2015 | 2:33:34 PM
Re: New Services
Not only are we stuck with CL, but all the utilities I've looked at to search across geos and categories seem to be disabled or don't work...so, it's what I call a hunt-and-peck method of finding things...
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2015 | 2:44:16 PM
Re: New Services
It can certainly feel redundant sometimes dredging through all the clutter on CL.
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2015 | 3:21:48 PM
Re: New Services
I definitely don't want to be a pioneer here, so I will wait to see how this plays out before I dive in. That said, I would love it if this service makes hiring a plumber as easy as buying a bag of dog food and having it shipped to my house.
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2015 | 3:27:38 PM
Re: New Services
@vnewman2

It would be great if they could make hiring a TRUSTWORTHY plumber as easy as ordering the bag of dog food. I have learned my lesson about using online contractor referral services. Even if the referrel service checks out the contractor with the Better Business Bureau, you still can't be sure you're getting a reputable service professional.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
3/31/2015 | 7:52:42 PM
Re: New Services
>It would be great if they could make hiring a TRUSTWORTHY plumber as easy as ordering the bag of dog food.

Alas, assessing people can't be scaled or automated. Recommendations from friends are probably still the best metric for hiring contractors.
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
4/5/2015 | 12:37:24 PM
Re: New Services
@ Thomas

Absolutely! We learned the hard way when we bought our house and had to have our septic system replaced unexpectedly. We used homeadvisor.com (who claims to screen the contractors they refer to you), and we were left with a big hole in the front of our house, a failed septic system, and a contractor that disappeared with the $7,000 down payment. We had to take him to court, which he did not show up for and we were awarded a default judgement. Now he owes us $85,000 including attorney fees of just over $5,000. The judge added a large amount to our judgement for pain and suffering and the stress he caused our family and because we found out through the proceedings he had worked under 15 different business names in a four year period, and had been sued more than 25 times in a 15 year period by people he had scammed all over the country. The Better Business Bureau had nothing on the guy under the company name we knew him by. Now, of course he is MIA and we will probably never recover our money...but it just shows that you can't trust something just because a website claims to have checked it out.
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
4/1/2015 | 4:23:54 PM
Re: New Services
Really good point -- >>  I would love it if this service makes hiring a plumber as easy as buying a bag of dog food and having it shipped to my house.

We would like to see this succeed as well as Amazon does other things, so it's better for us all around. Then again, a plumber is not quite the commodity pet food is, so, it may never really be the same

I have a very good plumber, but he's in Westchester, NY.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
4/5/2015 | 9:59:03 PM
Re: New Services
This is a good start - Amazon is trying to offer more and more services to ease people's daily life. To me this is more or less like O2O concept - using tools/apps online to get the services/product offline.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
3/31/2015 | 2:44:29 PM
The music of grazing goats
Amazon is on to something. Goat grazing is a practical alternative. The goats pluck every leaf off thorny blackberry canes on public hillsides in my neighborhood of San Francisco. Without the goats, it would be almost impossible to cut back the vegetation without a big expenditure of labor. The goats can digest leaves that horses, cows and other grazing animals won't touch. And kids love to see kids--the small goat variety. For a more poetic paen, try Brad Kessler's book, Goat Song.
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2015 | 3:25:02 PM
Re: The music of grazing goats
@ Charlie

When I was growing up my aunt always had a couple goats around her property, it was much easier than having my uncle keep up with the landscaping!
jastroff
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50%
jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
4/1/2015 | 4:21:24 PM
Re: The music of grazing goats
Maybe the goats were just a stalking horse (pun intended)!
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2015 | 10:00:24 PM
Re: Goats, Now Available From Amazon
This is definitely a cool idea, and just as with Google, you can see where Amazon expects this to synergize with their existing offerings - looking at the services website, it says that sellers' services will be listed alongisde related products on Amazon's main store. So, someone purchasing a new entertainment system will be served a link to a local home theater setup service through Services. Tying the payments (and therefore, bonuses earned through Prime subscription) together in itself adds a lot - we can see the thought of being able to buy everything through Amazon becoming a reality. That said, I appreciate that the system is in Beta, but Amazon still seems to have made some odd choices with it.

For example, they mention a price match which is great - but it's for the same seller only. What they don't mention is that they charge sellers per sale they make - likely, most sellers will raise their normal fee by exactly the amount of Amazon's surcharge. Seems like this could lead to a deluge of customers requesting $5 price matches. The vetting, the refunds, the rigorous tax compliance, all sound nice - but that amounts to barriers and cost for small businesses, so for now Services may either favor larger businesses (think Geek Squad) who already have jacked up prices or force small ones to raise theirs as well. I found most services simply unavailable in my area, and the ones that were seemed  pricey - hundreds of dollars for home WiFi setup. I think Amazon should make it easier for smaller businesses & indepedentant contractors to get involved if they don't want to end up like Google Helpouts.
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