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.
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.
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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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