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21 Dog Years: A Cube Dweller's Tale [Paperback]

Mike Daisey
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
Price: 10.19 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Aug 2003
In 1998, when Amazon.com began to recruit employees, they gave temp agencies a simple directive: send us your freaks. Mike Daisey -- slacker, onetime aesthetics major -- fit the bill. His subsequent ascension, over the course of twenty-one dog years, from lowly temp to customer service representative to business development hustler is the stuff of both dreams and nightmares. Here, with lunatic precision, Daisey describes lightless cube farms in which book orders were scrawled on Post-its while technicians struggled to bring computers back online, as well as fourteen-hour days fueled by caffeine, fanaticism, and illicit day-trading from office desks made out of doors. You'll meet Warren, the cowboy of customer service, capable of verbally hog-tying even the most abusive customer; Amazon employee #5, a computer gamer who spends at least six hours a day locked in his office killing goblins but is worth a cool $300 million; and Jean-Michele, Daisey's girlfriend and sparring partner, who tries to keep him grounded, even as dot-com mania seduces them both. Punctuated by Daisey's hysterically honest fictional missives to CEO Jeff Bezos, 21 Dog Years is an epic story of greed, self-deception, and heartbreak -- a wickedly funny anthem to an era of bounteous stock options and boundless insanity.

Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (1 Aug 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074323815X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743238151
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 13.9 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,412,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Wonderful....His often vociferous malice is delicious." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
When Amazon went to temping companies to recruit future employees, it gave a simple directive: send us your freaks. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny. VERY Funny. 10 Jan 2012
Mike Daisey has managed to capture the feel of the dot-com rush in the mid-to-late nineties in this work. I couldn't put this book down, and devoured the whole thing within just a few evenings. I would recommend this, alongside Robert Spector's "Get Big Fast" for the full Amazon experience.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The early Amazon call centre 24 Jun 2012
If Mike Daisey had worked in customer service at some other dotcom I'm not sure that his account would have been published.
Amazon.com and Jeff Bezos have a giant fascination for the public and the J.B. shadow falls over the whole book. Employees are presented as part of a cult and the author even addresses imaginary emails to J.B. to explore their imaginary relationship.
From a commercial point of view Amazon has been a big success and the author doesn't at all suggest how this came about. I would be much more interested in an autobiography by J.B. himself if one ever arrives.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars WITLESS DRIVEL... 19 Jun 2008
I bought this book, thinking that it would offer some insight into Amazon.com in terms of what it was like to work there during its halcyon days. Touted as a funny memoir, among other things, I was to discover that it was none of what was promised. In fact, the book was painfully difficult to read, as it was very poorly written, decidedly not funny, and offered little insight into what it really was like to work at Amazon. It was totally sophomoric in terms of what it did say.

The author should be thankful that he was not fired by Amazon, as that is what he richly deserved to have happen based upon his own account of what he was like as an employee. He was a total slacker who treated customers with the contempt that he felt that they deserved. He was totally wasteful of the company's resources. He proudly stole supplies in bulk from the company. When toys were given to him for review purposes, he not only did not bother to review them, he then refused to return the toys to Amazon. He may think that all this is hilarious. Unfortunately, I do not. Reading this drivel felt like it took twenty-one dog years.

Moreover, this book was so poorly written, I am surprised that a reputable publisher went ahead with the expense of actually publishing it. I guess that the name Amazon carries a great deal of weight for which the author should be eternally grateful. I doubt that had he written a book titled, "21 Dog Years: Doing time @ Sears.Com", substituting Sears for Amazon, that he would have found a publisher. Don't waste your time with this drivel. If you want to read a well-written, interesting book about working at Amazon, read "Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Dot. Com Juggernaut" by James Marcus.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  69 reviews
68 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious and (mostly) true! 31 May 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Mike's book is terrific -- both very funny and extremely well-written. I can vouch for most of the second half of the book -- he really did find stock option information for the entire BizDev department in the bathroom, and his boss really wouldn't speak to him for months after Mike caught him playing Rogue. It sounds like these stories are made up, but they are not. (Which, I guess, makes them even more horrifyingly funny).

I have to admit that I disagree with Mike's main conclusion -- that we were just spinning our wheels at Amazon, scurrying around but not getting anywhere. The truth is, we have built a great company here, and I am glad to be a part of it. Some of the reviewers who provide blurbs for the the book seem intent on using it to buttress their pre-concieved (and ill-informed) notions about "the New Economy hangover" or "the pointless toil inside an industrial madhouse". Don't believe the hype. Everyone's experience at Amazon is different, and all I can say is that I wouldn't trade mine for anything.

55 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Finally--the Dot.Com Experience from Someone Real 23 May 2002
By Moira Stephenson - Published on Amazon.com
There have been many books about the dot-com "revolution," but most have been written by still-rich CEOs of failed ventures who seem to have forgotten about the hundreds of people who worked below them, or else have been business analyses of what went wrong. Though I did not work at a dot-com, many of my peers did, and I was interested in reading something that captured more of the heart of the experience for the average employee. Daisey has done this beautifully. As its cover promises, this book is really funny, but it also is quite moving and honest. His story of being seduced by the dream of a better life just around the corner, just out of reach, is all too believable. It captures an important moment in the life of my generation, the total fall-out of which we've all yet to see.
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Oh, so that's why ... 6 Jun 2002
By TundraVision - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Self-described Gen X slacker and dilettante (and now author and comedian) Mike Daisey responded to the following ad in the *Seattle Weekly*:
CUSTOMER SERVICE TIER 1: LAME TITLE - COOL JOB. He says "the rest of the ad mentioned good pay, flexible hours, and a `hip and quirky work environment." Thus began his endeavours within our Host here at Amazon.com. In the beginning, he says, life in Amazon Customer Service "was half socialist boot camp and half college party dorm." He later was promoted to "Business Development." It is an often humourous glimpse within the belly of this beast - fleas and all. (I was going to say "warts and all," but then we're talking about Dog Years here - and there is some discussion in the book about employees bringing their dogs to work, and I'm going to talk about Pets.com in a minute - so I modified the metaphor.)
I don't know how true the information is - some of it would explain events that have occurred in this reader's experiences with Amazon.com. Hmmm. And his description of the Dot.com frenzy, especially the rise and fall of Pets.com, is entertaining and astute. Darn, I miss that sock puppet dog!
35 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ever dealt with Amazon's bureaucracy? 5 Jun 2002
By Mark Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Then you'll find this book to be hilarious! I love Amazon, don't get me wrong. But this book is great! Pokes gentle fun at our favorite company.
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life in the Stupidly Fast Lane 15 Jun 2002
By Glenn Fleishman - Published on Amazon.com
Mike Daisey has a gift for taking perfectly ridiculous situations that he found himself in the middle of and making them not just humorous but side-splittingly funny. I've seen the play on which this book was based, and the book isn't a transcription. In fact, it's an entirely new level: it's a love story. Well, two love stories. One of the love stories is about him and his now-wife, and her sensible, grounded, occasionally wild-party animal advice and behavior. The other love story is about a crush on a company and its founder (well, this company that you're reading the review on).
The book waxes and wanes both love stories, though you know he's going to wind up with the girl, not the stock options and the guy.
I worked at Amazon.com before Mike's tenure, and I recognize many of the portraits in the book. I left before I lost my soul to overwork; the corporate culture was a thing of beauty when I was there. I still work for a living, and Mike works incredibly hard to turn the grist he got during the height of dotcom insanity into a beautiful set of life lessons that, hopefully, we'll all take to heart. I know I did and still do.
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