November 28, 2007

I work at Amazon.com in the e-mail team, which manages mail-related applications for six of the countries where Amazon does business. This means that some days, the first Amazon site I see during the workday is one from another country. A few weeks ago, I was working on a campaign for Amazon.de. I found that they had put up a charming cabin for the Christmas (or "Holiday") season:

Amazon.de holiday logo

I liked this charming snowy scene, so I went to the mothership site to see if it was deployed worldwide.

Amazon.com holiday logo

Amazon put the cabin on the US site as well, but it lacks the snazzy white Christmas lights of its German counterpart! Strangely, just about everywhere else in the world got the more festive cabin:

Amazon.ca holiday logo Amazon.fr holiday logo Amazon.co.uk holiday logo

Why is the U.S. cabin so austerely decorated? I didn't dig into the matter at work yet, so here are a few theories about the American cabin-dwellers, who I'll call "the Smiths":

  1. They wait until December to put up lights. Principled and contemptuous of Christmas's encroachment on Thanksgiving and Halloween, the Smiths decided to keep their Christmas decorations inside until comfortably after Thanksgiving.
  2. They're watching their carbon footprint. Environmentalism is as trendy in 2007 as it was back in the early 1990s, when Samantha Mathis, Christian Slater, Robin Williams, and many other celebrities saved the rainforest. Perhaps the Smiths decided to investigate alternative energy sources (note the smoke coming out of the chimney) and lower their electricity usage.
  3. Their homeowners association won't let them put up lights. In the exclusive upper-middle-class suburban lifestyle centre (what a prole would call a "neighborhood") where the Smiths live, the powers that be have banned lights. They're too ostentatious and a really well-done display can draw crowds from miles around, blocking streets and reducing property values. That's bad news for families still trying to refinance their mortgages.
  4. They don't celebrate Christmas. Check back next week -- maybe there will be a menorah in the window!

Lastly, we shan't forget Japan, where Christmas has always been about gift-giving in a country that's less than 1% Christian. Land is so expensive that a cabin that size would cost a fortune, so Amazon.co.jp does without a building at all:

Amazon.co.jp holiday logo

Merry Christmas, however you celebrate it!