Amazon wants you to know it sold a ton over the holidays—but not how much

We do know an incomprehensible amount of books were sold.
We do know an incomprehensible amount of books were sold.
Image: AP Photo/Photo by Greg Allen/Invision
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Over the holidays, Amazon customers bought Echo devices, called their parents with Alexa, used the voice-assistant to find chocolate chip cookie and Martini recipes, listened to Michael Bublé on Amazon Music, and watched Elf on Prime Video.

The online-retail giant wants you to know it was intimately involved in myriad elements of your holidays in 2017, but not specifically how much of anything was sold, or how much money it made during the world’s biggest shopping season.

It released an eight-page press release this week of all the ways customers interacted with it from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

We know the Echo Dot was the best-selling item on Amazon, “with millions sold.” We know shopping on the Amazon App increased nearly 70% globally this holiday season. And that four million people signed up for a Prime free trials or began paid memberships within a single week. But, we don’t even know how many people have Prime overall, because Amazon has never revealed that information. Estimates place it around 80 million.

The tech company, like others including Netflix and Spotify, releases the figures that benefit it, in the way it sees fit. For actual sales numbers, which don’t usually detail specific items, there’s Amazon’s annual filing, which is expected in January.

The holiday season was thought to have been good to US retailers overall this year. Retail sales grew at a pace not seen since 2011. Sales rose 4.9% year-over-year from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve), compared with a 3.7% boost during the period a year earlier, Quartz previously reported, citing Mastercard SpendingPulse data.

E-commerce—Amazon’s forte—drove those gains with an 18.1% rise.

Despite their reticence, Amazon did offer stats of dubious importance to hint at how well the holidays went:

  • “If you lined up all the copies of Jeff Kinney’s, The Getaway that Amazon sold during the holiday season, you would reach the height of 444 Saturn V rockets.” I could not begin to calculate how many copies of the Diary of Wimpy Kid book that would equate to without some serious Googling.
  • “Amazon customers purchased enough littlebits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kits on to man an Imperial-II class Star Destroyer.” It’s talking about a fictional ship, there.
  • “An Amazon Air cargo plane can hold more than 10,000 Instant Pots.” That is not an indication of how many Instant Pots were sold on Amazon. But it must’ve been a lot.  The Instant Pot DUO80 was the best-selling kitchen item in the US and around the world. And “ customers purchased enough Instant Pot pressure cookers this holiday to make more than nine million bowls of chili at once.”
  • “ customers purchased enough TVs to create nearly 2,500 towers the size of the Space Needle.” How this was determined, given the varying sizes of TVs on Amazon, is beyond me.
  • “ customers purchased enough AmazonBasics hangers to hold an outfit for each person in the city of Houston, TX.” This is assuming Houston also has the world’s largest closet.
  • And Elmer’s glue, printer paper, and felt-tip pens were the best-selling office supplies in the US—for anyone who wants to get an early start on next year’s shopping list.