The electronics effort faced even greater challenges. To launch that category, David Risher tapped a Dartmouth alum named Chris Payne who had previously worked on Amazon’s DVD store. Like Miller, Payne had to plead with suppliers—in this case, Asian consumer-electronics companies like Sony, Toshiba, and Samsung. He quickly hit a wall. The Japanese electronics giants viewed Internet sellers like Amazon as sketchy discounters. They also had big-box stores like Best Buy and Circuit City whispering in their ears and asking them to take a pass on Amazon. There were middlemen distributors, like Ingram Electronics, but they offered a limited selection. Bezos deployed Doerr to talk to Howard Stringer at Sony America, but he got nowhere. So Payne had to turn to the secondary distributors—jobbers that exist in an unsanctioned, though not illegal, gray market. Randy Miller, a retail finance director who came to Amazon from Eddie Bauer, equates it to buying from the trunk of someone’s car in a dark alley. “It was not a sustainable inventory model, but if you are desperate to have particular products on your site or in your store, you do what you need to do,” he says. Buying through these murky middlemen got Payne and his fledgling electronics team part of the way toward stocking Amazon’s virtual shelves. But Bezos was unimpressed with the selection and grumpily compared it to shopping in a Russian supermarket during the years of Communist rule. It would take Amazon years to generate enough sales to sway the big Asian brands. For now, the electronics store was sparely furnished. Bezos had asked to see $100 million in electronics sales for the 1999 holiday season; Payne and his crew got about two-thirds of the way there. Amazon officially announced the new toy and electronics stores that summer, and in September, the company held a press event at the Sheraton in midtown Manhattan to promote the new categories. Someone had the idea that the tables in the conference room at the Sheraton should have piles of merchandise representing all the new categories, to reinforce the idea of broad selection. Bezos loved it, but when he walked into the room the night before the event, he threw a tantrum: he didn’t think the piles were large enough. “Do you want to hand this business to our competitors?” he barked into his cell phone at his underlings. “This is pathetic!” Harrison Miller, Chris Payne, and their colleagues fanned out that night across Manhattan to various stores, splurging on random products and stuffing them in the trunks of taxicabs. Miller spent a thousand dollars alone at a Toys “R” Us in Herald Square. Payne maxed out his personal credit card and had to call his wife in Seattle to tell her not to use the card for a few days. The piles of products were eventually large enough to satisfy Bezos, but the episode was an early warning. To satisfy customers and their own demanding boss during the upcoming holiday, Amazon executives were going to have to substitute artifice and improvisation for truly comprehensive selection.