Is this worth it? Is this worth having the ability to pick between 10,000 different toasters via internet and have them delivered to your doorstep in 2 days?
Sometimes I look at society as a complete organ, with a hypothetical ability to make cohesive decisions for itself. And I think, it is making extremely self-destructive choices. All for the sake of satisfying the urge to buy more, at lower prices, with more convenience.
I wonder how much of the stuff in those warehouses is utter garbage that gets bought and used just once.
Are Amazon's margins razor thin? I'm trying to understand what compels them to be so toxic in their work environment. Especially compared to the people I know who work at Costco, I struggle to understand why Costco treats employees so well, and Amazon treats their employees so poorly.
It's really sad, regardless.
My fear is that the future of work for most people is not unemployment, but shitty jobs like this.
My feeling is that in order to avoid this and prosper, the people need to own the robots that do all the work (Marxism heyy). If robots provide huge productivity gains, then they will provide those gains for their owners. If it’s the big corporations that own them, they will see the gains. But as long as people are treated like machines, they will be left out of this prosperity. Instead, if the people own the machines collectively, then they can enjoy the productivity gains themselves as a group.
What do you all think of this?
If everything is based on performance metrics alone, surely there's a feedback loop here? Employee A starts peeing in a bottle, so their performance numbers go up, then at the end of the week they have better performance numbers and everyone else's targets are increased to be more inline with employee A. So more people start using bottles and taking shortcuts and the problem just increases over time!
I tend to personally view things from the owner's point of view. I also know that once the popular narrative has bitten down on the story of a successful company running slave factories, they won't let go. Whether these are exaggerated or isolated cases doesn't matter, there will be story after story until Amazon makes some show of changing practices.
However, I know there's another side. At some point, a company the size of Amazon begins consuming all available oxygen. I don't know what the tipping point is, but I know workers in some areas have about as much choice in where to work as I do in cable providers. That's obviously undesirable, because without a competitive labor market, Amazon is in practice able to treat employees however they choose, because the one emergency brake built into the loop is gone.
I wish there were some simple way to codify regulations about employee treatment once you become as powerful as a small nation that don't also encumber 150-employee plastic tubing manufacturers. At that level, pure laissez faire is desirable to me, because you do have options as an employee, and no reasonable case can be made that you've got to bog down your employer in a regulatory mess. Then, once you've got some single digit of the GDP in resources, you can be expected to operate with increased oversight and expectations, as a tax for the opportunity cost your mere presence visits upon other firms.
If that inhibits growth of megacorps... well, that's OK.
Long-haul truckers have been doing this for decades for the same reason-- they don't have time to pull over and use the restroom-- and no one is upset about that. I'm sure there are many industries, white and blue collar, where similar norms are expressed.
Edit to add: I'm not endorsing the practice in any industry at all, just pointing out that its not a unique problem to Amazon. My comment would have been better phrased "why aren't more people upset about that?" It IS still definitely a problem!
If you work in a latino painting or landscaping crew, tough guy stuff like this is expected and socially enforced. Or say Alaskan fishermen. It's one of tradeoffs you make for an uber-bule-collar job. But these jobs also have benefits that others don't have: when you leave the job site, you don't have to think about the job (like teachers do) and your skills and experience don't lose relevance (like IT) and you don't have to suffer fools (like service staff). But yeah - the notable tradeoff for these jobs is you get valued (and devalued) by your physical productivity and reliability.
It seems that everyone is assuming that the allegations in the article are true, and are commenting based on that assumption.
But are they true? Can someone corroborate?
p.s. the reason I ask is because things are often more complex than a simple narrative would have you believe, and it's worthwhile thinking about what's actually going on rather than just taking in a narrative without questioning it.
I am honestly quite surprised that Amazon warehouses haven't experienced a wave of workplace shootings. They're really a recipe for how to construct a place primed for them. During the 1990s there were several high-profile workplace shootings at US postal offices. Originally everyone presumed it was just isolated incidents, mentally ill people, etc. But in the years that followed, once people had calmed down and the situation could actually be analyzed, the truth was quite different.
The shootings had a cause. Those post offices had paired human beings with automated machines and slowly increased their expectation of performance of the humans to match the machines. They cut breaks, they expected humans to keep up with the machines (the machines would sort mail, for example, and kick out things its OCR scanners couldn't recognize for a human to deal with), and they made it clear that the humans weren't valuable employees... they were an annoying inefficiency in the system that hadn't been optimized away yet.
That puts people under immense pressure. And while some people might be able to handle immense pressure, it is fundamentally incorrect to expect large groups of people to handle it. Large groups will have people who will crack. This is as certain as gravity, and those who seek to ignore it just as ludicrous.
Doesn't this affect more than the employees? If they are peeing in a bottle, shouldn't they sanitize their hands after touching their package so they can safely handle our packages? Should I be inspecting the inner contents using a black light?
Amaazon says bathroom breaks are not timed. That is probably true. But that is not what the article is alleging. Rather they need to reach a certain productivity level within a given time period, and using the bathroom counts against that apparently. And if goals are set based on previous employee performance than what if that person also skipped bathroom breaks? Maybe total breaks should be timed over a longer period of time. So if today you need to shit your lungs out that's ok then it averages out with more normal breaks over the next few weeks.
> Another said: "The target grows every year."
Whenever I see examples of impossible-to-meet goals I'm reminded of reminded of this classic "I Love Lucy" bit  with the chocolates on the conveyor belt.
"Speeeed it up a little!"
Amazon in general, like Uber, considers that warehouse employees and driver are just a needed adjustment until robots take over. They have the consideration that Google/Waymo has for the people filling in “Is this a Stop sign” Catpcha. Thinking of it as sweat labor is not false, but it won’t convince the company change.
If you think of it that way, you understand better how Amazon product managers and engineers are OK with the treatment. Also part of that vision: those employees benefit from constant iteration of the work conditions, from Bezos’ initial suggestion to get knee pad to help filling in boxes (rapidly replaced by the far better option to get tables). All the pain is just a step in the process that has not been automated yet, and the “handful” of people “temporary” suffering now are just there to provide training data for the order of magnitude more orders to come when running around, climbing on step-ladders, will be automated. And, in fairness, a lot of it has, or is about to: Amazon has robots to carry shelves around, raising platforms, etc. They are generally not used at scale yet, but teams are actively working on it.
I’m not saying that to justify the company’s callous take, or pain their plan as a delusional grandeur, but to explain how the stress is part of the process: to reveal what hurts. As far as I can tell, all employees, especially desk-dwellers, are asked to do shifts in the warehouse to build some empathy. It’s far from perfect and seem to hide the reality of family life for the de-facto full-time workers -- but accusing Amazon of having inhumane condition is missing the dynamic angle to it.
I believe there is a massive mis-match between how employees see their service and the efforts so many employees are putting in; I’m not convinced that you can reach automation faster by having humans run around and learn from their mistake. I would be a lot more comfortable with the experiment is participants where excited by the perspective of automation rather than working poor, but I’m not in charge of the company, so it’s hard to grasp exactly what could be done. I believe that warehouse employees with more free-time, more initiative and the ability automate themselves would automate faster than what Amazon is currently doing, but that’s just speculation.
What's so special about Amazon in comparison to the Chinese factories where those goods are manufactured? Are we just upset because these people are geographically closer? Or is it nationalism; Americans/Westerners are too good for such treatment? Racism?
Having to go down four flights of stairs to go to a bathroom is ridiculous.
I wonder if this is an unexpected side-effect of automating warehouses. Normally, bathrooms are required by OSHA, but the relevant code appears to dictate only the number of bathrooms required by the number of employees on a site.
Adding bathrooms to a building is an expensive retrofit; I can't imagine this situation getting better without regulation.
My inclination would be to try and lobby congress to require bathrooms within X feet of employees on every floor, or require Y bathrooms per Z square feet of space. (But what about edge cases? What do construction workers do in high rises?)
Typical retail. You're given goals that continue to get higher and higher. Some places give you a handful of goals but the math doesn't work out so you can't ever reach them all simultaneously. This is by design so that they justify paltry raises and/or firings. The only way to play the system is to stay aligned with whatever your immediate report feels are the ones to focus on.
Link to original story (as far as I can tell) at The Sun (urgh), it has more photos: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6055021/rushed-amazon-warehous...
How long before Amazon replaces all the warehouse workers with machines? 5 years?
What's the typical walking time to the toilet in a large warehouse? Where do the relevant employees keep the bottles (e.g. are they attached to their legs underneath trousers? If not how do they avoid CCTV?) Are break periods mandatory or optional?
I don't understand how managers at amazon can believe this is okay and that it won't blow off in their face.
That's the future of the low paid work.
US poultry workers wear diapers on job over lack of bathroom breaks – report https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/may/12/poultry-work...
Obviously, I wouldn't call this slavery. But in terms of the effect on the employees, it's __in some ways__ getting close.
Do we have a word for this type of relationship between worker and company?
There's something wrong when we (at least in the USA) are said to be approaching but workers (albeit in the UK) can't stop to pee. All this at the hands of the richest man in the world?
It seems they don't allow warehouse workers "degraded mode" with "performance targets based on previous worker performance." If a storage array were rebuilding I think most engineers would cut it some slack.
Not meaning to be flippant but I guess the difference is that with stateless processing you get disposable machines. Reminds me of Moon (film).
I stopped buying from Amazon a few years ago, the constant background noise of the way they treat their staff.
When I was young I worked in warehouses and it was hard, tiring work but the management by and large treat you like a human being.
We occasionally use Amazon at work (not my choice) and very often I can get a better price for something from aria, scan or ebuyer anyway.
Okay, people here need to get out of their bubbles. This is the same with most warehouse/assembly line jobs.
Folks here are shitting on Amazon because it's relevant to their everyday lives. Walmart does the same stuff. I worked in one of their warehouses, loading trucks for a summer. These situations are not the exception.
I used to work in a factory floor. Having a job at this factory used to be one of the nice things in the town. For the fear of being driven to work too much, workers refused to increase the thru-put beyond a union limit. They used that as a tool for bargaining for more pay. Observing bathroom breaks became the responsibility of supervisor. There were many missed daily targets, which became a regular discussion point. But in the end the entire thing was pushed too far. This, coupled with the top management inability to run the factory at a reasonably profitable state, finally lead the shut down. Ultimately it ended up hurting the workers more than the top management. Majority of top management found jobs elsewhere, and most of the workers ended up not having any jobs. This story merely reflects the constant struggle we are witnessing for generations.
How does this compare to other warehouse jobs? My impression is that warehouse jobs almost universally suck.
Why aren't more people on Amazon's ass for pushing their people so hard? This sounds preventable simply by setting production standards to be in line with the environment provided.
Yes, there are important bits in here about tech. But this sounds like a classic case of management abuse
The main issue is with demand-supply difference. There are too many people out there in need of blue collar jobs, and this means companies like Amazon have a chance to push the criteria to get the job much higher, as long as it's legal. This happens in other sectors too. Here in India, there's oversupply of candidates in almost every field, with the exception of those which require highly specialised/costly knowledge(eg: PhD in AI, neurologist), so a lot of companies exploit people by making them work for long hours and at a very low salary.
Why dont they just wear Adult Diapers and really improve their productivity?
"Changing the world", one bottle at a time...
I have a very simple solution for this. Whenever people checkout on Amazon give them an option to tip people in the originating warehouse.
Let's say Amazon leadership is appalled at these conditions. Management by metric is working insofar as it goes, but you really didn't know how bad it was several layers down.
How would an organization identify something systemic like this? E.g., identifying that unexpected consequences had popped up and you'd created an environment where people were afraid even to speak up?
Perhaps I'm missing something, but why don't Amazon's well-paid office workers (e.g. IT workers) show more solidarity?
Here's the largest Nescafe plant in the world, located in Southern Russia.
Check out some of the jobs on offer:
18:15 - the coffee tasting job
22:30 - the optical controller job
The latter one is crazy. The video doesn't make it clear why it's not automated.
Bezos realistically has about 30 to 40 years to enjoy his position in the world and then will go the way of everyone else. If one believes in karma, in a future life he may yet get to experience the fruits of the world he helped to create.
Meanwhile in Jeff Bezos's bank account:
One company I worked for 10 years ago (as an engineer) had signs up in the call centre telling staff there not to pee in the bins. Apparently this is a common thing in call centres. This is in the UK.
None of these people work for Amazon. They are all Integrity Staffing employees. It is up to IS to follow federal labor laws and Amazon's hands are "clean".
Just one of the reasons I avoid giving Amazon money.
I'm curious to know these workers' next best employment option, the one they're forgoing to work at an Amazon warehouse.
Hang on a second. Isn't the magical quality about life, is its ability to adapt?
If the world is becoming full of this kind of job, we need as individuals to reject it, and adapt to other forms of income. Off course, if you let the corporations treat us like this, they will.
And they are not at fault. It is us at fault for accepting it. We must not accept these forms of income. Easier said than done, I know. But, who said it was easy? Its like being in an abusive relationship. If you accept it, it will continue!
Amazon warehouse workers should consider moving to China and work at the factories where they will be treated better.
I've never heard stories like this, but I have heard stories (there's a distribution center a few miles from where I live) of workers stealing sex toys from bins and using it in the bathrooms at work. This is both sexes.
Amazon treats their floor employees horribly, but (and this is good/bad) are hiring people from low rungs of society, so they probably feel they -can- take advantage of these people. They are sometimes the only job in town.
What do the women warehouse workers do?
I have a friend who used to work at a fulfillment center.
In December, she took a week of medical leave. Last month, they retroactively denied her leave and then fired her for having a negative UPT balance. She'd worked there for years.
It's an awful, abusive company, and even though Trump's reasons for going after Amazon are the wrong reasons, I hope he successfully gets them shut down anyway.
Did we ever get pass the slave era?
Wow, keep this up and soon working for Amazon will be as bad as making iPhones!
I’m curious how far away bathrooms can be and how building codes come into play.
Do what you gotta do to get ahead, including sleeping on the factory floor.
Well I for one am going to stop ordering bottles from Amazon..
How similar is an amazon and a factory job from the past?
Lol USA 🇺🇸
> Amazon said it didn't time workers' toilet breaks...
That means they set really high targets for middle-managers and then let them get creative with the rules.
> ...and set its performance targets based on previous worker performance.
That means they cherry pick their best performing employees and set global standards based on the top n%.
> The company said it provided coaching to help people improve...
That means they write people up when they can't meet performance standards or quotas.
> ...and used "proper discretion" when it came to sick leave and absences from work.
And that means they write people up when they don't show up.
> The company also said it provided on-site occupational health and physiotherapy support...
They do that because real doctors and PCP's are way more costly to the insurance plan.
> as well as legal,...
That's when HR puts together a meeting with a lawyer who tells you quitting is stupid because of the NDA.
That's when an employee asks for a raise and HR sends them to a meeting with a financial consultant who tells them "You don't really need a raise, you need a budget!"
> ...and workplace guidance.
That's where they teach you not to drink water so you can meet your quotas.
We can't. Labor and capital need each other, but they are forever at odds. Good wages and working conditions can only be won through negotiating from strength. Modern America favors capital. Elections have consequences.
I peed in bottles (while driving) for fear that I would miss the date I was driving to (and already late).
Maybe I should write an article on brutal conditions of city living and online dating to get people to feel sorry for me.
If you don't want a job at Amazon's shit hole warehouse, then why the fuck do you go in everyday? At least their putting your dumbass to meaningful production sinve obviously you are too stupid to work anywhere else.
This is totally normal
You may want to check the seal on your next order of Mountain Dew from Amazon.