Yesterday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post. This seems like as good a time as any to roll out a few more true stories from the Amazon warehouse workers who make the whole machine go. Jeff Bezos wouldn't be here without them.
"Have Fun, Work Hard, Make History"
I was happy to get hired on to amazon. Shopping at amazon is such fun and receiving those cardboard boxes is always exciting, it's like Christmas comes to your door. I was super excited to get my job at amazon, partly because I actually wanted to see the inner workings of the facility and how the process worked. I did my research beforehand, just to see how the culture was at amazon. Sadly, the negative reviews from former employees are spot on.
I worked part time at warehouse in Tennessee (probably the same one as the person you quoted) and let me tell you, the part time position was more than enough. I worked in the sort department, (i.e. sorting customer orders out of bins and putting them into designated slots on what looked like a big bookshelf on casters) lifting heavy yellow tote bins and standing on my feet for ten hours a day was hard. To make matters worse, the management is very "dog eat dog" with people trying to out do each other in metrics, kissing ass, and trying their best to out perform all the other associates.
What truly is alarming is the amount of people that get injured on the job. I was out for a month and a half due to severe leg pain caused by too much standing on concrete and not enough support. I'm in fine physical condition and have never had any issues with standing for long periods, but the stress and strain of standing in one place, and constantly doing the same garbage over and over again took its toll on me physically. It was suggested that I purchase new shoes, which I did - specifically for the job, that didn't help. When I saw the worker comp doctor, I was told that a steady stream of associates had been in for various physical complaints. If amazon paid any attention to their employees perhaps that wouldn't happen!?
Working at amazon is a total bore and they are not any real incentives to, as they say, "Have Fun, Work Hard, Make History." The management tried, only half-heartedly by giving associates "swag bucks" where if you went above beyond, you could get little tokens that you can turn in and buy amazon swag? Who the heck wants to buy an amazon t-shirt or umbrella?! Seriously? If you want to give an incentive, how about some time off? Amazon rakes in MILLIONS of dollars every year and that's all they can give their employees?! (I won't even talk about the 10% employee discount, which is rubbish.) For the amount of work associates do and for the wage, I truly think amazon should look at how they treat their employees. Instead of treating amazonian's like garbage, we should be treated like people.
What many associates don't like about working at amazon is the environment. Sure, the job is tough and long but the management could make it better by actually being interested in the employees. I did my job with a smile but was left with a very bad taste in my mouth by managers who didn't care about me or others who were busting their butts to make sure their metrics were being met and that products were being sorted and packaged on or before time. Senior management is always pushing for more and more even if associates are giving 200%. I know of several managers who left due to inner departmental strife with senior staff.
The company doesn't care. For example, during peak (November to January) an associate is NOT allowed any time off, for any reason. I was due to graduate from college last December and I had to beg for time off to not only finish my exams but to go to graduation exercises. I still got 1.5 points for that, and of course, any associate that gets up to 6 points is automatically canned. After an extended leave of absence from work, I decided not to return to Amazon - one of the best decisions of my life.
Ambassador of Damageland
I've worked in the Amazon Warehouse just outside of Allentown, PA for just under 2 years. The whole time I have been in the ICQA (Inventory Control, Quality Assurance) department. In this department we have several processes designed to verify and/or fix the inventory in the building. Some of the basic tasks are pretty mindless, but if you can accomplish them accurately and within the defined rate, than they trust you with some of the more in depth tasks.
In my experience, lots of people are unwilling to do a little bit of hard work to get ahead. Instead of doing their job, they just stand around in talk in the aisles and these people are the same ones that complain they are always stuck doing the basic tasks. These people also don't last long but are always the ones that seem to be featured in articles about amazon.
If you do your job at amazon you get rewarded and trusted with more indepth tasks and some jobs that do not have rates. I have training as a "Problem-Solver", "Amnesty Processor" (if an item falls out of a bin, you need to figure out what bin it came from.), a "Ambasador" (Trainer), and for most of the week I run the section known as Damageland, where we process all the damages in the building and stage them while they wait to be returned to vendors, or graded and sold as a discount through "Warehouse Deals"
Amazon has been good to me as long as I have done my job and while I get annoyed at it at times I actually like the work I do here and hope to advance further through the company when I get a chance to do so.
How they keep the prices so low
I worked at Amazon roughly from October of 2012 till February of 2013. Not a great job by any means but it was a job. Graduated law school, passed the bar, and couldn't get a legal job. So I checked my ego, applied and was hired to work at the Amazon warehouse in Allentown, PA. This one was already under investigation from OSHA because of workers passing out from the heat, so I knew what I was getting into. I remember the qualifications; high school diploma, and be able to match written descriptions to the corresponding product. They tested you by having you match of a list of movies and books to their cover art. That facility is now involved in a lawsuit for forcing employees to punch out before going through security checkpoints.
It wasn't necessarily a bad job, but it wore on you mentally. First, 7-7 shifts plus the commute, meant I did not see the sun. Second, 15min breaks! But when it takes 6mins to walk to the break room from the packing side of the warehouse, that leaves you 3 total minutes to sit down.
The stress from that job built up. It was made clear if you did not pack 1200 boxes a day, I would be fired. Not a big deal when you have to pack books, but fuck those Skylanders video game action figures, and the oddball sized shit people buy from Amazon. Also, once we reached 1000hrs, we would be fired. Management pushed the idea of becoming full time Amazon employees, but after the holiday season temp employees were fired en masse, and full timers were put on reduced hours. I could see the writing on the wall that my time was coming to an end. I was sent home early one day, and was lucky enough to get hired that week at another warehouse.
Finally it wasn't all bad, if you had to call out, you just dialed a random number and left a message. I called that number shitfaced at 2am at least 2x, and no one ever hassled me for it. A job is a job, I still buy products from Amazon, but I'm fully aware of how they keep the prices so low.