Amazon's status as Wall Street's darling may have come to an end. A disappointing earnings report last week sent the stock sliding and caused loud grumbling about the choices of brilliant(?) prick CEO Jeff Bezos. To add to those doubts, here's a story from an Amazon warehouse employee.
We've shared many stories from both white collar and blue collar Amazon workers about their dissatisfaction with the company's bizarre and inhuman workplace culture. As you read in the coming weeks about the challenges that Amazon faces from publishers, and media figures, and Wall Street analysts panicking about a one-fourth haircut on the stock of the $135 billion company, save a moment to remember the people who spend their days rushing around huge warehouses to send you all the Amazon crap that you order. Here is just one of their stories. Enjoy.
Let me start of my story by saying that I just walked off the line and quit my job. Yes, just walked off and quit. I am a college grad and I have never quit a job with out giving my two week notice. I am now at a bar maybe 15 minutes away from my Hebron, Ky post, smiling for the first time today.
This will not be my first time working for Amazon, not my second but my third. As a college grad who is having a hard time finding work in her field, 11.75 an hour sounds just about right to me. I took night shift like I always do to have time during the day to look for another job.
Amazon, is absolutely the worst place to work, especially when you have to go through hiring agencies like smx. [Ed.: a staffing company that hires for Amazon warehouse jobs] Here is my experience from the beginning:
In the hiring process you go to Smx and give over 4 hours of your life (that's if you are lucky and there is an orientation space available that day!) You are basically chattel, herded from one station to the next: Application, test (I'll go into more detail here), drug test, scheduling and then orientation. The test, consists of being able to answer questions about books, DVDs, etc. Smx is such a sterling company that even if you fail this test you can take it again and again and again until the tester actually answers the questions for you! (saw this with my own eyes, the applicant could not answer how many DVDs were in a six pack).
After that you start, probably a week later. When you get there half of your shift is training, with emphasis about stealing and sexual harassment. Then you go to the job you were hired for and train. I was a sorter, it consists of picking up items from a cart, scanning them and putting them into the correct cubby. Very easy, very mind numbing and the hardest thing about it is getting rate. The three things I want to touch on are rate, people and Smx.
Rate: you have to hit 100 percent, not 99 or 98, 100 percent. For my job this meant sorting either 12 items a minute(mediums) or 15 items(small). This can sometimes be grueling depending on the size of the items; smalls ranging from cell phone covers to huge text books and mediums from iPads to crystal cat dishes. Half of the warehouse at all times is not making rate and you know it, because when you are just a temp every two hours anywhere from 1-3 people will come up to you and ask are you making rate!
Every day, non stop and if you are not making it for the week you are written up. Get three of those and you do not have a job anymore. I always made my rate but to be fair to the people who did not it's not always your fault. Your rate depends on the water spider who gets you your product, your equipment (never works) and the people who put the work on your cart, they are per sorters and any mistake on their part could make a 5 minute cart turn into a 20 minute cart. You also have to contend with the fact that there was someone else before you working at your station! If they made a mistake, it's now your mistake. If the count in the cubby is wrong twice, you are locked out. This means that you have to wait until an overworked Amazon grunt comes to unlock you and figure out your problem([at] my warehouse there was an unlocker who was South African and English was not his first language, you could be locked out for an hour while he squinted at the product.) This rate system leaves no time for errors or gentleness. Just think about the nook or other sensitive electronic that you purchased from Amazon being slung into a tote that is located on a concrete floor :)
All walks of life work at amazon, all you need is a GED or high school diploma (now smx has waived that requirement to work as a temp but if amazon wants to hire you you have to have it). It's the people you meet and get to know that are the best part. A woman who is 8 months pregnant working on the docks, the woman who had a C section three days ago but cannot take time of or she will get fired, the special needs adult whose rate is amazing but has already been written up twice for safety violations......the list goes on. You are all in the stew together and there is a real visceral connection especially with the temps. You bitch about the breaks (really 5 to ten minutes), the rates, the fact that your station has no fan, that you cannot use your personal time (only one smx staffer can be off a night, but amazon lets off five a night). You band together and you try to push through it.
Smx: the worst staffing agency in the nation (ok so I do not really know that but I assume). You are treated like a child, a dumb child at that. If you get sick you can go to amcare or use your personal time. They do not care if you you keel over on the line (I have seen three people pass out at work) all they care about is rate and getting those stations filled. To do this they cut corners and hire people who can not do the work. They also over book all their shifts the first day. There are usually 15 spots and the send 20 people, so if you are later than the last person you are sent away and have to do scheduling again. They are a morally defunct company that must have come from the pits of hell, you know the place where the devil and Judas reside. That's my rant and I'm done. Will never go to work their again as long as they keep that company.
[Photo: Getty. You can contact the author of this post at Hamilton@Gawker.com]