back to article Undercover BBC man exposes Amazon worker drone's daily 11-mile trek

The Beeb has sent an undercover reporter into a British Amazon warehouse in a bid to show what life is like for its worker drones. Adam Littler, 23, strapped on a hidden camera and took a job as a "picker", collecting orders from an 800,000ft2 (74,322m2) warehouse. He claimed to have walked 11 miles (17.7km) each shift and …


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  1. James 139

    Lowest common denominator

    "We don't think for ourselves, maybe they don't trust us to think for ourselves as human beings, I don't know."

    Probably right, but they're not paid to think, they're paid to be fast and efficient rather than waste time thinking and as some employees probably can't do both at once, all have to be treated equal.

    If the warehouses were smaller, it would be automated, people are still sometimes cheaper.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Lowest common denominator


    2. Captain Scarlet

      Re: Lowest common denominator

      Pallets maybe but items of different sizes and hidious packing materials like a usb mouse in a blister pack nah

  2. gerryg

    Is this a story?

    11 miles in a shift? 8 hours? 1.375 miles an hour ~ 40 yards/minute? Is that excessive for stock picking? It's not fun but it's not sprinting

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: Is this a story?

      And you save the subscription for the gym.

    2. The Man Himself Silver badge

      Re: Is this a story?

      "11 miles in a shift? 8 hours? 1.375 miles an hour ~ 40 yards/minute? Is that excessive for stock picking? It's not fun but it's not sprinting"

      And how does that compare to someone working on a production line, doing an 8 hour shift sitting in one place and pushing a button every so often while they wait for DVT?

    3. Stephen Gray

      Re: Is this a story?

      Try walking continuously for 8 hours. Then tell me it's easy. Then do it again tomorrow. Asshat.

      1. an it guy

        Re: Is this a story?

        I know those who are on their feet for 12 hours a day (or very close to it), and do that 4-5 times a week.

        Nurses. Some of those are very fit (physically) after all this. Any it's full time job, working weekends. You do get used to it

      2. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Is this a story?

        Postmen seem to manage, even carrying a bag full of post. Now who's the asshat?

        1. Syntax Error

          Re: Is this a story?

          Try being a postman for a month. See how you feel.

        2. codeusirae

          Re: Is this a story?

          > Postmen seem to manage, even carrying a bag full of post. Now who's the asshat?

          They don't carry, they have a wheeled trolley, and any post not delivered by 5:00pm is put back into the nearist postbox ...

          1. returnmyjedi

            My postman has a bulging sack still.

      3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Is this a story?

        Quote: "Try walking continuously for 8 hours"

        In the days when I was supporting an end-user network consisting predominantly of Windows 3.11 (and later Windows 95) I used to do that on a daily basis for a living as an IT job. Mileage was not that far off either. With staircases and lugging PCs to/from the repair shop inclusive.

        I used to clock even more as an intern doing molecular biology work - 8+ hours a day, running constantly between 4 different pieces of equipment located in 4 different labs _AND_ washing dishes with nicely grown "molds" on them in the meantime. McDonalds and Amazon are a song compared to some of the lab work out of there. Even the most disgusting customers in a restaurant are nowhere near a petri's that was used to grow Bacillus Subtilis grown on it.

        It is not the mileage which is the problem here - it is the Amazonic attitude.

        They have a name for this type of services - "The Mechanical Turk". The metrics, work organization, etc are meant to convert you into a machine attachment. It is the idea - you are a service orderable on AWS (Amazon's own storefront orders it along with everyone else). It is this which gets you, not the mileage. You are an automaton, you have been hired as one, you are controlled as one and you shall be one.

        1. heyrick Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: Is this a story?

          "You are an automaton, you have been hired as one, you are controlled as one and you shall be one."

          I can understand this. I see the people working on a production line and they are quite capable of doing their jobs, or nattering to each other. Where it falls apart is talking and working. As mind numbing as the repetitive work is, many just cannot talk and perform their jobs effectively at the same time. They slow down. They screw stuff up. And then you get the ones that gesticulate wildly with their talking and can pass an entire minute flinging their arms around and not doing any work at all.

          So while Amazon's "you are just a number, not a free man" approach might sound horrible, I rather suspect that if they didn't take this hard line, they'd need twice as many staff to maintain the same throughput.

          [besides, isn't their work practice the thing of legend now? surely there are few people who enter these days without already having heard the stories?]

          Big Brother, 'cos he is always watching your performance level.

          1. Darren Barratt

            Re: Is this a story?

            Did 6 months at Amazon starting a year ago today (coincidentally). As a packer, you can natter away quite happily, as long as you keep your count up. Still the hardest I've every worked and was frankly relieved when I got a job back in IT.

            As I said to them on the day I left, "It's not what I would have chosen to do, but it's kept food on the table, so thanks for the opportunity" As others have said, I don't think Mr Journo has done much manual labour in his life.

      4. Steve Todd

        Re: Is this a story? @stephen gray

        I could manage a 20 mile walk back when I was 12. 11 miles in a day isn't excessive for anyone with a reasonable degree of fitness (it's probably even going to help).

        It's not the kind of job I'd like to do, but that's more because it would bore me rigid.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is this a story?

        I worked in picker packer environments for a while (though my job was to keep the shelves stocked, not do the picking, but it's the same really). Walked a lot, earned not a lot, listened to some music, had a laugh with co-workers, didn't love it, didn't hate it, saved up my pay for a few years, went to university, got a career.

        I think the reason journo types see this kind of thing as scandalous is that it's the first time they've ever actually been subjected to this type of work. It says more about how beneath them they consider it than it does about the working conditions themselves.

        1. Lusty

          Re: Is this a story?

          @15:56 GMT Anonymous Coward

          This is some of the most sense I've seen on the Reg recently, shame you went AC.

          1. codeusirae

            Re: Is this a story? - yes it is ...

            "This is some of the most sense I've seen on the Reg recently, shame you went AC", Lusty

            If you don't mind me saying so, you are talking total BS. Prof Marmot clearly stated that this kind of work environment causes ill health.

            "The characteristics of this type of job, the evidence shows increase risk of mental illness and physical illness"

        2. xj25vm

          Re: Is this a story?

          "I think the reason journo types see this kind of thing as scandalous is that it's the first time they've ever actually been subjected to this type of work. "

          Very well put. The first thing that crossed my mind when reading the article on BBC this morning was how the 23 year old journo sounded like a spoiled brat who's spent his time in uni smoking he-knows-what and having a good time while being supported by his parents - and now is shocked to find out that people in real world have to do real work for their money. FFS, it's not rocket science. You get paid £8.25 an hour for something that takes 5 minutes to learn. You want more money and more interesting work? Spend your youth (and in some cases, the rest of your life) finding something you have a a natural talent and passion for, Invest tenth of thousands of pounds and a good number of years in your education - and *don't* work as a stock picker. But don't make national news out of the fact that some jobs are more boring than others. Actually, the editors at BBC who promoted this piece of non-news to the front page have a lot more to answer for than the actual "under cover" journo.

          Oh, and by the way, living in a big city, full of noise, and pollution, and having to finish stuff in work by deadlines, and having to put up with office politics, and shitty bosses, with screaming kids at home, and worrying about loosing your job and not being able to pay your mortgage, and, and, and ... well - pretty much everything is bad for your mental health. Welcome to adult life - get on with it and stop blaming big bad Amazon.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Dutch

            Re: Is this a story?

            Well said !

            Nothing to add here :-)

      6. Tom 38

        Re: Is this a story?

        The purpose of shit jobs is to motivate us to get better jobs. I've done a mind numbing number of mind numbing jobs, some are shitter than others. I would put this amazon picker role as "meh" on my own personal "would you do this for cash?" scale, alongside other similarly light physical labour jobs that I've done - bar work, boxing dog food, bulk mail sorting, postie, gas meter man and so on.

        Compared to some of the more hellish jobs I've had though, and it seems like this guy is just winging. Try cutting turf for 12 hours a day, or working in the (very) unclean side of a hospital laundry.

        However, it is much much harder than some of the more cushty roles I've had - receptionist, delivery driver, data entry clerk, software engineer - the last one is a doddle btw, no way I'm going back to cutting turf.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Is this a story?

          @Tom 38: "The purpose of shit jobs is to motivate us to get better jobs"

          There are no better jobs ..

      7. Gary Bickford

        Re: Is this a story?

        Back in the day I worked as a roofer's assistant, carrying shingles up a ladder. In Houston TX, in the summer. It was regularly 100 degrees outside, 100% humidity, and a lot hotter on the roof. I got to the point where I could carry two 80 lb. bundles up the ladder (I did break a few ladders), balancing one on each shoulder. I had to keep three or four roofers busy.

        When I got home I took a hot shower, then a cold shower, then collapsed into bed and slept a few hours. Then got up and had dinner.

        So - walking 8 hours in an air conditioned warehouse? Hah!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Is this a story?

          Another convenient pro Amazon drone reply. The one percent in the U.S. owns your soul and laughs at how you brag about being a 21st Century wage slave. Eejit!

      8. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Is this a story?

        "Try walking continuously for 8 hours."

        Many, many (many, many, many) years ago I worked as a swimming pool lifeguard. Just standing around doing nothing for 8 hours a day, day after day, is surprisingly tiring too.

      9. Sheep!

        Re: Is this a story?

        Did it for 5 years before I got into IT. It requires you to make an effort until you're fit enough for it not to bother you. If you're not physically able to be that fit, don't take that job. If you are, it's not a problem. Asshat.

      10. Sirius Lee

        Re: Is this a story?

        Every assembly line worker. The summer holidays after school I took a job on an assembly line packing loo cisterns. Easy enough but like my fellow packers, I was on my feet all day except for a 15 minute break in the morning and 1 hour at lunch. There are lots and lots of jobs like this and have been since the dawn agriculture.

        What world do you live in? Maybe mummy and daddy should have forced you to use a plastic spoon once in a while.

      11. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is this a story?

        If they don't like the physical exercise perhaps they should find a less demanding job. I would love to have an excuse to do 11 miles of walking exercise a day!

        Whoever is complaining about this should be lucky the jobs are there at all, won't be long before they're replaced by robots entirely.

    4. David 66

      Re: Is this a story?

      Cover the timer with a post-it et voila, a nice walk.

    5. Sirius Lee

      Re: Is this a story?

      Yes, but he's really a journalist. You know, someone used to sitting on his butt all day everyday. Imagine the complaints he must have had about the blisters on his poor little feet.

  3. damian Kelly

    There is a lesson there and it is this is what happens when you didnt pay attention at school.

    1. hokum

      "There is a lesson there and it is this is what happens when you didnt pay attention at school."

      What if you're still in school? What if you had a deprived childhood and never got a chance to finish school, or performed poorly because of your situation at home? What if you have learning disabilities? What if [insert any one of the many reasons people may want/have to take a job like this].

      I'm not saying this Amazon thing is particularly horrendous, certainly doesn't sound much worse than restocking the freezer in a supermarket or working in an abattoir or something like that, but don't assume that the only reason anyone would take it is because they're lazy and didn't get 5 GCSE's.

      Have a look at current unemployment rates, particularly among the young and recently graduated.

      Here's your lesson: life is more complex than your black and white view of the world, you short-sighted arsehole.

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge


        I do agree with you that damial Kelly probably didn't cover the subject at hand in a holistic manner. But after your last sentence I wonder: is this a sign of frustration because you didn't pay enough attention at school?

        1. hokum

          @Evil Auditor

          No chap, I did alright and have an okay job that I enjoy, but thanks for your concern.

          It is, however, a sign of frustration at the udder idiocy of people like that moron above who take the attitude that people working in minimum wage positions are lazy, or stupid, or both. It's this kind of thinking that's led to the poor and unemployed being demonised as scroungers by the Tories and certain segments of the media, and it pisses me the fuck off.

          I'm also kind of annoyed at you assuming that my defence of them means I must be in the same position, but not quite enough to insult you over it.

          1. Evil Auditor Silver badge


            Thank you for the clarification. Well, I didn't take damian Kelly's comment very seriously*. That's why it made me smile. I don't and probably never will know damian Kelly's real attitude towards this topic. But if something looks like irony and smells like irony is probably is irony.

            *And neither should you mine. Although part of my day job is to piss people off.

      2. El_Fev

        blah blah blah whine whine whine spot the media studies student!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My thoughts exactly!!!!!!

    3. dogged

      Yeah because if EVERYONE paid attention at school jobs at Amazon would have way better conditions and pay so much more, right?


      Got to love the brain-dead first-line support staff we get here who think they're better than people with real jobs. One of my friends just won GCHQ's entry-form puzzle competition. He works in Tesco's warehouse.

      Because he chooses to.

      Did you choose to read your script every day?

      1. Benjol

        Quite. So given that he chooses to, I guess he's not complaining. Or running hidden cameras for the BBC?

    4. Darren Barratt

      Not so. I'm highly educated, but found myself in a bit of a slack point in the job market. Quite a few young graduates working there when I was there (in proper subjects too, knew one Computer Science grad and an Aeronautical Engineering grad). Stuck in the "no experience" trap. Quite a lot of polish people in the one I was working at, who were earning to save up for university.

      Don't assume that everyone there dropped out of school.

  4. FartingHippo

    Could be a lot worse

    Anyone who has ever worked at a meat processing factory would testify to that.

    Then again, Amazon are a juicy target, and it has never been hard to get the hand-wringing, grauniad-reading, polenta-munching residents of Islington riled up. Even odds that our intrepid journalist is from the same set, the poor lamb.

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: Could be a lot worse

      "and it has never been hard to get the hand-wringing, grauniad-reading, polenta-munching residents of Islington"

      I'm not sure you have any idea about most of Islington.

      (other than what you've been spoon-fed)

      1. Nuke

        Re: Could be a lot worse

        Farting Hippo wrote :- "it has never been hard to get the hand-wringing, grauniad-reading, polenta-munching residents of Islington riled up"

        Elmer Phud replied :- "I'm not sure you have any idea about most of Islington (other than what you've been spoon-fed)"

        Hippo was not talking about most of Islington, only the hand-wringing, grauniad-reading, polenta-munching subset. Personally I am going by what I have been spoonfed by the "It's Grim Up North London" comic strip in Private Eye.

    2. countd

      Re: Could be a lot worse

      What's wrong with polenta? If you want to have a go at weird, tasteless food beloved of the chattering classes surely quinoa is the more obvious target?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Could be a lot worse


        I have to disagree. Polenta is nasty, bland and horrible. Mashed potato (preferably with cream and butter) is the food of the gods, and we'll have none of your foreign substitues thankyouverymuch!

        ...Thinks... Sausage and cider casserole with mash tonight perhaps?

        1. Richard 120

          Re: Could be a lot worse

          I concur, I've given polenta many chances, at least three, and that's three more than I wish.

          I would consider it to be the Anti-bacon, but I've already given that accolade to celery.

          1. Frumious Bandersnatch

            Re: Could be a lot worse

            I would consider it to be the Anti-bacon

            Would you eat it with Anti-pasta, then?

          2. countd

            Re: Could be a lot worse

            Point taken, but all I am saying is that polenta _can_ be ok if prepared properly (basically overloaded with things that actually do taste good, like parmesan and garlic, and preferably fried). OTOH quinoa has the distinction of being entirely beyond redemption. Once you make the decision to base you meal around it, nothing in the known universe can rescue your meal from ending up a bland, uninspiring pile of sh*t.

        2. Mexflyboy

          Re: Could be a lot worse

          Dummy, even mashed potatoes are a "foreign substitute", as potatoes more or less originate in Peru, and not in the UK (where I think you're based?)...

          (But they ARE food of the gods, just had some for dinner today, yum...)

          1. countd

            Re: Could be a lot worse


          2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Could be a lot worse

            even mashed potatoes are a "foreign substitute", as potatoes more or less originate in Peru


            Are you calling Paddington Bear a foreigner? Shame on you!

            Anyway, tatties can't be foreign, because my Mum cooked them for me when I were a lad. And she didn't hold with all that foreign muck. Apart from doing really weak curries with fruit in them of course...

            I think that once you've lived in Britain for 500 years, you get to call yourself a local. Even the BNP wouldn't send potatoes 'back to where they belong' now. Whereas I must have been in my 20s before I'd even heard of polenta (I wasn't big on Italian food), so that gets counted as foreign. Just like garlic, olive oil, pepper and in fact all spices except mild curry powder - as my Mum wouldn't have anything to do with them either. Nowadays I love Italian grub, but I still don't get polenta.

      2. Frumious Bandersnatch

        Re: Could be a lot worse

        What's wrong with polenta?

        It's got pretty poor nutritional value (eg "While polenta contains numerous vitamins and minerals, it is not classified as a good source for any of them"). It was basically peasant food, the Italian equivalent of potatoes in 1800's Ireland.

        Personally, I can't see why people eat it. Buttermilk cornbread (also made from maize), on the other hand ... delicious.

    3. Lamont Cranston

      Re: Could be a lot worse

      Yes, it could be worse, so shut up and enjoy what you've got, proles.

      That's a fine attitude, that is.

      Edit: I sort of regret typing this, as walking 11m/day really doesn't sound that bad. Oh well. Up the workers!

  5. batfastad

    Reality check needed

    I'm sure there are far more arduous, disgusting and lower paid jobs elsewhere in the world.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Reality check needed

      " I'm sure there are far more arduous, disgusting and lower paid jobs elsewhere in the world."

      Indeed, and even in this country too.

  6. knarf

    Crappy Job but its still a job

    I'd do it if I could not find anything else and so would a lot of people currently on the dole. 11 miles a day is nothing and likely lower miles than a waiter.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Crappy Job but its still a job

      Some people walk 11 miles just to GET to work, and consider themselves lucky.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Crappy Job but its still a job

        ... but you try and tell the kids today that, and they never believe you!

  7. Amazon Wageslave

    Some truth, some bollocks.

    Yes, the job sucks. Yes, the pay's crap. Not exactly a shock. That said, saying that he was struggling to pick 110 UPH suggests he's really, really stupid/lazy, or exaggerating to get a good story. I have trained people to pick, including a fair number of East Europeans who spoke English as a second language. They've managed to get up to speed without any great difficulty.

    On another note, the security boss down at CWL1 will be getting a thorough reaming for his security guards not finding a body camera. Giggle.

    1. cheveron

      Sounds like a cushy job ...

      ... compared to doing night shifts in a UK supermarket warehouse. I expect the pay is better too. I did all kinds of jobs between graduating and getting a job in my chosen profession. If Amazon had been around at the time I'd have been happy to work for them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sounds like a cushy job ...

        I spent six years at Sainsbury's in the late 80's early 90's and the night-shift was jealously preserved perk among a select group of staff.

        Double time, short shifts, no customers to deal with... it really was as good as it got for shelf stacking. So far superior to this Amazon picking malarkey.

  8. Tom Richardson

    NEWSLASH: Manual, repetitive job sucks

    More at 12 from the complete obvious, boring new department.

  9. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Rivetting rings on aluminium ladders, stacking shelves in Tescos, pushing trollies in Sainsbury's, picking frozen sprouts for Christmas dinners, putting stawberries in little punnets, sitting on the checkout in Asda, being an IT droid ... now tell me Amazon is worse ...

  10. James Boag

    hold on a minute

    As a student, I would work at a frozen fruit factory, The machine went whirr clunk and the meat bags had an action to perform, Nothing new here, it what used to happen, perhaps amazon read one of the history books they sell and thought ......

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How long did he do it?

    You get pretty footsore in the first couple of weeks, longer if you're dumb and don't get some good shoes for the job.

    The real pisstake is the breaks, which can be something like 20 minutes for lunch with 10 of them taken up by going through security to get to somewhere you're allowed to keep food.

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: How long did he do it?

      "... something like 20 minutes for lunch with 10 of them taken up by going through security to get to somewhere..."

      This is probably the only really unfair thing here. Company security needs to be done on company time. But as for the walking - plenty of people do that - binmen for example. In fact, I'd love to have a non-sedentary job, but the pay tends to suck.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: How long did he do it?

      "...don't get some good shoes for the job."

      Well, I ordered some decent shoes off Amazon, but they took so long to arrive...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had a job one summer packing CDs. Twelve hour shifts. If we didn't pack quickly enough pay was docked. We had to punch out when we took a toilet break but if the toilet break lasted longer than 10 minutes an hour was docked. There was absolutely no talking allowed while we were packing.

    Another summer job was making a stock take in a warehouse. This involved counting bins full of unfinished bits of metal. After a couple of cut hands all of us refused to work until we were supplied gloves. They also refused to supply scales so that bins containing hundreds of tiny pieces could be estimated by weight.

    Temping sucks.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Temp work

      Street cleaning a small town, in the summer, my radio on the bin trolley, quite a reasonable way of spending a summer. Empty street bins and sweep up mess.

      Cleaning dishes in a restaurant, that was tough, and pretty boring.

      Painting the floor of a garage, that was OK, and it saved them money by using relations of staff.

      Shittiest job ever, working in a soft drink factory, boring as f**k and quite a few of the other workers were a bit dim, pay was crap as well. A few bits were knicked off my bike as well. Conditions poor, hours long. Made £50 over UB in one month, and that was blown on spares for my bike.

      Done community programme, equivalent of just over £2 an hour but I got to drive the dumper truck! Usually repairing lineside fencing.

      Done car delivery driver at eff all wages, (£1.50) but that could be fun, and I got to travel the country. But people wanting 1.2 Astras should be shot.

      So there we go street sweeping, car driving and restoring a preserved railway were good temp jobs, even of pay was bad.

      I would mention long hours of boredom are a killer, chatting speeds up time and does not really slow people down.

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: Temp work

        I don't think that anybody actually wants 1.2 Astras. It's more like they have £2 jobs or work for amazon and can't afford a proper car. Or did you mean they wanted one Astra and 20% of another one? Then yes, shoot 'em!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Welcome to working for a living, buddy - just because this is the only time you've tried doing what 70% of normal people out there do all the time doesn't mean that Amazon are running some kind of unique hellhole. Complaining because a warehouse stock job left no room for decision making and critical thinking? What the fuck did you expect, to be writing a column for The Economist?!

    In other news, my phone's autocorrect has started randomly doubling the first letters of words I type and ignoring the next space bar press. Awesome.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My iPad has recently started auto-correcting "if" as "f", "is" as "s" and "and" as "nd". What the hell?

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        AC 14:19 GMT, either your iPad is dyslexic or it found a way to increase its otherwise unincreasable memory.

  14. Amazon Wageslave

    and another thing...

    "The characteristics of this type of job, the evidence shows increased risk of mental illness and physical illness."

    Amazon sites aren't so much warehouses as holding pens for people with personality disorders, in my experience.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: amazon [...] holding pens for people with personality disorders

      ... and if this report is to be believed, the work environment may just be creating and/or exacerbating the situation you describe.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: and another thing...

      Replace Amazon with IT Dept and I think you have it!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Did you have permission to re-publish the poem?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: permission

      Would you mind putting the word "poem" in the inverted commas that such an effort so clearly deserved?

      It's too late for a takedown request now anyway, what is once seen cannot be un-seen. The global artistic disappointment index has been increased by yet another notch. And just as X Factor is on as well...

  16. poopypants

    My favourite job of all time

    was filling bags with blood and bone manure. By hand. Ah, that gentle aroma.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My favourite job of all time

      Blood and fish I would think. Or Bonemeal, but blood and fish is the smelly one if it gets damp at all. Lovely for plants though,

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't it amazing how so many companies who started with a hippie ethos turn into the most savage capitalists.

    Amazon, Ben and Jerry's, Apple, Google, Starbucks, etc. etc.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is a job a machine should be doing.

    These damn people stealing all the machine's jobs!

    1. Lamont Cranston

      ^ This.

      I expect Amazon are working on that, and then there'll be howls of outrage as all these rubbish jobs are given over to the machines

      1. Blackbird74

        Re: ^ This.

        Indeed. = this:

        No wonder those Amazon prices are so high when I have to pay for PEOPLE to do the picking. Come on Amazon - sort it out! (Partially j/k)

  19. Moffy


    ideal for those wishing to lose weight.. maybe start a temping agency for it..

    Sign up to Health Improvement Work Scheme;

    Medical Check -> Start work in supermarket trolley collecting. Stage 1 of the scheme

    -> 6 months/certain weight loss then progress to Stage 2, Working the warehouse as in the article.

    -> further weight loss progression and onto Stage 3, delivering leaflets for companies

    -> further recognition of weightloss and onto Stage 4, delivering mail for Royal Mail

    After that, who knows...

    Should keep NHS happy at least..

    1. Chemist

      Re: Hmm

      "ideal for those wishing to lose weight"

      That's what struck me - it's slightly less than the estimated daily calorie expenditure of hunter-gathers from ~5000 years ago

  20. wowfood

    I'm not surprised

    And honestly it sounds more like whinging that he had to do some kind of manual job than anything else. Yes for a lot of people that kind of job is hell, I wouldn't last more than a week or two anymore. But on the other foot, there are a fair amount of people who would thrive in that environment. Jobs to match the people applying to them.

  21. Maharg

    Pretty sure that’s the way they do things in Argos, Tescos, and other places they have huge warehouses, the problem with being ‘timed’ to achieve a task, in this case down to the second, is it does put stress on anyone, you can work it out and say its only 40 yards a minute, but you forgetting the few seconds it takes to find item, scan item, place item on trolley and check next item, (I’m assume they don’t return after collecting each item and basically fill the trolley before returning?) while this might only take say 10 seconds, that’s still 1/3 of your allocated time, and not all items will only be 40 yards away in a straight line.

    Of course you have to make sure that the d̶r̶o̶n̶e̶s̶ workers are not slacking, but maybe a bonus for doing over a target instead of a counting clock would be better, otherwise spending 2 seconds more looking for a small item in a shelve full of identical items impacts the time for each item for the rest of your day.

    I know from a friend who used to drop off the deliveries for a large British supermarket (the green one) that these where allocated a time down to the minute as well, which was even more unrealistic as each day there would be someone who had parked their car in a way so his van couldn’t get past, or an accident, or road works, or anything else that could affect the time that of course cannot be factored by a computer, they had something like 4 minutes given for ‘customer interaction’ which was the dropping off of the load, the checking, the signing, etc, but you could spend that much waiting for the door to be answered, avoiding a dog, finding the correct house or helping an elderly or disabled person take the shopping into the kitchen and unpacking it for them (if you were nice that is), that’s if the customer was in at all.

    Needless to say apparently few of the other vans accumulated scraps, bumps and even speeding tickets to meet the demands

    1. JeeBee

      "not all items will only be 40 yards away in a straight line."

      I would seriously hope that the computer overseeing a picking job would organise the things to be picked in an optimal manner for each meatbot, presumably taking a circuitous route from the empty truck zone to the full truck ready for unloading by other meatbots, before the driver returns to the empty truck zone to start again.

      And I think I saw on TV recently that Ocado went for the full automated picking factory - clearly this is where Amazon could be going soon. And then the meatbots will be complaining about fewer and fewer jobs that they are qualified to do.

      1. Getriebe

        "I would seriously hope that the computer overseeing a picking job would organise the things to be picked in an optimal manner for each meatbot, presumably taking a circuitous route from the empty truck zone to the full truck ready for unloading by other meatbots, before the driver returns to the empty truck zone to start again."

        Its called wave picking and any half decent warehouse will have it. And in such a big and varied warehouse (ie different sizes of item to be picked) the software will know the weight and size and will vary the pick route and time accordingly

        Well - that's what our various WMS software does

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Needless to say apparently few of the other vans accumulated scraps, bumps and even speeding tickets to meet the demands"

      In this case the problem isn't so much with time limits as with time limits being set in an utterly moronic fashion. Requiring someone to make *a specific delivery within a period of time* is as absurd as requiring a photographer to get a picture of a bolt of lightning once every day whether it rains or not, when all you really care about is that he have ten of them by next month.

      If the people implementing the system hadn't done it so it required things that would often be physically impossible, it wouldn't be so bad - for instance, if the requirements were for a rolling average, and you had N days to shape up or explain yourself if your average went up too much, etc. But whether or not a tracking system using timing to judge work output, it will break horribly if the people doing the implementing are too blinkered to see reality.

  22. JeeBee

    I'd hate that. Then again I'd hate a lot of manual jobs, and at least this one is under cover.

    The main issue I have with it is the constant timing and countdown clock thing, which is a clear and obvious source of stress, especially if you overrun often - I can imagine a red light blinking by your name on some manager's tablet.

    1. Nigel 11

      at least this one is under cover.

      Actually I'm sure that's what I'd hate most about it. It' s possible that an Amazon warehouse has a transparent roof, or even just skylights, but somehow I doubt it. A day spent with nothing but industrial high-efficiency lighting would really suck. I once threatened to resign if I wasn't relocated to a location with a window. (They moved me rather than calling my bluff. I meant it).

      I could walk eleven miles in a day and enjoy it (if sunny and outdoors) until I reached my 40s. I probably still could after a week or two toughening myself up. Ask someone in the army what they're expected to be capable of. And that's before hostiles start shooting at you. And they say they enjoy it!!

      1. Anonymous Coward

        " I once threatened to resign if I wasn't relocated to a location with a window."

        Thus marking the only time in history when a worker threatened to quit if he wasn't allowed to start using Windows.

  23. Suricou Raven

    This job seems familiar...

    Is the software called 'Manna' by any chance?

  24. the.spike

    Easy Target

    This is no different from the warehouse picking and packing I used to do for Tesco. You got a sheet with a load of stickers on it and off you trundled round the warehouse to collect everything in a certain amount of time.

    OK, we had trucks to carry the three cages you had to fill but you still had to lift all the crap onto it. Let me tell you once you've hefted 80 6 bottle cases of 2L coke you were glad for the 2 minute rest you got while you drove the truck to the loading bay. And then you picked up the next job and did it all again.

    Welcome to the world. It's called work. Suck it up.

    1. Maharg

      Re: Easy Target

      I don’t have problems with allocating time to achieve a task, it makes sense, but down to a number of seconds over a number of hours seems a bit much, I mean, can you imagine having to say to your partner “I didn’t get full pay because I missed my target today, I sneezed and then blew my nose at 14:34 and that put me out by 6.7 seconds”

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Easy Target

        Hell, a Formula One driver can lose his whole career just by being a few seconds late on one day at work.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shut up and walk

    It's Black Friday lightning sales! yay

  26. Aitor 1

    Sounds familiar

    Many years ago we did a very similar system for a multinational client (not Google)

    The "Drones" went a bit crazy.. a strange look in their eyes....

    In the end, they had to use robots: way more expensive, but the workers couldn't resist not taking small decisions.

  27. xyz Silver badge

    SHOCK! BBC type discovers what real work is

    I think the best thing to do now is get Amazon in to manage the BBC...then the licence fee would be about £2.30

    1. Tom 7

      Re: SHOCK! BBC type discovers what real work is

      Its only the workers that get paid shit - the management would just up the licence fee to £230 by sacking a few of themselves for more cost than keeping them on gardening leave for the rest of their days.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: SHOCK! BBC type discovers what real work is

      I strongly suspect that they would keep the fee the same and process it all through <generic offshore tax haven>, sell all the buildings to offshore companies and blah blah, avoid tax, screw the country etc. etc.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: SHOCK! BBC type discovers what real work is

      I think they shoot a puppy in front of you, first time at least. If you're a repeat offender, they take you out into the car park and get everyone else to stone you to death.

      It's a sliding scale, so not entirely unfair because they do warn you.

  28. Sir Sham Cad

    Weak link in the chain

    Whether or not the picker took 33 or 35 seconds to pick the item you ordered and get it to distribution is completely irrelevant because Yodel will fuck it up and you'll still be waiting for days while the delivery man insists your house doesn't exist and you watch the tracking website play Depot Tennis. It's left the depot! It's on the van! It's on it's way! It's back at the depot!

  29. SirDigalot

    hard work...

    I used to work for a large flagship uk airline, in the "logistics" dept.

    Back then I thought it was the shittiest thing to ever be subject to, it was mind numbing monotony, and got even worse after they outsourced management.

    We too trudged around a large warehouse ( or three) sometimes we got to drive machines, other times we walked, we had a little cart we put stuff in, it was not the picture of modern stock picking that amazon was.. another place we also had an automated machine ( which had a big habit of breaking)

    when we had no real stuff to pick we had to re stock all the stuff that was returned ( quite often a lot of the stuff we had sent out before and was not used)

    I thought I was better than that.

    now, I work in an office, cube-hell, in a job I would rather bite my hand of daily then go to, but it was "in the career I wanted to be in" - or at least thought it at the time.

    rose tinted hindsight tells me other wise though, the pay was fantastic the benefits were fabulous and I never once, ever, had to deal with work at home, knocking off time was exactly that you left the job, at work.

    now I am not saying amazon is any better, it is not, this is a company that drives profit they do not pay as well as I had it, and they do not seem to care as much about their people, there is nothing new in this, it may seem a bit of a shock, but honestly seems the norm to me for most retailers now I am living in the US, it is not slavery because you are paid and it is 'voluntary'.

    the supermarket I first worked in was a bit sad, but to be honest with that, it was not hard, it would have sufficed, I never would have been rich, but then again, I am not rich now, and I am expected to be always on the job.

    Sometimes the grass is greener, but that's because of all the shit involved to make it grow

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Middle Class keyboard warriors who do nothing but sit on their asses all day and couldn't walk 11 miles without a heart attack are having a go at someone whose work is a lot shittier than theirs saying it's alright because other people are treated a lot worse in their jobs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: shock!

      My employer has asked me to reply for him.

      Who you calling Middle Class?

      I generally prefer to recline on the Chaise Lounge in the library adjacent to my office than sit at my desk.

      Dictation taken by the private secretary of Bill Fresher.

  31. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

    Yeah but no but...

    I will have to preface my comments by saying that I agree with much of what's been said here. I'm a big fan of hard work. It never killed anybody. (Not strictly true, but let's move on).

    To be fair, it seems that the issue here is not completely to do with having to work hard, it's the complete lack of any kind of autonomy or control he has in doing the job.

    There was a study done some time ago on the relative stress levels of high-level execs and low-level grunts. It took into account health markers such as heart disease, blood pressure etc. Everybody expected the execs to be coronary cases, but it turned out that the less control a person had over their environment, the more stressed they were, with knock-on effects on health.

    I've done warehouse work. Part of the attraction for me at the time was the challenge of seeing how quickly I could get everything picked, processed and wrapped. I knew the best routes and had the different bins memorised, I knew that if a bin was half empty I could nip through to the row behind, and I knew when I could get away with climbing/reaching to get something, and when I needed to use the order picker.

    The work wasn't great, but it was these small things that made it bearable. With a virtual cattle prod controlling my every move I think I'd have been a lot more stressed, and a lot less motivated.

  32. bouncy

    What happens

    Has anybody commented on what happens when the time runs out. Does the little box explode, or does a large hook appear from the depths of the roof, pluck you up like a fairground grappler game, and deposit you outside in the cold? ;)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What happens

      They send someone out to find you and eject you from the premises. However, this person only has 33 seconds to find you before someone is sent to find them and eject them from the premises...

  33. Stretch

    Move faster I'm waiting for my order!!

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So close it's worrying

    Read this

  35. Maty

    I knew a guy with a job like that - he worked in a records office and walked about eight miles a day. He loved it. His plan was to 'walk around the world'. He'd calculate his progress on a map, and would get books about the places he was 'walking through' and once even went on a holiday to south-eastern France because visiting it in his head had been so pleasant.

    When I knew him he'd 'done' Europe and Turkey and was planning his trip through the Middle East to India.

    There is no heaven or hell, but people make it so ...

  36. David Barrett


    I've had a few jobs which I think qualify as worse than this, whilst finishing high school I worked NIGHTS in a salmon gutting factory, there wasn't as much walking involved, but it was a chilled warehouse with ice, water and fish guts being splashed over you at regular intervals.

    I then upgraded to working the summer on a prawn trawler - similar conditions but better pay because of the threat of falling overboard...

    I get what they are getting at with this documentary - the conditions are hard, the workers are stressed... but lets face it, their conditions are quite good by comparison to some people.

    As for the walking, is this really a problem? I have a desk job but just the walk to work clocks up 3 miles a day.. and as for people saying "try doing it every day" yeah, it will be boring, but 11 miles isn't that much of a challenge, you might be stiff on day 2 if you are not used to it but a few days you'll be fine.

  37. Alan 6

    This seems normal for a warehouse job

    When I worked for Index (like Argos but a bit shitter) I used to pick across two floors for up to 12 hours a day at christmas - yeah try running up & down a set of stairs for 12 hours, a set of stairs with 4 twists.

    I did that for 13 years, I wonder why my knees are fucked?

  38. Gomez Adams

    11 miles is not far ...

    ... if you are wearing the right footwear. Office brogues don't cut it.

  39. Mexflyboy

    The big problem is...

    I think the big problem/hoo hah over this has less to do with the mileage done, and more to do with Amazon's attitude of McDonaldizing time-keeping to an extent that the Amazon worker becomes a bored/harried time-constrained automaton.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Adam Littler is a journalist ...

    ... and therefore ranks just above a politician on the truthfulness scale.

    "He claimed to have walked 11 miles (17.7km) each shift"

    This simply doesn't make sense. If he walked less than 11 miles on some shifts then this is a lie. If he walked more than 11 miles on some then he would say "at least 11 miles" for better effect. It is more likely that the 11 miles is the maximum he walked or the distance he walked on a couple of days.

    "... pickers are expected to collect an order every 33 seconds."

    Assuming a circular building with the collection point in the centre then the furthest shelves are 505 feet away (800,000ft2) which means they would have to travel 1010 feet (there and back) in 33 seconds or at an average speed of 21mph. Usain Bolt's average speed is 23.31mph. It seems that the Amazon warehouse is full of potential Olympic sprinters.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Late as usual

    Working conditions at Amazon warehouses have been covered, properly I may add, by Le Monde Diplomatique in its August edition, by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung back in February this year (online here), and by Der Spiegel back in October-ish I think. The Financial Times has also published some interesting articles on it in the last year, but I can't remember exactly when and I can't log in right now.

    Not just is the BBC late to the party, but they manage to go for the dramatic, sensationalist approach while skilfully avoiding any serious reporting or analysis of the issue. If anybody is actually interested on this, more factual and insightful accounts are to be found in the sources above (all equally critical of Amazon btw).

  42. David Barrett

    Lets just remember

    This is panorama.. the same series that brought you the WIFI routers of death a few years ago.

  43. Tromos

    I suggest this reporter tries his luck as an unskilled helping hand on a building site next. He'll be expected to do a lot more than 11 miles, some of that will be up ladders or stairs too. He'll find that bricks, bags of plaster, tool boxes, etc. are on average heavier than a padded envelope containing a USB stick. Not least, he'll find that he doesn't get anywhere near the over 80 quid he picked up for his shift at Amazon.

  44. Gartal

    One of the worst or at least most memorably uncomfortable jobs I had was working as a gut slasher/emptier at an abatoir back in 1981. It was quite disgusting and very cold, the only way to keep warm was by sticking my hands into the sheep's stomaches with the partly digested grass.

    The most tedious job and the one most relevent here is as a 15YO working on a production line in a glue and ink factory where the Heath Robinson/Charles Dickens machinery gave one a real flavour of the nineteenth century.

    The author of this peice is not whinging but making several valid points, one of which is unstated. As Edna Crabapple says to Bart, "Your work is going to be hot and dangerous" (someone will correct me on that but I think I have captured the essence). People who for whatever reason, social, familial, ecconomic, mental, whatever who are not attentive in class are more likely to have to do unpleasant, repetitivie jobs.

    That said, there is the unstated point which I mentioned earlier. That is that there are different smokes for different blokes. An aphorism I coined and have maintained with a little paint and putty here and there for the last thirty years through thirty six jobs and twelve trades is that "All work is primarliy tedium and the job you do best at is the one whose tedium you can best tolerate". What the author demonstrated clearly is that whilst he can handle the tedium of thinking of new ideas(?) for TV shows and the drudgery of getting them to air, he cannot tolerate the tedium of being machine driven, and that is fine, there are those who can and those for whom the idea of having no responsibility, of having every step (eleven miles of them) dictated to them is just what the doctor ordered.

    I once had a friend who worked for seven years in the CSSD (Central Sterile Supply Department) at Royal Melbourne Hospital. Seven years! I tried it when I was a theater orderly at the age of sixteen and couldn't take seven hours of it. I asked her how it was that she, an intelligent person was able to stand it, she said that she got paid to stand around and think anything she wanted to, all she had to do was stuff cotton balls into little envelopes.

    Horses for courses.

    As to Pollenta, make it with half milk and half water, add plenty of salt and go out and buy a block of Grana Padano and grate your own parmesan rather than using pre grated toe jam. Serve it with something strongly flavoured.

    One more thing, mashed potato is not God's Own Food. Sorry to add that a bacon sandwhich is not either. I know I should burn in Hell for making such statements but Hell is closed due to lack of interest.

  45. codeusirae

    Back to the Eighteen Nineties ..


  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The PHB is in ..

    Going on the number of positive comments regarding the joys of mechanical repetitive labour, Is the comments section being totally trolled by PHB types ?

  47. Winkypop Silver badge

    Easy solution..

    just employ small children to pull the cart.

    They can work for food and shelter.

  48. jonfr

    11 miles to km

    So we have 11 miles walk each day. That is for the rest of the world (how uses metric) around 17 km. That is a lot of walking and that is a lot of strain on a person. Regardless if that person is in a good shape or not.

    I also wonder if Amazon have not heard of an invention called the wheel. It would improve performance to just to add motorized carts for the employers to work with when they go and pick up orders.

    While I have not worked in a warehouse (since none-existed where I used to live) I did do jobs that where just walking around and cutting grass. Total km over the day was different depending on the, but the longest was often up to around 20 km. But then I had to drag heavy bags and land-mowers all over the place to cut the grass.

    1. ElNumbre
      Thumb Up

      Re: 11 miles to km

      I'm sure I saw an Amazon promo video where workers had those shoes with a roller skate in the heel to get around on - able to walk when required, and scoot when not.

      Until Amazon find robots which are cheaper, more efficient and more scalable than mechanical turks, these jobs will still need to be done.

  49. Allonymous Coward

    How poetically cyberpunk

    "...we're holding it, but we might as well be plugging it into ourselves".

    I read that phrase three times to try and work out WTF the guy was blithering about. Then I got it - he's using one of them metaphor things what shows how Amazon workers are all treated like robots.

    What a clever little journalism grad. Here, have a bikkie.

  50. Scott 62

    tl;dr - shit job is shit, don't be a picker

    anyway it's hardly unusual, i used to work in a big distribution centre up't north for Netto before they were swallowed by Asda and our veg pickers were expected to pick 300 shopping basket sized veg trays an hour, in a room that was esentially a giant fridge

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Greed is Good

    We exploit the third world and extract as much profit as possible

    So why is there such an outcry when it’s uncovered that we exploit our own citizen in the UK

    He’s a reporter who has moved on because he can, but for some this is the best that they can get. Let’s wait and see what the program has to offer if there is more in sight available...

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