back to article As Amazon pulls union-buster job ads, workers describe a 'Mad Max' atmosphere – unsafe, bullying, abusive

Pallets stacked 10 high when the old rules said a maximum of five; policies to thwart the spread of the COVID-19 virus not followed and co-workers only informed about positive tests a month later; punishing work rates that are constantly changed and used as a weapon; write-ups as retaliation for complaining about racist behavior …

  1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Terminator

    There's a simple solution

    Don't shop at Amazon. Despite its best efforts, Amazon is not a total monopoly, and anything which can be bought at Amazon can be bought elsewhere. Sometimes it's not as cheap, and you probably won't get same-day turnaround (although I've had pretty good results from most vendors apart from Best Buy), but virtually everything you can think of is available through another vendor.

    I'm sure the "work harder, comrade" and "Amazon workers should be grateful to have jobs" people will be along (and isn't it funny how the "Communists" and right-wing authoritarian "free traders" have the same disregard for workers' well-being?) shortly. To them I say, Amazon's well-being is built on the suffering of its workers. Surely the workers have the right to organize and confront management for better wages and treatment. Or are you saying the lives of the lumpenproletariat untermenschen are just worth less than the lives of the wealthy? Anyway, I await the arrival of the Usual Suspects eager to spit-shine the boot on the neck of the working class.

    1. DanielsLateToTheParty

      Re: There's a simple solution

      I've chosen to boycott Amazon for a while now even though I know it cannot do any good against the millions of customers who value convenience over morality. Also I try to explain it to basically anyone who stands still long enough, it might be unpopular but I want to be able to sleep easily.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: There's a simple solution

        >I've chosen to boycott Amazon for a while

        And shop at Walmart instead ?

        1. Joe Drunk

          Re: There's a simple solution

          I know a few people who work at a local Walmart in non-management roles. It's a paradise compared to how Amazon treats their workers. I've heard places like UPS/FEDEX are similar in the constant stress of losing your job for no reason (I've known people who worked there as well).

          Nobody's pointing a gun to your head and telling you to work at these shitholes. Given the skillset there are plenty of alternatives. There currently is an increased demand for sub-contractors/day laborers that pay competitive rates. You will work had, get your hands dirty but will be treated far better than any Megacorp and at the end of the day enjoy some well earned pints. I speak from personal experience.

          Physical stress is much easier to overcome than emotional/mental stress. With physical stress you come home tired and sleep soundly whereas emotional/mental stress causes you to toss and turn all night.

          1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

            Re: There's a simple solution

            Physical stress of the sort that office workers impose on themselves tends to be easier to overcome. Physical stress from lifting and stacking 30 kg boxes all day will eventually tell on the back and the joints. And I'll add that it is striking how seldom office jobs turn up in OSHA frequently gruesome accident reports.

          2. First Light Bronze badge

            Re: There's a simple solution

            With the US economy tanking, I think that's a pretty cruel thing to say. Some people may not have much of a choice about where they work, eg ex-cons, of whom there are so very many in the US which loves incarcerating people.

          3. mego

            Re: There's a simple solution

            Yeah Walmart make Amazon look like playground bullies in comparison. Seriously, Walmart is way more of a bad company, regardless of what they may do for workers.

        2. JClouseau
          Childcatcher

          Re: There's a simple solution

          Other similar companies are usually not philantropists either, but the way Amazon brings "productivity" and "efficiency" to extreme levels in such a brutally industrial fashion makes them clearly stand out, at least to me. Other retailers, as big as they can be, look like corner shops in comparison.

          I don't know how life is in Alibaba/express' warehouses though, never bought much from/through them anyway.

          I haven't been buying from Amazon in months, except for little gadgets you can't find anywhere else (cause nobody can compete with Amazon on some items anymore) when I'm desperate, it's not too hard to find alternatives, sometimes for the same price. But again I'm not an avid consumer and perhaps some people just can't live without "them".

          In France you can usually find alternatives with the "big" players for books, electronics, PC parts, etc... as they try to align with Amazon's prices, I just hope it's sustainable for them in the long run...

          To be fair, Amazon is fair game for critics because of their incredible success, but all the reports seem to confirm that they've crossed a line at some point with regard to employee "wellness". I don't believe Bezos would need to sleep in a cardboard box if the "rates" in warehouses went down a bit, to more humane levels.

          1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
            Childcatcher

            Re: There's a simple solution

            Other similar companies are usually not philantropists either, but the way Amazon brings "productivity" and "efficiency" to extreme levels in such a brutally industrial fashion makes them clearly stand out, at least to me. Other retailers, as big as they can be, look like corner shops in comparison.

            I worked at a JCPenney distribution center for 8 years and know a number of people who work or have worked at Amazon. Not much difference in working conditions, mindset or much else beyond the efficiency with which Amazon works versus that with which Penny's doesn't. Other retailers are almost certainly on the same page. I think it just comes down to scale, nothing more.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          This Is Much Bigger Than Amazon!

          This is not specific to Amazon and if you focus only on Amazon then you are misunderstanding the scope of the problem. This systematic abuse occurs in most large warehouse distributors.

          Read the Glassdoor reviews of any large warehouse distributor that ships products. You'll read detailed complaints about the exact same behavior. Many distributor warehouses use management by intimidation as a DELIBERATE INDUSTRY-ACCEPTED practice.

          This may sound outrageous but yes, it is an accepted industry practice. It is based on the theory that if someone can only get a lousy job as a picker in a warehouse, then it is believed that they have limited usable skills and are undisciplined in the first place, and must be bullied into submission in order to get enough work out of them.

          Amazon did not invent this behavior, they just copied it from others.

          AC because I have seen too much. I'm just the messenger.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There's a simple solution

          Are there decent alternatives, though?

          I also hate the way that Amazon treat their "low level", but nevertheless absolutely essential, staff like shit. It's only because some people do the less glamorous jobs that business, or society, functions at all, and everyone deserves to be treated fairly and reasonably. But one area where Amazon have got things mostly right, is in customer service and service improvement in general (although, for a computing company with an online bazaar side gig, their website search functionality and results navigation/filtering is surprisingly shit).

          In the UK, the nearest similar webshop to Amazon is probably Argos. OK, they started as (and still exist as) high street "mini-warehouse" shops (and that can certainly be handy for something that you need "right now"), but they have nowhere near the vast product range that Amazon has.

          Why are they seemingly incapable of following the same lead and expanding their product inventory to a similar size, with "long tail" items available for online ordering only? Why don't they do deliveries to post offices, corner shops, or lockers, like Amazon do (for when home delivery is inconvenient)? Why is product information on their website meagre and abysmal, compared to Amazon, which tells you everything you need to know to compare similar products and make the right choice of which to purchase?

          Ditto John Lewis, who probably have the right "more ethical" stance that they could probably take a large part of the market if they also did similarly?

          These are not rocket science innovations, but none of Amazon's competitors seem to have the common sense to also introduce them for themselves, and yet they wonder why every time you find that rather niche thing that you were specifically looking for, on Amazon, and not on their websites, people gradually stop looking at their websites, because why look somewhere that you come to know probably doesn't stock it, or the next thing that you want to look for...?

          1. KalaDude

            Re: There's a simple solution

            Amazon's customer service is horrid. Also they won't allow you to post a question about a product unless you've purchased a certain minimum number of items in the recent past. Their shipping policies to out of the way places like Honolulu (my loco) are bizarre, arbitrary and capricious. I only shop there as a last resort.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There's a simple solution

          No, shop at Costco instead, if it is available there. Costco’s treatment of its staff is legendary (for the retail space) with great benefits and reasonable expectations. Buy less stuff and if you do have to buy, use retailers like Costco or other smaller ones who treat their people well. That way we don’t get extortionist billionaires like Bezos and his stupid “leadership” principles or the Waltons.

          1. Velodrome

            Re: There's a simple solution

            Costco isn't ubiquitous in the US unfortunately. I did some IT consulting with Costco and they have a very good culture. There are many long term employees at HQ and they invest in training so that their older staff stay competitive (imagine that). It was a good experience and I would shop there if the nearest one weren't a 3 hour drive.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: There's a simple solution

        You just mean buying stuff right as there’s a LOT of websites and services you’d not be able to use if you boycotted anyone using AWS, Netflix for example.

        1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

          Re: There's a simple solution

          Yes, buying stuff. Netflix & websites don't directly rely on using & abusing warehouse staff. (I know there's cross subsidy.)

          Individuals think that them boycotting AZ won't make a difference, but it will if enough people do it, talk to others about it, and even organise consumer boycott groups. The alternative is to accept the status quo.

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: There's a simple solution

        @DanielsLateToTheParty

        My cousin's brother in law killed himself after working in the Dunfermline Amazon warehouse under appalling conditions. I suggested we as a family boycott Amazon, and my cousin said, "But it's just so convenient."

        These are nominally left wing people. It's unsurprising that the richest person alive is one of the worst employers.

        I was discussing workers rights at Amazon with my first love, now a well-to-do small business owner, and she loathed Amazon for unfair business and tax reasons. It's across the political spectrum, but we fail to act.

        I no longer shop with Amazon, but I admit I still watch Amazon Prime because I get it for free.

        1. TVU

          Re: There's a simple solution

          "I no longer shop with Amazon, but I admit I still watch Amazon Prime because I get it for free"

          I try and use Amazon as a finder guide, and then go outside of Amazon to place the order with the supplier directly so bypassing the Bezos Anti-Union Shady Outfit.

          Not only does union-buster Bezos look like a Bond villain, he acts like one too!

        2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: There's a simple solution

          I make an effort to not buy from Amazon whenever possible, the problem being that sometimes Amazon is the only source I can find. Especially since Newegg seems to have degraded to the state of corruption, unreliability and unusability.

          But every month or two I manage to find another alternative supplier for some particular category.

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: There's a simple solution

      The answer of course is partly representative trades unions. It's not the entirety of a solution, but there nothing like the power of many.

      1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: There's a simple solution

        MARXISM! HISSSSSS!

        1. Old Lady

          Re: There's a simple solution

          I hope you are not looking for guidance from Russia or China, they are not what Carl Marx envisaged.

        2. rcxb Silver badge

          Re: There's a simple solution

          Marxism you say?

          Secretary of Labor: The Department of Labor wishes to note that the workers of Freedonia are demanding shorter hours.

          Rufus T. Firefly: Very well, we'll give them shorter hours. We'll start by cutting their lunch hour to 20 minutes.

    3. ST Silver badge

      Re: There's a simple solution

      > [ ... ] are you saying the lives of the lumpenproletariat untermenschen are just worth less than the lives of the wealthy?

      I think that has been western capitalism's prevailing social-economic theory since the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

    4. Danny 5

      Re: There's a simple solution

      I try to do most of my shopping at local, or smaller online shops. I do sometimes get stuff from bigger online retailers, but amazon has been on my boycott list for quite some time now, I absolutely refuse to buy from them, I don't care if they sell stuff at half the price I'd get elsewhere.

      Companies like amazon are pure evil, the only way to fight them is to not give them money, it's simple.

      1. Ogi
        Unhappy

        Re: There's a simple solution

        I try to as well, including some of the small "ebay shops" people set up, including paying more than the price on Amazon just so I don't buy from them.

        Unfortunately quite a few times this has backfired. I buy something off a small Ebay store, only to find an Amazon gift parcel arrived. What some people do is list stuff on Ebay that is available on Amazon, but add 30% to the price.

        So you buy from them thinking you are paying a bit more to avoid Amazon, only to get an Amazon parcel, but at higher cost than just buying it yourself off Amazon.

        Worst thing is you can't return the item as "not as described", or "faulty", as there is nothing faulty about the item, and it is as described (they don't mention it is just bought off Amazon, presumably to prevent people just going there to buy it cheaper).

        You can just return the item as "you changed your mind", which is your right to do so by distance selling rules, but (a) you then have to pay the return shipping, and (b) most of these shops charge you a 30% "restocking fee", so they get paid either way and you end up even more out of pocket.

        None of this is illegal, so trying to boycott is very very hard to do, unless people are forced to clearly state "item comes from Amazon" when they sell things.

        1. Danny 5

          Re: There's a simple solution

          Wow, that's pretty bad, I'm glad things don't work like that around here. A "restocking fee" is illegal, as simple as that and although small webshops are allowed to do their sales in collaboration with big retailers, it works quite differently. A shop is allowed to have their products placed in the webshop of the big retailer, but the retailer must show that it's actually a third party that's selling the product. It's not possible for a small shop to resell an item as if it's from a big retailer and just apply a markup (certainly not without informing customers).

          Seems to me there's a lot of work to be done in regards to consumer, as well as worker protection in your neck of the woods.

          1. Ogi

            Re: There's a simple solution

            > Wow, that's pretty bad, I'm glad things don't work like that around here. A "restocking fee" is illegal, as simple as that

            Fair enough, round here (the UK), its pretty common, especially on Ebay. The logic being that if the item is faulty or not as described, the seller is at fault and has to absorb the cost of shipping the item back and restocking it.

            However, if you just "change your mind", and there is nothing wrong with the item, then it is not the sellers fault, and you have to pay the return shipping and the restocking costs of the seller.

            > A shop is allowed to have their products placed in the webshop of the big retailer, but the retailer must show that it's actually a third party that's selling the product. It's not possible for a small shop to resell an item as if it's from a big retailer and just apply a markup (certainly not without informing customers).

            This is a bit different. What I think people do, is create the ebay shop, then just scrape the top 20 most popular items off amazon, list them on ebay with 30% markup, and if someone buys it, they just order it from their amazon account for 30% less, ship it as a gift (which allows different delivery address to purchase address, and also does not come with invoice, so you don't know how much they paid for it), and pocket the difference as profit.

            It's basic arbitrage. I guess it is a way to catch out people who don't price-check across Amazon/Ebay, but also catches out people like myself that may be willing to pay more specifically not to buy from Amazon.

            In theory, with APIs at both ends, you could well automate this, and have it just bring in money every so often, which is what I suspect they do.

            > Seems to me there's a lot of work to be done in regards to consumer, as well as worker protection in your neck of the woods.

            I guess so, I don't know what kind of protections exist outside of the where I am, but we do have distance selling rules here and some protection.

            Paying more for an item is not illegal here though, and I am not even sure how you could protect against that. People are allowed to resell new items for more money, and if someone pays that price it's a sale.

            If I bought something at my local shop, and listed it online for 30% more, and someone bought it, how would that be different?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There's a simple solution

          I know Revelations no. 666 is related to Nero but is there any link to Amazon?

          1. First Light Bronze badge

            Re: There's a simple solution

            Revelations 18:23 seems slightly apropos - Lament for the Fall of Babylon.

            "Your merchants were the world’s important people. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray."

            According to Wikipedia, the oldest extant version of Revs actually refers to the number 616 rather than 666. Alas, Bezos' birthday is January 12, so no luck there.

    5. CynicalOptimist

      Re: There's a simple solution

      I've not shopped at Amazon this year - and it's been fine. I've found plenty of online businesses that offer a great service - and sometimes these businesses have a smaller but better curated range (e.g. I like Howe Tools for power tools - I spend way less time reading possibly fake reviews and freting over whether I'm making the right choice).

      It is hard though, as others have pointed out to completely boycott Amazon .. I have Netflix, and I'm sure they and many others host their service on AWS.

      You can probably never be a completely ethical consumer - are you going to evaluate the supply chain right back to extracting minerals out of the ground? That doesn't mean we can't act on the information that is available..

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: There's a simple solution

        Another thumbs up for Howe Tools. Customer service is great too.

        On big ticket items, you often find Amazon is more expensive as either the algorithms get greedy or the seller assumes you're too lazy to look elsewhere.

    6. macjules Silver badge

      Re: There's a simple solution

      Amazon's well-being is built on the suffering of its workers.

      Unfortunately just about every successful company is built upon some element of employee suffering.

      1. My-Handle Silver badge

        Re: There's a simple solution

        Sadly, I agree

        So what we do is: We pick the worst (or just a particularly bad) offender. Let's call them Amazon in this case. We boycott them, they lose profit and an example is made of them.

        With any luck, once two or three companies like that get taken down a peg the rest will start to realise that stomping over their workers perhaps isn't in their best interest.

        The approach may be idealistic and will rely on a co-ordinated effort from society at large, but it is at least a place to start.

      2. SundogUK Silver badge

        Re: There's a simple solution

        Absolute bollocks. Do you even have a job?

        1. macjules Silver badge

          Re: There's a simple solution

          Yeah, professional twat hunter-killer.

      3. TomG

        Re: There's a simple solution

        The only way around this is to become a boss.

    7. The Central Scrutinizer

      Re: There's a simple solution

      I have bought precisely one book from Amazon, in 1998,when online shopping was almost cutting edge....haha. These days I support Australian businesses whenever possible. Amazon's business practices and treatment of its workers are now legendary, for all the wrong reasons.

      Never again.

      1. Templogin

        Re: There's a simple solution

        I would do this except Australia is miles away on the other side of the world practically. If only there was a simpler solution!

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There's a simple solution

      It won't work. For 99.9% (or more) people, life's about "convenience", and as to sweatshops, it's "moi first and fuck the rest". They (well, WE) prefer not to think about how this super-fast, cheap(ish) delivery box came to be at our doorstep. And when we do, we delude ourselves that those at amazon sweatshops have a choice (like you do when you can live or die, take out a mortgage or live in a cardboard box, move from a shitty town to a prosperous one, etc.). We. Don't. Care. About. Others. (and we feel it's ok because "everybody else doesn't either").

      As a (very mildly) mitigating factor, amazon offer a certain peace of mind to potential customer, at the expense of their employees, that was standard in retail, but no longer is, i.e. if something is wrong, they sort it quickly and you don't have to stress to prove it was their fault. If you buy an sd card through amazon and it turns out to be fake (most of them these days), you'll get it refunded / swapped quickly and - usually - without hassle, because sellers don't want to risk the wrath of Amazon. And when you buy directly... well, there's very little you can do if they don't play fair, unless you want to embark on a lengthy complaint process and involve a legal system. And who will do that to recover 30 quid or so?

      btw, I used to buy books from abebooks and it gave me that glowing feeling that I showed a finger to amazon (although abebooks were every bit as rapacious in pursuit of their profits as amazon). Until amazon bought abebooks and showed me a finger in return. Yes, some sellers have their own websites I can order through, but then, all those amazon factors (convenience, risk, price) resurface.

      But, in short, the abusive work (and social) relationships enjoyed by amazon and other gig-economy businesses are solely customers' fault, our fault.

      1. My-Handle Silver badge

        Re: There's a simple solution

        You're probably right. 99% of society don't care.

        But for the 1% that do... Amazon loses 1% of those sales. More reputable companies gain that 1% of sales. For every 99 miserable workers at Amazon, one has been saved from that mess and one (or possibly more) workers have been hired by the more reputable companies.

        Switch out the percentages I quoted with whatever you think is realistic, but the fact of the matter is that if you change your spending habits you are making a small difference.

        My reasoning is that I might not be able to change the world, but I can change my little corner of it.

      2. disgruntled yank Silver badge

        Re: There's a simple solution

        @abebooks

        As far as I know, Alibris is still independent.

      3. General Purpose

        Re: There's a simple solution

        For books, Blackwell's and Wordery are convenient and competitive on price, with reliable delivery at no extra charge. Wordery can store you card details, Blackwell's doesn't offer that.

    9. Steve Button

      Re: There's a simple solution [IT'S NOT THAT SIMPLE]

      I've boycotted them for over 3 years now, because of exactly this. I buy the odd thing from them that I can't get anywhere else, but not much. Was spending thousands every year.

      Some stuff still arrives in an Amazon box though, even though ordered from somewhere else, which is annoying.

      Generally you can find sites which are NO MORE EXPENSIVE, or often a bit cheaper than Amazon. It's just inconvenient though. But a small price to pay to help some "Proletariat" get better working conditions. ;-) (I'm quoting from the article, and it's meant to be a tongue-in-cheek comment, please don't cancel me for this if I ever get famous.).

      So, really for a small inconvenience you can make a stand and help some people out. If enough people do this, they will HAVE to change.

    10. This post has been deleted by its author

    11. jmch Silver badge

      Re: There's a simple solution

      I get my books from the book depository. Might be a tad more expensive but free delivery. And I'm not that bothered by a couple of days leeway in delivery date

      1. Old Lady

        Re: There's a simple solution

        If you are in the UK the book depository is owned by Amazon. They have owned it since 2011.

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: There's a simple solution

        "I get my books from the book depository."

        Sorry. Still screwed. Check who owns The Book Depository...

        1. alimack

          Re: There's a simple solution

          wordery.com started by the guy who started Book depository.

        2. jmch Silver badge

          Re: There's a simple solution

          D'oh!

      3. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Re: There's a simple solution

        I get my books from the book depository.

        Yeah, I go there occasionally. Can't get that Oswald guy to help out when I'm there though.

    12. BestTurtle

      Re: There's a simple solution

      > Don't shop at Amazon.

      I disagree! This reasoning leads to a false dichotomy where we're weighing the benefits of shopping at Amazon against taking a stance against these deplorable practices.

      The whole "vote with your money" idea is only good for silencing opposition. Should we accept their transgressions as long as somebody else is willing to do business with them? No. Do we need to avoid a useful service and disproportionately punish ourselves in order to affect change? Nope!

      This is what government is for. We should call for workers' rights to be respected and for violations to have consequences.

      1. First Light Bronze badge

        Re: There's a simple solution

        Sadly mostly the local authorities will be hand-in-glove with the factory because it brings jobs, of whatever quality. NYC is a major exception, they may rethink that although hopefully not.

    13. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: There's a simple solution

      While I agree, the other side is that Amazon customers could also start writing to Jeff Bezos en masse to protest the treatment of the warehouse workers. His email is still active, and while he has the 'executive customer service' people deal with complaints, when people, who've been Amazon customers for years (or decades even), start writing and saying "look dude, this ain't cool, improve conditions", something *might* happen.

      The sad thing is that it's not necessarily the people at the top who mandate this, but rather shitty middle managers who never should've been middle managers (i.e. who failed upwards) who decide to make life hell for their minions like a perverse version of the Stanford Prison Experiment (Google it, you'll immediately notice the similarities).

      It's worth remembering that while 52% of Amazon's turnover is from warehouses, the margins are miniscule compared to AWS (which makes up 12% of turnover)... AWS is the profit driver (58% of income/profit before tax and investment). Looking at the latest Investopedia listing, North America has a *lot* to answer for in terms of working conditions (2/3 of Amazon's revenue is from its domestic market). 'International', which covers all other online/warehouse operations but *not* AWS, is a quarter of their business. Find activist investors in the US... drive it from the shareholder side as well (although, given Bezos gave investors the middle finger for years, who knows how that'll go).

  2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Well the

    victorian industrialists would feel right at home in today's Amazon,

    All it needs to be complete is housing provided by Amazon for its 'fulfillment operatives'(why can I not stop hearing the voice of Cave Johnson from the game Portal 2 when I hear that phrase from amazon) tied to having a job at the company, a nice couple of company stores , and paying the workers in scrip that can only be spent in those company stores would complete the picture (although I fear I may just have given amazon execs an idea too good to pass up....)

    But in all honesty, the only reason for having a job like that in an amazon warehouse is money, and that you live paycheck to paycheck.

    But I guess the old saying "If you treat people well, they'll go the extra mile for you, treat people badly and they'll do exactly whats in their contract " does not really apply anymore

    1. Scott 26

      Re: Well the

      Upvote for the Cave Johnson reference, now I can't not hear it!

      1. 0laf Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Well the

        Yep. some businessmen I know are even ahead of Amazon. They run nurseries and 'import' (legally) the nursery staff from the Philippines. They then house those 'staff' above the nursery and charge them most of their 'wages' in food and lodging.

        They're not otherwise mistreated or overworked so have never complained as far as I know.

        I'm shocked Bezos hasn't thought of this.

        1. Man inna barrel

          Re: Well the

          I detect two different attitudes in this thread about provision of housing and other facilities for workers: philanthropy or exploitation.

          I gave an example of philanthropy in the form of Bournville model village built by the Cadbury family. However, I have come across the exact opposite. A customer was having some electronic kit made in China. He visited the factory. The assembly shop was just a big shed, with loads of benches, and a dirt floor. Next door to the assembly shop was another shed, with loads of beds. Presumably, this arrangement allowed the workers to work longer hours and be paid less.

          A more positive example comes from a works visit to an electronics factory in the UK. There were many hand assembly jobs, such as screwing circuit boards in plastic boxes. All the jobs looked exceedingly repetitive and tedious. I asked how they prevented the workers getting bored, and was told that jobs were rotated several times a day. The manager admitted that starting pay is minimum wage, but as a worker learns more of the tasks, they get paid more. Overall, the atmosphere was quite happy. I have seen some really miserable factories.

        2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Well the

          If you know of people who are doing that, I would strongly encourage you to report them to the authorities. I'm pretty sure docking people's wages for food and lodging, without their consent, or ability to choose otherwise, is an offence under the Modern Slavery Act 2015

          edit - I'll just add that if the accommodation provided does not have the degree of privacy that normal rented accommodation would have, i.e. its own front door, separate from the business, and consists of a sleeping area shared with others, then an offence is almost certainly being committed.

    2. Mystic Megabyte
      Coat

      Re: Well the

      This is a story from approximately the 1990s. A pal of mine worked in import/export, his offices were next to a major airport. He quite often would do jobs at the weekend for cash. One day I asked him what had he been doing recently. He told me that there was a warehouse full of fur coats from the 1970s that nobody wanted to buy and he had been loading them for export. Apparently these coats had been stored for so long that the boxes at the bottom had been crushed flat.

      Now comes the scrip part;

      The buyer of the coats was building an airport in an eastern European country. The local currency was worthless back here. So he built an on-site shop and sold his workers the fur coats and presumably some other junk. He only had to change about £100,000 into the local currency and re-cycle it through the shop. No doubt the workers were happy to buy a fur coat for their wives.

      Ain't capitalism great! :)

      Mines the hideous 1970s fur coat =============>

    3. Man inna barrel

      Re: Well the

      I am not sure you have your history right about Victorian industrialists. There was a fashion at that time for industrialists to build model towns and villages for the workers. I am just reading about Bournville in Birmingham. built by the Cadbury family; Quaker chocolate makers. The one thing the Cadburys left out was pubs. I think that is still the case today. I am not saying that all Victorian industrialists were philanthropists, but a significant number did treat their workers well.

      The point is, a profitable business can be run without needed to maltreat your workforce. I would contend that treating your workers like shit is ultimately a poor strategy, as the workers will not be inclined to use their talents, and will do no more than what they are told to do. And a company that has a bad reputation for treatment of workers will tend to attract the least talented workers.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Well the

        Many Victorian businesses were ran on this basis, MOST chocolate manufacturers.

        Railway companies usually looked after their staff.

        However mills and mines were particularly bad.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Well the

          It's worth noting that most chocolate manufacturers at the time, for various reasons, were Quakers. They were effectively socialists, the sort of people that Trump would be trying to classify as terrorists today.

      2. General Purpose

        Re: Well the

        Yes, #NotAllVictorians, but Bournville was built right at the end of the Victorian era and the Quaker chocolate familes (Cadbury, Rowntree and to a lesser extent Fry) are famous because they were so exceptional. Northern mill-towns and cities have a rather different history.

  3. Magani
    Unhappy

    Amazon's normal response:

    "Nothing to see here; move along... or it'll be added to your TOT".

  4. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    "Self-Criticism and Ruthless Exposure of Their Own Shortcomings" --- V. I. Lenin Mandated

    Amazon has apparently hard-coded a five per cent failure rate into its system as a way to constantly drive performance improvements. Even if everyone in the building – headcount numbers vary from 300 to 600 in warehouses – works equally hard, there will always be a bottom five per cent who are written up, according to those we spoke to.

    .

    I vaguely recall reading of the same sort of process at Microsoft, 'Stack Ranking' on looking it up. There had to be least ranked employees in any rating and those so selected were the losers simply because it was pre-decided there were to be losers...

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: "Self-Criticism and Ruthless Exposure of Their Own Shortcomings" --- V. I. Lenin Mandated

      That seems to be what happened with this year's exam rankings in the UK too. Teachers were forced to rank children in their classes and not allowed to have "ties", thus there would always be one and just one person at the top of the list, and likewise the bottom and every position in between, even if two children were in fact working at exactly the same level. This made it possible to have a precise distribution of grades, even if in reality the distribution varies year-to-year.

      When you hard-code this sort of thing there are always going to be undeserving losers and undeserving winners. A classic example would be the Eleven Plus exam (or at least, the 11+ as it was 40-odd years ago - I have no experience with the system as currently run in the backwards parts of the country :-), where the grammar schools had a fixed number of places available so in some years, children who in other years would have scored well enough to progress to the grammar, didn't, and in other years vice-versa.

      The thing that's confusing me is that while I have long disagreed with the whole principle of the 11+, I can see that if you wish to have a streamed school system you need to have some kind of at least semi objective filter. In the workplace I really can't understand what on earth the benefit is of forcing the bottom 5% of your workers out on a regular basis, particularly if they are actually working well and meeting targets. I can actually see some big disadvantages.

      M.

      1. chuBb. Bronze badge
        Joke

        Re: "Self-Criticism and Ruthless Exposure of Their Own Shortcomings" --- V. I. Lenin Mandated

        How else could you keep nepotism alive?

        If you don't arbitrarily cull 5% of the competent but less socially adept employees, how could the boss keep the office pet idiot; their friend from uni/spouse/child/nephew/neice/couson/grandkid of there dads mate employed???

    2. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: "Self-Criticism and Ruthless Exposure of Their Own Shortcomings" --- V. I. Lenin Mandated

      I've only worked at one company that adopted this policy. It was a hellhole, and this policy was the primary driver for that.

      Stack ranking is destructive and damages morale. Low morale people are less productive, so it's also an entirely pointless policy anyway.

      People that aren't performing do need to be managed, and that may include terminating their employment. Understanding who isn't performing and why is one of the things that makes managers and companies successful. Stack ranking is not.

      1. Man inna barrel

        Re: "Self-Criticism and Ruthless Exposure of Their Own Shortcomings" --- V. I. Lenin Mandated

        Stack ranking implies performance metrics, and some of those can be notoriously unfair. For example, in software development, productivity can be measured by significant lines of code. But I think I have had a productive day when I simplify some code by finding a better way of doing things, which actually ends up with negative lines of code output.

        There is certainly a need to fire employees that are just useless at the job. I have seen plenty of those. I am amazed at how these people could have done anything useful in their previous employment. The really hopeless cases are fairly easy to spot. Like someone who is given a fairly routine development task, and spends a month of their probation time getting nowhere with a job that should have taken a few days.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Self-Criticism and Ruthless Exposure of Their Own Shortcomings" --- V. I. Lenin Mandated

          I was once the victim of entirely made-up performance criteria. I was "let go" along with another colleague (two from a department of four at that point) because I ranked lowest at welding skills. Bear in mind that until I was called into the office to discuss my performance I wasn't even aware a review was under way, nor what the parameters were, also that welding wasn't even in my job description (electronics, computers, electrics), that they had never even *asked* me to weld anything (one of my other colleagues was amazing at welding, could even weld thin Aluminium and leave it looking as good as a machine job) and I had actually done 'ok' at welding (gas & arc) in the mechanics course we took as a one-term option during my electronics degree.

          It was a made-up metric that had no bearing on the actual job but meant I could be pushed out as a low performer. There was a lot wrong with that place and aside from the loss of income at a time I really couldn't afford it, I was reasonably happy to get out. My also-pushed-out colleague felt the same. I think he had ranked low on his inability to desolder surface mount components or something equally stupid, given that he was there as an electrician and had two colleagues (myself and another bloke who used to repair TVs for a living) who were more than happy to wield soldering irons.

    3. stungebag

      Re: "Self-Criticism and Ruthless Exposure of Their Own Shortcomings" --- V. I. Lenin Mandated

      When I worked for Unisys managers were instructed to rate their employees' annual appraisals in such a way that the rakings formed a bell curve. So some people had to be at the bottom, and vulnerable, and very few were at the top, so eligible for a pay rise.

      Their ability to immediately fire people was limited by UK emplyment law and also, I think, by an awareness of many managers, perhaps the older ones, that the process sucks.

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: "Self-Criticism and Ruthless Exposure of Their Own Shortcomings" --- V. I. Lenin Mandated

        @stungebag (apologies for repeating an old anecdote)

        I worked for Unisys in Livingston, and it was my first unionised job. One shift that was meant to have worked Sundays was found to have never turned up, yet they weren't penalised because 'union'. That behaviour gave unions a bad name.

        It was still an appalling company though. All the doors were swipe card access, and only the management could reach the centre offices. That backfired because the young electronic apprentices needed to reach the female office secretaries, so they'd zap the swipe card readers with an electrostatic tester.

        The most abusive company I witnessed was GE Amsterdam. I was a contractor so immune, but they'd hold weekly meetings just to berate and demean individual employees for no good reason.

    4. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: "Self-Criticism and Ruthless Exposure of Their Own Shortcomings" --- V. I. Lenin Mandated

      I remember those at Microsoft...

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Self-Criticism and Ruthless Exposure of Their Own Shortcomings" --- V. I. Lenin Mandated

      I once worked for a US bank which did this (10% though, not 5). Made for a nasty culture. It's illegal in the UK (unlike U.S "at will" contracts) so they would pay a zero bonus (a.k.a a donut) then offer a decent wedge to go quietly and sign away any right to complain.

  5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    corporate employee or fulfillment center associate

    What's the difference between and employee and an associate? Is one treated better than the other? Got more rights and/or benefits?

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: corporate employee or fulfillment center associate

      On the surface, they're just two words for two different kinds of jobs. An associate does physical things in warehouses, an employee works at headquarters writing code or planning things. But of course the answer is that employees have skills which they will use to market themselves to a competitor so they get some consideration, while the associates need money, which is why they agreed to be associates, so whatever Amazon wants to do with them they will.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: corporate employee or fulfillment center associate

        On the surface, they're just two words for two different kinds of jobs. An associate does physical things in warehouses, an employee works at headquarters writing code or planning things.

        I think it can just be management BS. Employee smacks of some permanence, or at least employment rights. HR dislikes people as resources, to be accounted for in much the same way as paper clips. So associate entered the lexicon. I've mostly seen it used for sub-executive level positions, so helps create the proper hierachy. And of course it makes it easier to disassociate at the push of a button, or tweak of an algorithm.

      2. NeilPost Bronze badge

        Re: corporate employee or fulfillment center associate

        This is a very USA oriented article which will emphasise some of the benefits and detriments of workers rights there.

        In a UK Warehouse is the workers chose to organise and unionise ... there is fuck all Amazon can do. I’d expect similar in France/Germany too.

        Noting pick rates varying mentioned - self-evidently this will vary based on quantity/location/size of what needs to go on your pick cart/truck. Having worked in a UK store fulfilment warehouse for a UK top 4 supermarket - much of the above commentary about rates, management, performance management feels very familiar.

        1. Joe W Silver badge

          Re: corporate employee or fulfillment center associate

          Well, the last paragraph was particularly interesting, with Amazon claiming their employees earned 30% more than those in traditional retail stores.

          In Germany there was quite a discussion 2 or 1 BC (BC = before Corona) whether Amazon should be classified as retail or as logistics, which do have different minimum wages (and tariffs, not sure if Amazon is part of that, probably not...). I cannot remember for sure, but as far as I can recall, Amazon says it is a logistics company, not retail.

          Now that I think of it: I think in Germany the Amazon warehose staff is organised in a union, I think they went on strike just before Christmas last year (and the year before?) or at least threatened to.

        2. stevebp

          Re: corporate employee or fulfillment center associate

          That's an interesting point - the other thing that is notable about the UK workplace is the *very* rigid emphasis on Health and Safety. Any company deemed to have been found "cutting corners" would likely find its senior management, even its top executives, in court explaining how they are going to avoid receiving a jail sentence. If there is a serious-enough incident at a warehouse, the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) can even enter a premises and *close it down* for up to two years while they undertake an investigation. It's just not worth ignoring it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: corporate employee or fulfillment center associate

            The current Health and Safety regime, and workers' rights to unionise, are pre-Brexit. The Johnson regime intends to roll these rights back. Amazon US today is a preview of Amazon UK tomorrow

            1. SundogUK Silver badge

              Re: corporate employee or fulfillment center associate

              "The Johnson regime intends to roll these rights back."

              Show me some evidence of this.

              1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

                Re: corporate employee or fulfillment center associate

                Read The News. The government explicitly want to roll back environmental standards, and remove food origin information so that shitty US food can be introduced in a trade deal.

            2. Old Lady
              Alert

              Re: corporate employee or fulfillment center associate

              Where did you get that information from, Momentum?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: corporate employee or fulfillment center associate

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britannia_Unchained

        3. Cederic Silver badge

          Re: corporate employee or fulfillment center associate

          Yeah, there were multiple wrongful dismissals mentioned that would, if circumstances are as reported, stroll through a tribunal system with ease, picking up compensation and (if desired) reinstatement of role.

  6. Robert Grant Silver badge

    This is similar to the stack ranking used at large companies: the lowest ranked staffers in a team by performance are warned or terminated even if their work is satisfactory or better.

    Only at Microsoft, and they stopped it. No one else (hopefully) was crazy enough to apply a bell curve to individual teams.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      No, other places do the same thing. How public it is varies, but I've seen reports of it at a few big companies. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that the kind of manager who thinks the exact time a coder leaves work or whether they wear a tie when they're not seen by anyone is also the kind to think that this will improve productivity.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        " other places do the same thing. "

        yes - and the usual justification is "Microsoft does it"

        The people who make such statements go all kinds of colours when you point out MS _stopped_ doing it because of the damage being wrought to the company and the legal liabilities that came along with the policy. ISTR some high profile cases in the 2000s

    2. jdoe.700101

      I have seen it applied in large financial organisations all the way down to team sizes of 10 or less. Meaning that there is no point trying to build a successful team, as you always need a sacrificial lamb.

      I have also seen teams spread globally stacked ranked against each other, when the only thing that they have in common is that they work for same global department. e.g. is Alice in New York above or below Bob in Singapore, and where does Mallory in Bangalore sit in the rankings.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        ...large financial organisations all the way down to team sizes of 10 or less.

        Been there. Team of 4 - Team Lead, BA + 2 developers. Guess whose head was up where the sun doesn't shine. No me. That meant only 1 thing - ranking went through the floor

        1. Joe W Silver badge

          Yeah, I am naive. But that really is stupid. I am so glad for my team (4 at the moment, including me, we just started out and hopefully will grow slowly enough), and sure I could rank us, but then I would maybe need to sack myself as I do no "productive" work any more, or hardly any (I miss that). By all means, if people don't do their job well enough get rid of them - the rest of us can only benefit from that, but having somebody turn in good results and making the company money and then sacking them is stupid and short sighted. But then the manager in charge can claim savings in personell costs, so they get their bonus. What a carp.

          It's the same as grading on a curve in university exams. I hated that as a lecturer, and in fact did not do it. Fortunately I taught stats, so I could cheat using that knowledge (and report that I was, using the right measures, in fact where I should be). Actually the failure rate was sort of average, but many of those were the kids not turning up for the exam or handing in an empty exam sheet. The whole distribution in terms of percentages was quite bimodal, I'd say hard to model with a single distribution or process. The most natural would be a two state process (did not turn up / hand in an empty sheet vs. actually did something) which then would generate a draw from a beta distribution for those who actually did something. A normal distribution for values between 0 and 1? don't make me laugh! (ok, there I did in fact "sack" the underperforming, or rather non-performing, lot...)

          1. T. F. M. Reader

            @Joe W: "Fortunately I taught stats..."

            LOL, corresponds almost perfectly to my experience the last time I taught Statistical Methods and Data Analysis (before Corona...). I didn't cheat though - I basically told the busybodies to eff off right at the beginning because a nice normal distribution could not be expected for a sample of 18 enrolled students and that they should take the course to understand why...

    3. stungebag

      I've replied elsewhere that my former employer did just that.

    4. Gaius

      If I remember correctly it was Jack Welch at GE who popularised it it, sacking the bottom 10% every year.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "No one else (hopefully) was crazy enough to apply a bell curve to individual teams."

      Oh yes they were. HSBC, 20 years ago (I moved to a better employer long ago).

      My small team had to rank everyone on the bell curve, not leading to instant dismissal but the one at the bottom of the heap would find life very uncomfortable.

      I was ordered at the start of the year to ensure that a particular individual would end the year as the fall guy. That meant agreeing objectives that sounded reasonable but not actually achievable and to ensure he was coached throughout the year to "improve" (but to ensure that was ineffective) so he'd have no grounds to appeal his grading.

      The opposite was also true, the bell curve identified "top performers" and I heard of one getting a bonus equivalent to 3 or 4 months salary, he queried whether the figure was a typing error, one zero too many, and considered it unfair to his equally competent team members. That was a bit of an exception because in many cases the top performers were apparently the management...

      Ranking was based on what were laughingly called objectives. "Laughingly" because the measures of success could be the *subjective* opinion of the manager. Personally my 5-fold over-performance on a financial objective (saving the bank over £250,000) was cancelled out by an alleged minor issue with another objective (I sometimes wonder if it's possible that my terminally thick manager didn't like me).

      In principle and properly used, the bell curve is a useful tool but if the spread of competencies runs from "dismiss" to "massive bonus" it suggests there's something badly wrong with employment policies and staff management.

  7. russmichaels

    scum

    how on earth are they still getting away with this. It has been well known for years how they treat their employees and break just about every single employment, discrimination and health and safety law going.

    Bezos must be lining someones pocket to get away with this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: scum

      When you have states where the law allows an employer to just fire someone with no need for a reason to be stated all Amazon are doing is the same as other businesses. They didn’t start it

      1. NeilPost Bronze badge

        Re: scum

        A very USA oriented story.

        Amazon workers rights in many other countries are far higher as they have less shit emplijment legislation.

        How about a follow-up story for Amazon UK, Germany, Japan etc.

        1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          "A very USA oriented story"

          Yes, it's about people and warehouses in the US, as the article says. People in non-US locations are welcome to drop us a line.

          C.

          1. Martin
            Unhappy

            Re: "A very USA oriented story"

            But look on the bright side. Now we in the UK are leaving the EU, we too can have our workers' rights stripped away so that we too can be sacked on a whim without any comeback. Can't wait.

        2. harmjschoonhoven

          Re: scum

          Wasn't it during the Cultural Revolution that the Party set the norm for agricultural production for next year to that of the commune with the highest yield, year after year?

          1. LDS Silver badge

            Re: scum

            Just wait for Bezos to find his Stakhanov, and hail him as an Hero of Socialist Amazonian Labor.... Amazon starts to looks like a Soviet labor camp - after all you didn't need unions in the "Workers' Paradise"....

            1. 0laf Silver badge

              Re: scum

              There are specific clauses in the GDPR regarding automatic decision making by algorythm. So although Amazon might be nasty in the EU it can't be quite as nasty as the US. As mentioned the UK is only protected for now.

              Give it a year and UK workers will be forced to buy themselves nappies to stay on top of Amazon targets.

              1. Danny 2 Silver badge

                Re: scum

                They already pee in bottles to avoid being penalised for going to a toilet.

    2. SundogUK Silver badge

      Re: scum

      Amazon are not breaking any laws - if they were they would get busted or sued. The issue is that US law allows this. If you don't like it, change the law.

      1. First Light Bronze badge

        Re: scum

        Technically you are correct. However, many of these laws are state creatures and enforced (or more likely not) by state agencies, which are susceptible to political influence leaning on them to not intervene.

        New Yorkers were considered crazy for not wanting Amazon's HQ. But Amazon has still added jobs in NY despite the failure of the HQ plan. So sometimes local power can have a say.

    3. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Re: scum

      Bezos must be lining someones pocket to get away with this.

      .

      Elected officials will bend over backwards to accommodate the wealthy, who promise to bring jobs and wealth to their fiefdom --- as with building sports stadiums in the US for wealthy team owners [ which promised benefits fail to materialize ]. It's not even bribing the officials, nor breaking democracy: it is a function of democracy.

      See how Bezos held the HQ2 Games:

      As of October 23, 2017, 238 proposals had been submitted and received by Amazon, representing cities and regions from 54 states, provinces, districts, and territories. The only U.S. states that did not have a locality that submitted a formal proposal were Arkansas, Hawaii, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. The Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Saskatchewan also had no regions submit a bid, along with the Yukon Territory.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_HQ2

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: scum

        From elsewhere, the lucky winners:

        In exchange for 25,000 new jobs, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio are offering Amazon nearly $3 billion in incentives and grants.

        .

        If the City gave $3 billion of it's own money to Welfare, Animal Charities or Women's Shelters, it would be a wicked waste: Billions can only go to the deserving.

        1. First Light Bronze badge

          Re: scum

          Amazon pulled out of the project because of criticisms of exactly this kind of labor violations from AOC etc. But they have still added corporate/tech jobs recently to NYC regardless.

          The big HQ will be in Virginia, with a 12,500 sq ft daycare center! I hope they pay the childcare employees more than they pay their factory workers. Wonder what the data says about how many kids a daycare worker can manage at one time.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not enough data for a pattern but an interesting insight.... Bezos came up from a very disadvantaged background. A previous CEO where I worked did also. Both seem to have a chip on their shoulder about their upbringing and how they have made it to the top and this seems to have resulted in some sort of hatred of people who don't work as hard as them and come from what looks like to them soft privilaged backgrounds. They constantly drive and punish. It's almost like they are still in that survival mode of getting out of the bottom...

    1. chuBb. Bronze badge

      Hustlers hustle

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bezos didn't come from a poor background. He might not have had Daddy give him millions like most rich people but he came from the middle classes, not the proletariat.

      His Dad owned a shop, he didn't work in one for minimum wage then get fired for not smiling at the boss one morning.

      1. NeilPost Bronze badge

        ... a bicycle shop.... though when he was 4 his mother remarried and moved to Houston and his stepdad worked as an engineer for Exxon. His grandfather was also a regional director for the US Atomic Energy Commission. Family later moved to Miami and it seems he worked at McDonald’s whilst at High School. Hardly a surprise Jeff B took a STEM orientation.

        ... but don’t let the facts - easily findable- get in the way of a good rant.

        1. osakajin Bronze badge

          That's not the way he tells it...

          https://youtu.be/KPbKeNghRYE

        2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
          Stop

          He got a small loan of a million dollars from 20 family members and friends:

          "In 1994, Jeff held 60 meetings with family members, friends and prospective investors to get them to each invest around $50,000 apiece in Amazon and help him raise $1 million. Only 20 said yes, a group which included his parents."

          "A 1997 SEC filing unearthed by Bloomberg Tuesday finds that Jackie and Mike Bezos invested $245,573 in Amazon in 1995."

          https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/02/how-jeff-bezos-got-his-parents-to-invest-in-amazon--turning-them-into.html

        3. CliveS

          Bezos accepted $300,000 from his parents to get Amazon off the ground. And spent summers at his grandfather's 25,000 acre ranch. These are hardly indicative of a less-than-auspicious upbringing...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All this bullying and harassment seems inefficient

    I’m guessing all the management types spending their time bullying and harassing the people actually doing the work are more highly remunerated, which seems silly. Get rid of them! Communicate openly with the workers and treat them better and you’ll get better results. Or if you really would rather have robots, build them already, you’re Amazon.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: All this bullying and harassment seems inefficient

      It seems to me that the managers are on some sort of performance-related pay. That's usually the reason for this sort of bullshit happening.

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: All this bullying and harassment seems inefficient

        It seems to me that the managers are on some sort of performance-related pay.

        Or simply victims like all those victims they oversee; don't do as Amazon demands and you are also out the door.

        It's how and why fascism persists once it's got its foot in the door.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: All this bullying and harassment seems inefficient

      "Or if you really would rather have robots, build them already, you’re Amazon."

      They're doing that already - but the implementation is still flakey

  10. chivo243 Silver badge
    Go

    Put Jeff on the warehouse floor for a week

    And let him live in a studio apartment and do all his own cooking etc... Then put him there for a month!

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Put Jeff on the warehouse floor for a week

      That would be interesting, but it isn't enough. Part of the utter soul-destroying aspect of this type of job is knowing that it goes on, and on, and on. It can be very difficult to escape, even when you know it is bad for you. Also, not having a voice destroys humanity, and it seems that voices are deliberately silenced in these (and many other) workplaces. Bezos has never, and will never, experience this.

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Put Jeff on the warehouse floor for a week

        Rent a flat above a shop,

        Cut your hair and get a job.

        Smoke some fags and play some pool,

        Pretend you never went to school.

        But still you'll never get it right

        'Cause when you're laid in bed at night

        Watching 'roaches climb the wall

        If you called your dad he could stop it all.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It’s weird anyone goes to work for them if it’s so bad. Or that many people stay there for years.

    It is also weird that people think this sort of thing is new or shocking but warehouse workers always have these issues, try looking in the industrial estates near you and you’d find the same but with much worse pay and conditions.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: try looking in the industrial estates near you

      and you won't see Amazon style surveillance tech.

    2. chuBb. Bronze badge

      Nothing weird about financial servitude, can't afford to not take what ever they throw at you

    3. Cederic Silver badge

      Yeah, I'm not going to defend the actions described in the article, and I'm not going to pretend that Amazon don't have warehouse issues, but I'm also not going to pretend that they're any worse than anybody else.

      Fix US employment laws, provide robust legal mechanisms to prevent abuse and watch behaviour improve. There are nasty stories about Amazon warehouses in the UK too, despite those protections, but it is at least better.

      I'm not sure workplace issues will ever disappear. People with low intelligence or poor social skills or mental disorders/illnesses still need jobs, and corporate policies struggle to provide clear direction that doesn't create inherent conflicts. Even an intelligent motivated manager with strong leadership and a clear understanding of the issues can be forced into situations that require them to upset people.

    4. LDS Silver badge

      Sure, I'm still surprised call centres find people willingly to work for them. Just, sometimes, it's the only job you found....

  12. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Modern day legal slavery

    Amazon can get in the sea.

    Boycott.

    Join a union. (If you are allowed)

    1. Slef

      Re: Modern day legal slavery

      Join a union whether you are or are not allowed!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As a current Amazon UK fulfilment centre associate...

    I (and my colleagues) would KILL for a required pack-rate of 55-60/hr, I'm currently hovering on 100 and we're all being "encouraged" to hit 120.

    You know you've done a days work at the end of the shift. We did get a £2/hr uplift for the first few months of the lockdown and we got a £500 bonus too.

    I don't really recognise the company in the rest of the article re: bullying, short-cuts, lack of safety etc.

    1. chuBb. Bronze badge

      Re: As a current Amazon UK fulfilment centre associate...

      UK employment law in action there, is one of those things taken for granted till you work somewhere without it.

      Without getting into the politics it's broadly a good thing in my opinion (although it makes getting rid of bad apples more effort than they are worth, it's worth the protections they are offered for the ability to challenge unfair dismissal and discrimination for everyone else) even if it comes at a loss of productivity on a bean counters spreadsheet

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: As a current Amazon UK fulfilment centre associate...

        Oh, absolutely. You only have to look at the "accidental" deaths in the construction industry over the last 50 years or so. As recently as the 70s, people regularly died building bridges, for example. Nowadays, a single death on any large construction project is usually front page news. Yes, it means higher costs, maybe lower productivity, but most human beings don't put a number to the value of a human life. I don't necessarily include insurance actuaries, bean counters or lawyers as human beings, YMMV

  14. MJI Silver badge

    This is more about US employment (lack of) rights

    They are totally shocking.

  15. Squareski

    Sounds familiar...

    Why does every answer Amazon give sound like our politicians coving up their incompetencies? They just need to add 'world beating' e.g. our world beating pallet stacking policies etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sounds familiar...

      Because they are practising for the mega Corp world govt.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sounds familiar...

      "five per cent failure rate"

      If only the government did that...

      Failing Grayling, Halfcocked Hancock, Priti Useless, TalkTalk Harding, Eye test Cummings, Handshake BoJo... it's hard to even find 5% to keep!

  16. stungebag

    Land of the Giants

    A load of this stuff was covered in a podcast called Land of the Giants, the entire first series of which was about Amazon. It's very interesting listening (and I suspect the author of this article has heard it). It can be found on Spotify and other podcast platforms.

  17. Efer Brick

    imagine the employee's own order history

    "inspired by your shopping history; bags to sh1t in, 2 litre water bottles, baby wipes and caffeine pills"

  18. Anon Coward (there are nutters out there - I've worked with them)

    IT guys and girls in Amazon

    What's it like to be an IT guy/girl at Amazon - Is it the same as the Amazon warehouse? Full of screwed up personality disorders?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IT guys and girls in Amazon

      Worse; personality disorders with inflated ideas of importance and worth with enough quals to feel superior to the plebs

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think and I'm sure everyone would agree with me...

    ...that's it's far more important I can get the tat I want at the price I want delivered when and where I want, than a few workers suffering from a bit of covid risk and getting triggered by a bit of 'shouty shouty'. It's better that Bezos the Bald gains a few more billions than a bit of it going to some tracksuit-wearing chav named Jaxon, probably from some ugly estate in the midlands via a lottery win.

    It's the same with fast fashion: my partner getting something for £10 from a stupidly named brand that she can wear once and throw away vs. some child going blind in a filthy factory in Leicester having worked 67 hours without a break. No comparison.

    I want my stuff. It's literally my human rights to get it.

  20. Wolfclaw
    Trollface

    Amazon is modern day slavery, but don't worry, in three hundred years time, the descendants and woke plebs will riot, loot, burn buildings, demand changes to history and demand compensation for the mistreatment !

    As we know .. #AllDeliveriesMatter even those in space !

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The only thing I get off "Amazon" (slightly off topic)

      Is fake phone calls and emails. Back in 2015 I was bombarded with them by some quite clever scammers who would relay off various servers around the world (mostly Europe, but some were in the ME and Russia). The email was the same but the servers were different. They had to buy the fake domain to stop them. It stopped when they started spamming off a Microsoft server, which seemed to be a bizarre kill switch. Took 'em 2 years to sort it out.

      More recently I noticed some spammers were using AWS to send their dodgy messages, but these stopped fairly quickly; however I still get the fake phone calls. Stay vigilant, people.

  21. goodjudge

    coming soon to a country near you

    Another Amazon boycotter here but I fear it it won't be long until All Your Base Are Belong To Bezos.

    And thanks to Brexit these working conditions are *exactly* what is coming to the UK in the very near future. Forget Johnson, he's just the distraction that all magicians and card sharks use. Gove, Cummings, Truss and their cronies are all champing at the bit to destroy employment and H+S protections.

    1. chuBb. Bronze badge

      Re: coming soon to a country near you

      Can hear Rees mogg "bellowing" are there no workhouses?

      And yes who wants to bet any US trade deal includes weakening of employment law

  22. Nifty Silver badge

    How about a employees rights charity?

    How about registering a charity that donates to a certain cause whenever you shop?

    The idea makes me smile.amazon.co.uk

  23. NanoMeter

    The "liberal" Bezos

    Jeff Bezos likes to portray himself as a liberal and progressive. Yet his company is fighting the organizing of unions among the workers.

    1. chuBb. Bronze badge

      Re: The "liberal" Bezos

      Liberal in the sense he like his pr0n to be called "art house" and Liberal in the sense he welcomes inclusivity as thats the first step to exclusivity.

  24. Danny 2 Silver badge

    In other news...

    Drivers for Amazon contractor allege safety and wage abuses

    Haulage drivers delivering to Amazon distribution centres across Europe allege that safety records are being deliberately manipulated and wages withheld

  25. LeahroyNake Silver badge

    Not enough

    'We spoke to five of them, spread geographically across the US, by phone and other means.'

    While I am not defending Amazon at all this is a very small sample group. I expect more of ElReg! Did you even try to find someone to talk to in the UK, France, Germany ? Anywhere outside the US ?

    Oh sorry I thought I was still reading theregister.co.uk my mistake.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Not enough

      As the regulations and conditions vary with national laws, it would make sense not to attempt to generalize for every location, but instead to take them separately. As such, since the U.S. is one of Amazon's largest markets, it's not unreasonable to write about that one in its own article with additional articles about other countries to follow if interesting things are found.

      You should also be aware that, although The Register is based in the U.K., it has had several writers in San Francisco for years covering topics that have a connection to America. I have also seen writers based in Sydney and others who don't state in their byline where they are. Welcome to the world, there's lots of parts of it to see.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Not enough

        "As the regulations and conditions vary with national laws, it would make sense not to attempt to generalize for every location, but instead to take them separately. As such, since the U.S. is one of Amazon's largest markets, it's not unreasonable to write about that one in its own article with additional articles about other countries to follow if interesting things are found."

        On the other hand, the USA is a federation of 50 different "countries", each with their own local labour laws and employment rights, so taking only 5 cases from a widespread geographic area is a bit like taking a single representative from each of UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy. (Except, maybe, all being EU members, their employment laws and conditions are probably more similar than some random group of US States.)

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Not enough

          Not really true. Some regulations vary between states, including some important ones, but a lot of others are federal. There is much more similarity between states than there is between European countries. In addition, all of Amazon's warehouse activities in the U.S. are directed from the same location, whereas their operations in other countries are often managed locally (those local managers still get commands from the American office, but they do things differently and may be in a position to operate differently). Therefore, the management decisions are much more likely to apply to all of the U.S. than they are to apply to other countries.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Not enough

      "Oh sorry I thought I was still reading theregister.co.uk my mistake."

      You might have tried to get to theregister.co.uk but if you check your address bar, I think you'll find you are reading theregister.com :-)

  26. First Light Bronze badge

    Poverty

    As Tavis Smiley said,

    "Poverty is the new Slavery."

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Been boycotting Amazon for more than 20 years..

    Because even in the early days, when it was still a small company back in the late 1990's, Amazon had an absolutely toxic reputation in Seattle as a place to work. And you would see Bezo around the village in Madison Park, when he still lived in the area, looking like a very shifty and dishonest small town lawyer giving off a "I am a complete slim and a total bastard" vibe. Then there were all the various accounting scams used to keep the company afloat. Like MS, Amazon has always kept two set s of books and every single 10Q and 10K they have published has been a work of fiction.

    There are a whole bunch of companies in the business that are run by criminal psychopaths of one form or other. But when it comes to companies that are just pure evil only a few can go toe to toe with Amazon. on the matter of a essentially criminal fraud in all their dealings. MS, Apple (post '97) and Facebook top the list and Oracle, Intel and AT&T get an (dis) honorable mentions. But at the moment in the pure evil stakes Facebook v Amazon is a tough call but Amazon wins just on the fact that its now almost 25 years of unrelenting nastiness in every single thing they do as a company. Everything. I have never heard a single redeeming story about them or Bezos. An utterly repellent vile little homunculus.

  28. Tom Paine Silver badge

    The best thing about boycotting Amazon and buying direct is that you'll usually get quicker service and better customer service. (For me that's mostly tools and consumables from the likes of Screwfix, ToolStation, IronmongeryDirect and such, but I've bought direct from eg. Evolution (compound mitre saw for £150? Yes please! And when I buggered up assembly through my own stupidity, the phone support from Yorkshire was *outstanding*) ...

    Amazon are the C word, plural.

  29. mego

    Do Amazon even run the warehouses anymore?

    I know they completely outsourced the delivery component and the management of warehouses. Just like delivery drivers complaining recently about Amazon's policies (which were the delivery companies issues not Amazon's.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do Amazon even run the warehouses anymore?

      And who gave the delivery companies targets that could only result in said company devining said policies?

      No better a defence than hiring a hitman to keep your hands clean...

  30. BPontius

    Amazon is advertising for positions like crazy in my area, but I will not apply because I have heard these complaints and problems repeatedly. From different sources and for several years now. I use Amazon but prefer local stores if possible, mainly because I'm impatient.

    I understand having metrics and standards for productivity...etc, but they cling to it at the expense of the employees. In order to keep pace with the demand they will have to automate more and more of the order picking process.

  31. martinusher Silver badge

    The reality of the world of work

    Most of us reading this site are what I'd call 'professional' sorts -- middle class wannabes who are probably the scions of middle class types and the like -- so have no real feel for what the world of work is realy like. The reality is that when you're at the bottom of the heap this is what work is like -- you have no worth to an employer save what they can wring out of you ih what's known as 'surplus labor' (the difference between what you can make for them and what they cost you). If you read enough literature you'll realize that this condition is the norm -- although the TV shows Upstairs/Downstairs life from the Upstairs perspective the vast majority of people were Downstairs and lived a life of drudgery and insecurity. You don't have to go back that far, either -- my grandparents' generation lived like this. The situation post-WW2 was a sort of anomoly, a period when things were better for a time ("You've Never Had It So Good") but the clawbacks started as early as the 1960s in the UK with the result that today its like the 1930s, but this time in color.

    I'm not trying to make excuses for Amazon or any other employer but rather point out that this is really the logical result of decades of poor political choices. Your forebearers fought and in many cases died for things we all took for granted -- a five day workweek of 40 hours or less that yielded a living wage, functional rather than punitive unemployement and social safety net systems, affordable housing and so on -- only to have their descendants throw it all away for what was essentially a handful of lottery tickets. The only way forward is to start over, to recognize the situation we're all in and the impact that culture has on you (especially the fixation on culture wars when it really should be class wars --- but that's a whole different subject).

    But this is capitaism at its finest. If you don't like working at Amazon all you need to do -- to quote the immortal words of Norman Tebbitt -- "get on your bike".

  32. SmartAlec

    I really don't get how what they say can be so disjoint from what it is like, it's like some levels of management are completely missing "tick this app box if you did the thing" came up a few times in the article, where's the guy making sure this is done right?

    I don't get the target things, there's a famous quote by Margaret Thatcher (that is often mocked) "I want everyone to be above average" or something like that, you can't keep setting the target to the average of the top 10% over and over.

    Also I was reminded of Microsoft's orange book thing with the warn the lowest 5%.

  33. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    And yet

    And just remember, this is the company and people pushing HARD to get Biden/Harris elected. Remember that when you consider who your politicians REALLY owe their allegiance to.

  34. Lia_Marie

    Current employee of Amazon

    The thing you should be after knowing, to begin with, is that Bezos is an intelligent individual. He mapped out the anti-trust laws, then aligned his business in such that he could bybass everyone of them unrecognized. He also tells his 'backstory' to play on the heartstrings of the 'common folk.' Most everyone has heard the tale of him being born to a teen mam who then married an immigrant. He started his business in his garage with the highest possibility of it failing and him losing it all. The American Dream come to reality. The facts are, his teen mam was not only married to his biological father, but she is the daughter of a, now retired, rocket scientist. His mother did end up divorcing his biological Da and marrying Miguel Bezos, the immigrant from Cuba. (The only one out of them all who came from an impoverished background.) Miguel had met his mam through her father only after he had become successful. Later, Bezos was working the on Wall Street as the youngest senior vice president at the investment firm D.E. Shaw. He quit his job to start Amazon, an idea his wife, now ex-wife, created. He received "a loan" from his very wealthy parent of $250,000. Eventually, through his Wall Street connections, he received several investors that continued to finance his work, so any loss (and there were many) was not an issue. This actual backstory is meant to shed light into the topic of 'boycotting' Amazon. I can not legally voice my opinions on a boycott without losing my employment. So I'll just state other facts. Do what you feel is morally sound. He didn't care about losing millions of dollars then, when he wasn't a billionaire, so he'll likely not be fased now. The reason being, Amazon is not his highest source of income. He has his foot in so many other industries now, Amazon is just an old toy he still plays with for nostalgia. AWS is his favorite toy that earns him far more. If Amazon crashed and burned today, he'd still be a trillionaire in upcoming years due to AWS and his dozens of other ventures. Do I care if he is that rich? Should you? Yes and no. If he was after paying his fair share of taxes, abiding by anti-trust laws, and had no hand in the ability to sway the Government, then I wouldn't care one bit. His money, he worked for it, have at it. However, he does skid by without paying taxes for almost every warehouse facility he has in operation, while his "unskilled essential workers" get pay that barely (if at all) covers the cost of living while getting hit with every bit of taxes required in their state/country. He violates anti-trust laws and monopolized many industries in a way that has caused the shut down of hundreds of businesses. (So the "if you don't like it, start your own business" theory can be cancelled before it begins knowing this.) He has many times even stolen kickstarter ideas and made them his own. And as per his interrogation that occurred during the House Judiciary Committee in the U.S. regarding anti-trust laws, it was obvious that he has so many companies, he doesn't even know the ins and outs of what goes on at each one. He doesn't know half of the policies put in place at Amazon and admittedly knows little to nothing about Twitch.

    All this has been said without even getting started on the treatment of his employees. And it's not just at the warehouses. It includes tech, streamers, and corporate. I myself have been there for three years alongside my husband. We have seen so many atrocities from bottom to top that don't even begin to break the ice of the overall situations. Just when you think you've heard it all, we are told a new story from another city, state or country. I'm from Ireland and have dealt with anti-Irish statements regularly. My husband is from Colombia and has dealt with racism from "Murica" types. I've been bullied, stalked and physically assaulted by a coworker, in which neither the management nor HR did anything to prevent and have allowed tge coworker to remain employed to continue the ill treatment towards me. Bezos is well aware of the events surrounding my situation and has done nothing to rectify it. I know of a couple in Florida who waited over ten years to become pregnant. After they finally decided on it, due to Amazon not accommodating the medical stipulations of heavy lifting, they miscarried their first child. Another woman in Oklahoma became pregnant and put on bed rest. They continue to mess up her pay causing her to currently be on her third eviction. People have reported injuries and even deaths at the warehouses that have been kept out of the media. Retaliation on workers that speak out, such as with Chris Smalls. However, he's NOT the only one. He's just the one that has gotten the most traction in the media. Amazon is aware of this. They allow him to speak, because it gives the mirage that it's just one person, an isolated event. But if the media would cover all of them the way they cover Chris, it would verify the trend. This reporter here is the only one so far who has dived deeper into the worst side with as much detail as this. Right on him like.

    You've also got people like Tim Bray, who resigned in protest over Amazon firing other employees for protesting. And in Twitch you've got the most famous streamer, Dr. Disrespect, who was banned without notice or reason in a matter of seconds. Just other things to point out when looking at the overall issues here. Protesting Amazon isn't new, or isolated to any particular country. Can a change occur, can things be made right? I truly hope so.

    Anyway, this has been my Ted Talk. Thank you for coming.

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