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Working at Amazon Sucks Because They Make You Work!?!?

May 7

So, if you didn’t see it last week, Business Insider decided to run a story about how awful it is to work at Amazon in one of their warehouses. Why is it awful to work one of those hourly paying jobs? They time your breaks, limit you screwing around talking to coworkers all day, and hold you accountable to work! The horror!!!

You didn’t take that job at Amazon to actually do work! How dare they!

From the article:

Amazon “pickers” move around the warehouse on a predetermined route to collect items for delivery, scanning each one with a handheld scanner, which times the length between scans, employees said.

They say pickers must hit a certain number of scans per hour, and if they miss their targets, a manager will show up to see what they’re doing.

Employees say that things like spending time talking to co-workers, going to get a drink, or even taking too long to find a package are billed as “time off task,” too much of which leads to penalty points for an employee. Get enough of those, and you’re fired.

That — combined with security cameras dotting Amazon’s warehouses, its airport-style security checks, and short breaks — makes employees feel like “robots,” they said. And it’s all in the service of getting those parcels out faster.

So, Amazon puts performance targets on hourly workers and has security cameras to make sure no one steals all of the stuff Amazon has in their warehouses. Yeah, that sounds awful!

Amazon also doesn’t allow hourly workers to bring their cell phones into the warehouse and they must lock them in lockers. They can access those on their 2 fifteen minute breaks, or their 30-minute lunch break. Amazon also has each employee go through a metal scanner when entering the warehouse. I think a lot of employees would love that level of security at their job!

So, I have a bit of a unique take on this because one summer when I was in college I worked as a picker for a grocery wholesaler in a warehouse environment!

One major complaint in this article is that the expectations are too high for Amazon warehouse workers. You can’t even go to the bathroom for fear of missing targets, and you get in trouble for talking to co-workers while you’re on the clock, if you miss those targets.

My first month as a Picker was awful! I never made ‘rate’ (met my targets) because I didn’t know how to do the job well. I was stressed out! By month 3 I made my targets easily, but it was about effort and knowing how to work most efficiently. The targets are based on how long would it take a normal performing employee to do certain tasks.

Let’s say a Picker gets an order and that order target is 30 minutes. The best Picker can probably do that order in 20 minutes. The extra 10 minutes they can bank towards their overall daily target. The worst worker might take 45 minutes to complete that order, so now they’re behind. So, you can see how someone who is on task and focused can actually give extra effort, make target easily and the day really isn’t so bad.

I can see how some of the things happened in the article because if the job is important to you, you’re going to do what it takes to keep that job. But, I’ll say, these are outlier behaviors and inappropriate and it sounds like Amazon terminated individuals doing this.

Amazon has made it crystal clear in everything they do when it comes to hiring. We only want to hire people who want to work hard and be successful. CRYSTAL CLEAR! Many people want to work at Amazon because they have really good pay and benefits. Unfortunately, most people can’t handle the expectations. That doesn’t make Amazon a bad place to work.

I’m not saying Amazon is the best place in the world to get a job. For some, it will be, for others it won’t be. Is Amazon a bad place to work? No. Is Amazon a hard place to work with high expectations around performance? Yes.

I think it’s a shame that Business Insider would actually write this garbage as an Amazon attack piece. They should be writing it from the take of why aren’t more employers trying to emulate what Amazon is doing!

11 Comment to “Working at Amazon Sucks Because They Make You Work!?!?”

  1. To Adrienne: 1. Yes of course, Glassdoor is always correct and would be my very first choice for verifying salaries. But assuming it is correct, $28,000 not bad considering tons of college grads spend their work day asking “do you want fries with that order.”
    But more troubling is your envy and anger at successful people. Bezos worked his butt and brain off to build his company. I don’t care if he makes 100 zillion dollars a year. He is not evil because he does. Workers have no god given right to share in profits, or is there some new law we don’t know about. If you are so upset go out and start your own company (working 20 hours a day might be a requirement though.)

    Parker Davis
    May 16, 2018
  2. Tim I love your posts, you frequently inspire me. This post set me on an epic quest to discover why I found it so vexing. My pivot point was your reference to good wages and benefits. Average distribution workers earn $28k anually (glassdoor) and Bezos takes $81k in salary annually (Forbes) However Bezos is well right up there on the richest people list due to non salary compensation and distribution workers don’t have non salary compensation. I am not saying Bezos doesn’t deserve the rewards of his genius, just saying it is not the hard work that makes the Amazon situation suck, it is the lack of participation in increased stock value. Of course if I were planning to colonize Mars I might also choose to keep the non salary compensation on my side of the ledger. Particulary if I were in competition with Elon.

    Adrienne
    May 15, 2018
  3. Having been an HRBP in one of the Amazon fulfillment centers I can say that you’re spot on. In every job they hire for they do not mince expectations at all and only expect people who want to work hard. That being said the rates and expectations are not so hard they can’t be met for the front line hourly workers. Yes it takes a learning curve and you do learn fast that it isn’t just sitting down and punching a clock, but it is a decent job for the money with opportunity to make more during busy periods. I never felt that the workers were mistreated by the work environment and while it wasn’t comfortable all day long it certainly wasn’t a dangerous place to work and the management I worked with took safety very seriously.

    Michael Mullady
    May 8, 2018
  4. My brother has worked at an Amazon fulfillment center for 5 years. He started as a seasonal contractor as a picker, was kept on and hired as a full time employee, and has been promoted twice. For someone with no college education he now has a good job with decent compensation and a good benefits package. It was an absolute grind for him to get where he is. He lost 20 pounds the first month he worked there from all the walking, and we don’t get to see him that much during the holidays because he is working 60-80 hour weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas. He has seen both sides of the coin. On the one hand, you are right, some people just don’t want to work hard. He is in his position now because he worked his ass off and outperformed his peers. During their peak season it is impossible for them to keep the number of workers they need. If you can walk through the front door and pass a background check you are hired, but the entry level work is a grind and people drop like flies. As someone else mentioned in the comments Amazon isn’t perfect. He has seen the ambulances in the summer and people dropping from heat strokes because they don’t air condition the warehouses, and people getting injured because they feel so much pressure to hit their numbers they start rushing and get hurt. My brother’s biggest frustration, though, is that while all of Amazon’s tech is great, they have completely taken away their employees ability to make decisions for themselves if they see an opportunity to do something better. They have taken the human element out of working with humans. If you stray outside the box you are punished, and they don’t listen to the fulfillment center managers. My brother hates it when “corporate” shows up and tells him that things should be a certain way because their data tells them so. But, for example, they don’t know at that particular fulfillment center the truck loading and departure time isn’t “behind other centers” because of the workers, it is because the trucks get delayed due to the traffic patterns of outside the facility. Imagine having a job where you see hands on every day efficiencies that could be gained, or metrics that are unrealistic due to unique conditions, but the higher ups don’t want to hear any of it. They can’t be wrong, right? Our data tells us you should do it this way. What do you know, it’s not like you work here 80 hours a week ?

    Brad Beaton
    May 7, 2018
    • Brad,

      Great perspective. Thanks for sharing.

      Tim

      May 7, 2018
  5. I suspect these Amazon warehouse jobs will be automated in the near future, eliminating the need for “pickers.”

    May 7, 2018
  6. Anybody that works in a properly managed manufacturing environment doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary here (minus the peeing in garbage cans, of course). This is why we cannot relate easily to all of the silly fun and games going on at many of the service companies. You are wasting everybody’s time. Get your asses back to work so we can finish and go home to our families. They call it work for a reason.

    Rob
    May 7, 2018
  7. Tim, I don’t think you’ve researched this enough. Bad topic to make a point.

    Going back about 5 years, Amazon has had multiple fines, penalties, and worker DEATHS at their fulfillment centers. There are tons of articles from multiple sources listing deaths, abuses, and conditions. Like having ambulances waiting on hot days for when the workers have heat-related health emergencies?

    I mean, if you want to complete with China, people need to die on factory floors, right? Correct. That’s why we don’t.

    And working at Amazon corporate (or in their offices) is a completely different situation than working in an Amazon FC or DC.

    Mike Neal
    May 7, 2018
    • Mike,

      Working in these environments come with risk. People die on the job every day in America. That is not unique to Amazon. The ambulances waiting on hot days also has a backstory that isn’t as sexy for the media to talk about in that none of those workers had to work under those conditions. All were told they could leave without discipline, but they wouldn’t be paid for the hours missed. So, many chose to stay, and the facility tried to make accommodations. In hindsight, I’m sure Amazon would have made some different decisions, but this wasn’t forced labor.

      I’ve spoken with many current and former Amazon employees to gather my opinion, Mike. I’m not naive to the reality of what is happening. There is a line and Amazon is one of the few organizations that push right up to that line, and while doing that, a few times the line might get stepped over.

      Like I said, Amazon isn’t for most Americans. That’s most likely why they don’t just compete globally, they lead globally, as a US company.

      T

      May 7, 2018
  8. No one is forced to work anywhere, even in England. You don’t have to work at Amazon if you don’t like it. If you need to chat with workers, talk on your cell phone, take long breaks, and sneak merchandise out, maybe not the place for you. There are plenty of retailers (based on my experience) who tolerate such behavior. What you say? They don’t pay very well? Guess there are tradeoffs in live, aren’t there?

    Parker Davis
    May 7, 2018
  9. I read the original article and, wow, that was a one-sided article. The metrics and technology are fascinating and policies sound standard for manufacturing and warehouse companies. If the expectations are communicated to employees up front, there is no problem. I would love to see how the Amazon warehouse operates!

    Bonita Martin
    May 7, 2018

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