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

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!

38 thoughts on “Working at Amazon Sucks Because They Make You Work!?!?

  1. @Tim Sackett
    Alright, i worked at amazon as a picker\cross trained in all of the fulfillment departments in the building for over 6 years. I tried to make myself as flexible and valuable as possible, thinking i would be a more attractive Teir 3 candidate. What i didnt realize was I had become such a rare asset in my range of possible roles and i was trained in outbound problem solve as well, which at our building was mostly about being the last line of defense against mistakes and missing critical pulls. This kept me and the 1 other person in a similar position from being considered for promotions for a long time because this problem solve job was literally a tier 2\tier 3 job in other FC’s so they were getting a free ride out of us. (Late delivery prevention superstar basically.) I finally left after i got screwed over in my long over due seasonal promotion (which is generally how you get a real promotion.) When i say screwed over, it wasnt really anyone’s fault, it was just how it worked out. The position i was promised, one that had been added every year prior for 17 years, was cut out this year in the ramp up to peak… (This was literally one of the 3 oldest buildings in the network at the time if i recall correctly) When i first started, it was during peak, rate was hard to make, but they also didnt generally stress too hard on rate even after your learning curve during peak, just as long as your working. Throughout the year, it was a different story. Anyways, for the first few years of my experience, it wasnt bad at all. Yet there were all these people whining and crying over nothing. They would literally drag their feet to and from break which would piss me off because their laziness is now cutting into my break and its always somewhere i cant walk around them. Anyways, where they will hire anyone\give anyone a chance, you get some real shit bags that manage to get hired on and stay for 6 months to a year or so. My theory is that a lot of this stuff comes from these types of people spreading this mind frame to others. Because even when everything is\was fine, there was a culture among the lowest level of workers that this place is the worst job in the world, its too hard and pays too little. Of course, as someone who has done farm work (Which is physically hard), Fast food as a teen, which is just a miserable job for hardly any pay, and so on, Im aware that this is really far from the truth. Once that mind set sinks in, and your doing a job where all you have is time to think, it eventually takes root in your mind as well. Anyways, back to the point, as long as you didnt mind to walk, it wasnt bad at all in pick. However, depending on the building, department, role or year, rates are different and can vary a lot. For instance, the same department\building might make some changes to the types of items they stock, or the process paths, and therefore rates may need to be lowered but generally wont be for well over a year after. Even when they are, that still likely wont be enough. I mean, no matter what happens, the bosses, and to a greater degree, their bosses dont want to hear that production numbers are now lower. That would mean someone fucked something up even if this is a mandated change from corporate. If you go from handling firestick size items, to microwave size items… its pretty damn obvious rates are going to dip a noticable amount. Corporate doesnt give a fuck though. Find a way and innovate or your fired is the basic idea\company culture. (Yea, well, 15 years into optimizing the same process\building\setup, then being sabotaged by the corporate overlords as far as top production speed possible….This is a good example to put amazons corporate culture into perspective.) This is all assuming you work in a STRICT building like i did….on the flip side, we once had this program where they were calling in help at a newer\different FC a 100 miles away and they were offering incentives to work OT days there. Long story short, it was literally a building full of people (like 70%) all doing different things to not have to work. This is not a joke, im dead serious, while they were explaining what we would be doing, i looked over to an overhead conveyor where 2 younger dudes were standing and they were “moving” boxes across this conveyor….. the problem is, they were basically pretending to work, literally. The conveyor was powered. The boxes were going to move no matter what they did. Then a 3rd dude walks up with his arms behind his back and watched them do that. This went on for the entire hour and a half as the management at this building wasted time by pretending like we were new hires even though our old established Tier 5 training ground of a building was sending them its elite to help. Anyways, this is my most extreme experience with a Lax discipline FC(it was actually a “sort center”). I later had the chance to talk to their head transportation person for the entire building, and asked her about time off task and she laughed in my face saying it was too much of a hassle to bother trying to track it. Anyways, now imagine that’s how you start your job then a year later, even if a hard worker busts his ass, he can barely make rate. Think about the expectations the people that have been here since they could get away with murder are going to have. A couple years later, back at my strict building, we had a bunch of changes and it became really hard in pick to make rate after years of setting records in the network at our building. Miss your rate by even 0.2% and your getting a verbal. So i dunno if you can really appreciate this but lets say your rate works out to 6000 picks throughout the week. That works out to if you are short of that by 12 items, you get a verbal warning, which isnt a big deal, but does reflect poorly for well over a year to come according to their promotion system. Anyways, when you make rate for years, then conditions change and the rate doesnt, and you get hit on 99.8% of your rate… its pretty infuriating man. I mean, nearly everyone i had ever known working there would brush that kind of thing off but once you start getting to written warnings despite having years of never missing rate or any other issues, you realize that it all means nothing to them. In fact, as far as corporate goes, its obvious that they are more then happy firing the veterans simply because it would be cheaper to replace them with brand new temp workers even though if they replaced an entire department in such a way everything would grind to a halt…. The entire thing is just a strange experience\revelation to have after investing years of work into a company… that moment when your illusions are shattered and you realize that beyond your job title, they hold zero value in your previous contributions, no matter how much you do. I literally watched them fire someone who had started on day 1,he worked there for over 15 years since they opened that FC, (he was a dock clerk) on a minor safety violation, his first ever issue of any kind believe it or not, safety or otherwise! He wasnt the first for them, and he wasnt the last such victim i saw either. Anyways… this has become a huge rambling book no one will ever read…. but the take away is, its not really something anyone who hasnt done it can comment on based on others stories\experience. Lots of variables, and most importantly, a lot of people are too biased in their own views. One thing most ex-amazonians will be able to agree on though is that they treat their workers as expendable, not in a “it cant be helped”, or a “cant please everyone”, but in a you dont matter because your just a number kind of way. But they do it with a smile and with a fellow number that does respect you so it takes a little while to catch on.

    • Boycott Amazon! They no longer have any customer service? Cannot call, get a call back, email, chat – NOTHING. Also, virtually impossible to cancel Prime or their credit card. They are defrauding people blatantly. Should be sued!

    • So at their “All hands meeting” which is the entire buildings workers meet up like 4 times a year or so, they make sure to let us all know that we dont have unions because it would be really inconvenient for amazons “fast pace change culture”. Which is a fancy way of trying to pretend that you are working at a tech company and that your not actually working in a warehouse like a robot. More importantly, this is an attempted psychological trick they play on their workers making them believe that its the companies choice whether or not the workers unionize. However… in amazons case, it kind of is. If everyone goes on strike, they will just hire temps and keep on going… as far as the warehouses go. But generally, its the workers that decide to unionize a companies workforce in direct contrast to the companies benefit. So the way they pretend its their choice is so funny.

  2. Glad I am doing my part and not buying anything from any amazon company. Jeff is a pig and will undercut anyone for more and more and more. Read what he did to diapers.com.

  3. It’s a good starter job for young people (20’s) just wanting some extra money and to establish a savings. But don’t get yourself financially tied down and end up having to work there for years like me. Just leave after a year then finish college. But if you have a whole family then and have to work there I feel bad for you cause it gets really boring doing the same thing evvveerryyy day.

  4. Lol, could tell your a typical corporate mgmt asshole/moron. Its not the about the work being done or the environment. Its about the constant turnover, micromanagement of ur labor. They are the ones making the fucking company exist as u kno it, and the first ones to constantly be cheated and screwed from Amazons’ 4 million ways of fucking their labor. Just keep increasing the workload, screw everyone w theyre raises, constantly shorten shift hours. Turnover rate is highest at any business in the USA! Wat does that tell u if everything is just so great. Hey soft touch,… get out and do sum real work! U kno wat work is?Do sum more work lol, u obviously do very little manually. But yet u kno so much lol . Mgmt. Gotta love corporate america. Amazon will eventually crumble because of these reasons. Later!

  5. All those places suck its not about people not wanting to work its about not wanting to b owned by the man….thats a fact that people miss

  6. Lmaoo you sound like a clown. First of all “pickers” stand in one spot all day constantly moving in ways they make you stretch as a team because it damages your body. Second of all warehouses are so fucking big if you want to access your phone on your 15 minute break you’re spending 7 minutes getting there and 7 minutes back leaving you with 1 whole minute. They don’t pause your section as you take a bathroom break so it effects your 11 second expected “stow” or 7 second “pick” acceptance.
    “We only want to hire people who want to work hard and be successful.” Just say you were hired to write this and go. They use robots and treat us like them too.

  7. The work isnt it it’s the hundreds that don have to while you are forced to go 2 time faster then forced to do all the heavy items because everything is separated and the don’t give you credit they just keep hiring 100s more.

  8. This kid sounds like a REAL IGNORANT ASSHOLE. Another “internet warrior” who without a doubt, is probably writing from his mother’s basement as he eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

  9. You seem to be trying to downplay the stress of working in a stressfully fascistic environment, and that’s a shame. I know several people, all who work dilligently for a living, who hated working at Amazon for the same exact reasons.
    I feel that it’s sort od screwed up to call all the hundred-a-day people they fire lazy or incompetant to defend a company that is clearly hostile towards it’s employees concerning daily work ethic.

  10. You are waaaay off base. For one thing …. they don’t scan you when you ENTER .. only exiting.

    Going through required metal detectors to leave work AFTER you are OFF THE CLOCK is WRONG.

    You also go through them TO GET TO THE LUNCH AREA , again …. on your 30 minute lunch period.

    So … walking 5 minutes to clock out , going though the metal detectors , then sitting down for lunch and going back 5 MINUTES before lunch is over so you can clock back in and walk to where you are working to be there at 30 minutes from lunch START is bs.

    The building I work in is 880,000 square feet … with TWO bathrooms … one on each side of each floor.

    And , in those bathrooms is ONE urinal and ONE handicap stall.

    One item scanned every 10 seconds ( 360 per hour ) is what they want. Go to the bathroom … walk 3-4 minutes there … go to bathroom and walk back 3-4 minutes. So … say 10 minutes total. JUST THAT is the time they want you to have processed SIXTY of the 360.

    Not sure where you worked … but it sounds NOTHING like where I work.

    You are nothing but a bean , to be counted by the bean counters who ONLY care about the numbers the computer flags them about

    • Preach it fam you are so on key with this comment ! And the bean counter comment !! They’re all just living in the matrix and don’t see amazon through the eyes of us actual workers that have lived its shittyness

  11. “People die on the job every day in America” .. I’m sorry but that sounds like a bunch of bullshit. Is that really true? btw “Parker Davis” doesn’t sound like a real name. ..nor Tim Sackett. I’m willing to bet these names are actually the same person. Un-fu-ck-ing-believable.

    • This comment made me truly laugh out loud!

      I love that you think I made up “Tim Sackett” when you can easily look me up on LinkedIn, etc. Now, “Parker Davis” is for sure made up! We can agree on that!

      Also, You do realize there are over 100 million people that go to work in U.S. each day, and around 150 die on the job. That’s BLS data. So, yes, about 150 every day die on the job.

      The Real Tim Sackett

  12. Working for Amazon sucks! I work there and they don’t care about their employees. I saw a co worker get hurt and what they did was give them pain medication and sent them back to work! Her arm swoll up, and she left work.

    • Yep! I fell off a ladder a few minutes before I got off and all they did was say “you should go home” they didn’t even fill out an incident report.

  13. 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.)

    • Workers have no god given right to share in profits? Are you fucking retarded? Of course workers have the right to share in profits, that’s how it fucking works you moron! Holy shit! Are you Dave Rubin or something? The employer makes money off of your labor, and in turn shares the profits they made off the fruit of your labor. Dumbest comment I have seen in a long time coming from you.

  14. 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.

    • Bezos isn’t a genius. He is just a guy who owns a distribution company. Amazon makes money selling mostly other companies products by consolidation of multiple sellers all on one site and reliance on the US post office, other shipping companies, and even some of their own products and shipping. It was a good idea anybody could have come up with, it’s the execution that caused Bezos to be successful. He hired the right people. Amazon runs a huge operation and spends the minimum amount to keep it in operation.

  15. 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.

  16. 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 ?

  17. 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.

  18. 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,

      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

  19. 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?

  20. 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!

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