At Amazon, the office workers tell us they feel trapped, and the warehouse workers tell us they feel exploited. Let's cover the rest of the bases, shall we? Today, a contract worker and an intern describe their own unpleasant Amazon experiences.
Among the stories we've received from Amazon workers in the past week are these two, which help to answer the question: "Is work life at Amazon any better for those who aren't full time staff members?" (We've lightly copy edited and bolded these.)
From a recent contract worker at Amazon
I've been a contract designer for over 14 years, and I've worked at Marvel, T-Mobile, Starbucks, and Microsoft as well. Each place has its own challenges and no, I'm not afraid of hard work and long hours. However Amazon was one of the stressful 8 months of my career and I refuse to go back. It's true the average time there is 2 years—at least the team I was on—turn and burn and no work life balance.
Let me start by saying my first day I received e-mail, passwords met the team etc…. I was there for about 2 hours, finally logged into my e-mail and BAM about 40 e-mails with job requests. Keep in mind I'm still not familiar with the projects I'm working on—their history, complexity, nothing… so I pull my sleeves up and try and figure it all out. Turns out I'm helping design this new site, as well as a few other things. "I can help with that, do you have wireframes, what's the final output," this is normal to receive when building any website or UI so I can see how this works and what you are trying to accomplish. The answer was "we just give you the specs and basically have knee jerk reactions to what you design and make sure they fit our brand standards." WTF. I've never experienced anything like that before, [and] keep in mind this is day one. Requests kept coming in, still no clue, day one already in the weeds. This should have been a clue... My contract was initially 35 hrs a week. Let's just say by the time it was all said and done I was averaging about 75 hrs work weeks, only 60 of which I could bill for, but I put in the extra effort to get things done. "Lesson learned."
They do have some wicked smart people working there. I was really impressed, the campus is amazing, but everyone looks stressed out and beat down, at least on my team. Needless to say things did not improve. In 8 months I went through 4 managers. All of them look exhausted and stressed and had been there for about 2 years. One person I worked with hadn't taken vacation longer than 2 days in a row in 2 years because of the amount of work. It was common if for some reason I had to leave exactly at 5pm which was rare I would let my team know, but like clockwork I would get hit up at 4:55pm with some strange request that would keep me there and force me to miss my appointment. It was not uncommon for me to send an email out 1 a.m. and get a response from someone almost immediately. "Do these people ever sleep?"
Now I know some people have other experiences there, but this is just on the surface the hell I went through. Let me tell you how bad it is: I recently started contracting at Microsoft again and they asked about my experience at Amazon. I did not bad mouth them at all but the look on my face must have told them everything they needed to know. My interviewer's response was "We get that look a lot…"
From a recent Amazon intern
I just read your article on Amazon, "I Do Not Know One Person Who is Happy at Amazon" and oh buddy does it hit home. I was an intern there until January of this year. I was supposed to stay until May for a 9 month stint but I couldn't take it anymore, for many of the reasons described in your article.
I just wanted to lend my own experiences to your collection, presumably under the condition of anonymity. I don't intend to use them as a reference, but many of my co-workers were decent people outside of being shitty co-workers and I don't want to piss them off.
I see a lot of comments saying that Amazon employees are just whiners and everyone's jobs suck, but it is so much worse than that. Here are some examples to help explain why.
- My direct supervisor was the "senior" employee on our team. She'd been there for 5 years. No one else had been there longer than 3, and almost everyone had started within that same year (2013).
- Ultimately I left because I received no feedback from anyone, aside from a few brief conversations with my direct supervisor, in the entire 5 months I worked there. Not only no feedback, but not even an acknowledgement that they received my work. I'd send it multiple times and say "hey, even if you don't read this, PLEASE JUST TELL ME YOU GOT IT." Nothing. We're talking 5-6 different people here, none of whom ever responded. And this was an internship, where presumably I'm supposed to learn something. I know people are busy, but how do I learn anything if no one ever looks at my work?...
- One guy who started at the same time I did was given one project in the entire 5 months I was there. Amazon bases employee bonuses on annual goals that the employee and their supervisor set together. So this other intern's ONLY PROJECT was to work on his direct supervisor's bonus project. As of the day I left, he'd turned in 11 drafts and that was the only thing he'd worked on in FIVE MONTHS. I heard recently that he was still working on that and nothing else. All because his supervisor was too busy to do it himself, but really wanted that bonus.
- When I emailed my temporary supervisor to tell him I was leaving my position (he was never in, always out of town or in meetings), no one responded until the day before my last day. They were too busy to respond to an employee leaving. Then they wanted to meet and talk about "where they went wrong." I didn't even know where to start.
Aside from these anecdotal experiences, I can confirm that no one is ever happy or smiling, except the security guards who are on the front lines as the face of the company, so they get paid to be happy. No one seems to care if you're there or not, they're too busy with their own shit because Amazon refuses to hire enough employees to avoid making everyone miserable. I exclusively worked from home for a month straight and no one ever noticed. In fact, I was out for so long that my badge got deactivated, and no one said a word.
My apologies for the length, but I do think it's important that people know what they're paying for when they shop there... Think of how much cheaper things could be for customers if they weren't constantly training new employees because the old ones hated it so much.
[Photo: Shutterstock. You can email the author of this post at Hamilton@Gawker.com]