Amazon is the future of retail, so it's always useful to hear from real live Amazon warehouse workers about what their jobs are really like. Today: one worker details just how much Amazon values its own time over that of its employees.
A worker at the Amazon warehouse in Jeffersonville, Indiana sent us this story of his experiences with Amazon's hiring practices and work environment. Particularly interesting is how much of their own time Amazon employees are compelled to waste in order to ensure that the company's time is never wasted.
I realize I'm 8 months late on this but I wanted to share another story about working at Amazon... My location is pretty much the same as all the others. Our two fifteen minute breaks include our travel time, so I've had breaks that barely last five minutes.
The one difference, it seems, is that our lunches are required to be 30 minutes long. When we clock out, we have to be clocked out for a full 30 minutes. If we try to clock in even one minute early, the time clock will display an error message telling us how many minutes we have remaining on our lunch break. Of course, they don't want you to stop scanning items until one minute before your lunch, and you have to be at the "standup" meeting within 4 minutes of the end of the normal lunch break. The way pickers at my location have gotten around that, to allow for longer break times and prevent going over on lunch, is to grab the last item they intend to scan, about three minutes before the start of break, get as close as possible to the front of the floor they're working on, then scan it exactly one minute before break starts. This gives a little extra time to put away the pick cart and make it down to the break area, without management tracking you down and asking why you stopped picking three minutes before break. That actually happened to me once, so I adopted the method everyone else uses. Never mind the fact that those minutes have simply been shuffled around, between the last item and the one before it...all that matters is that you picked right up until break.
Aside from the heat, boredom, sore body, and the things everyone else has already complained about, my biggest issue with Amazon started before I ever picked my first item. Here's a rundown of my time leading up to working at Amazon:
Like most people, I started by going to Integrity Staffing. I went through all the normal interview and drug test stuff, then got to the point where they asked me what schedule I wanted. I was very specific on what I wanted, because my sister works there as a permanent hire and I wanted to work with her so we could carpool (and also so we could hang out at work). I requested a position in ICQA (sort of like a quality department for inventory...making sure all items are accounted for, etc) on the Sun-Wed night shift. The lady at Integrity was very nice about it and even went so far as to text one of the on-site Integrity reps from Amazon, to get the spot opened up for me. She was able to get it opened up and I was given a start date two weeks out.
Fast forward two weeks. I got a phone call the day I was supposed to start, reminding me I was supposed to start that evening, and telling me to be at the on-site Integrity office at 6:30pm (and also stated the doors opened at 6pm). I showed up at 6:08 which is 22 minutes early, based on the time I was told to be there. I arrived at the same time as a young lady who was also supposed to start that evening. After waiting for almost half an hour, we were informed that they were only starting three of five people that night, that the jobs were first come first served, and that the three other people had gotten the jobs because they arrived at exactly 6pm. We were given the option to accept a new start date, three weeks out, and told we would be placed on a "must start" list. We both accepted. The reason we were given for not starting that night is that Integrity supposedly over-staffs intentionally, so that Amazon is in a position of having workers and not needing them, rather than needing and not having them. That's not really fair to the people who need jobs and are expecting to start receiving a paycheck.
Three weeks later, I showed up at exactly 6pm. We were led into a room, where we were given slips of paper telling us our departments, and seated by department. After going through the normal orientation, then waiting out on the floor for a bit, the four of us who were to be packers were informed that Amazon didn't need packers and that we would be pickers.
What really made me mad was that, just prior to getting on through Integrity, I had heard that Amazon was doing a direct hire. I applied online and was told they had decided not to proceed with my application. During my third week as a temp, I noticed an "ambassador" leading some people with blue badges around. I thought maybe they were cross-training for the pick department. During my fourth week, I stopped someone with a blue badge, to ask him where something was, and he told me that he had to ask someone too, but that it was only his third day on the job. I really don't understand how Amazon has so many hard working temps, who would actually like to get hired on, but they choose to bring new people off the street to receive the benefits and higher wages.
Thankfully for me, I'll be starting my new job soon. It's a direct hire position, day shift, 8 hours a day, benefits from day one, and I'll be making four more dollars on the hour. Once I start my new job, I hope to never again step foot into an Amazon warehouse.
[If you're an Amazon worker who'd like to share your story, email Hamilton@Gawker.com. Photo: Getty]