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The Amazon worker: paid £18,000 a year to shift 250 items an hour (theguardian.com)
88 points by open-source-ux 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 152 comments



When we celebrate entrepreneurs like Bezos we should also keep in mind that this success comes on the backs of a lot of people who work in bad conditions. These people are invisible to us. Amazon could easily afford to hire more people for the workload but instead they choose to squeeze everything out of existing employees.


First world governments created rules in the 1800's and 1900's. People used to work in unsafe conditions doing jobs in the coal mines and steel mills.

This isn't an abusive job. It's just a working job. You can't leave your station at an automotive factory or in a line cook position either. You have to keep moving for 8 hours or more at a time. It's work. That's just how it goes. It's not for everyone.


Would you wish this kind of work on members of your family or friends? If not who do you think should be doing these jobs?


Would this job be better if they were paid £22,000? £30,000? £45,000?

Regardless of the pay it would always be a shitty job because it’s hard manual labor. There are worse jobs for sure but there is virtually no plausible amount of money that would make this job a good job other than the premise that any job is better than no job.

And we are at fault here we want cheap stuff delivered ASAP even in the middle of the night.


I think it's important to recognise what it means if this was a 45k paying job. And I say job not in the sense of a 1-man employment contract, but job as in 'set of tasks that needs doing', with 45k as the budget.

What it means is that you could pay two people 22k, plus some overhead, to do this 'job' or 'set of tasks'. And you could let them alternate a day and evening schedule, such that they can interact with other human beings, their friends, family. And you could require each to be 10% less productive, such that they can have a normal break where they can interact with other human beings.

The takeaway from this article wasn't that the remuneration was poor. It's typical for a menial job and not any worse than what we ever had in the past. The takeaway was that all the other work conditions are designed in an inhuman (not inhumane, but inhuman) manner, working like a robot with robots. His complaints aren't a lack of money, that's evident from the fact he lives with his parents and barely does anything fun despite having the money. His complaints were a lack of human interaction, having a shitty rhythm, sleeping away his off-time, not seeing his friends, no longer talking to his parents, working with robots.

That can be fixed, if we budgeted even just 30k for this set of tasks. That doesn't mean he gets paid more per year.


For the UK its not a bad wage looking locally to me its often 7.50 or 8 an hour. And Amazon may not be the bets employer they are far better than JD sports!

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jan/29/140-jd-spor...

When you have members of the conservative government making noises about the owner of JD sports not being a fit and proper person to run a public company you know there is some really bad shit happening


[...] but there is virtually no plausible amount of money that would make this job a good job [...]

I think I would happily do that if it paid well enough so that I only had to work, say, three months or less a year.


There are pretty hard seasonal jobs that can pay 50-60K for a season (3-4 months), e.g seasonal fishing.

Even in the UK you can find fishing jobs that pay £1500-2000 a week during peak season which means you can earn what Amazon pays in 2.5 months but it’s much harder than sorting items at a warehouse.


Its almost the most dangerous job in the UK though


Not in the top 10 (well the list only goes to 8 but number 8 is already only 1 deaths per year) in the UK.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/08/07/deadliest-job...


Its the death rate % I was talking about.

According to the industry's trade body, Seafish, there are 126 deaths per 100,000 fishermen each year; "many times higher" than any other sector of UK industry

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-humber-13947723


I don't get where the BBC gets those numbers, unless there are only like 5000 fishermen in the UK which would somehow make the 126 deaths per 100,000 sound plausible.

http://www.hse.gov.uk/agriculture/pdf/ag-fatal-1617.pdf

Also please note the the vast majority of injuries and fatalities seems to be in farming rather than fishing those statistics are unified but the causes are broken down.

The individual deaths and causes are also listed http://www.hse.gov.uk/foi/fatalities/2016-17.htm I couldn't find one that related directly to fishing.

Don't get me wrong fishing is dangerous but I haven't seen anything that would indicate that it's one of the most dangerous jobs in the UK.


I don't have a horse in this race, but fyi, I found some fishing-related deaths here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/marine-accident-i...


Thanks for that source, not sure why HSE doesn't list those maybe because they are still under investigation.


Its from the fishing industry its self as the BBC article says.


"fishing industry" doesn't mean much, all job related deaths are recorded by the HSE in the UK (this is equivalent to OSHA in the US), which is why I asked for the actual statistics.


It would be better if they were paid more. They would be able to afford reskilling or work 1/5 less and reduce stress on their body.


How much more? Retraining isn’t a factor of money especially in the UK it’s a factor of will and time.


Not if your are exhausted after work or if your working hours prevent you from attending courses, for example night shifts leaving you tired at the morning. Try doing warehouse job for a week, see how much willpower you will have left.

Also time is sometimes convertible to money, esp. if you have children. You don't have much time left if you have to work long hours, but if you can pay someone to do cleaning, etc.for you, then you are directly buying time.


If I was a father and my son was between the ages of 18-26, with no college degree and on government benefits (I’m taking a guess at the subjects age here) this is EXACTLY the type of work I’d want him to do. Something that teaches him the value of hard work and discipline. Let’s face it, there are likely hundreds, possibly thousands of people employed at that amazon warehouse. Many of them have the same job as he does. I don’t see every single one of them complaining or writing blogs about how their job ruins their life. This man CHOSE to take an overnight shift, which he admitted does not ever change. He works 4 days a week. Does he realize how common sleep problems is? Many people who work 5-6 days a week Have sleep problems as well. Sometimes I only get a couple hours of sleep, maybe 4 or 3, but I still get up when my alarm goes off and head in to work. This is part of being a responsible adult. I’m not sure when his 10 hour shift begins or ends, but seeing as he’s only getting 4 hours of sleep he has plenty of time to look for a new job if he isent satisfied with his current employment situation. Amazon tells it’s warehouse employees what is expected of them on day one of training and many employees research a new employer before actually going to work for them or accepting a job. I’m sorry but as a fellow millennial, one who has also done jobs which could be complained about (standing on my feet for 14 hours working a double shift, bussing all my tables and cleaning my entire section before being given permission to go home or being told to clean more if the manager doesn’t think it’s clean enough) it pisses me off to see such entitlement. When I was in the situation, I worked 6 or 7 days a week and my days off were never consistent. I could easily work 12 days straight and I had coworkers who hadn’t had a day off in years because they work two jobs. I’m sorry but this guys sob stories about not being able to enjoy video games, only getting 4 hours of sleep sometimes, not being able to take small breaks when he’s on the clock, and not being able to quit because he will get sanctioned and lose his government benefits is absolute horse shit.5$3 guy works 4 days a week. If he spent 3 days a week looking for a new job, making the job search his second job, he could easily find another job... but chances are he’d Find things to complain about at that job too. Chances are that for someone with his qualifications, that amazon job is probably the best job in his area. That job isn’t for everyone. This guy thinks that standing on his feet is unhealthy, yet the new trend is for people working 9-5s to use standing desks since sitting down can affect blood circulation and lead to heart disease or vascular disease.

I don’t normally comment here, but felt obligated.


"Something that teaches him the value of hard work and discipline"

Can you say a bit more about what that value is?

Edit: this is a genuine ( not snarky) question to someone who feels strongly on the subject. I suspect people say the value of hard work without really thinking through what that value is. As an extreme example some countries allow sentencing to penal labour( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penal_labour ) but I suspect the few would consider this to be a valuable gift to the convicted.


> This guy thinks that standing on his feet is unhealthy, yet the new trend is for people working 9-5s to use standing desks since sitting down can affect blood circulation and lead to heart disease or vascular disease.

This is the kind of binary thinking that's problematic with a lot of people i talk to nowadays. How about this:

Instead of it being a question of which one is wrong or right, what if both are right to some degree?

What if standing for a full 8 hour work day is unhealthy, just in a different way than sitting for an 8 hour work day is unhealthy?

What if the real answer is: Both is necessary, in moderation?


I'm not the person you were addressing, but I'll bite anyway.

The members of my family have dreams, but any free time they have they spend it on Facebook. I don't WISH these jobs on them, but this is exactly the skills they have.


My father worked in a mattress factory, which I imagine was fairly similar. Perhaps Amazon is worse in some ways (lack of human contact) but I bet it's a lot safer and has less heavy lifting. I'm sure he's glad he wasn't stuck there for decades, but I don't think he thought it was nightmarishly terrible at the time. And even the dullest-seeming jobs are usually enjoyed by a a few people.


My 50 year old mother in-law had this job. After the big recession she lost her job and was unemployed for several years. So compared to the alternative (and that is the key point!) I am absolutely happy she had that job.


Who exactly doesn't have family & friends that have done exactly these types of jobs at some point?

Are we talking about the gold lined streets of Norway, as the 0.1% example that is supposed to represent the real condition of humanity among the other 7.6 billion people?

I've never known someone that hasn't done these types of basic work jobs at some point their lives. That's not an exaggeration.

It can be working a marina boating dock during the summer, pumping gas for minimum wage at 20 years old. It can be cutting yards & doing basic property maintenance work for $15 / hour at 25 years old. It can be a cashier at Walmart for $11 or $12 / hour. It can be working at a liquor store, doing cashier work, filling shelves, running product into the cooler, and vacuuming before going home at night. There are millions of basic jobs like that need to be done.


Silicon Valley is more like the Gilded Age capitalists than they tell themselves.


Except that Amazon is a Seattle company.


Silicon Valley is commonly used as a figure of speech to refer to the entire tech industry. Similar to how Wall Street is used to refer to the financial industry, or Hollywood to the movie industry, or Washington to the entire federal government.


Guess I'll put "Silicon Valley Programmer" on my resume now :-)


Amazon employs people in SF too, so it's not entirely possible they didn't drink the kool-aid.


And this guy has the audacity to boast on Twitter about how he has too much money he doesn't know what to do with it.

Well how about he gives his workers better work conditions? there are simple techniques that wouldn't even cost him much money like alternating tasks in warehouses, some tasks are less physical than others.

Clearly some here are happy the 19th century style exploitation is a reality for their fellow workers, with the same arguments as 200 years ago like "well if you're not happy go work somewhere else", like everybody has the choice.


> Amazon could easily afford to hire more people for the workload but instead they choose to squeeze everything out of existing employees.

That’s just not the Titan of Industry mentality. And the Titan of Industry mentality is required to build a company like Amazon. And everyone buys from Amazon because they offer the lowest price and the greatest convenience.

It’s got nothing to do with whether he could hire more people. It’s that whether it’s the Pyramids or Versailles or Amazon, humans are largely drawn to these things that represent or require the toil and suffering of invisible anonymous masses. It’s weird, but it seems fundamental to humanity. It’s always made me question the compatibility of humans with “human rights.” We fundamentally don’t value these things. At least we prioritize symbols of collective greatness to individual human experience.


Pyramids? Versailles? That is an absurd comparison — working conditions here are orders of magnitude better on every possible scale, he is getting paid good money which he is taking to the bank, and we’re talking what 50 hours a week of work? Plenty of leisure time to keep learning and striving and bettering oneself. Healthy 24 year old male with a functioning brain complaining that life is hard work? Give me a break.

The market provides a pretty damn diverse set of job opportunities. It turns out that shuffling boxes doesn’t require any intelligence and therefore doesn’t pay well. The problem is not that there are entry level jobs to shuffle boxes. Take those away and then this guy doesn’t just have a loser job, he has no job at all.

Make Amazon pay humans more to shuffle boxes and they’ll just have more incentive to buy better robots. Pay humans what it’s worth to shuffle boxes and the smart and motivated ones won’t be shuffling boxes for very long at all. Because it turns out if you have a brain you decide it’s better to learn a marketable skill in your off time instead of playing video games.

This guy has no need for current income. He says his expenses are about 100/mo. He should be working his 50 hours a week and then putting another 50 hours into coursework if he doesn’t like the job he’s got.

His government benefits which he doesn’t want to lose would (or should) not lapse if he has 40 hours of work AND/OR accredited coursework. If he loses benefits for choosing schooling over labor then that is a policy that should be fixed.

There are a lot of societal pressure which is putting 24 year old males in their parents basement working dead-end jobs and playing video games. But very very little of the blame sits on Amazon’s shoulders if you ask me. There are a lot of controversial social theories on the way we’ve been talking to and about adolescent men are driving them into these low self esteem self-defeating positions, and it’s certainly a growing demographic and a big problem. Look at labor participation rates for 20-30 yr old men, for example. Again, Amazon is providing a service here, not the villain of the story.


Sure, he could have it worse in that he could be like many others in his position but without parental support. How would he be able to work 50 hours a week and physically go to school 50 hours a week? Amazon controls his hours not him. School controls course hours not him. School also doesn't necessarily lead to a better job. It also costs money. If he wasn't living at home it would cost at least the same amount he's making from Amazon.

What do you do for a living, may I ask? Do you have a college education in your field of work? Who paid for it? Who paid your rent, food, and other expenses while you attended school?


> School also doesn't necessarily lead to a better job.

Right, because a degree is worthless if you didn’t learn something applicable to the job you want afterwards. To many kids these days go to college, party and have fun, get a b/s degree, then wonder why they are basically screwed afterward and in a mountain of debt. Not everyone should go to college, trade schools have a bad stigma when really they are the right avenue for many young people.

> Do you have a college education in your field of work?

Yes

> Who paid for it?

Me, and without loans too. Admittedly I went in the mid 90s when prices were more realistic, but I also chose to go to a not big name state school and I worked my ass off in a job while in school to pay for it.

> Who paid your rent, food, and other expenses while you attended school?

Me, myself, and I. It wasn’t easy, but I also was raised with a strong work ethic and realized if I wanted to advance I had to do more than others, not just be average.

While GP’s tone was a bit confrontational, I feel yours is just as toxic. Putting in 50 hours in classes on top of 50 hours work is unrealistic for most, but 15-20hrs isn’t. Yes, it’ll take longer to advance, but it’s still doable. Many of the points GP made re: how young male generations were raised are sadly very on point and you should try to have an open mind and not just snap back.


> Admittedly I went in the mid 90s when prices were more realistic

They were nonesense then too.


$6 a credit with a $60 cap to do almost all my lower-division coursework before I went off to university isn't all that bad if you ask me.

Yep, the '90s were "gangsta" as the kids say...


I worked full time, while living in an apartment (which I shared with 2 other people) since I was 18. From 19-25 I took classes, about half of them online and the other half on campus — since at the time it wasn’t possible to earn a true Bachelors degree fully online.

My company paid for a portion of my tuition, the rest I paid myself as I went. A semester of courses cost, by my recollection, about $10k. But that would be regardless of if you took 3, 4, or 5 classes. So naturally I went to the Dean and got special permission to take 6 classes per semester. Combined with transferring half my credits from dirt cheap online classes I graduated after only paying for 4 semesters, about $50k total, $20k of which was expensed on the corporate card, all spread over 5-6 years.

My job at the time was technically an “internship” at Cisco Systems, paid $14/hour. I would typically log about 80 a week though, and it was all time-and-a-half after 40 and double-time after 60 hours a week, so effective pay was higher.

My GPA was shit, but it didn’t matter. No one has ever asked, and I got the degree. The amount of learning from being in the labs at Cisco working with core routers and coding IOS dwarfed anything I learned at college anyway.

Everyone told me I needed the diploma. But since then I’ve never had to so much as write a resume, after that first fluff piece I wrote to get into Cisco. In my case the degree was a massive waste of time and money, but so it goes.

Obviously I was massively lucky and privlidged to get into Cisco at 18, but staying there full time for several years and having them pay part of my tuition was because I worked my ass off for that $14/hr and was one of the most productive members of my team. By the time I left they had all but shut down the internship program and HR was afraid I was going to sue them for misclassifying me, but I was very happy to have had the opportunity.


I agree with this. You couldn't find a person who more strongly laments the toll that Netflix/video games have taken on my generation. I've seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by Netflix and video games. It's horrifying.

I was just responding to the GP, who was wondering why Bezos doesn't just pay him more.


Trouble in previous generation it was television or comics let alone DnD turning kids into demon worshipers.


It's been a steady decline since after WWII. You joke by introducing comics, DnD. But all these things are symptomatic of a society in which young people are the products of leisure, of not knowing or caring where things come from or their value. Television in particular. A world of watchers, wasting their lives.


"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers"

Socrates :-)


Good stuff :)


I know, right?

Makes the WWI peeps (who literally lost a generation) problems pale in comparison.


I wasn’t kidding. Not sure what’s worse, WWI or the leisure industrial complex. All these gamers might as well be dead. They don’t do anything, they have no skills, they won’t reproduce.


>humans are largely drawn to these things that represent or require the toil and suffering of invisible anonymous masses. It’s weird, but it seems fundamental to humanity.

Consumers are largely drawn to low-cost products, which require the exploitation of masses. It is fundamental to capitalism, but not to humanity.


Well, poor people tend to be drawn to low-cost products or do without. I wonder what you'd prefer the masses to be doing as against producing those goods?

Capitalism enables global wealth re-distribution. Thus were 500 million Chinese lifted out of poverty from 1981 to 2012 (World Bank figures) thanks to consumers who've bought the products of their industry. Most of us have helped in that respect.

Almost all of humanity lived for thousand of years in miserable and degrading poverty; the life of even the very rich two hundred years ago and later would be considered a low grade existence by a great majority of ordinary people today and not just in the West.


Amazon is wildly expensive compared with Target and Costco. Its success is convenience and extensive product reviews.


I find this claim hard to believe - what products are you using to make the comparison?


Then again the employees are free to quit at any time, but the fact that they don't means these jobs are the very best alternatives they have.

It's perhaps a shitty alternative, but it's undeniable that without Amazon they'd do something even shittier.


You could say the same about the children working in the cotton mills, but we banned that.

Without Amazon, there might be more local tax revenue, more local shops providing employment, less focus on extracting 100% from every employee.


And more businesses serving those local shops, including restaurants, dentists, drug stores, etc.

I've never seen a great diversity of businesses that surround a warehouse, say.


Depends how high the turnover rate is.


True point. But then again, we as consumers demand everything to become cheaper and cheaper so that we can buy more stuff we probably don’t need. You could argue that he’s just fulfilling our desire within current labor laws.


It's not a true point because Amazon could not easily choose to hire more people for the workload, given the assumption that people will choose to shop wherever they get the lowest prices. The assumption seems valid considering the domination of Walmart and Asda in the past few decades. The margins on retail are tiny as it is, so I highly doubt Amazon could easily hire more people.


Plus when we buy a book from Amazon for £10 when in (e.g. Waterstones is £20, there is a reason (and it's not only the rent for the brick & mortar store).

Every penny counts dear Maxxxxxx!


I shop at Amazon too because it's so convenient. But I am becoming more and more aware that companies who rely on underpaid workers create huge externalities for society. A polluter can also potentially produce cheaper goods but these come at a price for society. Same for companies like Walmart and Amazon.


> When we celebrate entrepreneurs like Bezos we should also keep in mind that this success comes on the backs of a lot of people who work in bad conditions.

Is there a case where this is not true? Capitalists are all the same: Ignoring other's suffering to make a profit.


No, there isn't. Which is why average workers openly supporting rich people and dissing Health and Safety rules surprise me. They're there for your own protection, created by decades of hard work by hard workers who know how easy it is to get fucked by a company.


Yet most of us probably wear textiles made in a mill in Bangladesh and use electronics manufactured in East Asia at a huge environmental cost.

The only thing you're doing by supporting "Health and Safety" laws is offshoring suffering.

The only way to stop the cycle is to consume less, but that seems to be a foreign concept.


I'm specifically thinking of forklift drivers and factory workers. I've been around them when HSE was auditing, and they were openly mocking them for telling them to wear their goggles. Why?

Can't say anything about other countries, since there's so much shit at home, they need to take care of their own...

But yeah, they also buy the latest shit (on credit), and when asked why, there's no good answer. I use my stuff until it's completely dead, and even then it's fixable. If everyone did it, maybe we'd get rid of planned obsolescence, which is an insane, but sadly profitable concept.


Not sure why wearing goggles when driving a fork lift improves h&s.

The trouble is there tends to be a one size fits all h&s I see track side workers wearing hard hats and the failure modes for accidents tends to be things like runaway trucks not heavy objects falling on your head.

I have also seen all the local bus drivers wearing high vis vests for no reason - I could see having one the bus in case it breaks down and they have to get out and put out hazard signs but when I have seen busses broken down they don't do that.


While it's probably good to aim for less consumption, there's no fundamental reason that those countries couldn't have the same progression in workers rights.

What needs to stop is western tax money pouring in through different channels to support repressive and corrupt regimes and policies under the guise of keeping these countries "business friendly".

The working and middle classes in the west have been undermining themselves for quite some time now.


> there's no fundamental reason that those countries couldn't have the same progression in workers rights.

There is in that a high level of unemployment leads to social unrest and governments toppling.

Most people in the developing world are willing to suffer in order for a better future for their family. If you take that away (as I mentioned, more automation) then you take that away, and you get a lot of pissed off people.

It's a lot easier to live in a sweltering room with your family if you have a reassurance that your children won't suffer the same fate.


Suppose I come down with cancer. I have a grand piano, which I auction off to pay my medical bills. The highest bidder offers $4,000, so that's what I sell it for. It isn't enough, so I run out of money and die.

Is the person who bought the piano morally guilty for "ignoring others' suffering"? Should they be held guilty unless they bid however much I needed for my cancer treatment, even if that's $1,000,000? Are they more guilty than the losing bidders, who offered even less, or people who didn't bid at all? That's what this seems to imply about Amazon (or all employers, really), except in this case, the person is selling a service (whatever work they perform) rather than a piano.


>except in this case,

Your analogy is very leaky. Bidding and delivery is one and done, whereas in the dynamics of workplaces, employers have vast influence on the workplace conditions daily. Also applicants rarely get full insight when applying - this is true of piano bidding ("I wonder what it will be like to deal with this person") but that represents a small one-time exchange.


Indeed. And it's useless to pretend that's not the case.


"useless to pretend that's not the case" is a dumb, paint brush response. Yes, many, if not most, capitalists do so. That said, consumers don't tend to reward good behaviour either. Even when I put a minimal amount of effort into making purchases from "ethical" companies, I get people questioning what the hell I'm doing. Why don't I go for the cheapest, brand-namest, most-marketed, child labor made, etc equivalent from <Big Corporation Co>.

If anyone is going to start rambling off about the evils of capitalism, I suggest they stick their foot in their mouth until they've already stopped buying from companies that benefit from exploitative behaviour. But since I've met almost nobody who falls into that category, then it's time to admit that capitalists aren't inherently unethical, it's just that consumers, including you (and even me) have decided to reward the ones who aren't.


> But since I've met almost nobody who falls into that category, then it's time to admit that capitalists aren't inherently unethical, it's just that consumers, including you (and even me) have decided to reward the ones who aren't.

Of course society is (in theory) set up to ensure that it's the consumer's fault. Or that the consumer has some kind of mass control over this. Unfortunately the consumer is at a mass disadvantage. Not only do stress and monetary factors constrain the amount of control they can exercise, but also big companies expend hundreds of thousands of pounds in advertising and propaganda.

Putting the blame on the sheep for the faults of the farmer is ludicrous.


Do not think is just limited to "Capitalists"


Of course, the entire capitalist society condones exploitation. There is no ethical consumption under capitalism.


There’s no consumption at all under the alternative.


One can say that of pretty much any company that manufactures anything outside of the US.


And these are jobs people 100 years ago in this country would have given anything to have, and ones millions today, perhaps even billions, would still give anything to have.

And Amazon's margins are far smaller than you're implying. Their latest quarterly had a profit margin of 0.59%. They have more than half a million employees and a net income of just ~$2.4 billion. Imagine they give a modest $1000 raise to all their employees. That'd be more than $500 million or about 23% of their entire net income. Mass increases in labor to the point that the hourly requirements of each employee substantially decreased is simply out of the question.

In looking at wealth inequality, I think we lose track of how many of us there are. If you received just $1 from each person on Earth you'd be the 175th richest person in the world. $15 per person and you'd be, by far, the richest person alive. And that also goes the other way - even the richest are diluted to very little on the scale of the populations of this place we live in. If every single dollar or produced value, at least according to GDP, was perfectly evently distributed in the US we'd each get about $52k a year. Getting about half the average for moving boxes doesn't seem like something that screams catastrophe to me.


Amazon is famous for spending every penny they make on investing in Amazon. Their net profit is not really a good place to look for the amount of money they’re actually making.


Definitely a fair point. On the other hand without that investing jobs like these would not exist. Is Amazon destroying more lucrative jobs he could have otherwise had? Very possibly, but I think that's somewhat speculative. And it also ignores secondary effects of economic expansion. Amazon in turn helps countless other businesses grow and thrive which in turn provide more opportunity and jobs for people. So we can't only consider the jobs it may destroy but also the jobs which it creates. In the end, what is the net effect? That's an extremely complex question to answer, but I suspect living in a world where you can get $25k a year for moving boxes is more likely a positive than negative indicator of overall effect.


"And these are jobs people 100 years ago in this country would have given anything to have, and ones millions today, perhaps even billions, would still give anything to have."

The numbers will be even more impressive if life was made more miserable for a few billion people. Then you could argue that several billion people would give anything to take up a job like this.


Except life isn't being made more miserable. It's paradoxically the rising quality of life that makes it seem this way.

Take a thought experiment and imagine we have 1000 people living under a single king all in complete filth and disgust, except for our king. Our people might be a bit jealous of the king but in general everything seems reasonably equal. Now imagine our king himself starts to feel guilty about the state of affairs and decides to begin progressive expansion. So he takes 50 of the people and grants them land and businesses giving them very comfortable lives.

Well people are kind of happy, but now there's certainly quite a lot of jealousy. It's not just one king, but a whole 5% of the population living head and shoulders above the rest. So the king realizes this and decides to make an incredible expansion expending much of his wealth in the progress. He now grants those 5% substantial estates and then grants a whole 20% the privileges and property just the 5% had before.

Again we'd expect society to be absolutely thrilled at the massive progress. But what this actually does is emphasize how shit the now 75% are. Instead of people being thrilled at people overall become wealthier, the 75% are now incensed. What's so special about those 25%? We want that too. As we, dramatically, improved society - society itself became even more incensed that it wasn't happening all at once. As we reach the point where the majority slowly become very comfortable, it would somehow paradoxically seem ever and ever more unfair and unjust.


The definition of a shit job is relative to the perceived average. What is paradoxical about that?


We see a problem. We see a solution. And most everybody would agree, in a vacuum, that the solution does indeed work towards solving the problem. Yet, in social effect, it actually exasperates the problem. This is paradoxical, to me.


In other words, if you do a job that requires no education, training or experience, you get paid a low wage.

This guys comes across as really entitled, he’s 24 years old, lives at home and doesn’t spend any of his money anyway. He even claims he’s “stuck” because he’ll lose his benefits if he quits.

Why am I supposed to feel sorry for him? His life is pretty sweet.


> His life is pretty sweet.

No, it is absolutely not. I cannot see how being forced to live with one's mother, unable to quit the current job to get higher education is "sweet". It's things like these that keep poor people poor and make rich people richer.

What happens if he wants to start a family? It's impossible to responsibly raise children in those conditions if he doesn't do it with someone that is a lot better off than him. Social mobility is quite hard for men, so the chance is very slim that his children will not grow up poor, too.


He doesn’t indicate that he wants to do either of those anywhere in the article?

And he could go to uni if he wanted to, quite easily- any student loans he borrows to cover fees wouldn’t start being repaid until he earns 21k/year, so it’s zero risk for him to borrow for a degree.

He saves 1k/month, a room or even a studio flat in Southend is about 500/month, so he could move out anytime if he stays at his current job.


>What happens if he wants to start a family?

I mean, that's not really something you're entitled to.


Quite the statement there - you're saying that any given organism is not entitled to at least attempt to fulfil its entire purpose?


But he is saving money when many people are only making it paycheck to paycheck. That luxury is not afforded to all.


No his life sucks. But he's a whiny piece of shit. He doesn't have to live with his mother, he doesn't have to accept government benefits and he doesn't have to work at Amazon. He just doesn't want to try so fuck him.

I work under harder conditions, more hours a week for about the same money as this asshole. The difference is I don't cry like a fucking baby to the internet about how hard my life is.

He just sounds fucking pathetic. It's called dealing with your shit. Everyone needs to fucking do it if you can't that's your problem.

Everything he said was just a fucking excuse as to why he can't make his life how he wants


Why do you immediately think you're supposed to feel sorry for him? Yet at the same time you come across as entitled enough to insult this guy for sharing his story.

Wise words I learned long ago: "Never pass up a chance to keep your mouth shut".


What if he could not get that education because he did not have the money? And now he can't get it because he's working full time? And if he quits, once again he does not have the funding to get that education, and if he gets a new low wage job, he doesn't have the time. How do you suggest one escapes this circle?


He can live at home and borrow for his education. He might even get a bursary if his parents income is low enough. In the UK you don’t have to repay student loans until your income hits a threshold of around 21k, so it’s effectively a tax on future earnings.

If he knows this, either:

- he thinks he’ll earn more than the threshold without studying in the next few years

- he doesn’t want to / can’t study further

- he’s happy with his current income and situation


Student loans?


(i) I think as pointed out in the last paragraph, the state is as guilty as Amazon in letting something like this happen. If Amazon would not bring workers to the legal/market limit. There would be another company to pick at here. (ii) No corporation cares about being ethical correct. Companies only purpose is to generate (more) profits and this can be even more easily (without moral burdens) achieved if (like in big corporations) there are a lot of layers of abstraction between the decision makers view and the workers view. (iii) I think if Amazon would be a nice company something like this would not happen.


* I think if Amazon would be a nice company something like this would not happen.*

Or they would be out competed by another company that isn't so nice.


> the state is as guilty as Amazon in letting something like this happen.

Higher wages and regulations mean fewer jobs. With automation the way it is and is progressing, more laws and regulations are counterproductive.


We have had a minimum wage in the UK for a long time now and it hasn't resulted in the increased unemployment many predicted.


That's not what a previous tory chancellor thought he though that subsiding low-quality Mc Jobs with taxpayers money was immoral.


I stopped buying from Amazon about a year ago for the following reasons:

- too many fake reviews

- unclear geographic origin of sellers (twice accidentally had to wait couple weeks for items to arrive from China)

- too many counterfeit products

- obnoxious Prime services being imposed on me

- Prime Video is so far below Netflix in comparison - regarding any aspect - it's not even funny

- many stories of Amazon bullying customers

- too many items that have been obviously previously returned and been badly repacked

- greedy fees are existential threats to publishing houses

- Amazon abuses its staff

---

and now the interesting insight. getting rid of Amazon is not even close to as difficult or uncomfortable as banning Facebook from one's life or trying to buy only fair trade.

it was super simple and not in the slightest an inconvenience. I use idealo.de for comparing prices and order straight from any of the other hundreds of shops on there.


Virtually every industry has jobs like this, and many of those jobs are more physically demanding and much more dangerous. (And in some cases, pay much less).

People seem happy to complain about warehouse working conditions and pay, yet give no thought to where their packages, vegetables, fruits, grains, fish, gas, oil, shrubs, houses, lumber, etc. come from.


To be honest, it sounds like he's mildly depressed. Or has lost the will to keep looking for a better deal.

Having been in the same place, I am reluctant to place the blame on Amazon for his state - if you don't like your job, look for another one. THAT is very much on you.

I'm not unsympathetic - I've been in some real hell holes and utter bullshit situations... but remember your agency, man!


£0.04 per item shipped. (220 working days x 8h)

as a customer i'm happy to pay another 4p per item shipped to have workers only process 125 items/h. But capitalism doesn't work this way. Bezos would just pocket the 4p and keep squeezing the workers to the max.


Pretty sure he's not the only worker involved in shipping your item.


Per item received. He's a receiver.

He opens boxes, scans the barcode, and puts the item into a box behind him.

15 seconds per touch is a good rate, but it's not breakneck for this work.

Without side work, you could realistically do these in 5-10 seconds.


> I scan the items the trucks bring in from distributors and place them into the right cart for the robots to take to the correct place in the warehouse.

I'm actually surprised his job has not been replaced by robots yet.


From what I see going on in logistics robotics, I give it two years for anything shipped in box with a bar code, especially if incoming freight is palletized.


>I'm actually surprised his job has not been replaced by robots yet.

Meat robots are still cheaper.


Not many articles on people working tough jobs in mines, farms, etc. What's so special about Amazon's warehouses?


Its an American company :-) there are far worse warehouse jobs in the Uk.

Though as Jeff owns the WP I thought they would have given him a bye, the Guardian publish a sleazy piece offering justification of the hacks caught up in the NI hacking scandal for example.


Amazon markets itself as a futuristic company that is making people's lives better.

A coal mine sure doesn't, and it's not as surprising to find out they run off the blood of the miners.

For most of us, it's a big change in thinking to look at the Amazon website as an interface to exploitation & human misery.


The minimum salary in the UK is roughly £12k/year... He's still making 50% more than the lowest paid employees.


I think the HN/US crowd might have warped opinions on typical earnings. I've seen (and applied to) graduate jobs at £16,000 a year, the median in the UK is somewhere around £20,000 last time I checked.


No, it's not.


The Median is £22,044 before tax


>> now I work such anti-social hours, it’s difficult to meet up.

As your friends finish school and find jobs, some end up on different shifts and different schedules. Chances are you have things in common with your new co-workers, socialize with them.


In this case he does work with robots so I’m not sure this really applies...


My comments on this article seem pretty heavily disagreed with but here's my point. He doesn't want to work at amazon, he doesn't want to lose his benefits. Yet he spends almost no money in rent and does nothing so likely has a good amount of money saved up. He enjoys painting figurines and such things. Why not try and find a way to market that skill? It can certainly be done. Even while keeping his amazon job. Find ways to make money outside work. He clearly has the time and money to set some goals and put a plan into action. If he's so unhappy maybe do that? He works 4 days a week. I work 6 days and manage to fo visit my friend once a week, cook proper meals for myself, program, play music and have hobbies I enjoy doing. Many of the things he said were straight up 'I can't be bothered to do this so my life sucks' That is entirely his choice. Sometimes you have to take chances in life if you're unhappy. He should have enough money saved up to be able to live off it for a while. If he's too scared to lose his benefits and pursue what he wants that's his choice. I would respect him far more if this was a story about how he quit amazon, tried to change his life and failed than this. Even failure is more respectable because at least he tried to take his life into his own hands. This is just a whiny rant about how he's too scared to live life. It's his life, it's up to him to do what he wants.


I was a bit curious about the background of the person in the article so i did some Googling and it looks like he studied game development at South Essex College.

I find this interesting, is game development less paid or hard to get employed kind if a career?

This Amazon job must be a gig to finance him his actual career ambitions I would guess. It's fairly common for people to work at low quality jobs that have flexibility to finance their projects or education.


Game development is often attended by people who like to play games but for whatever reason don’t make the jump to making games. Probably because it’s not easy and takes years of studying and dedication to get good at, ironically unlike playing games


I've had a little exposure to the game dev industry, and I've rarely met anyone who actually studied game development.

Kind of in the same way that nobody goes to university to study web development. People come from different backgrounds, either academic or self-taught, and end up in web/game dev.

Game dev ends up, I feel, attracting a lot of people who couldn't self-start. i.e. those with no programming or art skills, who then study a huge mix of 2d, 3d, art, programming, sound studio stuff, marketing, corporate finance, and basically everything at the 101/intro level. Kind of become a jack of all trades, master of none. That's great at the higher (10+ years of experience) level, where you're catapulted into a directing role that steers many different departments. (running the factory) But at the entry level it just means you're doing specialised low-level work without having a specialised skill. (putting nuts on bolts).

I'm generalising of course, there's probably a number of excellent programs attracting excellent talent. But I think by and large game dev studies (particularly the pioneer programs around 2006-2014) probably aren't the funnel through which talent flows or is created in the industry.

As for less paid, yeah in general it's typically less paid historically. I'd say it falls within the category of the art industry. Typically that means low median wages and high levels of earnings disparity.


You underestimate the volume of young people bumbling through all the game-related college programs. I bet only a minority end up with sufficient skill/drive to release a real game or have a good industry career.


And gave dev forces you to work a lot longer than 4 ten hour shifts a week.


According to the article he's putting away 1000 pounds, or about $1400 per month. Let's imagine he puts all his money into an index fund and they continue hitting about 8%. He's a millionaire before his 40th birthday, if he started when he was 18. And that's if he never receives a raise or finds a better paying job. And at that point he's pulling in $80k a year in growth/interest alone.

That's not an easy 22 years, but on the other hand that this sort of life outcome for somebody who's job is basically moving boxes is possible seems like huge success of our economic system. And that's in the worst case scenario of him never finding more productive work.


Except that he needs to pay to, y'know, eat and have a place to live and all that other life stuff. I'm assuming he doesn't want to live with his parents forever, even if they're cutting him a deal. 8% is likely an unrealistic growth rate anyway.


The $1400 was after he paid for eating/shelter. He's paying his parents $280 for rent - something he could do similarly by hooking up with some roommates. It's not glorious, yet he has the ability within his grasp to have an economic state of life that I suspect north of 90% of 40 year olds would trade their lives for. For a man who moves boxes for a living!

Here [1] is a calculator for investment fund returns. They're quite insane. Pick the absolute worst period for returns bust to bust 2000 to 2010 and you're still looking at a positive return. 1990 to present and you're looking at 10%. 2000 to present, going through both busts, is 6%. 2010 to present is 14%. 8% is not unreasonable - let's say it accounts for him possibly getting a raise sometime in the next 22 years.

[1] - https://dqydj.com/sp-500-return-calculator/


So just live with your parents for 20 years, hope the market goes well, and you'll be a millionaire? Looking at postings around the area where the worker lives, an apartment is about 4x the cost of what's he's paying for both rent AND food (https://essex.craigslist.co.uk/d/flats-housing-for-rent/sear...). That's not even accounting for unexpected medical expenses, trying to start a family, etc., and all the other expensive stuff in life.

I'm not even all that sympathetic to the worker in the article, but "just park all of your money in an index fund and you'll be a millionaire" is quite naive.


Check AirBNB. And keep in mind those prices can generally be negotiated sharply downward for longterm stays. He also need not continue to reside in one of the most expensive [housing] areas in Britain and the world for that matter. Healthcare in the UK can be provided for by entirely public systems. If he wanted to start a family he's just doubled his income and we can reduce the timelines involved in success here by at least ~30% (less than half due to compound interest being the secret sauce here + he obviously also increases his expenses in often nonlinear ways) -- even moreso if he finds a partner who has a more sophisticated skillset than moving boxes.

I think the thing many don't see is that in spite of people continuing to fail at life we live at a time when it's far easier than ever to succeed. But most people won't do the ideas espoused here since it requires discipline and planning. Instead they go drop their paycheck off at the pub, buy all the latest electronic toys with built in planned obsolescence, and so on. Or he finally hits $20k in the bank and then decides to go blow it on holiday to Asia.


My father always taught me you earn money with your back (unskilled labor), your mind (skills) or your money (investments). Everyone can do unskilled labor so supply and demand dictates it will pay less and obviously be more physically demanding.

Almost everyone can improver their situation by gaining skills/education. It’s a truism because everyone won’t.


Kind of makes me wonder how many "items" I shifted an hour when my job was to pull the newspapers off the press in (IIRC) 50 "item" bundles?

For a lot less money too, basically made enough for gas to get back and forth to community college and some beer/pot now and again -- ah, to be young again...


Anyone interested in this should listen to this RadioLab episode where a reporter goes to work as a picker at a fulfillment warehouse:

https://www.radiolab.org/story/brown-box/


I work in an amazon FC (in the US), and not in any leadership roles. I recently moved to a new state, and I found amazon. I applied and within about 2 weeks I was working. I'm about 5 months in and it's actually decent.

> If I’ve learned anything from doing this job, it’s that money can’t replace time. I work four nights a week in an Amazon warehouse near my home

Is this a bad thing ? I'd rather do 4x 10 hour days, than 5x 8 hour days. I can work my ass off for 4 days and sleep for day 5, and still have 2 days off. My co-workers seem to like this as well.

> I have to put away each item in 15 seconds or less, and get through 250 in an hour, or I’ll be given a warning by a manager. Stepping away from my station to, say, get a drink of water can have a big impact on my performance.

Amazon has a lot of fulfillment centers. Customer obsession is #1. In order for customers to get their package on time, amazon needs metrics. A lot of associates work alone or in a small team, also their is minimal supervision. Metrics allow for managers and corporate to know many things, including whether employees are "on-task". The required rate changes in different departments. If his FC has robotics, then they deal with small items. 250 small items an hour isn't bad. I'm not too sure about his building but I have all day to make rate. At the end of the day your average rate per hour should be >= X.

> During my half-hour breaks I rush downstairs to have something to eat. It’s stressful – and it definitely affects my health, standing up for hours on end. I worry I may pass out if I don’t rest during my meal breaks. I’ve lost a lot of weight since I started.

You don't need to rush, at least where I work. It's actually a benefit if you take your time. You have 30 minutes from the time you clock out, and it's about a 45 second walk to break rooms. If you feel like your going to pass out, you should not be working in a warehouse. It can be a workout environment, depending on where you are placed. However, you will be standing anytime your not on break, and that can sometimes get annoying.

Amazon provides amazing time-off flexibility through an employee portal. If I ever feel too tired to work, and I have time-off available, I can just go tell my manager, HEY IM LEAVING. He says ok (or don't leave, I need you!), and the ball is in your court.

Amazon provides benefits from day 1, not usually found in warehouses. They also provide "Variable Pay Compensation". Every month you get a BONUS ! Provided you did not have unscheduled time off, you will get extra money based on your hours. Peak times just doubles how much you receive. I barely worked in December, and my vcp for that month is just under $300. You don't need to do anything special, its always just added to your payout.

One employee can never tell the whole story (including me). Different buildings with different people in all of them.


What a sad story. I’ve been thinking about quitting amazon because of these people. However, it’s just so convenient that I find myself still ordering stuff there. Maybe, I should reconsider.


sometimes I order stuff from china and I get it in less than 1 week even if it feels like I don't even pay for shipping, why don't they make more warehouses overseas? (For example, I ordered a cheap webcam on Aliexpress for $2.50 including shipping... I got it in about 5 days)


He doesn't have to work there. Why not leave?


He explains it in the last paragraph...

>I applied for the job through the jobcentre. I’ve thought about quitting, but I can’t leave of my own accord. If I did, I’d be sanctioned by the jobcentre and lose my entitlement for benefits and support for six months. I don’t have much choice but to carry on working there. Unless I can find a new job, I’m locked into place.


He needs to keep working there just until he finds something better. If his Amazon shift is the best he can find, I’m glad it’s available to him. With no job opportunity he would also lose his government benefits.

Amazon is providing a huge service to offer jobs with such a low entry requirement. The alternative is not a better job — as he says, there isn’t one or he would leave and take it in a millisecond. The options are Amazon job and government benefits or no job and no benefits.


He couldn’t get unemployment benefits if he chooses to leave a job, but if this job didn’t exist then he could, so it’s very misleading to suggest that if Amazon hadn’t provided this job he would have “no job and no benefits”.

(I do think that the unemployment benefits system is shitty here in the UK, I certainly wouldn’t enjoy having to rely on it, but that’s a separate topic.)


For single people its 73.10 under 24 its 57.9 and only lasts 6 months.

Also as statutory benefits are based on full years you could end up at retirement age not getting a full pension - this is the main reason why well paid people also sign on to make sure they don't miss out when older.


You can get NI credits if you are claiming benefits because you are unemployed or ill.


Yes that was my point you have to sign on to do that and spend 35hous a week on your job search and you have to have enough contributions which is a bummer if your employer goes bust owning NI contributions.


What an appalling reasoning.

You realize you could replace 'worker' with 'serf' and 'Amazon' with 'feudal lord' in that post and it would be a shining defence of feudalism?


Nonsense. The kid works 4 days a week for good pay for the jobs performed. He admits to banking 650 a month, with only 250 in non-work related expenses. He works three months, he can quit, and have enough cash on hand to support at least 6 months of job search... and then the dole will kick in.

The catch? He actually has to want to do it.

How is this like serfdom?


Finding a job with no university degree in Southend is not as easy for him as you may think.

More importantly, the job likely won't be much better than what he has.

The point isn't so much that the job sucks and that he can find something else. For me the article says something about the very nature of many 21st century jobs at 'innovative' 21st century tech companies.

I mean, the pay ain't that bad, it's quite similar to median daily wages in the US for example. The issue is that he's working with robots, doesn't talk to people or even his parents, is unable to keep up a social life, sleeps during his off-time and is basically miserable.

Now what do you think happens when he leaves that job? Someone else will take his place. Maybe at a marginally higher rate, if enough people are reluctant to take the job. But inherently, that's not a job we should be having in one of the richest countries on the planet. There's no issue with menial labour, but we surely must be able to design our work/life balance better than for people to lose interaction with other human beings, losing passion for their hobbies, sleeping their time on this earth away when they're not working like a robot.


There’s other job that this guy (and many others like him) are qualified for. I’d rather he shuffle boxes than just get UBI and contribute nothing.

Ideally he would shuffle boxes the mandatory minimum work hours required to keep his government benefits and spend an additional 40 hours a work studying & training for something better paying.

Career advancement isn’t going to be handed to you on a fucking silver platter. This guy has a good life and works is fairly safe and low stress conditions, is paid fairly, and isn’t trying terribly hard to become better. What else was I supposed to take away from the article?


>The issue is that he's working with robots, doesn't talk to people or even his parents, is unable to keep up a social life, sleeps during his off-time and is basically miserable.

hmmm why does this sound familiar.


A stunningly ignorant reply.


"Let them eat cake ?"


“Why doesn’t he learn to code?”


But he really doesn’t have to work there. He lives with his parents and doesn’t spend any of the money he earns anyway.


You all really need to learn to read the article before spewing your shite eveywhere, there is literally an entire paragraph dedicated to why.


I read the article, he’s claiming he’s stuck because he won’t get JSA if he leaves. But he has no outgoings, no costs or anything. He’s saving 1k every month! So he can quit anytime he likes, and do anything he wants


If he can't find a new job now, why would you think he's going to find one if he quits? The smart approach is to look for a new job while working at your current one. And he can't find one!

Otherwise, he'll end up spending those savings just living and looking for a job, and the government won't pay him any benefits because he quit of his own volition.

Now sure, he can learn a new trade in his free time, but the reality is that most people don't realize that's an option (they think they need to get a few years of college or something), can't learn anything useful, or they're too tired to do anything after a hard day at work.


Ok...so...he described what it's like to have a job. And...

I'm not understanding the point of this. It's too bad his job sucks and he's discovered working takes your free time and joy for life. I will take my tiny violin and play him some Fallout Boy and Greenday covers while he cries for me.




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