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[dupe] Amazon is paying to tweet nice things about warehouse working conditions (businessinsider.de)
131 points by kerng 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 79 comments



Previous discussion (same tweets, different news article):

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17831943


Yeah but all of a sudden this new title seems waaay more interesting considering the recent journalist describing his experience working as an Amazon Flex Driver. Just saying.


How is this different from "influencers" who are required to disclose when they are paid to advertise a product on social media?

Amazon should be subject to the same disclosure requirement, which would negate the value of the tweets, which may remove the need for their employees to be put into this position.

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2017/04/ftc-s...

> The FTC’s Endorsement Guides provide that if there is a “material connection” between an endorser and an advertiser – in other words, a connection that might affect the weight or credibility that consumers give the endorsement – that connection should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, unless it is already clear from the context of the communication. A material connection could be a business or family relationship, monetary payment, or the gift of a free product. Importantly, the Endorsement Guides apply to both marketers and endorsers ... consumers viewing Instagram posts on mobile devices typically see only the first three lines of a longer post unless they click “more,” which many may not do. The staff’s letters informed recipients that when making endorsements on Instagram, they should disclose any material connection above the “more” button.


They have the words "Amazon FC Ambassador" in their title (shows with every post) and the Amazon logo in their image. That looks a lot like disclosure.


Is there an industry standard usage of that term that is recognizable by the average social media consumer? E.g. what does "FC" mean?

If it were obvious, this story and reaction would not exist.


Fulfillment center. But I think "Amazon Ambassador" makes it clear they are Amazon employees.


> If it were obvious, this story and reaction would not exist.

Yea, the press would never knowingly publish an inflammatory article without due cause.

How much more obvious can it get than "[Name of the Company] Ambassador"? Sure, "Amazon Shill" would have been more colloquial, but I think it is hard to make the argument that Amazon is hiding that they pay these people. As much as BI is trying to spin this as something they've "uncovered," I think the story is pretty straightforward. When BI asked Amazon about it, they immediately confirmed what was already obvious: that they pay these people.


>If it were obvious, this story and reaction would not exist.

You're right, the media would never try and drum up outrage based on spurious facts that can be debunked with 2 minutes of research.


As you can see from this thread, people are more than happy to get into an outrage about an article they havn't even read based on their preconceived notions.


Their account names begin with "Amazon", so it's pretty obvious, no?

@AmazonFCPhil

@AmazonFCShaye

@AmazonFCLeo


Counterpoint: Some people really like Xbox or have followers who like Xbox so they put Xbox in their twitter account name. It does not mean they work for Xbox. @AmazonFCPhil could be looking to connect with other people interested in Amazon. Names on twitter aren't enough to determine where someone works.


They also clearly say they work for Amazon in their titles and descriptions.


How does that solve the problem? It's Amazon employees tweeting good things about "warehouse working conditions".

That gives more legitimacy to their paid for BS for those reading it, not less.

("If the very people who work at Amazon say it's good working conditions, then it must be good")


They post facts about working conditions. Quoting someone else:

"Tweet: Hello! Amazon does pay their employees minimum wage - any less would be illegal One thing that often gets overlooked are the employee benefits that Amazon provides for all employees - Health insurance, 401K, career/financial counseling.

Amazon pays minimum wage is a factual statement. Minimum wage is not a good wage for the job but its still factual. You either offer them health insurance, 401K, counseling or you dont. I would say that's also a factual statement. Whether or not you agree with it is your decision but actually having transparent facts is refreshing these days."


"Transparent facts" from the "ambassadors"? If only.

They can speak of "employee benefits that Amazon provides for all employees" because "all employees" only includes a tiny part of their warehouse workers -- those that are actually employees.

The rest?

"Technically, Amazon does not hire the workers in its warehouses. Instead, temporary staffing agencies with names like Integrity Staffing Solutions handle the process of interviewing and hiring workers in Amazon's distribution centers. This is a method by which Amazon insulates itself from issues involving unemployment insurance and worker compensation; officially, the temps don't work for Amazon, they work for the temp agency."

Among tons of other hellish practices (like micro-measuring their position with GPS trackers, forbidding bathroom breaks, arbitrary raised quotas, demerit points for discipline, and so on...


Should that be interpreted as Amazon customer service, public relations, marketing, management, warehouse workers, warehouse marketing, warehouse public relations, warehouse management or another department?


Their job titles are on the Twitter accounts and it's "Amazon FC Ambassador". They have the Amazon logo as their profile picture, and their names start with @Amazon. I think we are above and beyond "interpretation" at this point.


Amazon FC Ambassador means nothing. Most of those glancing at the tweets wont pay attention to the title, just see an overall good message. Many wont know that FC means, or what's an Ambassador in this context (e.g. it could even be like some "employee of the month" thing for fulfillment centers.

How about, "Amazon PR executive" or "Amazon shill"? That would make it obvious.


Don't be daft. It would take you all of 10 seconds to find out FC is an extremely common acronym for fulfillment center. If you are glancing at tweets and miss the 3 different ways they are advertising that they are Amazon employees I'd call that a "you" problem.

Demand transparency, receive it, and demand bias. Really adult way to view the world.


>Don't be daft. It would take you all of 10 seconds to find out FC is an extremely common acronym for fulfillment center.

This is not just an accident caused by people who have a "problem" of paying attention to those signals (that show where the tweets come from), but exactly as Amazon intended it. They wouldn't bothered to write those is they didn't think they'd have an effect on people -- and effect which is designed to work whether you glance or not.

Plus, all of this is beside the point. Whether people see what exactly this is or not, grinding your workers in all kinds of hellish ways, and then having PR "ambassadors" write feel good tweets about their condition, is not just dishonest, but a moral failure.

This might be acceptable in this world, but I don't want to be part of such a world, and will never consider it acceptable myself.


That would be just emotional marketing in the other direction (the one you want). Not any more obviously correct.


Of course more obviously correct, since their warehouses are shitholes for employees -- do some research.

It would also be much more accurate as to the reason the Amazon employee writes something positive about the conditions there. Not because they work there, or because they actually believe it is so.


What are the penalties for violating this?

I feel like this is something that doesn't get taken seriously, as I see it violated a lot by companies of all sizes using influencers as a marketing/product awareness strategy. Especially with things like sponsored blog posts, Tweets, and Youtube reviews.


Hi Walterbell, I want to contact you regarding an old thread here in HN, would you mind reaching out ? https://twitter.com/drcursor


If you post a link here to the old thread, we can discuss there.


>How is this different from "influencers" who are required to disclose when they are paid to advertise a product on social media?

It's not, except a social media influencer is not a multi billion dollar company exploiting it workers, they just advertise crap to people.

That said, both practices should be banned.


the header image is the amazon logo, in amazon colors. the name is Amazon<foo>

I think it passes the clear and conspicuous test.


This honestly seems like a pretty wholesome form of marketing to me.

Have customer service reps clearly label themselves as such (All of these guys have "Amazon FC Ambassador" in their name, username, and profile, it's not hidden.)

Have reps look for false statements about Amazon.

Reps correct false statement with facts.

It's literally adding truth and facts to the world in a transparent way.


It's good they're transparent, but are you arguing that whatever the reps say is inherently truthful because Amazon is transparent about their role?

I don't consider paid statements to be a good indicator of anything except that Amazon is trying out different PR tactics.


I'm saying everything they're saying appears to be factual, and also that they are transparent.


What gives their statements the appearance of fact? Do you think press releases are factual because you know a PR agency was paid to write them?


Not OP, but to answer you myself from the article:

Tweet: Hello! Amazon does pay their employees minimum wage - any less would be illegal One thing that often gets overlooked are the employee benefits that Amazon provides for all employees - Health insurance, 401K, career/financial counseling.

Amazon pays minimum wage is a factual statement. Minimum wage is not a good wage for the job but its still factual. You either offer them health insurance, 401K, counseling or you dont. I would say that's also a factual statement. Whether or not you agree with it is your decision but actually having transparent facts is refreshing these days.


This is how all marketing works, though? You create a message that focuses on certain facts (proof points) that paint you in the best possible light (although, I'm not sure how much credit I should give Amazon for not breaking the law and paying minimum wage...)

I'm still not seeing why Amazon should be commended for what they're doing here, it's just form of social media marketing.


This is how all communication works. If they didn't do this, falsehoods would stand uncorrected, which is how online lynch mobs are sustained.


That is such an over-generalization that I don't know where to begin... no, not all communication is in the mold of paid PR.

And, paid PR is not how you correct falsehoods. How about independent research? For example, if Amazon actually was interested in transparency, they could let a 3rd party survey a representative sample of warehouse workers and make public the results. That would be true transparency.


In the article there is an example of a tweet talking about great working conditions. Which is not factual.


Good thing "great" is subjective.


Source?


Undercover reporting and a survey of 241 workers: https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/whats-it-really-like-wo...

It's not the most comprehensive data, but I would put more stock in this than in paid tweets from employees.

If they really wanted to address the issue in a transparent way, why not conduct some independent research and release results to the public? E.g. an anonymous survey of a representative sample of warehouse workers.


I mean, that's a survey of one warehouse. I'm not sure if there's enough information to conclude that all Amazon warehouses have terrible working conditions.


That's why I said it's not the most comprehensive. However, there have been multiple investigative reports. Enough to make it a pattern. And again, nearly anything is a better source of truth than tweets by employees paid to tweet positive things, which was my original point.


Your original point was that the claim that "Amazon working conditions are great" is not factual, i.e. your original point was "Amazon working conditions are not great". I don't see any mention that "paid tweets from employees are not the best source of truth" in your original comment.

I agree that we should take paid tweets by employees with a large grain of salt, but I also want to point out that you likewise have essentially 0 evidence that they're not telling the truth, apart from random surveys and a few investigative reports, most of which are about warehouses halfway around the world.

I think it's import to remember that, like Amazon, journalists also like to appeal to a certain narrative (how often do they report about the amount of Good Amazon has done for the world?).

A pattern of a few (potentially based) data points is hardly a pattern.



One bit of transparency sorely missing is that these people are employed full time by Amazon's marketing division - they are not current FC employees. They are only expected to have some FC experience in their background.

A lot of folks who have worked for Amazon have FC background; even I could qualify since I helped with some Christmas rush packing back in the mid 00's (I worked at an attached call center).


I don't think that's the case. I work at Amazon currently, so I can see employee profiles. One of the Twitter accounts with a unique first name is the only person with that first name in the company, and she works at the FC in Florida, as her profile says. Her title is normal for an FC associate as well.


I'm with you. If they were doing the same thing but without the labeling, it'd be much creepier in practice but much harder to notice. This is definitely better.


> It's literally adding truth and facts to the world in a transparent way.

It's literally not.

How can you call opinions about working conditions "facts"?

Even some of the objective information they post is misleading according to the article, specifically the "we pay 30% more" bit.


Isn't the fact that Amazon is going to these lengths to control the narrative suggestive that even they themselves consider this issue to be a sufficiently serious problem such that an investigation by a regulatory body (e.g. Department of Labor) would actually find something. I think the appropriate saying would be "where there is smoke, there is fire"?


Amazon has a "we don't like to overpay" attitude about everything that makes it hard for them to increase wages in their fulfillment centers.

They want even their white collar employees to have blue collar mindsets in terms of work ethic and cutting costs to benefit customers. If they could magically increase the wages of the FC employees and have no adverse consequences other than a slightly smaller profit margin, they might consider it, as it would be great PR for them. The problem would be that it would encourage employees to complain about working too hard and how they "deserve" to be paid more. The risk of employees trying to unionize might even go up.

Amazon cares a lot more about customers than employees, and the truth is most customers don't really care about where their products came from. When people go to a restaurant, they don't ask how much the line looks or dishwashers get paid, they just want good food.


I think most people that go into a restaurant assume that just as they were not coerced into buying a meal, the employees chose to work there from their available employment options.


Amazon has the reputation of being terrible to work for, even as a software engineer. "It pays well, but work is hell" is the sentiment I get after interviewing developers from Amazon.

At this point I don't know what they can do with the reputation. Just roll with it and accept it.


It's weird that the person who originally found the accounts thought they were bots - how advanced do people think chatbots are?


You might be surprised at what the state of the art is in very limited fields like this. They wouldn't be able to engage in back-and-forth, but seeing a tweet that says "@amazon just pay your workers more", a bot can churn out a response of "Did you know that Amazon pays warehouse workers 30% more than other retailers?" pretty easily. One human just writes 1,000 responses and maps them to various keywords. Scan for those keywords and pick a response that fits the keywords best and boom, done. Completely automated.


Using keywords isn’t accurate enough; you’d use a classifier for this.


Some folks use "bot" as a synonym for "sockpuppet". I wouldn't read into it too much


Just another reason not to ever work for Amazon...


Judging by the comments in this thread I think people just want to be angry at Amazon. I don't think I would want to work for an Amazon fulfillment center but most of these tweets are just facts. If you don't think these facts are correct you should debate them and find sources to back up the claims. Amazon wouldn't have employees do this if they weren't confident with the information they were providing. I don't think it excuses the working conditions but I think its good to see actual facts instead of biased information that is full of shady wording.


Used to buy lots of things from Amazon. About couple of years ago, shifted to buying things from Costco and it's been a great experience. Everything I get is authentic, they only sell the best products and heard they treat their employees nicely. I stopped doing hours of review research to find out if the products are legit and if reviews were not fabricated.


Wow this is a tremendously bad look.


Yes, it's horrible that employees of Amazon, with their titles, the Amazon log and @Amazon as their usernames are trying to hide the fact that their Amazon employees.

5 minutes of research would tell you this isn't a bad look at all. It's public and transparent PR.


The part that looks bad is not the approach to disclosure. It's the part where Amazon is responding to well-sourced reports of inadequate working conditions by coercing counter-anecdata from other staff, rather than denying or refuting the reports.


Perhaps its time to refute these tweets with those sources then? Have a debate with them instead of just accepting one side of the equation.


You expect people to "have a debate" with a paid representative barging into their conversations? One whose paycheck depends on sticking to Amazon's side of the issues?

http://wondermark.com/1k62/


Seems they are taking a similar approach as they do for negative reviews.


The really bad look is that they are willing to pay money to sling "PR" but aren't willing to spend that money on even cheaper measures that could actually help the root problem like plopping down more watercoolers, fans and vents in the walls, or even dividing it into more breaks. That says "We are doing wrong, know it and not only don't care but we actively prefer it that way."


Is this not illegal?


Well, they didn't really try to hide it.

The Twitter accounts have a standardised format, all bearing the Amazon smile logo as their background ... identical structures to their bios and the title "FC Ambassador" in their name, followed by a cardboard box emoji.


You think it's illegal for companies to transparently respond to customers and critics online?


I believe it is not illegal if they're not withholding who they are or their motivations.


It should be


How is this any different from paid reviews.


My comment stands, "it should be" ... a paid review is tainted from jump street. At a very minimum, disclosure should be mandated (is this already the case?)


It is disclosed. They have their titles (Amazon FC Ambassador) the Amazon box logo and their names are all @Amazon*. It's completely transparent, which you'd know had you read the article rather than the title.

Don't mean to sound harsh, but the amount of comments on here from people that CLEARLY didn't read any of the article is astounding.


whether disclosure should be mandated, or already is mandated, these accounts were not hiding the fact that they were amazon representatives. disclosure was done.

so what exactly should be illegal? Companies interacting with people on social media? PR in general?


Ok, I just stopped trusting Amazon reviews.


You could just ignore reviews posted by people named Amazon Ambassador Pete, like these are clearly labeled.


Isn't use of propaganda illegal in marketing pretty much anywhere in the world?

I guess being that big means it's all about power, rules don't apply to you anymore.


Advertising is propaganda, almost by definition.


There are no rules preventing them from doing this. I've seen far more (still legal) egregious astroturfing, like corporations funneling money into shell companies with vague names that campaign against soda tax etc.




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