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Two Portland delivery companies revolt against Amazon, shut down (vice.com)
331 points by watchdogtimer 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 301 comments



> "The companies were losing money and employees trying to satisfy Amazon and their constant abusive changes,” Tom Rask, an attorney for Last Mile and Triton, told Motherboard. "You have to hire numerous drivers who may or may not be working. One day Amazon dictates that you have thirty routes, the next day forty, then the day after twenty. You’re supposed to have enough drivers for back-up while Amazon is lowering pay. Amazon’s actions are unlawful."

Sounds miserable. Id shut down too if I was losing money with only 1 client.

If this were freelancing it’d be like having to be always available for one client 40 hrs a week, but not knowing if you’ll get to bill 5 hrs or 50… while your rates constantly decrease. There’s no point in having this business


Freelancing just sounds awful for this reason. Yeah some ppl can make a lot but still seems like an awful way to make money if you are an american. Consulting is somewhat different


Freelancing is great if you've built up a network of professional contacts who appreciate your work and will both contract you and recommend you to their network when someone is looking for work done. You typically get paid a far higher hourly rate than if you are working full-time - my contract day rate amounts to nearly double my full-time day rate.

And presuming you keep delivering, impressing people, and gaining more skill and experience, it just goes up and up and up.

Like anything else, it is much harder if you are on the bottom rung.


Your double hourly rate for contracting might be gross, and after taxes (covering both sides of FICA), health insurance, and other employer-provided benefits, the net delta could be smaller.


In any business to business contract, don't be afraid to negotiate aggressive payment terms. I learned that the hard way with my first client being net-15. The higher the payment takes the settle, the more trade credit you are offering your client, increasing their PAYDEX score while messing with your cash flow. Ask for at least half up front.


Or hire a factoring company to take the risk out of it for you. Some banks provide this service. Sure, they take a percentage, but for a one man band, it's often worth the pace of mind to offload this work to a professional.


It's like any other business - you don't want to put all your eggs in one basket - either with suppliers, clients/customers, or employees. Optimally a freelancer will not be stuck with one client.


The hourly rate is greater for a reason.


Yes you work on sales to get the contract. Then often you must continue the sale to use the hours. Some people thrive on this. But it can be exhausting.


A lot of freelancers are just people doing one year contracts. In that context, that isn't too bad as engineers are constantly moving anyway.


That sounds pretty sweet compared to the zero-hours contracts in the UK [0] - no obligation to provide any work at all to the employee, hence 'zero-hours'.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-hour_contract


This is basically how shift work in hospitality and service jobs works, and it's terrible.

Some people claim it's done intentionally to prevent workers from working other jobs where they might get tired or escape the first job.


Well, part of it might be intentional.

The other part might be just the organic result of shoving the complications of varying hourly load and varying worker availability week-to-week onto those willing or desperate to work extra hours.

Schedules get jumbled, work hours get fragmented like a garbage collector's memory management without a compaction step.


>The other part might be just the organic result of shoving the complications of varying hourly load and varying worker availability week-to-week onto those willing or desperate to work extra hours.

Much of the "middle" (or upper middle, however you want to label it) class's luxuries are based on goods and services being cheap enough due to the people at the bottom not having a choice but to deal with unsteady income and changing schedules.

I am actually enjoying stores and restaurants closing early because they do not have enough employees, or prices going up so that people cannot constantly afford to eat out. It means there are people that can finally be home with family at dinner time, or if they are working, they are earning a premium for evenings, nights, weekends, etc and perhaps they themselves will be able to enjoy those services.


If you're building your business around 1 client who isn't the government, I would humbly argue you're doing it wrong.


It sounds like Amazon strong arms these companies into ONLY serving them.

FTA: "The incident is notable as it appears to be the first public example in the United States of Amazon delivery service partners, small businesses that deliver packages exclusively for Amazon"

This is the program for Amazon Delivery Service Partners https://logistics.amazon.com/

Seems to me it's basically Amazon Flex but for people with capitol who want to be able to get up and started with their "own business." But when you join you can't contract for anyone else.


> It sounds like Amazon strong arms these companies into ONLY serving them.

I don't really understand this. Amazon can't "strong arm" you unless you let them. If Amazon "requires" you to dump your other clients, you can also "require" that such a clause means they must offer compensating guarantees and more money.

Sheesh.

Don't start a business where the business plan is to have only one customer, or at least if you do, don't complain when they realize they have you over a barrel.


>Don't start a business where the business plan is to have only one customer, or at least if you do, don't complain when they realize they have you over a barrel.

This is great advice, such good advice that it should be given over and over.

Unfortunately, there is someone out there who hasn't heard it yet. Amazon will just shop and shop until they find that person.


It's a rookie mistake. I signed a couple bad contracts before I learned that lesson.


I like to think of this as the "un-lucky 10,000"[x]

[x] - https://xkcd.com/1053/


My impression is that these businesses are started specifically to work for Amazon.


I wouldn't start such a business without an ironclad contract with Amazon (or anyone else, for that matter). Not a chance.


That's exactly it. You get sold on "You get a slice of the amazing growth of Amazon", but are buying into the fact Amazon can cut you out at any time, for any reason, and you have no recourse.


> the fact Amazon can cut you out at any time, for any reason

That's why you READ THE CONTRACT before signing it, because they can't do that unless it is in the contract. It's the whole point of a contract.

Now, if you don't like the terms in the contract, negotiate. Yes, you can negotiate. Yes, you are entitled to negotiate. Yes, you are a sucker if you accept the other party's opening default contract.


Or perhaps "don't get into a contractual relationship with someone much more powerful than you.

But that's exactly the point of the system Amazon set up. They don't want to deal with UPS/USPS/etc.


I once had a contract with a very large and powerful corporation. They violated the terms. They laughed at me. I sued them and won.

Contracts work, they're a great leveler.

P.S. The breach was so bad, my lawyer took the case on contingency.


I'm curious: did they violate their contract terms, or did they violate terms that you negotiated onto them.


The latter.


Having negotiated thousands of contracts in my career, and litigated several dozen times when things didn't work out, I hope cruel experience never dulls your enthusiasm for how contracts should work, as opposed to how it all does work in practice.


It's even worse than that, Amazon will razzle-dazzle you with that "amazing growth" potential, but they likely don't highlight the fact that you are entering into a monopsony franchise. Except it isn't at all like FedEx, where the franchise is the route--for Amazon, they get to decide arbitrarily what, where, when, and how you deliver to whom, all while dictating your employee's pay and everything about your equipment.

How is anybody supposed to craft a business plan when Amazon can't guarantee what sort of business you're gonna do, and also change it for whatever reason they like?

I am altering the deal... pray I do not alter it further [MANIACAL LAUGHTER emanates from THE FLYING FOX]


I've heard of this happening with small companies. They have a product, are slowly growing their business then someone big like costco wants to order a LOT of the product for sale everywhere.

It's risky to ramp up the business when the one customer may (and will probably) stop ordering abruptly.

also, why don't consumers spread their amazon purchases evenly throughout the week? :)


> their constant abusive changes

What does their contract with Amazon say? Who would sign a contract that permits "constant abusive changes"?


Don't know what it says, but I know people who've signed contracts expecting the usual behaviour. I know a contract that promised action based on change requests within x business days, oops, the new customer sent 2000 change requests in a few months, more than the total of all older customers had sent in in years. Surprise!

You may have heard the story about the Colo/ISP that signed up a large new customer (you know the name) with 95th percentile pricing for IP traffic and unlimited power to the cage? The ISP signed a contract that said 95th percentile pricing and expected the usual usage curve, the customer made sure the curve was a very different one. And used (much)_more power in the cage than the ISP had ever seen, too.


> expecting the usual behaviour

Common advice is "put the expectations in the contract". For a significant sized ISP, this shouldn't have been the first dance they were invited to.

For example, when I bought an Adjustable Rate Mortgage, I made sure the contract stipulated when the rates would be adjusted, and what formula would be used to adjust them. Not "whenever the bank wanted to change them, and to whatever rate they wanted to."


Common advice is, yes... but I know specific examples of a very large ISP that missed something like that, and a middling-sized company, and my ex charlady. Errare humanum est, I suppose.


This is more or less how it should be. If Amazon isn't going to offer a good enough deal, then companies shouldn't move packages for them. As more and more people figure it out, other delivery companies will stop working with Amazon as well, although it may be that the deals work out better in places with lower cost-of-living, easier delivery routes (due to climate, geography, etc.), or other advantages.

If some other delivery company can figure out how to make it work economically, then they can do the work instead.

If nobody is interested in trying to make it work, Amazon will have to either improve the deal it offers or go back to using FedEx/UPS/USPS.


> This is more or less how it should be. If Amazon isn't going to offer a good enough deal, then companies shouldn't move packages for them.

Not really. These companies are basically committing suicide, because Amazon is in such a dominant position. The way is should be is that they could have put pressure on Amazon much earlier, instead of being forced into such extreme action.

Nothing will change. Amazon will just shift to exploiting a different group of suckers through Amazon Flex, or go back to UPS for awhile until the lessons learned from this dissipate. It's not like there's a club of past & future delivery company operators that meets regularly, to keep the knowledge of how bad it is to work with Amazon alive. As the saying goes: "a sucker is born every minute."


> It’s not like there’s a club of past & future delivery company operators that meets regularly

Why not?

“National Delivery Drivers Union” sounds pretty good to me for a name.

If you want to negotiate with leverage against Amazon, you need to actually have the leverage.

Why is collective bargaining so weak in this industry?


> Why is collective bargaining so weak in this industry?

I think because small companies, not workers are the actors here. If the companies themselves got together, it might be interpreted as some kind of illegal cartel. However, it's kind of interesting to consider the idea of a union of small companies (that's permitted only because they're too week vis-a-vis their customers/vendors that they can be explioted, akin to most employee/employer relationships).

Also, if you quit the business, why would keep participating in an organization that has no more relevance to you?


Cartels are illegal, but industry associations are not. It's a fine line, but it can certainly be walked.


Unions are legal too.

No workers, no delivery company.


What can an "industry association" do to pressure amazon?


Lobby to change the laws Amazon uses to exploit labor in this manner. Laws are mutable!


> National Delivery Drivers Union

Actually, they're called the teamsters and they've been around since the 1800's.


The Teamsters represent employees, individuals that is. Not small companies.


Amazon fronts the startup afiak and controls who gets to start the business. Unionizing this is a tough nut, what you are witnessing is not a usual labor protest--this is a Management protest.

The Independent operators are shuttering in protest rather than keep suckling.


If a company pays your startup costs, they are your only "client", they control how much your staff get paid, when they work, and where they work you do not own a business you are an employee with extra steps. Steps that only benefit Amazon.


I guess you're right. Nice "flywheel", huh?


Presumably for the same reasons that collective bargaining is broken in most US industries; lack of trust between employees, unions, companies, government together with the pervasive belief that only individual success matters.

Briefly: lack of solidarity.


American exceptionalism is a helluva drug.


Interesting - it could almost be like the National Association of Realtors. Perhaps similar to the National Association developed MLS and the backend APIs for Redfin and Zillow to access, a National Delivery Drivers Association could develop some sort of backend/API for facilitating delivery driver transactions for its members.


NAR and the regional MLSes are different organizations.


“National Delivery Drivers Union” sounds pretty good to me for a name.

This already exists. It's called The Teamsters, and was formed over a hundred years ago by people fighting many of the same problems that modern "gig" delivery drivers face today. But because companies like Amazon and Uber pretend they're strictly technology companies, people don't put the two ideas together.

(A "teamster" is someone who drives a team of horses. Think "stagecoaches" and "goods wagons.")


I have direct experience interacting with the Amazon delivery partner fleet operations. I don't disagree, I would like to add a few details to the discussion.

There's one important nuance missing in all this and that is that the Fleet contractors, those who own and operate the ProMaster and MB step-vans, they are "independent operators" who are sole suppliers, totally beholden to Amazon. I suspect it is extremely limited to what extent they can leverage any power against amazon, aside from of course striking the means of production, likely forfeiting their work.

The arrangement makes these events, to my mind, look like a much bigger sacrifice than it would in a normal market. I mean, just like you said, they up and closed shop rather than keep milking this cow! Maybe it's a bit sour.

From what I can gather, the fleets are assigned routes and duties, and are prohibited from using their capital (The blue Amazon fleet vans) for other business prospects, obviously. This makes sense because it says AMAZON on the Van, and the Drivers wear Amazon uniforms. But these are ostensibly independent small businesses.

Amazon, I believe, does front the capital expenditure for the vehicle acquisition, and they also require the maintenance to be accomplished on schedule or they levy a fine. The Operators take all the busines and insurance and training and health risks, and I'll bet there is no stipend for "PTSD from 5 more unreportable near miss accidents today." I worry that there is nobody with this kind of fleet logistics experience overseeing these operations.

When Amazon decides to re-organize routes, the truck operators may find they are operating at a now reduced revenue stream, with no alternative but to acquiesce. Their fixed expenditures don't change too much, and while they still need to maintain the fleet and make choices about that, their payroll, etc with the added uncertainty of whether or not Amazon is gonna throw them a bone, I have witness that they are cutting corners.

They can't liquidate the vehicles, because they are now drastically devalued from normal depreciation, Amazon branded (probably bonded somehow) and these things are pretty banged up. Also, I digress--the ProMasters kind of suck, but they do seem to keep cranking for now.

It may be that perhaps those operators who cannot adjust to the required efficiency in operations should go under, forfeiting their start-up capital, but Amazon deigns the start-up worthy or not, and bequeaths the start up cash to these guys and gals. Amazon can leverage their incredible reputation, stock value, and cold-hard liquid cash to get the best deal on credit in a market where the interest rate is Zero. I don't know what the operators pay--but becha it ain't zero.

I feel uncommonly conflicted about this arrangement.


To me it looks like Amazon is running these businesses without the risk or accountability that comes from that. It’s just another shell game to evade regulation akin to Microsoft’s permanent contractors or gig economy workers


That's essentially it. They outsource the loss of delivering packages and make the company pay for it on top of it.

I remember when this program came out and it was an exceedingly bad deal on the surface. I was surprised to see anyone buy into it.


> I remember when this program came out and it was an exceedingly bad deal on the surface. I was surprised to see anyone buy into it.

I have no actual firsthand knowledge about this program, but I wonder if part of it was an appeal to (for lack of a better term) some people's ignorant individualist optimism (e.g. the idea that other people will fail because they're slackers, but they can succeed because they're smarter, can work harder, etc.).


I was thinking about this more. If Amazon would shift from "Own your own business by running our delivery service for us!" to "Contract with amazon and provide fleet management services to our dynamic orthogonal growth paradigm with geometric returns!" this could be much more fairly and safely organized.

Amazon could do whatever corporation thing they have to do to spin up a new business unit (to avoid this is probably why they are doing it in this honestly scam-ey way...but hey) and take on the payroll, benefits, training, compliance and overall insurance risk. Then, they can organize these "Logistics Companies" into something that looks more like a property management firm.

1) They need to create a national fleet account to charge and manage the vehicles services

2) They need to run the payroll and sign the check for their driver employees and warehouse logistics people

3) Create a property management agreement and designate a sort of foreman for the warehouse distribution operations. The existing Amazon delivery partners are well positioned to do this.

4) Make clear the relationship and own the vehicles. If they do not want to own the vehicles, they can make the "Logistics Companies" be like an Enterprise or Hertz self-branded fleet company.

5) Engage in a dispatch and planning program, and surely delegate this role from Amazon to the local logistics outfit.

This will afford a lot of flexibility and take the burden off of Amazon of managing the dynamic local environments that they clearly don't want to touch.

The fact that they don't do this leads me to believe that they really just want a bag man to take the blame when some old lady take an Amazon smile to the side of her walker and splatters on the pavement.

Sorry for the grim ending. I really, really worry that the captain of the ship is some kind of overheating GPU in us-west.amazon.com or something worse, like an Iridium-connected Alexa skill in the ceiling fan of the ship head on "The Flying Fox".


> they are "independent operators" who are sole suppliers, totally beholden to Amazon.

I guess this is one way to get around regulation of Uber-style independent contractor regulations. I have no idea why someone would start a company this small doing a commodity service with Amazon as your only customer, especially considering Amazon's reputation.


Businesses can die. They aren't people.

People can find other work.

If suckers are happy, they aren't suckers. Of they aren't happy, they should refuse the job.

Amazon can pay for what they need or shut down.


The thing that will change is that companies considering this kind of work will become aware of the risks. Through articles like this.

The answer may simply be spreading the word.


I suspect Amazon delivery will turn into Tyson and its chicken growers. Just keep selling the business to a new group of people who cannot leave because of their substantial investment in equipment.


Perhaps somewhat similar to Uber and Lyft, their business model may be relying on a continuous supply of innocents.


And forcing them to upgrade their equipment unnecessarily in order to keep them in debt.


At least they haven't turned into Subway yet: all Amazon delivery partners must purchase Amazon gasoline.


As far as I know, Uber hasn't done this which tells me that the logistics of it are horrible.


Or maybe the same shady plutocrats that control Uber have all the gas stations, so it doesn't even matter.


I struggle to grasp how this kind of libertarian vision of the world can possibly be maintained by anyone who actually observes how the world works.

No, markets don't self-regulate. Companies won't stop working with Amazon across the board, and those that do will be replaced by companies willing to work for less, because they're full of people willing to work for less.

We know that's how this works. We know that people and organizations alike (since they're run by people) under this system don't have libertarian principles, let alone the will power to stand up for them.

Most people do not, in fact, feel the sense of righteous indignation needed to make such decisions, nor the ability to freely disassociate from sources of income, because they'll quite literally end up out in the street if they do, so they go along with anything, and rightly so, because survival comes first.

The only force that has the ability to stop powerful corporations from exploiting people in this way (hiring those willing to work under terrible conditions, for terrible pay, etc.) is the state, with its monopoly on violence, by quite literally threatening the executives of the corporations with death or prison time for not complying.

But the same libertarian-minded people who think the market self-regulates also stand against using state power to control the corporations by force.

So here we are. The Profit Motive destroying everything, and a fervent group of people fortunate enough to have the wealth to make independent decisions to disassociate with parties that provide their income lecturing those who don't have that luxury about how they too should make such decisions.


> markets don't self-regulate

The linked article is an example of the market self-regulating.


>The linked article is an example of the market self-regulating.

This is incorrect. Amazon controls the market, as the indie contractors are created out of Amazon's pockets, and Amazon solely determines the operational practices, business demand and contractual rules.

If you, by "Free Market Self-Regulation", mean "Monopsony Risk-Arbitrage by a Multinational Giant" well, now I'm on board.


> The linked article is an example of the market self-regulating.

Unemployed workers starving to death with their families due to lack of income would also be an example of the market self-regulating.

The market self-regulates, but it often self-regulates to optimize the wrong thing. The people who celebrate that self-regulation usually leave that qualification out, or just deny it completely.


In this case it self regulated because the market rate for drivers was too high.

The drivers are evidently employed in some way that makes their market rate that high.


> In this case it self regulated because the market rate for drivers was too high.

It what way has it self regulated? Amazon could setup a new set of captive small businesses to exploit and nothing will change. It's not like they were actually dependent on these people in any way. It seems like they're running a model that's at least partially about exploiting their vendors' hope and ignorance, and there's a sucker born every minute.


But the small business cannot hire, so even if they do find a couple more suckers, it won't matter as they will immediately be losing money on a per unit of delivery basis.


Small businesses being forced to decide between shutting down and operating unsafely with some minimal hope of profitability is indeed a perfect and inspiring example of how "markets self-regulate."


That's how all businesses operate. If you can't make it, you shut down. If you open unprofitable barber shop you will have to shut down too. But I guess it's hard to be upset at people for not wanting your hair cut.

If you start a business with Amazon it's probably a good idea to google other companies experiences.


I would like this to work, but I think Amazon won't really care.

They're big enough to work around the problem. Take advantage of that a bunch of drivers are suddenly without work, find another company willing to work with them, and soon enough things are back to the way they were at the start.


The parent commenter here (HighInquisitor) has employed an impressive number of techniques from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27595043 - an article detailing propaganda techniques.

Examples:

> No, markets don't self-regulate

Black-and-white fallacy, with a mix of Artificial Dichotomy

> I struggle to grasp how this kind of libertarian vision of the world can possibly be maintained

Appeal to fear, with parts of Ad Hominem (libertarian used in a derogatory sense)

> Most people do not, in fact, feel the sense of righteous indignation needed to make such decisions

Bandawagon

> But the same libertarian-minded people who think the market self-regulates

Ad hominem and Appeal to prejudice

tldr; troll is trolling


Good points. But, with Amazon taking the lion’s share of online sales, how much of delivery is left outside of Amazon?

I am not advocating for Amazon, just wondering if this move is sustainable for the employees while Amazon gets (theoretically) strong armed.


What is online sales worth when products can't be delivered?

It takes some time, but things will balance. If Amazon is not able to get the product to the consumers, the consumer will leave for the competition that is a bit more expensive, but can.


I've thought along those lines as well. I don't know if this helps clarify, but I did learn, for example, FedEx is actually quite strong without Amazon: "Last year [2018], Amazon accounted for 1.3 percent of FedEx’s total revenue." https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/07/business/fedex-amazon-shi...


Amazon always shunned FedEx (used them as an option of last resort) because, unlike UPS, they refused to make changes that would be short-term beneficial but make their future outlook dependent on the whims of their biggest client.


If they "sell" 20,000 cheap knockoffs smartphones, but no one ships them, did they really sell them?

Shipping is crucial to Amazon's business model. The last mile problem is the vulnerable jugular of the e-commerce industry


>Shipping is crucial to Amazon's business model. The last mile problem is the vulnerable jugular of the e-commerce industry

This is also why dock-workers unions have historically been very powerful.

https://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/etd/ucb/text/FoxHodes...


Do you have the money still?


Legally yes. Amazon isn't entitled to money for products they don't deliver.


Even if 1% of the customers fail to demand a refund, this is profitable


If Amazon sells something they know they can't deliver, if even 0.1% of affected customers start pressing for fraud charges this becomes very unprofitable


If Amazon's deal is bad and nobody else offers delivery work, companies will just leave the delivery business. Neither the equipment nor the skill set is highly specialized, so switching to something more profitable is comparatively easy.


If you have the skills and/or capital to do that, yes. I suspect a lot of delivery companies enter into this deal because it's a way to get up and running, and earning money, quickly, without a whole lot of capital or expertise. The downside of doing this is that your beholden to Amazon. The downside of not doing this is that you might not have a job.

I'm certainly not defending Amazon in any way, but trying to understand why so many people are in this position, and this seems like a reasonable explanation.

Unfortunately, I have no idea what the answer might be, except that no one is going to like it in the short term.


Or Amazon can just buy them and make it work.


They don't have to. Amazon has a sweetheart deal going on, there is no downside.

Amazon outsources the insurance, health, org, and most of the business risk to these sole supplier contractors. They can choke them to death and just say, "Welp, time to fund another one" until they get the results they want.

Only Amazon can determine which results are acceptable due to these arrangements.


That would make the drivers Amazon employees so they'd no longer be able to use the "it's not us, it's the delivery firms" defense.


Wow, I guess I never really paid attention to the details behind all the Amazon headlines I see.

"In April, Amazon announced it would reduce the amount it paid for drivers from $17.25 to $16.00 an hour, according to the letter...Weeks later, Amazon announced a series of raises for its drivers around the country as part of a public relations push following a union drive at an Amazon warehouse"

"Currently, Amazon delivery drivers are expected to deliver upwards of 400 packages a day on 10-hour routes that often extend up to 12 hours."

400 seems crazy, I wondered about UPS. According to Google "At UPS, the average driver makes about 120 deliveries per day, says Jack Levis, the shipping giant's director of process management"


A lot of corporate gains have been at a cost of squeezing on labor resources in some form or another, either time, lower comp, higher productivity, etc. or some combination of these elements. There has been some innovation in general technology making improvements for labor but a lot is really just doing more, for less, and someone else pocketing the gains. You need look no further than AWS treatment of SEs in their PIP culture to see this.

You can only squeeze people so far until they finally step away. The only reason it's being sustained is that people don't have alternative options in many cases and are esentially forced to do it. At some point people will find other options and leave you on your feet but as long as there's a steady stream of desperate people ready to be subjugated to ridiculous working conditions, this will continue.


> corporate gains

What about customers? They seem to be happy to ignore how the sausage is made, to have stuff delivered to their doorsteps cheap and fast.


Amazon used to deliver stuff cheap and fast, but that hasn't been true for a little while now. I haven't been happy with Amazon's delivery service for a handful of years (well before the pandemic). Not only do they offer poor delivery service (stuff like throwing packages into an empty lot near my house that I have no access to, saying a package was delivered when it wasn't, not following the delivery instructions, consistently delivering after the estimated window, etc.), their customer service does nothing about this and has outright lied to me on the few occasions I was lucky enough to get a live person on the phone.

It's made me deprioritize Amazon when it comes to my online shopping.


We're not "happy" customers, we see issues with Amazon and AWS, but we wouldn't be competitive from a price standpoint if we rolled out own infra, or hired people to do it.


This view--not that you hold it, but that it exists--frustrates the hell out of me.

"We don't like being a customer of the company that clubs baby seals but our customers would leave us if we didn't use the company that clubs baby seals so I guess we should pay up for some more clubs."

It's a pretty glaring example that "free markets" usually aren't, and often unrelated to government intervention. You have information, you have agency, and you have the thing that the other party wants (money), yet you don't feel free to move away from a supplier who you clearly view as unsuitable[0] because that supplier has gained a market position so dominant through exploiting others.

0 - If I am reading too much into your comment, I apologize and don't mean to put words into your mouth.


I may not like that my electric utility burns coal, but I like my lights to work more. You can’t sit around worrying about every single imperfection in the world and accomplish much of anything.


Not just that, the fact of the matter you and I don't have very much of an effect on these things. We can't choose how our energy is produced, and we don't use anywhere near as much energy as a company like Amazon. This is where government regulations must come into play.


> We can't choose how our energy is produced

Well, you can buy it from one of those 'green energy' companies... I dislike the marketing a lot (as though it isn't fungible and you are somehow getting different, greener electricity piped to you than your neighbour) but it does work in the sense that you can shift the needle by buying your (essentially just as not-green as if you paid (less to) anyone else) electricity from someone who has whatever commitment to fund green projects or buy the 'green wholesale' stuff or however it works.

(Not that I do that.)


It's not as doom and gloom as you think. I've worked a few companies that colocated at a datacenters, bought some refurbished hardware slapped Xen and Proxmox on it and grew their business to $50mil ARR. It's much much cheaper than you think and avoiding large AWS bills was the primary motivation for doing it.

The budget for one company I worked at's infra -- 4 full racks in two datacenters with power, network, and a dedicated site-to-site between them was $200k over five years plus $3k/mo ongoing costs. The upfront cost was tiny tiny -- they started with a router, two switches and 4 used supermicro blades. That lasted them the first 4 years of their startup. It took two FTEs to manage the full infra and provide a PaaS style thing to the developers.


There are many more things to be competitive in other than price. Plenty of business thrive outside of the Amazon/AWS economy. If you can't find a way to change your behavior on the basis of your beliefs, then the value of that behavior is more important than your beliefs. That is nothing to be embarrassed about, but don't be delusional and think that you have no other choice.


> You need look no further than AWS treatment of SEs in their PIP culture to see this.

Curious if you or someone else can expound further on this?



I've never worked at Amazon, but I read that as Software Engineers are subjected to progress improvement plans as a way to legally threaten firings in order to make people work extensive hours.


Yes and hence like warehouse workers not taking bathroom breaks for fear of being "off-task" Amazon drivers cut corners too. I have seen them blowing through stop signs, and one of them after blowing through a stop sign, ripped a three point turn and came within one foot of my car before my beeping stopped them.

I called Amazon and they of course speak of them like they are some completely separate affiliate that has nothing to do with them. This is despite the fact they say Amazon and deliver only Amazon packages.


> I called Amazon and they of course speak of them like they are some completely separate affiliate that has nothing to do with them. This is despite the fact they say Amazon and deliver only Amazon packages.

That's entirely the point: create a policy to cover your ass, put some schmuck under so much pressure that he's forced to violate it, then blame the schmuck when there's pushback (and try to present yourself as the good guy in the process).


Aka the Wells Fargo Fuck Yourself model.


>> I called Amazon and they of course speak of them like they are some completely separate affiliate that has nothing to do with them.

This by design:

Amazon has repeatedly said in court that it is not responsible for the actions of its contractors, citing agreements that require them, as one puts it, to “defend, indemnify and hold harmless Amazon.” Just last week, an operations manager for Amazon testified in Chicago that it signs such agreements with all its “delivery service partners,” who assume the liability and the responsibility for legal costs. The agreements cover “all loss or damage to personal property or bodily harm including death.”

Amazon vigilantly enforces the terms of those agreements. In New Jersey, when a contractor’s insurer failed to pay Amazon’s legal bills in a suit brought by a physician injured in a crash, Amazon sued to force the insurer to pick up the tab. In California, the company sued contractors, telling courts that any damages arising from crashes there should be billed to the delivery companies.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/05/us/amazon-delivery-driver...

The whole article was pretty shocking to read. I rarely, if ever buy stuff on Amazon now that I know how they've attempted to wall themselves off from responsibility of what happens with these companies.


If you or I hire a company to ship a package, we are not generally responsible if the driver the shipper hires runs someone over. This same construct should apply at scale.


You're right in principle. This is definitely the case if I ask the company to deliver a package, for a price that they name (or negotiate), and I then hand over the package and money and let them do their thing.

The issue here is that Amazon is very strictly controlling the drivers, without (directly) employing them. By gig-economy voodoo they try to have it both ways.


It does apply at scale. If one company were to “hire [another] company to ship a package”, there would be no question that the delivery company would be liable if their driver did something negligent. If they meddled in the delivery company’s affairs, specified almost every aspect of their operations, entered into a sole-source agreement that forbids the delivery company from working for other customers, then that is an entirely different matter.


>This same construct should apply at scale.

Why? Is this just an assertion that there is no difference between big and small things, and that a single mistake is the same as building your business model on mistakes?


Yes but when does it end when someone is working exclusively for your company to your exact specifications. It would be as if I opened a restaurant and my cook was a totally separate subsidiary called "My Restaurant's Cook LLC". I am sorry your food was bad or they poisoned you. They are a completely unrelated sub entity that cooks food to my specifications with my uniform exclusively for me.

So please take up any complaints with your service with them and not our restaurant.


If you hire a contractor to perform work on your house, and during their contract they happen to burn down one neighbor's house and destroy the wall of a separate neighbor's house - you will not be liable for their actions.

If you think that Amazon should be liable for the actions of their contracted drivers, you would likewise be liable for burning down and destroying your neighbor's houses.


Not really, because I also think Amazon is illegally classifying these employees as contractors.

I don't tell the contractor working on my house what tools to use, and the contractor working on my house has other customers besides me.


The “homeowner” here is analogous to an outside investor in Amazon (like me) who has no operational role in the company. The entity who directs the the manner in which subcontractors work, like Amazon does with its delivery companies, is acting as the general contractor and will most surely be named in a lawsuit if anything they did or did not do plausibly contributed to the fire.


It's a bad analogy though because that contractor does not exclusively work for you using trucks and clothing branded with your name.

The Amazon delivery "contractors", though, do do all of the above.


That's a good point. Thank you.


They are basically delivery franchises in my understanding.


> 400 packages a day on 10-hour routes

40 packages per hour or 90s per package. No wonder the drivers pee in bottles and work unpaid overtime to keep their jobs.


And drive in ways that put the public at risk.

Even if you lack empathy about the situation of the drivers, the choices Amazon makes can impact you or someone you love and care about very quickly.


Very true. I used to commute through an area with many taxis and the amount of reckless driving and accidents I saw from them was ridiculous. I absolutely do not want a million more workers heavily incentivized to do the same.

It fits with the larger trend of corporations privitizing more profits at the expense of society as a whole.

I mean, sure, people are more likely to die in car accidents, but on the bright side Amazon can run more of their competitors out of business by driving down delivery costs! Great...


It’s another method of cost transfer. Rather than pay drivers better or in a way that allows them to slow down you incentivize them doing hints that put others at risk.

There’s a probability of an accident happening. And a probability of it causing a lawsuit and a probability of Amazon having to pay a settlement and a calculation of what that cost is compared to the savings of overtaxing drivers.

Bezos’ background at a hedge fund seems highly relevant to all this.


And throw packages like they don't care, as they should.


And park in the most ridiculous places. I wonder who pays the fines.


Parking tickets are just a cost of doing business in many areas. It's all factored into the prices ultimately paid by customers.


How is destroying other people's stuff a reasonable response for you being disgruntled at your employer?


It's not about being disgruntled, it's about not wanting your family to go hungry because you were only able to deliver three hundred packages in ten hours by taking extra care.

There's a difference between destroying someone's stuff because you hate your job and just not caring about someone's stuff because you want your job.


Exactly what the game Papers Please is about


> not caring about someone's stuff because you want your job.

Because you need your job, even. It's not just a want.


That exact same argument would hold true for drug dealers, mob enforcers, and a whole variety of people that do bad things. Sure, the mob boss is a bad guy for having the enforcer break someone's shop up; but the enforcer is _also_ a bad guy for doing it.


If the mob boss holds leverage over the enforcer (first a debt with threat of violence, and later evidence of the enforcer's crimes) then the enforcer might not be such a bad person. This is a big reason that lower level criminals are offered witness protection in exchange for information


I'm not sure why people keep equating carelessness with actual malice.

Yes, obviously both the boss and the enforcer are bad for doing harmful things with an evil mind. That's just not the same as apathy.


Taking actions that you know put someone else's personal property at risk _is_ malice. It's less malice than actively breaking it, but it is actively making a choice to put something that belongs to someone else in harm's way.


No, it's not. Neither is minor speeding, for example. It's a lack of care and awareness about the consequences of one's actions - hardly a desire for those consequences. You say "active" and the whole point is that it isn't.


> There's a difference between destroying someone's stuff because you hate your job and just not caring about someone's stuff because you want your job.

What is the difference, when you said you destroyed the packages in each case?


The difference is the intention.


But, the results are the same in either case. People's property gets destroyed. If the results are the same, what is the actual, real-world difference?


It depends on your angle. If your looking to solve the problem, the root cause very much informs the solution. If your looking to prosecute, intention and context often inform the severity of the charge(s) and determination of guilt (ie man-slaughter v. first-degree murder).


Well, no, you can bet if I hate my employer and therefore destroy people's stuff, that stuff is getting destroyed.

Tossing a cardboard box just doesn't do much the majority of the time.


That's not the workers problem.


People aren't responsible for their own actions?


I presume they mean due to only having such a short time to deliver, they aren't paid to expend time on being careful, rather than malice.


If amazon would learn how to pack things, maybe stuff wouldn't get destroyed when boxes are tossed.

I've seen so many packages where the box is two sizes too big, and then a smattering of air pillows is added, leaving most of the space empty.


I assume packing has to take only seconds.


Buying from a retailer that doesn't work with such perverse incentives and inhumane practices could benefit the consumer it turns out.


If an action takes you 5 minutes to do correctly and your boss force you to do it in 1 minute, how the hell can you do it right and not lose your job?


They're not getting paid to care, why should they?


Because it's a crime to intently destroy other peoples property?


There's a difference between intentionally destroying someone else's property, and simply not being paid enough to care what happens to it.


I guess the ones that cared got fired for not meeting KPIs. Amazon is selecting for neglect and recklessness.


How did you get that the destruction was intentional?


> 400 seems crazy, I wondered about UPS.

In cities, an Amazon delivery driver might be delivering 5, 10, or 20 packages to the same building.

And in those areas where Amazon is using its own delivery network, UPS packages (non-Amazon) will be far fewer -- often just 1 or a couple or none per day.

So it's not crazy. The Amazon driver might be elivering far more packages but making fewer stops. Also, a lot of those packages are the little white-and-blue padded envelopes, almost more like large letters than packages.


There may be some sampling bias as you point out, but it is still crazy from my perspective. I would suspect that UPS and the other major carriers have optimized this task to death. With the right bundling and route optimization for a specific city or set of parcels I could see some level of improvement due to the things you mention.

But 200-300% efficiency gains over businesses that have been profitably providing this service for years? Its exceptional enough to warrant being called crazy at first glance.

From the article,

"The two Portland delivery companies are demanding a cap at 250 packages and 150 stops per 8.5 hour route"

Which seems to indicate that they realize that some bundling will occur and accept it as long as there is an upper bounds on both metrics.


> I would suspect that UPS and the other major carriers have optimized this task to death.

In the end a great deal of it comes down to volume per delivery location. If UPS is delivering 1 package per day per location, there's nothing they can do to optimize (except skip locations certain days, which nobody wants). It sucks for them.

Then Amazon comes along with 5 packages per day per location, and it changes the economics completely. By 200-300% is not unreasonable at all.

There's a fact that blew my mind when I first learned it -- that apparently UPS actually loses money delivering packages for Amazon, but makes more profit in the end because the added scale makes it even cheaper to deliver packages for other people. E.g., if it's already dropping off an Amazon package at a location, then it's suddenly much cheaper to drop off the non-Amazon package at the same time.


Agreed on your first point of volume and we're not given enough detail around 2 separate and only tangentially related metrics to make any real conclusions. That said; I did consider this briefly but even then the math to make that work still seems extreme. Are Amazon packages making up that much of our parcel these days? 3-to-1 or 5-to-1 would certainly change the economics for this to make more sense, but are they truly responsible for 75%-85% of all parcels these days? Even if we select for residential only I feel like that is super high.

Then again my monkey brain sucks at statistics and considering the last year or so of my own home usage it is probably close to 1-to-1. And we try to avoid Amazon. So probably a lot closer to those numbers above than I'm comfortable to admit.


In my apartment building in NYC, Amazon packages are absolutely at least 75% of total deliveries, no question. Everything's left in the lobby so it's easy to see.

Probably not higher than 85% though. And of the rest, the next biggest category is packages from clothing stores like J. Crew, Nike, Madewell, etc.

(Also this isn't including groceries or DoorDash, just talking about traditional packages.)


Dang. Then consider that the 400+ packages was self selected by Portland carriers as some of the worst examples, and 120 deliveries a route is a national average.. It gets murky quick trying to pull anything useful from this especially with it being Vice looking for an editorial angle.

As with most things like this, the numbers seem scary until you peel back the layers. Not a pass to Amazon as the rest of the article is damning in its own right, but a little less crazy than my initial thoughts.


The worst are large townhouse complexes without a central mail station. You double-park your van, and may need to walk for several minutes, through identical-looking units, perhaps juggling 3 or 4 boxes on your trek. Hopefully it's not raining.


Comparing packages to deliveries is apples to oranges. I don't disagree that these jobs are rough but 120 deliveries with an average of 3-4 packages per delivery paints a similar picture.


> an average of 3-4 packages per delivery

Do you have any source for this? It seems like a really weird assumption to make, especially given that Amazon will already bundle multiple orders into the same package.


I think their point is that you probably can't compare these two numbers very well because they measure different things, and in the case of Amazon if on average they have 3-4 packages per delivery then the two companies would have very similar numbers. Sidenote, I hate "cant compare apples to oranges" because you eminently can. I'd argue it is much easier to compare things that are very similar! Apples and oranges both have sugars and acids, skins, are recognized as fruits, and are frequently interchangeable. Comparing apples to cranes is much more difficult. "comparing apples to oranges" should mean the comparison is relatively easy to make on a variety of axes!


I should clarify that comment with if you made a naïve assumption of 3-4 packages per delivery then it's a similar workload. I don't doubt that Amazon workers are treated worse than UPS workers but comparing packages to deliveries without normalizing somehow is not productive.

The 400 package number from the article is also specifically cited from this company and we have no idea whether that is a nationwide figure while the UPS comment implies that it is.


> if you made a naïve assumption of 3-4 packages per delivery then it's a similar workload

But you're still just making an assumption with 0 evidence. I would love to see a distribution of how common multi-package deliveries are, but we don't have that information, and I highly suspect that it's overwhelmingly one package per delivery.

It seems like an exceptionally bad assumption that Amazon is regularly shipping 3-4 items individually rather than bundling them up. After all, they are basically a logistics company at this point.

If we're just making assumptions here, you may as well assume that most Amazon deliveries are to apartment buildings, where the driver just leaves everything at the front desk, there are 200 packagers per delivery, and the driver is only making 2 stops per day.


I'm not making an argument one way or the other beyond that the OP conflating deliveries with packages is inaccurate and misleading. People are acting like drivers are expected to make 400 individual deliveries a day which doesn't remotely pass any sort of sniff test.


Bundling seems like a cost reduction when using a shipper like UPS who charge per package. If you control delivery chain end to end, paying per hours of delivery time, there's probably less savings.


Less savings doesn't mean no savings. It will still for the most part use additional packaging, additional sorting, additional space in trucks, additional labor in terms of locating packages, and additional risk if the driver misses 1/n packages.


Conversely, any UPS driver is about guaranteed a handful of business stops that have a dozen to several dozen packages at the stop.


How are you defining delivery? Packages going to the same address? I live in a development of ~100 unit apartment buildings. It will literally take the UPS/FedEx truck all day to go less than a thousand feet through the development, and in that time they're delivering hundreds of packages.

Also, Amazon has a large number of different warehouses that products are shipped from, and it's quite common for different items/orders to not ship together either for that reason or because some items' availability would slow down the others.


I don’t order much from Amazon but frequently I get a book and a USB drive or something else and it’s shipped in two boxes despite my preference for bundling into as few parcels as possible likely because of multiple warehouses


> Amazon will already bundle multiple orders into the same package.

That’s not always been my experience. Just last week, I had three separate orders, all made on the same day, arrive in three separate packages.


also unknown if they are counting deliveries to locker


Who said there's an average of 3-4 packages per delivery?


No one. They were using an example to demonstrate why you can't compare these numbers. There is missing data.


The article says they were asking for a limit of 150 deliveries. +25% vs a competitor is a lot IMO.


I wonder how prevalent those storage lockers are on a typical route … the last few places that I’ve lived have had Amazon or Luxer lockers, ranging from a couple dozen to maybe 100+ individual spaces. The 400/day seems a little more feasible if a quarter or half can be dropped in the same location, but I really have no idea how ubiquitous those lockers are.


I don't think you should be directly comparing UPS and Amazon drivers in this instance.

Amazon can pick and choose where they have contractors make deliveries (e.g. non rural areas with higher population densities). UPS serves almost everywhere. Additionally, we don't know what hours UPS drivers work in comparison to Amazon drivers.


Not justifying Amazon’s labor practices by any means, but Amazon delivery != UPS. It’s quite possible that Amazon only runs its own delivery in areas with a high enough order density that 400 packages/day is possible, and UPS doesn’t restrict itself in this way.


That’s on the order of 50¢ in wages per delivery. Drones & autonomous/semi-autonomous robots can’t compete against super low wage labor. That’s crazy cheap for a delivery driver! (Low wages hold back innovation and improvements in productivity.)


That's just the labor fees. The vans still need to be paid for and maintained, and they still run on fuel.


As if the high-tech solution didn't have to be maintained?

Anyway, that's what cheap labour does, it leads to stagnation. Why invest in to improve the state of the art when you can throw more bodies at the problem?

There's also the other problem: Jeff Bezos strip-mines the workforce and takes the gains to Washington. Meanwhile his underpaid employees can't invest in their own communities.


I truly believe that increasing the minimum wage (at first just to the same as the 1960s, ie about $12.20/hour, and then adjusting for productivity growth since 1969 to about $20/hour), especially if combined with policies to maintain full employment, Will lead to dramatic increases in productivity as companies are finally forced to properly value human labor. The increase in productivity well help pay for minimum wage increases, making them not purely inflationary or even just redistributionary (although it’ll be that, too… tying minimum wage to productivity growth will have the effect of reducing & limiting income inequality).


Why do you cherrypick 1969 and not 1955 where the equivalent number would be $5 an hour today?


Pretty obvious, isn’t it? Doesn’t it kind of go without saying that we should progress as a society beyond high water marks set over 50 years ago?

Heck, I’ll do one better. Why not pick 1890?

“Workers should be paid less today than in 1969” is a sort of crazy thing to say out loud, but here we are.


You take a statistical outlier, apply a metric like pay/productivity, and then tie that to the minimum wage, and make a moral statement that therefore, it should be at xyz level today.

That seems like tortured analysis. If you take 1989 which was 20 years after your date, the minimum wage adjusted for today would be $6.78.

And there is no reason whatsoever that pay has ever been or should be tied to productivity. Humans haven't evolved to become better or faster or more adept in a workplace. We have technology. I don't see why I should pay employees more than before because simply because I also invested in some technology that makes allows them to get more work done with less effort. I see no logic in that at all.


1969 is not a "statistical outlier." It is the high water mark in terms of policy. Lawmakers chose that in 1969 the minimum wage would be set to $12.21/hour (in current terms). We've seen eroding of the minimum wage due in part to worker-hostile politics ever since then (including in the 1980s).

"Humans haven't evolved to become better", and neither have CEOs, even though their pay has soared.

As far as "should," yeah, I think pay ought to be on that level. I think it would probably lead to faster growth.

The only tortured analysis is the idea that workers, who are trained for and use more advanced technology, should not get paid according to the productivity they bring in, but their bosses (who didn't invent that technology) should. There's no logic there, either. It's just bargaining power. And if you (as a--hypothetical?--employer) see no reason whatsoever that workers should be paid more when their productivity is higher is exactly why we need a minimum wage to require it.


All pretty cheap compared to the labor costs.


> [contract delivery companies] have to adhere to a strict set of rules from Amazon around hiring, pay, delivery times and routes, and more.

The only one of these that Amazon has any right to dictate is delivery times (and what they will pay for that delivery). The fact that Amazon has direct control over the contractor’s worker’s pay, and even the ability to fire those workers, is very shocking to me.

Remember, this isn’t a situation like Uber: these are not contractors to Amazon, but employees of independent delivery companies.


Are these the same drivers that wear Amazon vests, drive Amazon cars and can only deliver for Amazon? Seems like Amazon is doing some legal loophole with "3rd party" companies to get around actually employing these drivers and giving them the full time benefits they are entitled to by law

I'm so tired of this dumb gig economy that isn't long term sustainable.


That's not even gig economy, it's just cutting employee benefits and rights by pretending they're contractors. Same thing uber does, it seems.

The gig economy is good in theory - being able to work a few extra hours freelance when you need some extra cash, but giant scummy companies are trying to pretend that this is what they offer in order to screw over their full time employees.


This isn't a new loophole, though. Major US airlines do the same thing with regional carriers. If you live in the US, you've probably been on a SkyWest flight and not known it. The big difference is SkyWest is regional (they're not on the East Coast), and they contract with America, Delta, and United, so they actually have some leverage.


The drivers are W2 employees who work for the delivery companies. The delivery companies pay hourly plus benefits. Amazon’s contract is with the delivery company.

This isn’t a gig economy thing and there are no contractors / 1099.

Two businesses can put whatever contract provisions into their agreement that they want to as long as laws aren’t being broken.


Amazon probably does not dictate pay directly. They just put in the contract that all workers must make X and get health insurance.


Apparently they do, and it includes the power to lower pay:

> In April, Amazon announced it would reduce the amount it paid for drivers from $17.25 to $16.00 an hour, according to the letter.

When what Amazon pays doesn’t cover the statutory minimums, the contract delivery companies have to make up the difference.


But is that a case of them dictating pay or just changing the formula for how they pay delivery companies?

If I tell IBM that I am not paying $100 an hour for their crappy consultants and will only pay $20, I still don't employ their consultant.

> In April, Amazon announced it would reduce the amount it paid for drivers from $17.25 to $16.00 an hour, according to the letter. This meant Amazon delivery companies were paying even more for drivers' wages.

To me, it just seems to be a reimbursement rate, not what the driver actually makes.


I don't get Amazon's play here. Just charge me more money for items, and pay your people well. I'd rather have a happy safe driver than a miserable one at the end of his or her rope, all so I could save a dollar.

Reminds me of Papa John complaining giving his employees healthcare would make prices go up 14 cents per pizza. Seriously? Who cares about 14 cents when ordering a pizza...

Amazon's entire value to me is fast delivery. Definitely not lowest prices, and definitely not quality.


> I don't get Amazon's play here.

According to the article, so far it’s only two delivery companies in one city, not an actual large trend across the country.

When negotiating with providers and vendors at scale, it’s common for some of them to give “no bid” responses or withdraw from negotiations if they don’t think the contract will be worth their time. The only way to find true market rate is to negotiate until some vendors or providers decline or withdraw, which is more or less what’s happening here.

If Amazon was unable to find other market rate delivery companies or unable to deliver the packages themselves, they’d pay more. The article has a heavy anti-Amazon angle, but this is just what market rate price discovery looks like at scale. Amazon deliveries haven’t ground to a halt in the city, so presumably they have a cheaper solution than using these two companies that would only work for higher rates.


Portland resident here, been pissed off with half of my deliveries for a birthday party this weekend getting delayed to next week then saw this article and went OH that's why. Definitely not ground to a halt, but the effects are felt and if it keeps up I'd definitely take my business elsewehre.


This is also part of the price discovery process.


These statements seem contradictory to me:

> I'd rather have a happy safe driver than a miserable one at the end of his or her rope

> Amazon’s entire value to me is fast delivery

My understanding is that the pace/quantity of deliveries is what makes the drivers miserable so if you want the drivers to be happier and not stressed then relaxing the delivery standards would have the most impact.

Do we really need most of the stuff sold on Amazon delivered in 2 days or less (or even at all)?


Ah, I see. My expectation I guess is charging let's just say 1 dollar per order. Or figuring out avg items per order and adding so many cents to each item.

With that extra dollar per order, drivers can be paid decently and at a safe pace. 10 deliveries in an hour is an extra 10 bucks per hour, for example. And of course they can hire more drivers to take the slack, since more people would be applying to this better paying, nicely paced job.

But perhaps my head is in the clouds.


The GP is saying they should hire more drivers, and reduce the workload on each one. And that the cost to doing that doesn't really bother him.


This is what most of these debates come down to: We can say we want higher paid drivers, warehouse workers, suppliers, and other laborers who work fewer hours for higher pay. But when it comes time to purchase something, the vast majority of people will choose whatever option is cheapest and fastest.


They need to provide more options for slower shipping.

So many of the items I order don't need fast shipping and I would gladly take slower shipping (and I do any time the option is available to me). Yet, a lot of the time, the slowest shipping available is next day for something that could come 2 weeks from now and it wouldn't make a difference to me.

Basically, they need to expand their no-rush shipping feature. It's a good idea, just not available that often.


Amazon competes on price through, especially as Walmart gets into the game.


> I don't get Amazon's play here.

Shareholders, probably.


Not as a matter of hard power because the outside shareholders are usually pretty docile. Management has the power.

Shareholder ideology can be used to justify all sorts of things, though.


>>Amazon's entire value to me is fast delivery. Definitely not lowest prices, and definitely not quality.

Proper back-handed compliment! I'd agree, but adding on that 'customer service' is a key part of their value offering. To me (n=1), it's their moat. I'd be gone without it.


Yes I forgot that point. Their CS is second to none.

Walmart online has a nice return system similar to AMZ - actually even better as they will send a pickup to your house for most things. But if you need a human, good luck getting anything done.


They wouldn't even have to change the prices. Amazon (overall, not necessarily on every sale) is making super-normal profit, in an industry where they dominate among few sellers and there are plenty of barriers to new companies entering and chipping away at the margin.


Thats you but I think majority of people, including me, would rather save a dollar.


There are lots of e-commerce sites though, and many of them are nicer to browse, nicer-looking, have more realistic reviews, etc. than Amazon.

Amazon absolutely competes on price. I've seen it myself. If Amazon sells something for a buck cheaper, lots and lots of people will go to Amazon for that something and maybe pick up something else from it's recommendation system they forgot they wanted, etc.


>I'd rather have a happy safe driver than a miserable one at the end of his or her rope, all so I could save a dollar.

I mean, that's just you and your ethics as a person. Capitalism demands relentless and permanent profit, so capitalist culture is middle-managers doing exactly the opposite of you. Worse, they're in a rat-race against other middle-managers to see who can save the most money. So the system is designed to make sure workers don't get decent wages, feel safe, or happy. The system can't be for relentless profit and kindess to employees, unless pressure from the outside via regulations or collective bargaining. I think the idea that good hearted people at these companies should just generous is a little naive. The good hearted most likely don't get into positions of power and even if they did, they're still playing the same oppressive game everyone else is for their own paychecks. Its greed and short-sightedness, and oppression all the way down.


Why do you say profit like it's a pejorative or a moral failure?


Ethics can drive capitalism, though, via demand. They say millennials in general tend to support businesses with a cause. And we've all seen the rise of say, cage free or free range eggs, despite how misleading the terms are.

That is to say, morals can exist even in cutthroat capitalism when consumers demand it. If only people were as pushy about human treatment as we are about animal treatment. We won't buy eggs from chickens stacked together in a box, but have no qualms about buying Iphones or clothes made by humans stacked together in a box.


> Capitalism demands relentless and permanent profit

No it doesn't. Plenty of companies go years without making profit.


Because they're failing at capitalism, usually because their competitors are better than them at it. Not because of kindness to employees or somesuch. Capitalists fighting other capitalists as ruthlessly as possible doesn't change my argument.

Also capitalisms demands are just that, demands, its not a guarantee. If company x can't compete, it will quit. If it thinks it can weather a storm because it will be able to compete in the future, it will. Its not generosity. Its just profit-seeking.


No, sometimes it just takes years to get going. That's not failing at capitalism. You just have a poor definition of the word.


Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer

Leaders work every day to create a safer, more productive, higher performing, more diverse, and more just work environment. They lead with empathy, have fun at work, and make it easy for others to have fun. Leaders ask themselves: Are my fellow employees growing? Are they empowered? Are they ready for what’s next? Leaders have a vision for and commitment to their employees’ personal success, whether that be at Amazon or elsewhere.

from: https://www.aboutamazon.com/about-us/leadership-principles


Eh, Google promised to never put ads before user experience in Search. Now the first full screen on mobile is just ads disguised as search results. Do no evil or something.


"Nevermind We're Actually Evil Now"


> "We refused their demands and they followed through with their threat, terminating their contract with us, leaving their employees confused and looking for answers," she continued. "We’re doing everything we can to support the affected employees including connecting them with other Delivery Service Partners in the area who are hiring.”

I'd love for that PR person to drive the route one day and see if they can meet the quota. I can't help but to hear a lot of contempt in her statement.


One time in my younger days I had a delivery job in London, i would start at 3am , and needed to have the northern part covered before 7am as the traffic after that would slow me down to reach the south. Boss covered all speeding ticket expenses and parking tickets, the job was not possible without permanent speeding and good luck finding parking in London for a van. Every day I did one or two hours overtime, thinking it's paid. When payday came i demanded the overtime pay and he said "that's not overtime, you are slow". So I gave him the keys to the van and said "show me the way". He tried for a morning, took away to long before returning me the keys and agreeing to ot pay. I didn't really need the job, was just extra summer money, but I can see how many people who have a family to feed would accept with a tight lip and not complain.


Which words in that statement are contemptuous?


> Which words in that statement are contemptuous?

Not so much words, but the attitude it displays. It lies and stretches the truth to make it look like these companies are behaving irrationally and destructively and that Amazon is the good guy who cares.

It shows contempt for those companies, and contempt for the listener (because they expect us to believe it)


How do you know that it's lies?


For one, she's lying:

> We’re doing everything we can to support the affected employees


Why? She knows the capitalism rat-race as well as you do, its just in her paycheck's interest to say these things just like you do capitalistic contributions for your paycheck. I think the idea that you lead an ethical work life and she doesn't is a bit out there. There's a lot of "but but my capitalism contribution is the only ethical capitalist contribution" in this thread. You're just as guilty as her of that regard.

Why aren't you doing the janitors job for a week everytime you think the bathrooms look a bit untidy?


Can we stop saying "capitalism" as though it's some sort of root cause? Do you think workers in any society have had it easy?


I suspect that amazon specializes in arbitrage.

They collect information in a domain (such as delivering stuff to places in a region). They build a detailed map of "easy to deliver" and "horrible to deliver" locations in that region.

After that, they take the "Easy to deliver" places for themselves and get a 3rd party to agree to deliver the rest, typically based on some rate scheme that is coarse to assume "average delivery pain" when in fact they're getting only the impossible delivery list.


I work closely with someone who runs one of these Amazon DSPs.

He has 70 employees who love working there. In the last 6 months he has had only 2 people leave, and one due to their family moving.

He has a military background and he protects his people like they are his own unit. He deals with all the shit that Amazon throws down at him and builds his own processes and procedures to deal with things like day-to-day route variability.

The drivers work 10 hours a day 4 days a week. He will go in every morning and tweak the routes that the AI designs so that they can finish their 10 hour route in 8 hours, he still pays them for the full 10. Sometimes they will get done in 6 hours and run another route and make 2.5x their wage on the day.

He says the internal Amazon dashboards that track his company performance break due to his numbers. And everyone is making very, very good money with full benefits.

I’ve seen the numbers and anyone losing money running one of these shops is just doing a very poor job hiring, training, and managing the process.

I scoffed a year ago when he told me he was leaving his job to go do this. Since then I’ve eaten my words.


>He will go in every morning and tweak the routes that the AI designs so that they can finish their 10 hour route in 8 hours, he still pays them for the full 10.

Amazon definitely wouldn't like to optimize that away.


There’s a huge mythology apparently in the groups that the DSPs frequently discuss these sorts of things around exactly the “right amount” you should tweak the routes, because apparently the changes are fed back into the model and can impact in strange ways what it will spit out in the future.

A lot of managers swear if you take too heavy of a hand in making changes it will screw up the model and you get worse and worse routes each morning.

There is apparently an art form to making these tweaks each morning that gently optimizes the routes in a way that doesn’t perturb the model.

I couldn’t tell if this was just mysticism surrounding the black box algorithm or if the manual route changes are actually being saved and perhaps being over-fit in subsequent runs of the route solver.


Vote with your dollars folks. I'm 5 years in to an Amazon boycott and hardly even notice really.


I just cancelled my prime this year after 15 years. I'm surprised this hasn't become a more visible trend. Amazon has no shortage of shitty practices, but it seems very few people actually care.


I don’t think people should have to care. They are customers. They want to buy things and have them delivered for a good price.

Why is the consumer or shareholder being asked to solve a legislative problem?

Buying consumer goods shouldn’t be a political statement. It’s just ignoring the actual problem of insufficient legal protections for workers.

If Amazon can orchestrate a scheme in which they subcontract deliveries to absolve themselves of the responsibility for employee health and safety, that is a legal issue, not a “I gusss I shouldn’t order dental floss off Amazon” problem.


Political action is difficult, and takes a long time to have an effect. I can't do anything about the situation in the USA anyway.

I can boycott Amazon immediately, with only a small effort.

I encourage you to do both.


If I owned a hypothetical number of actual slaves that allowed me to give you a great bargain on cotton, no matter what political action you take while you use me as your sole supplier of cotton, it will not be effective. All of the alternative sources of cotton will gradually go bankrupt or convert to my model, and I'll use the money you send me to shut you down politically.


It's almost as if low prices and fast shipping are what people care about.


Vote with dollars goes both ways, I too vote with my dollar by buying from Amazon.


What are you using that is even close to the same, offers a similar return guarantees and contactless due to covid?


Sorry, not being cheeky, but: https://www.google.com/search?q=alternatives+to+amazon

I don't need a lot of things, and I just buy local, or for tech, sometimes Newegg, or again, a local outfit. Hit up Costco once a month, too.

At first it was a conscious choice not to use Amazon, but later it just kind of doesn't matter anymore. If they didn't exist, it wouldn't matter to me.


I guess you ask for America, but in Europe you get this basically everywhere because it's manifested in our customer protection laws.


Returns are a nightmare in practice. I ordered a jacket from the manufacturers website and had to return it because it was stained on arrival. Unfortunately for me, their courier of choice is on the wrong side of town for me, and only has one drop off office open between 9 and 5 Monday to Friday.

This was also over the Christmas period, so when I returned it I was asked to pay customs charges (thanks brexit), and it took the guts of a month from the initial order to refund.

You don't know in advance whether you're going to have that sort of experience with a manufacturer, or whrther it will be easy, but with Amazon they accept returns at a post office and you send it to your own country which skiets all the issues above.


Within the EU (and some attached countries) you can return anything you bought online within 14 days directly to where you bought it from and get your full money back. No questions asked.

In Switzerland I can give any returns just to the postal guy that comes by everyday anyway. Couldn't be more comfortable than that. I rarely have to return anything tho


> you can return anything you bought online within 14 days directly to where you bought it from and get your full money back. No questions asked.

The ease of the process of doing that varies mightily with sellers.

> In Switzerland I can give any returns just to the postal guy that comes by everyday anyway.

That is definitely not the case in either the UK (pre brexit even) or Ireland. You need to drop the package off, and depending on the seller their preferred return method may be on the opposite side of the city to you, or they might let you drop off at a supermarket.


At what point did they say they were using or needed a similar product?

Anecdotally, the store experience here from Walmart, Target and Best Buy have provided contactless parking lot delivery via app throughout much of the pandemic.

Can't speak for Walmart but Best Buy has a price matching policy and the typical corporate return policy which works fine for me but I'm sure has been annoying for many, just like all corporate policies.

It's so strange to me how defensive people can be over corporations when people are told about the option of boycotting. Just...keep shopping there? It's fine. You don't have to boycott and a mob isn't going to judge you if you don't.

That doesn't mean you have to pretend it's because it's this like inherently impossible thing. It's a capitalist economy and Amazon has won you over. You feel they provide the best options and there aren't any viable alternatives.

In my area there are...but it's just Best Buy and WalMart. "Oh boy, really fighting the power by switching from Amazon to Walmart /s"

I go to Best Buy. Never been crazy about that either but I still don't know at what point we all decided waiting two days was somehow preferable to driving for 10-15 minutes to grab a new PS4 controller or whatever.

Suggesting that it isn't a noble effort to boycott a clearly unethical corporation though just because you don't want to do it honestly just stinks of insecurity over the fact that you buy things from a company that isn't exactly turning out to be ethical.

The situation is far more complicated than that and ultimately each of us get to pick our battles day in and day out. You don't have to pick this one - that's fine.

You also don't need to defend a massive corporation on the basis of their competitive advantage in order to make yourself feel better about not boycotting. Sometimes the point of boycotting is that the competitive advantage has come at some other cost to society which is deemed to be too severe. Do you not agree that Amazon has crossed some ethical lines lately? Because _that_ is the discussion we should be having.

Amazon can, will and certainly already has been known to defend themselves using their vast fortune. Please stop helping them or if you're going to at least go fill out a job application and get paid to do so.


I've never been an Amazon customer. I like to buy things in store. If I want something that isn't in a store, I will buy it from eBay. eBay also tends to have better prices than Amazon.


Obviously it's a principled stance so you have to give up some convenience.

Every item on Amazon is available somewhere else. Every retail / online shopping experience can be contactless these days. You might have to wait 5 days instead of 2 for a package but that can be okay.


If you buy quality goods from companies that care about their products and customers you will barely need any return guarantees. If you buy Amazon junk on the other hand...


Every company needs a return policy , in fact the best ones are most likely to honor them and for longer periods of time. I'm not going to buy something more expensive if I can't at least return it if I need to


"Support your local bookstore" -Calif Reader


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