Within a few minutes on Google you can find out all you (don't, probably) want to know about Amazon's amazing ability to deliver goods to you as rapidly as possible. It's all based on treating people like machinery; or, in the spirit of the season, the way Scrooge treated Bob Cratchit before that fateful Christmas Eve:
The days blend into each other. But it's near the end of my third day that I get written up. I sent two of some product down the conveyor line when my scanner was only asking for one; the product was boxed in twos, so I should've opened the box and separated them, but I didn't notice because I was in a hurry. With an hour left in the day, I've already picked 800 items. Despite moving fast enough to get sloppy, my scanner tells me that means I'm fulfilling only 52 percent of my goal. A supervisor who is a genuinely nice person comes by with a clipboard listing my numbers. Like the rest of the supervisors, she tries to create a friendly work environment and doesn't want to enforce the policies that make this job so unpleasant. But her hands are tied. She needs this job, too, so she has no choice but to tell me something I have never been told in 19 years of school or at any of some dozen workplaces."You're doing really bad," she says.That's from the "original", the one that got everyone (eventually) noticing: the article in Mother Jones. Then the BBC got interested:
Undercover reporter Adam Littler, 23, got an agency job at Amazon's Swansea warehouse. He took a hidden camera inside for BBC Panorama to record what happened on his shifts.This is, by the way, fine with Forbes (of course) because technology destroys jobs so people are "free" to work for NHS; or something. Frankly, the logic doesn't track too well, especially since technology is not replacing jobs in Amazon warehouses, it's turning people into slaves to technology. According to Forbes it's also good that Amazon builds these massive warehouses in areas of low employment because even liberals want people to have jobs. Or not:
He was employed as a "picker", collecting orders from 800,000 sq ft of storage.
A handset told him what to collect and put on his trolley. It allotted him a set number of seconds to find each product and counted down. If he made a mistake the scanner beeped.
"We are machines, we are robots, we plug our scanner in, we're holding it, but we might as well be plugging it into ourselves", he said.
"I've worked everywhere," a forklift truck driver tells me. "And this is the worst. They pay shit because they can. Because there's no other jobs out there. Trust me, I know, I tried. I was working for £12 an hour in my last job. I'm getting £8 an hour here. I worked for Sony before and they were strict but fair. It's the unfairness that gets you here."And the best part? "60 Minutes," once the premier American investigative television journalism outlet, led off last night with a story about Amazon, and actually filmed in a "fulfillment center." Their take away? Not the brutal conditions of working like a cog in a machine (the original spur of the revolt against dehumanization we now call the "Romantic Movement"), or stories of workers who have to walk so far across a warehouse the size of 20 football fields to get to the lunch room that, by the time they get there, it's time to go back to work. Not even that warehouses are overheated and workers pass out; not that Amazon fights paying unemployment benefits for warehouse workers. No, "60 Minutes" talks only to Amazon management (the workers were all too busy, I'm sure) and ends with the "gee whiz" excitement of Amazon one day using drones to deliver packages as soon as you order them.
Which possibility I put right beside my flying car and personal jetpack.
Sic transit gloria, "60 Minutes." As for the rest of us, at what point do we start walking away from Omelas?