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What It's Really Like Working for Amazon

Always a Customer, Never Again an Employee!

By Rumii KnairstonePublished 3 years ago 18 min read
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What It's Really Like Working for Amazon
Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash

Don’t get me wrong, I love Amazon, when it comes to being a customer that is. Working for them is a completely different story. I worked for them twice now; as a warehouse associate at one of their sorting centers and most recently as a DA (delivery associate). Both experiences made significant impacts on me and opened my eyes to this phony “culture” that they keep trying to endorse, but never truly abide by.

Let me just begin by saying that the ideals they claim to uphold are in fact being upheld, but that’s purely based off of an employment stand point. Are there plenty of people of different races, religions, sexual orientation, gender, age, and a bunch of other things companies are no longer allowed to discriminate against being hired on? Absolutely, one-hundred percent. There is without a shadow of a doubt plenty of diversity to go around. I can also say with confidence that I’ve never experienced a drop of discrimination from either of the two times working with them, not from my fellow team members or higher ups. The real issue with this company actually has nothing to do with discrimination surprisingly and everything to do with their unprofessionalism and hypocrisy.

Onboarding

From start to finish the whole process of onboarding new employees is a mess and it’s downright dehumanizing. We’re basically shuffled through the process like cattle being bred and groomed simply to be slaughtered later on. Sure, there’s equal opportunity and no discrimination, but such things only benefit people when they are in fact being treated like people and not animals or objects. There is no interview process for this job. They’re so consumed with the thought that the more welcoming they are the more suckers they can reel in to use and then dispose with. Unfortunately there’s a never-ending supply of suckers lining up at their doors.

The fact of the matter is, if they paid more attention and care in the beginning then maybe they wouldn’t go through so many employees. Maybe there would be less communication problems. Maybe the actual quality of work would improve and there would be fewer mistakes. Let me be clear too. I’m not talking about small “human error” mistakes. There will always be mistakes as such. I’m talking more about blatant negligence. They have leaders in place to train new employees, when honestly it’s the last thing they want to do. They’ll show you the bare minimal and provide the necessary tools, but after that you’re expected to simply learn on your own. Don’t get me wrong. Working at a sorting center was easy and being a delivery driver was never physically demanding as one might think. There was nothing difficult about the actual jobs in question. The problem was simply their direction. There was either no direction or very poor direction. There’s a difference between learn as you go and setting people up to fail and they walked the line constantly.

The Sorting Center

I worked at the sorting center for roughly nine months before quitting, but that was mainly due to the fact I needed to make more money. Fifteen dollars, four hours a day, five days a week wasn’t shit. Especially when you weren’t guaranteed 25-hours a week. There were many days in a row where we would leave at least a good hour early. The 15 minute break wasn’t really fifteen minutes, they expected you back to work at least two minutes prior. You can’t exactly peddle expectations like that when you hire anyone and everyone. Elderly people are basically expected to keep up with the status quo as everyone herds into the break room to sit down for eight minutes. Two minutes to walk to the break room, maybe longer depending on where you are in the warehouse, so you better move fast. Three minutes to get whatever food or snack you brought or are buying. Eight minutes to actually sit down and eat and drink and refresh. Then two minutes to get back out on the floor. Of course your being barked at to during those last two minutes because God forbid you use every minute of those 15 minutes you were promised. It made even less sense on days where we were sent home early, but I guess it’s because they didn’t want to pay their employees anymore than they had to.

They had a total of four shifts throughout the day if I remember correctly; morning, afternoon, evening, and shipping. I personally think that they could’ve had two eight hour shifts where people got two breaks and a lunch like most jobs, plus the employees would get paid more. This part time bullshit isn’t helping anyone, but Amazon. Cutting it down to two shifts solves many problems that are still prevalent to this day in many, if not all, of the warehouses. The workforce being one of them. They can still hire whomever they please, but people are going to be more willing to stick around because of that 40-hour a week paycheck. Though, I suppose it would be an 80-hour bi-weekly paycheck, but still, nonetheless a better paycheck. This means that they wouldn’t have to go through so many employees and probably won’t have to hire as many as well.

By Bryan Angelo on Unsplash

Job titles and positions were another problem that I encountered while working there. The leads, or ambassadors, where basically glorified associates that didn’t want to work. They were more experienced and tended to give direction every once in a while, but they simply were useless. I found a lot them to be obnoxious and unprofessional. They would continually use their “authority” to make nonsensical decisions that truly helped no one. Like for example, the conveyors. There were probably at least three people that sorted at the conveyors for a specific lane and more often than not they would get backed up, but if you tried to help them, one of the wonderful ambassadors would swoop by and tell you to go back to scanning because that’s what you were assigned to do. Meanwhile the person sorting at the conveyor is literally throwing boxes on the floor to simply keep up with the never-ending wave of boxes coming down their way. Of course there were multiple factors behind people getting backed up. People not scanning fast enough, people not wrapping and replacing pallets fast enough, people not stacking boxes on the pallet properly so they need to be torn down and rebuilt are just a few of the causes. Such problems wouldn’t arise though if the responsibility was shared equally.

I was never really clear on how the roles were given out, but it definitely seemed like an ass-kissing contest. The same people were always chosen for the big roles, like unloading the trucks or sort slide. I don’t know whose ass they kissed or whose dick they sucked to get that deal, but there was clearly favoritism happening. The excuse I heard though was that they chose people who scanned the fastest for better roles. It was an excuse that, to me, held no merit because someone’s ability to scan in no way, shape or form should dictate their aptitude to perform other tasks. Plus, there were always ways for people to cheat and make it look like they were scanning fast. It could very much become a savage environment with certain personalities. I’m sure there were tons of employees that were capable of performing certain tasks though that were just never given the chance, myself included. It took me months to actually move around and not get stuck with just scanning, because they had a shady hierarchy and chose whomever they liked more so over whoever showed promise or drive. They simply trained people how to scan and stack and that was it. They purposely withheld training for anything else for other people’s own benefit and job security. It was one big giant clique within the warehouse where managers and ambassadors took advantage of the little guy constantly. Maybe if everyone was trained to do everything, people wouldn’t get so backed up all the time while working. Others would be able to step in at a moments notice because they know how to help, instead of standing on the sidelines watching someone in distress because they honestly didn’t know what to do to help or they just didn’t know if they were allowed to help in the first place. There is not one task that is too difficult, physically demanding, or mentally straining to perform in those warehouses. There should not be sign up sheets for a position where you walk around a pallet a hundred times with a stick with plastic wrap on the end. They need to stop acting like it’s high school and train their employees properly, stop promoting immature people into important positions, and stop treating certain roles like their jobs where you need a damn bachelors degree to perform. Ninety percent of the people that work in these warehouses do not have a college degree! We’re literally moving boxes around. It’s not rocket science. Stop acting so damn pretentious! It’s a disgusting culture and it needs to end now. Sadly that’s just the sorting center problems. My three week experience as a DA was massively different, but strangely the same in certain aspects.

Delivery Associate

If I thought for one second that being a delivery driver for Amazon was going to be any better, which I did, I was quickly proven wrong well within the very first day.

The first two days were paid training, but I really don’t count them as official days of work, though maybe I should. If the instructors actually did more to prepare me for what was to come maybe I wouldn’t have been so blind-sided on my first day. The training was simple, in fact, it was so simple that it was boring. We were given tablets and basically watched videos the entire time, as if a video is somehow a decent replacement for actual hands on training. I took pages and pages of notes to prepare for the tests we had to take, which I passed, but the information I consumed did very little for me while out in the real world.

My first day went a little like this. I showed up to the location van lot, early, like we were told in the emails. Had no clue what to do after that. I didn’t see a single familiar face. I stood around for minutes being ignored. Everyone seemed to know each other and I clearly was new. It took probably 15 minutes for someone to actually acknowledge that I was there and read down the list on their precious clipboard to see which van I was assigned. I was handed the keys along with my route and rabbit (cellphone specifically used for scanning and navigating) inside a black pouch. There were vans both in the front and back of the building and that day my van was in the back. No one bothered to tell me that people typically took their vehicles with them to their vans so that they could essentially save their van spots and park them in the same spot at the end of the day. That was something I caught on to by day two or three, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Once I found my van the cluelessness only grew. Now what? I found the van, but no one ever told me what to do afterwards. I didn’t know that I was suppose to pull it around the front and line it up with the other vans so that everyone could head to the station at the same time. I had to ask a random DA that was in the area to obtain that information. Also, no one taught me how to scan the van’s barcode on Mentor (an app that kept track of your FICO score). So, I was a little bit behind when a lead DA came around and asked if I was on Mentor prior to everyone pulling off. I’ve never used Mentor in my life and why would I? I knew how to drive. I explained to the lead DA, we’ll call her Shannon, that I was new and knew absolutely nothing about what was happening. She quickly got me set up with Mentor and basically took me under her wing that day, as much as she could anyway, I was eventually going to be working alone when delivering.

By Hello I'm Nik 🎞 on Unsplash

The process of loading totes onto the van went slightly better, especially with Shannon there to guild me. The very process was also one of the only things that was actually demonstrated in all the videos that I watched during training. Everything went slightly copasetic after that though no one ever explained to me how breaks worked or that you basically were supposed to clock yourself in on ADP on your cell phone down at the van lot. So I wasn’t clocked in all day. While on the road, the delivery process was probably the easiest things. Sure there were some minor caveats, like navigating tiny roads in a big van or having to back up and turn around on a no outlet street, but that was all tolerable.

What wasn’t tolerable was the fact that I practically had to hold my piss in the entire time. Very seldom was I ever near a gas station with a bathroom or any place with a public restroom. If I really wanted to, I guess I could drive out of the way and find one, but that would only set me back. The same thing went for breaks/lunch. We were entitled to a thirty minute break after so long and our rabbits even notified us when we could take a break, but I guarantee you very few people take advantage of this simply because of time constraints. Everyone is expected back at the station by 8:30pm. Don’t really see how that’s possible when you have over a hundred stops and are “entitled” to a 30 minute lunch break. On average it takes about 20–25 minutes to get from the station to your first stop on your route and about the same amount of time from your last stop back to the station depending on where your route is. All of the time in between your delivering packages because there’s not much else you can do. Sure, if you get behind they send other drivers to come help deliver some of your packages, but honestly it’s more for the higher ups benefit than yours. The people who sit on their asses the entire day and have access to a public restroom and can sit and eat on a normal lunch break want to leave early cause apparently we the drivers don’t want that either. Fuck me and my inexperience, right? My bad!

As the days moved forward, I eventually got a hang on things by basically teaching myself. I had to figure out on my own that they wrote down the van number, where the keys go at the end of the night at the bottom of the clipboard where everybody basically signs out. That was probably day three or four. I also learned that DA’s, from many different DSP’s (delivery service provider) sign out of the Mentor app right after their first stop just so that they can get their DSP’s collective FICO score up. Apparently there’s some stupid reward for the highest FICO score. That one didn’t sit well with me, but it also explained how some drivers were flying on the highway while I’m over here trying not to go over 55mph in a vehicle I had little experience driving in. Along those lines many DA’s, mostly the more experienced ones who learn how to get away with breaking rules, tend to glide through the Mentor checklist by just hitting thumbs up and not really checking the van for any problems. That was something I found disturbing. How do you preach about safety, but never practice it? I can’t count on either of my hands how many times DA’s were rushed to get through the Mentor checklist by the very leads who are supposed to guide them in the right path. I suppose it didn’t really matter if they were prematurely closing out of Mentor before they even finished their route. It was this kind of hypocritical thinking made me once again feel repulsed by amazon.

By Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

Let’s not forget about the borderline cyber-bullying that happens on the Discord app too. I say borderline because for the most part the DA’s are respectful to one another, but I have witnessed conversations between the manager and other DA’s that could easily be misconstrued through text. By that I mean, the higher ups take every chance they can to talk down to you, through social media of course. I’ve read through some pretty condescending messages from the manager I never met to other DA’s and it just baffled me that they thought that could speak to us like that. They clearly know how to word a sentence so that nothing is explicitly stated like “you’re a dumbass” but I can read between the lines and I’m very fluent in sarcasm and can tell that’s what they really meant by their words. People also like to go on Discord just rat out other people like “whoever had this van didn’t do this or did this or left this a mess” etcetera, etcetera . It’s actually quite simple to find out who had what van and when and just politely address them, but we live in an age where people like to address their problems and concerns in a hateful and condescending way through virtual means and not face to face. Therefore, said problems and concerns never truly go away because then you have the petty people who like to make matters even worse. It’s a vicious cycle. One that I had to get the hell away from though that wasn’t necessarily the straw that broke the camels back with me.

My situation actually did happen face to face. My last day there wasn’t the best, but the cherry on top always happens at the end. When returning my pouch and keys back at the station at the end of my shift I was blindsided when one of the lead DA’s asked about a battery pack/charger. I assume it was for the rabbit. I looked at her confused because I genuinely didn’t know what she was talking about. I asked her what she was talking about and I was damn near whiplashed by her accusatory tone and attitude when she basically called me a liar and said that I would need to check my van again because she was so sure that one was placed in my pouch. Well, for starters there wasn’t one in my pouch, but I didn’t feel like arguing especially since she felt so strongly that there was. I continued signing out and then asked her what it looked like so I knew what to look for since I had to go back and check the van. She gave me one of the most dumbfounded looks I’ve ever seen like I asked her a stupid question as she pointed her finger to all the chargers docked and charging behind her on a rack. Something I’ve never noticed or seen or was even informed about. I told her I was pretty sure I never received one after seeing what they look like and she cut me off and said she’d just look for it herself. Mind you, I had only ever had two conversations with this woman and that was our second and she somehow felt it was okay to talk to down to me after that one time. Yeah, no. I quit the next day because of her. I could tolerate a numerous amount of shit, but that was it for me. After the first day, I was one foot in, one foot out constantly for three weeks, but that moment pushed me out door for good with Amazon.

I Will Never Return

I will never work for this company or any other company that operates as Amazon does. Their training is a joke. They don’t spend enough time cultivating new employees, but instead throw them to the wolves. As much information that is provided to us during the training process, there’s that much and more that is not provided to us and it’s that information that is the most helpful. They promote childish people who peaked in high school to positions of power because for one they’re easy to manipulate and they want to give there friends power and authority to throw around so that they feel important. It has nothing to do with merit or integrity. It’s one big popularity contest. Who can kiss ass the hardest? I’m sorry, but I’m not one of those people. I work hard at the shitty jobs I get because I need money to sustain myself while I try to make my dreams of becoming a writer flourish. I’m not going to lower myself for a company that claims they care about their employees when in fact there’s no compliance system in place to check to see if the people they have running these facilities are actually doing their job to uphold the standards of Amazon as a whole. I will always be a devoted customer of theirs. There’s very few alternatives that match their deals and variety, but I’m done being one of their bitches.

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