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Debate Over Amazon Working Conditions Goes Back Years 268

Nerval's Lobster writes: This weekend, The New York Times published a lengthy report about working conditions for white-collar workers at Amazon. Describing the e-commerce giant as a "bruising workplace," the report paints a picture of a Darwinian environment. But criticism of Amazon's working conditions actually goes back years. In The Everything Store, a book-length account of Amazon by Bloomberg BusinessWeek reporter Brad Stone, the Amazon of yesteryear is indeed described as an aggressive place in which Bezos pushed employees relentlessly. So is Amazon a terrible place to work? On Quora and Glassdoor, current employees suggest that the company presents its workers with interesting challenges, and that the culture is fast-paced. While there are complaints about the hours and workload, many don't seem Amazon-specific: The world is filled with tech pros struggling to achieve work-life balance in the face of incredible goals on tight deadlines. Many cite issues with the company's frugality—its lack of perks vis-à-vis Google or Microsoft. After the report was published Jeff Bezos wrote a memo to employees that reads in part: “The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day. But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at jeff@amazon.com. Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.”
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Debate Over Amazon Working Conditions Goes Back Years

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  • Sorry Jeff (Score:3, Funny)

    by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Monday August 17, 2015 @05:30PM (#50334917)
    Hit pieces on big companies are typically very unbiased and notoriously accurate. The full story has been told. Just accept that you are evil.
    • Re:Sorry Jeff (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 17, 2015 @05:42PM (#50334983)

      They are in full damage control mode... top executives are writing pieces stating that they have never been asked to work on weekends [bbc.com]... on Saturday?

    • Re:Sorry Jeff (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Monday August 17, 2015 @06:11PM (#50335135)

      The article was pretty balanced as far as content, the only hit piece nature was that all the good stuff was said upfront so you forgot it by the time you get past the stories about employee that just lost children, spouses or parents and were fired.

      But honestly, those stories about people being fired after loosing someone or having health problems are a pretty good reason do the order they did. It was bad enough that Bezos made the public claim in the summary above about not being the amazon he knows. But the authors make a pretty good point early on that it's exactly the type of cutthroat performance at all cost Amazon that he's built. This is what happens when you build monsters where you are encouraged to attack your coworkers, they become monsters and attack them when they are down at the worst moments in their life. Because by attacking their coworkers they can advance.

      This is the Amazon Bezos has built, one without empathy where the ends justifies the means. It's the reason every other fortune 500 is abandoning the very hiring and performance metrics Bezo's champions. Bezos shouldn't be disturbed by this (if he actually is) but I do understand his need to inject PR speak about how he wants everyone to email him or HR if this occurs. Which would probably just get you fired quicker.

      • Re:Sorry Jeff (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Monday August 17, 2015 @06:29PM (#50335263)

        But honestly, those stories about people being fired after loosing someone or having health problems are a pretty good reason do the order they did.

        Did we ever get the other side of those stories in particular? They sound horrible, inhuman, hard to believe. Just because a company promotes competition among workers does not mean they promote behaviors such as these. One behavior does not cause the other. Workers that feel slighted often exaggerate reality. Companies are not in a legal position to tell their side of the story regarding individual employees for a number of reasons, they can only generically respond (answering my rhetorical question above). And I am sure there are some bad bosses at Amazon, just like other huge companies. I am also sure that just like any company there are people that were let go for not doing a good job but would never admit their own performance was subpar. In these particular cases. We really don't know for sure the whole story.

        Should Bezos be expected to NOT continue the style of management that helped make Amazon so successful to start with? Should employees expect the company culture to change or leave if they don't like it? There are no right or wrong answers, IMHO.

        • Re:Sorry Jeff (Score:5, Insightful)

          by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Monday August 17, 2015 @07:25PM (#50335611)

          Exactly what side would the company have?

          Upper management probably never heard about this because it's the culture they've built. Employees have tools to basically feed comments on co-workers where there is a practical guarantee of anonymity without the ability to confront the accusation. Because they fire a certain percent every year regardless of quality there is this competition to see other people fail so you can succeed.

          In such an environment is it surprising that the person who had a devastating personal event suddenly starts seeing negative performance reviews because other employees that may not even know them are sending in negative comments to try to secure their own position? And that managers under pressure to fire a certain percent every few months wouldn't take advantage of this because their own employees performance metric effects their performance metric?

          It's not really that hard to believe IMO. It's a cultural thing. As long as everyone is 20 or in upper management it's probably a great place to work.

          • Exactly what side would the company have?

            It could be a wide range of things, we'll never know. Was they employee a notoriously poor performer already on notice? Was the employee offered help in an assistance program but he/she refused. Was the employee exhibiting behavior that could be perceived as a threat to other employees.

            I'm not suggesting any of those is the case, but I've seen some crazy stuff in my many years of managing people.

      • Re:Sorry Jeff (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Forever Wondering ( 2506940 ) on Monday August 17, 2015 @11:15PM (#50336595)

        I emailed a friend currently working at Amazon, with links to the NYT story and the CNN/Money story. I asked him/her if that sort of thing ever happened in their group.

        The reply: "It seems all true, even!"

        The friend is a former boss of mine, whom I know to be honest, fair, and a really good manager, who knows my skill set well, and would have been able to match me to some opportunities. But, now, I think I'll pass on Amazon as I'm getting confirmation of the environment from someone I know.

        If Bezos truly doesn't condone the bad behavior, but also believes that it isn't happening underneath him, then, he's asleep at the switch.

        Berating people in meetings is actually "creating a hostile work environment", which is actionable under U.S. labor law. But, anybody mentioning this to HR would probably mark the person as "not an Amazonian" and the person would find themselves being shoved out.

        This is "stack rank" management [at MS], where the lower 20% must get bad reviews even if they're top performers. In a dept of five where all the team members are stellar performers, one must be singled out as a "low performer". This was started, IIRC, at HP, and is also at Cisco. So, the group gets together and mutually selects "the goat" for the quarter. After five quarters, each employee has been "the goat".

    • NO! DAMMIT! NO! (says Bezos)

      Okay, new rules, guys! Now you will follow all the previous suggestions that are making us the greatest company in the world.

      And you'll be HAPPY about it!

      And you'll RELAX!

      Everyone who doesn't keep up all their previous expectations plus be relaxed is clearly not good enough and is to be fired

  • Prediction: Everyone currently working there will be too scared to give feedback, and Bezos will conclude or at least claim, there's no problem.
    • by MerlynEmrys67 ( 583469 ) on Monday August 17, 2015 @06:23PM (#50335217)
      So worked at a large company, diversity plan in place... New employee comes in working for the biggest jerk of a manager. Couldn't get the problem solved through HR - decided to quit. Sent a So long and thanks for the fish e-mail to the CEO saying his diversity words were crap - and gave an example why. At just after 5PM, friend got a call from Uncle Paul to ask for 48 hours before they quit. Two morning later (36 hours) goes into work and there was a reorg - everyone was on the org chart but the one manager...

      Word to the wise... Yes, CEOs can listen, and do listen.

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      Yep, it is the Monkey Butt Syndrome. In a tree full of monkeys, the monkey at the top sees only smiling faces looking up at him. To the monkeys down where the dog pisses, all the monkeys see are assholes. I'm guessing the truth is not in the middle, but closer to the dog pee.

  • No thanks (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojoNO@SPAMworld3.net> on Monday August 17, 2015 @05:33PM (#50334937) Homepage Journal

    I work on cutting edge, genuinely innovative stuff that solves important real world problems (water network monitoring and leak location). I'd never want to work in an environment like this though. It's unnecessary, the company benefits at my expense.

    I'm disabled so probably couldn't do it anyway, and wouldn't want to work in an environment that excludes people who work the way I do (at a sensible pace, good work life balance).

    • Anything where safety or lives matter does not operate this way.

      Right now I am back in school again working towards a PhD but I have worked with a biotech company and I have NEVER seen behavior even approaching this. If engineers where treated this way they would make mistakes and for many drugs you would not know about it until people started dieing. Then the FDA would investigate and find out why mistakes where made and the company would be SCREWED.

      I can't imagine people doing this kind of working environ

      • by AaronW ( 33736 )

        Engineers are leaving Amazon in droves due to how poorly they're being treated here in Silicon Valley. If they shut down a department they lay off everybody in that department even if they're quite talented and would be useful in another department. The politics are also growing quite bad. I say this knowing someone who was one of the first employees at Lab 126. They're making stupid decisions from high up (i.e. Jeff Bezos) like the doomed from the start fire phone. Despite flying back and forth to China fr

        • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2015 @12:18AM (#50336789)
          BS on multiple fronts.

          1. Amazon actually doesn't have a large direct presence in the Silicon Valley. They have only recently started to actively grow there. And yes, they're hiring.
          2. But more importantly, when a department is downsized or moved - its employees are NOT fired. They are given freedom to shop around for a team to join.
          3. The bit about flying coach is true, though. It's a company-wide policy that everyone flies coach, even VPs. Though you can use frequent flier miles from Amazon flights for your own personal travel.
  • it is hideous (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Presto Vivace ( 882157 ) <marshall@prestovivace.biz> on Monday August 17, 2015 @05:36PM (#50334955) Homepage Journal
    it turns everyone in the company into an informer. Enron used this approach, it worked so well.
  • Lots of people start profitable companies that have great working environments but that takes talent- I guess if your vision was to create BorgMart from the beginning there isn't much hope.

  • by warm_warmer ( 3029441 ) on Monday August 17, 2015 @05:43PM (#50334991)

    As a former employee, this article really changed my view of the NY Times. I guess I expected more from such a well-known, established news source. But, this lengthy "expose" was clearly written by two authors with an agenda, and to what end? Readership?

    I loved my time at Amazon.com. Yes, it was challenging. My time there forced me to grow as an engineer when I knew I was at risk of stagnation. But, I worked very reasonable hours (~7am-4pm, by choice to avoid traffic) and only very rarely (once very few months on average, typically leading up to Black Friday before all our deployments were locked down) worked nights of weekends. I traveled twice for Amazon - and had no trouble expensing the flight, hotel, meals, and transportation to/from the airport. I never saw anyone cry at their desk. Everyone who worked there was very civil.

    I left for opportunity more than anything - an opportunity to both advance my career and be closer to my family on the east coast.

    But yeah, I really have to wonder why the NY Times is busting Amazon's balls. I feel like a dope for not being more suspicious of them before now.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 17, 2015 @06:05PM (#50335103)

      I don't think you need to be suspicious yet. I worked one of the large telco carriers for more than a decade. When I had a reasonable manager, the job was delightful, lots of toys, big budgets, new problems every quarter. When I worked for a Twonk it was long hours, 3 large PowerPoints a week and more meetings than work.... Which is why I don't work there. My job didn't change for the last 9 years, only my managers and directors did. Their trust, style, and abject ignorance were the decisive factors in the rewards of my worklife.

      Both you and the NYT may have very accurate views of pieces of this company. The idea that one of your points of view is the norm, and the other is the outlier could only really be proven with a statistically valid sample set.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 17, 2015 @06:06PM (#50335105)

      As a current employee, here are some things in a nice numbered list:
      1) Amazon pays for your travel. You can even get a corporate card. The whole "they make you pay for your own travel" thing is downright dumb. Also, provide our own cell phones? Yeah, most companies do. But we can expense the plan if we're on call. Like most companies do. And desks? LOL. Please. I've never worked anywhere where you have to provide your own desk.
      2) I work ~8 hours a day. If I work a night or weekend it's because I'm working on something that excites me and I'm bored or have nothing else to do (e.g. wife is out of town, I don't feel like going out, there are no good movies out, etc). Sometimes I get presented with very interesting problems to solve and I get really excited about. There will be mis-managed teams in a company this size. It's inevitable. It's unfair to classify the whole company because some people shouldn't be managers.
      3) The yearly culling thing is a joke. Read Nick C's article on LinkedIn. I worked with him in Marketplace. Smart guy, he's telling the truth.
      4) I joined Amazon mid-career. I worked in a lot of other companies. I stagnated in some, and got out. This is the first place in a long time that's challenged me in really awesome ways. I tell new-hires, especially fresh (or nearly fresh) out of college to take it easy and not burn out. I want people to stay. I plan to stay as long as I can - I love it here. Almost everyone I know loves it here.
      5) If you don't like your team or work, you are absolutely encouraged to rotate to another group. It happens all the time. The cross-pollination of ideas (ha ha yes, make a 'worker bee' joke, go ahead) and disciplines is awesome, and makes us all a lot more well-rounded as engineers.
      6) No one cries. Come on..if they do, it was probably a decade or more ago. *shakes head*
      7) The entire article is architected as a slam piece. Open your eyes, people.

      The article really bugs me. It's written with an insane amount of bias. If you interview 100 people who were unhappy at Amazon (of the hundreds of thousands we've employed over the years), then you will have a very unhappy-sounding article. How about interview 100 people who love their job and are still there?

      Now excuse me while I munch on my free snacks and beers that were provided by leadership. kthx

      • If you don't have free snacks and beers, AC, they're sure to give you some now :)

      • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
        Uhm, can you tell me which floor has free snacks today?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Also an ex-amazonian, left after many years (& good performer in each one also not disgruntled). Can relate to the nyt article, tho have not seen anyone cry but rest is pretty accurate in silicon valley. too much politics, very toxic culture. plus they didn't even touch on seattle & sv struggle for control. there is a reason you build crap like firephone and not have voices of dissent reach upstairs even though nobody really believed in it.

        To rebut your 100 people comment, I do not know of a single

        • by AaronW ( 33736 )

          I know one recent ex-amizonian who had a very senior position who couldn't wait to jump ship as soon as he got his last stock grant. He was getting called at all hours of the night and weekends despite having what should have been a day job. He had to put up with a lot of shit where the people running the data centers wouldn't configure the firewall so he could get stuff done. He was in charge of software builds. I also have a close relative who was one of the first employees at Lab 126 who can't wait to qu

      • by Catmeat ( 20653 )

        I've never even met an Amazon employee or ever been to Seattle, so have no way of knowing of Amazon really is a good or bad place to work.

        But I know or suspect the following:

        1) This story has become big,
        2) Amazon will take a hit if the idea becomes commonplace that it's a slave driving hell-hole. Top talent will be deterred from applying to work there.
        3) Amazon's PR spin team are certain to be now working on damage limitation round the clock,
        4) Slashdot is a significant tech news site, and so the spin team

    • by nukem996 ( 624036 ) on Monday August 17, 2015 @06:10PM (#50335129)
      Things must of changed drastically since you were there. I just left a few months ago and the article describes very well what I and many others go through. My main complaint about the article is how it doesn't describe how employees are gaming the principals and metrics to look better and punishing those who call them on it.
    • The article makes is pretty clear that these stories aren't applicable to every department in Amazon.

      They also make clear that you will either love or hate working there. Did you even read the whole thing? Does it surprise you that this stuff goes on? Or are you in denial about the stories presented?

      • Yes, rahvin112, I read every word of the article. :-) It was very well-written if not for the fact that it was extremely misleading. The article DOES make it pretty clear that they want to imply that what they describe is the norm rather than the exception.

        I don't doubt that there are places within Amazon where management sucks. I socialized quite a bit while I was there, and, like any large company, there are places with poor management practices (demanding long work hours and burning people out, etc).


    • you check is in the mail.
    • by Locando ( 131600 )

      Why is it that because the article contradicts your experience, you assume integrity problems with the publication that published it? There are a number of possible reasons for the discrepancy. And honestly, your emotional reaction makes me suspect your motives, not those of the New York Times. I've had some awesome workplaces, some mediocre and drudgery-filled, but never would I have an emotional reaction of any kind to people challenging my experiential knowledge of workplaces in either of those categorie

    • As a former employee, this article really changed my view of the NY Times.

      Well, to offset your anecdata - here's mine. I know three people who worked for Amazon (as programmers, analysts, and managers, not line warehouse workers), all three shared the article on their Facebook pages and praised it.

      I feel like a dope

      And you should, you've made the classic error of generalizing from your experience.

  • Reporting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by godel_56 ( 1287256 ) on Monday August 17, 2015 @05:53PM (#50335041)
    Bezos says

    But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at jeff@amazon.com. Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.”

    . . . but probably best to do so anonymously, or with someone else's email account. We all know how large companies love whistle blowers.

    • Bezos says

      But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at jeff@amazon.com. Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.”

      . . . but probably best to do so anonymously, or with someone else's email account. We all know how large companies love whistle blowers.

      Sometimes the problem is one of technique: If you blow the whistle by tipping off the right people higher up that Pointy the Middle Manager is doing Illegal Things They Are Liable For, they're likely to be pretty happy with it, especially if you did that with enough time for them to get rid of Pointy instead of as just a token warning before they get the legal papers. (Remember, Pointy probably doesn't do it when they're looking, and the people whose rears Pointy orally services are definitely not the righ

    • by Locando ( 131600 )

      Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.

      Anyone else notice how aggressive this call for empathy is? Even if the whole of the article is complete bullshit, this tone-deaf response is so telling in itself. I sure as hell wouldn't feel comfortable talking about work environment concerns with a manager who talked to me in that tone!

    • Bezos says

      But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at jeff@amazon.com. Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.

      Bezos doesn't get it.

      The New York Times article criticized the informing culture and the negatively-focused work culture of Amazon (even if it did exaggerate some aspects of it through their own agenda, or through sampling bias). I must have missed the part where the authors of the article were calling for more ways to inform on others and for more zero tolerance thinking (like they didn't haven enough of these already). And even if they had, I don't think that most people would agree that empathy could be

  • Bwahahah! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Bodhammer ( 559311 ) on Monday August 17, 2015 @06:00PM (#50335081)
    http://www.newyorker.com/humor... [newyorker.com]

    SEATTLE (The Borowitz Report)—Saying that he was “horrified” by a New York Times article recounting callous behavior on the part of Amazon executives, company founder Jeff Bezos warned today that any employees found lacking in empathy would be instantly purged.

    In an e-mail to all Amazon employees issued late Sunday evening, Bezos said that the company would begin grading its workers on empathy, and that the ten per cent found to be least empathic would be “immediately culled from the herd.”

    To achieve this goal, Amazon said that it would introduce a new internal reporting system called EmpathyTrack, which will enable employees to secretly report on their colleagues’ lack of humanity.

    The system will allow Amazon employees to grade their co-workers on a scale from a hundred (nicest) to zero (pure evil), resulting in empathy-based data that will be transmitted directly to Bezos.

    Then, through a new program called Next Day Purging, any employee found lacking in empathy will be removed from the company within twenty-four hours of Bezos’s termination order. “We can’t be the greatest retailer in the world unless we are also the kindest,” Bezos wrote in his e-mail. “So my message to all Amazonians is loud and clear: be kind or taste my wrath. Love, Jeff.”
  • Yes, it's not new (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 17, 2015 @06:02PM (#50335093)

    Posting anonymously for obvious reasons. I am anonymizing some details too, to make people not quite identifiable.

    This has been going on for a while, and it hits developers too. A friend of mine programmed there for years, on the retail side. Things weren't quite that bad for him originally, but as time went by, pressure keep adding, teams were pitted against each other, and things like family and health were seeing as secondary. Team X did all this stuff, so we have to work even longer hours to compete with them! Taking sick days was seen as letting the team down, so people worked through everything. One time a cold was worse than a cold. Going untreated, it turned to bronchitis, then pneumonia. By the time he did go to a doctor, permanent damage was done.

    I wish he had quit before that, but having worked there for a while, he had an unwarranted sense of loyalty for the company. Now he can't even go on a trip without bringing medical equipment, because his lungs are shot. No amount of pay and stock options is worth that, but he didn't know the price he was paying until it was done.

    I've only seen one place that created more stress, and it's a huge hedge fund that happens to be run a bit like a personality cult for his founder.

    Putting the health of employees and their family first is a big thing for me now. A lax work from home policy, no fear of review trouble for too many sick days in a crunch. Coming to work sick should not be something to be proud of, but ashamed of, as the most you can accomplish is to get your team mates sick! Same thing for working long hours. A coworker of mine used to do weekend marathons, where he'd make major changes. Guess where all the bugs came from? Marathons where a lot was produced, but most of it was shit.

    It's the wrong culture, and Amazon has managers working there, right now, that keep that culture running. Jeff should just fire the hell out of them, because they are doing him no favors. Stories get around, and that's why, when Amazon calls trying to hire very senior people. Many of us say no.

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      The fish rots from the head.

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
      I guess if you don't show up for work because you died then you'll be in big trouble from management?
    • People who come in with a cold already well underway, with many sick days to spare, have a false sense of loyalty. Their image of a good loyal worker may be safeguarded, but it's at the cost of infecting everyone else.

      I am not a manager, but I refuse to work with such people. They need to go home and get some rest. And managers need to send those people home, that's their job as managers, to see the entire picture.

      The company should pay for their cab fare back home if it has to. And when this happens, HR sh

    • I'm a software engineer who focuses on automating manufacturing equipment. I've been hearing bad stories about Amazon for at least ten years now. About a year ago I got a call from a head-hunter about a job opening dealing with autonomous warehousing and order fulfillment that sounded like a dream job. Five minutes on the phone got me the name of the company (Kiva Systems) and two minutes of google told me they were being purchased by Amazon.

      Nope. Hard stop. I don't even need to know how much they are offer

  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Monday August 17, 2015 @06:07PM (#50335113) Homepage Journal

    about 4 years ago now I guess. I thought Steve was exaggerating about Amazon, or trying to be humorous (or both), but now in hindsight I think he was probably being accurate.

    The rant [google.com]

    "Jeff Bezos is an infamous micro-manager. He micro-manages every single pixel of Amazon's retail site. He hired Larry Tesler, Apple's Chief Scientist and probably the very most famous and respected human-computer interaction expert in the entire world, and then ignored every goddamn thing Larry said for three years until Larry finally -- wisely -- left the company. Larry would do these big usability studies and demonstrate beyond any shred of doubt that nobody can understand that frigging website, but Bezos just couldn't let go of those pixels, all those millions of semantics-packed pixels on the landing page. They were like millions of his own precious children. So they're all still there, and Larry is not.

    Micro-managing isn't that third thing that Amazon does better than us, by the way. I mean, yeah, they micro-manage really well, but I wouldn't list it as a strength or anything. I'm just trying to set the context here, to help you understand what happened. We're talking about a guy who in all seriousness has said on many public occasions that people should be paying him to work at Amazon. He hands out little yellow stickies with his name on them, reminding people "who runs the company" when they disagree with him. The guy is a regular... well, Steve Jobs, I guess. Except without the fashion or design sense. Bezos is super smart; don't get me wrong. He just makes ordinary control freaks look like stoned hippies.

    So one day Jeff Bezos issued a mandate. He's doing that all the time, of course, and people scramble like ants being pounded with a rubber mallet whenever it happens. But on one occasion -- back around 2002 I think, plus or minus a year -- he issued a mandate that was so out there, so huge and eye-bulgingly ponderous, that it made all of his other mandates look like unsolicited peer bonuses."

  • i worked one of there warehouses its ok if you need some quick cash. the pay is decent the issue is of course they work you long hrs where talking 12+ 6 day weeks so you will quickly tire of not having a life. as for treatment the only issue i had was them unable to tell me from another employee with the same initials and getting yelled at for his mistakes. otherwise the experience was not a bad one.
  • At Jeff's level I'm sure it's all daisies and unicorns. I imagine they just hang around all day dipping their balls in gold and getting hand jobs from their hand job robots. They'd probably be stunned to learn that down in the trenches there's not a hand job robot to be seen, and exposed balls are going to get kicked, not dipped in gold.
  • You can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats those at the very bottom of the pile.

    Those with few --- if any --- choices left to them.

    Workers said they were forced to endure brutal heat inside the sprawling warehouse and were pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain. Employees were frequently reprimanded regarding their productivity and threatened with termination, workers said. The consequences of not meeting work expectations were regularly on display, as employees lost their jobs and got escorted out of the warehouse. Such sights encouraged some workers to conceal pain and push through injury lest they get fired as well, workers said.

    During summer heat waves, Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stress. Those who couldn't quickly cool off and return to work were sent home or taken out in stretchers and wheelchairs and transported to area hospitals. And new applicants were ready to begin work at any time.

    An emergency room doctor in June called federal regulators to report an "unsafe environment" after he treated several Amazon warehouse workers for heat-related problems. The doctor's report was echoed by warehouse workers who also complained to regulators, including a security guard who reported seeing pregnant employees suffering in the heat.

    In a better economy, not as many people would line up for jobs that pay $11 or $12 an hour moving inventory through a hot warehouse. But with job openings scarce, Amazon and Integrity Staffing Solutions, the temporary employment firm that is hiring workers for Amazon, have found eager applicants in the swollen ranks of the unemployed.

    Inside Amazon's Warehouse: Lehigh Valley workers tell of brutal heat, dizzying pace at online retailer [mcall.com] [2011]

    This time last year, online retailer Amazon.com had ambulances parked outside its Breinigsville warehouse complex on hot days, with emergency medical personnel ready to take workers suffering from heat injuries to nearby hospitals.

    Today, Amazon warehouse workers say the facility is refreshingly cool when it's hot and muggy outside. The company recently installed 40 roof-top air conditioners in its 615,000-square-foot warehouse, part of a $52 million investment in cooling its warehouses around the country.

    The dramatic change comes nine months after an investigation by The Morning Call revealed difficult working conditions in the Lehigh Valley facility. Workers interviewed said they were pushed to work at dizzying rates in brutal heat. The heat index, a real-feel measure that considers heat and humidity, surpassed 100 degrees in the warehouse multiple times last year and sometimes exceeded 110, according to reports filed with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

    The company installed temporary air conditioning units last year after federal workplace safety regulators began inspecting the facility. But workers said parts of the warehouse, particularly its upper levels, remained unbearably hot even after the temporary air conditioning was installed.

    Amazon gave water, fruit and popsicles to workers on hot days and relaxed its attendance rules on some days to let workers leave early, though they would lose pay.

    The Morning Call obtained warehouse building permits using Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law. Those reveal that Amazon first sought permits to install temporary air conditioning last July, several weeks after warehouse workers and an emergency room doctor who treated some of them for heat stress complained to federal regulators about conditions...and a contractor sought permits to install permanent air conditioning in early March.

    21/2 months before Bezos announced at an annual shareholders meeting May 24 that the company [was] installing air conditioning at warehouses around the country.

    ''It's not easy to retrofit an existing fulfillment center with air conditioning,'' The Seattle Times quoted Bezos as telling shareholders. ''We're really leading the way here.''

    Amazon workers cool after company took heat for hot warehouse [mcall.com]

    The first commercial . industrial building to be air conditioned in the US was the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company in Brooklyn, NY, in 1902.

    • Most houses in Seattle don't have air conditioning. Seattle simply isn't used to temperatures that high. It's pretty far north, you know. About 2 hours from the Canadian border.
  • Wouldn't surprise me if new employees are "asked" to post positive reviews...
  • It's the warehouse employees who get shit on the most. While I'm sure there are issues in the office, the warehouse employees are expected to meet ever rising quotas at the cost of safety - the only way to meet some of the quotas is to ignore safety rules. Employee death [google.com] or injury is not unheard of. While the top tier might not be driving for these metrics, they don't have the right people keeping a hold of the reigns at the lower level.
  • I guess that's why Amazon invented the cloud as a successful business model (as opposed to esoteric gedanken experiment which was IBM or even Rackspace) and NYTimes invented they myth that there are "real" journalists as opposed to bloggers. NYTimes will ruthlessly smear anyone if there is red meat in it and then when they are done chewing, they'll go out and do leveraged buyout of smaller papers... all the under the guise of fighting for social justice while supporting dictators abroad and the most corrup
  • No one believes they're trapped in a cult until they get out.

  • by John Jorsett ( 171560 ) on Monday August 17, 2015 @08:18PM (#50335881)

    " Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.”

    Sounds like all that's happened is that Amazon has found a new firing offense.

  • Long term the question will be about having products, stock sitting in the US under a US brand with all the taxes, local costs or just going China direct.
    From the factory in China, book printer, CD, Blu ray (region code allowed shipping?), on demand from what was the 'back catalogue", toys. Digital while you wait if an option.
    Delivery can be done by private or government postage contractors locally around the world. Robots to pack the products in China. No staff issues as all skilled staff just repai
  • Regarding perks. I've always been suspicious of the IT companies that offer man-child tier tastes such as nurf toys or endless candy bars and lounge chairs. The best workers are 40 years old, show up at 8am, take an hour lunch, and leave at 6 pm. And anyways we all know a lot office workers are lazy in general, though some of that is from Dilbert-ish stagnation of corporate stuff.

"Just think of a computer as hardware you can program." -- Nigel de la Tierre