Uncover the dark curtain of Amazon’s two-day delivery business, like a “modern sweatshop”


Tencent technology news on October 14, in the United States, Amazon has become an indispensable shopping channel for almost everyone, and its two-day delivery service also provides great convenience for people.
However, people may pay a high price for enjoying this convenience, including the working conditions of Amazon employees and the high injury rate, which is compared to a “modern sweatshop”. At the same time, Amazon’s business has also accelerated climate change, exacerbated social inequality, and led to the collapse of countless small businesses.
The high cost of Amazon shopping convenience
When a new novel that Elizabeth segran wanted to read was published, she took her 5-year-old daughter Ella to the local bookstore Belmont books to buy it.
When they walked in, Ella was fascinated by the children’s area, where the tables were neatly stacked with beautifully illustrated books and toys based on her favorite characters. Segland suddenly realized that Ella had hardly been to any bookstore. From the moment she was born, people have been used to buying almost everything they need from Amazon and tmall, such as diapers, applesauce, school supplies, etc.
In 2003, segland, who was just a junior in college, completed the purchase on Amazon for the first time. At that time, she ordered Anna Karenina. Over the next 18 years, the retailer became increasingly entrenched in her life, helping her through all important milestones. Segland used Amazon to make his own wedding plan, and then his parenting plan. As a prime member, whenever he wants to buy a product and can be placed at his door in two days, segland will indulge in opening Amazon’s application.
But it costs tens of thousands of Americans novel coronavirus pneumonia to work at the Amazon distribution center. They face 80% more injuries than other industry peers and are enduring the threat of new crown pneumonia so that we can get delivery quickly. Recent reports have revealed how Amazon has reshaped the U.S. economy, although it has largely made it worse. The company’s business is based on exhausting working conditions, accelerating climate change, increasing social inequality and destroying countless small businesses.
However, Amazon is becoming more and more powerful.
The epidemic has created a perfect storm for the company’s explosive growth in one year, because consumers are afraid to leave home and need to send daily necessities to their door. In 2020, Amazon generated $386 billion in revenue, a year-on-year increase of 38%, and the personal wealth of its founder Jeff Bezos increased by $75 billion.
Lauren Bitar, retail analyst at retailnext, said: “what needs to be clear is that we created Amazon. Amazon is not a born villain. Consumers want convenience and low price, and Amazon has achieved this goal for us.”
For a long time, many people wanted to get rid of Amazon’s influence. From the advice provided by many blogs on how to stop using the platform, there should be many such people. The poll found that 59% of people think Amazon is not conducive to the development of small businesses. It is not uncommon for residents to protest when Amazon opens a new warehouse (or proposes to set up a new headquarters). At the same time, congressmen such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren also condemned the company’s bad attitude towards workers and its failure to pay a fair share of taxes. But so far, none of this has had an impact on Amazon’s growth.
No one is sure whether we can “quit” this service that feels so indispensable to people’s lives. To this end, since March this year, segland has decided to see what needs to be done to cut off contact with Amazon. In the past six months, the new shopping habits have not only made her feel deprived of privileges, but also made her feel more fulfilled and powerful.
Labor cost of two-day delivery
Amazon is not the only retailer that has caused great harm, but it stands out because of its size. Amazon currently employs more than 1 million workers, making it the second largest employer in the United States.
In 2005, Amazon launched the prime plan to provide subscribers with free two-day delivery service, creating a new standard of fast delivery in retail industry. Competitors such as target and Walmart also followed suit. Today, Amazon has 153 million prime members, who pay $119 a year, an average of $1400 a year on the site.
The two-day delivery service has driven Amazon’s growth, but it has a price for warehouse employees and truck drivers, who must work at an exhausting speed to ensure that products are delivered on time. Sheheryar kaoosji, director of the Los Angeles warehouse workers’ Resource Center, said: “rapid transportation has specific labor costs, which is nothing magical. Employees have to run fast because drivers keep honking their horns just to meet their quota.”
Most of Amazon’s employees (about 850000 people) work in 110 distribution centers across the United States, or as delivery truck drivers. Amazon has been preventing these workers from unionizing. Within these facilities, the company developed a tracking system to monitor the productivity of workers, creating what many people call a “modern sweatshop”. Drivers sometimes urinate in bottles because they expect to stop 36 times an hour and often don’t have time to go to the bathroom. If Amazon’s algorithm determines that an employee is too slow, they may be automatically fired by the robot.

Barbara agrait, senior public relations manager of Amazon, said: “our employees can choose whether to join a union or not. As a company, we do not think that a union is the best choice for our employees. The benefits of establishing a direct relationship between managers and employees cannot be overemphasized.”
A study found that 5.9 of Amazon’s 100 warehouse employees have experienced serious injuries, which is 80% higher than other employees in the industry. Agrat said the company was trying to reduce the injury rate. She said: “Although our injury rate has not fallen to the level we want, we are encouraged by the fact that we have invested a lot of money in safety and the injury rate is declining, even though we are facing the headwind of rapid growth. We now have a team of nearly 8000 dedicated safety professionals and are investing in training, tools and technology And new processes. ”
Busy work has exhausted many workers. A recent survey found that Amazon loses 3% of its hourly workers every week, which means that the annual turnover rate of its employees reaches 150%. The company basically changes hourly workers equivalent to the total number of employees every eight months. Many reports suggest that this is intentional. Amazon does not want hourly workers to stay in the company for a long time.
But Amazon argues that many hourly workers leave voluntarily “It is important to remember that many people may only choose to work for a few months in order to earn additional income when needed. We find that a large proportion of the employees we hire are re employed, which shows that they will choose to cooperate with us when they are willing and then come back at a convenient time.”
During the novel coronavirus pneumonia novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Amazon company’s sales increased explosively. The company continued to recruit large numbers of 350 thousand new employees, earning a minimum wage of $15 and obtaining related benefits. But many people needed to risk their lives. Amazon admitted that nearly 20 thousand employees had positive tests for new crown pneumonia between March 2020 and September. At the same time, Amazon employees said that the company was “systematically trying to hide from employees” the truth of the infection and epidemic in its warehouse.
Although many employees resign all the time, Amazon will soon find someone to replace them. In May 2021, when the epidemic is still raging, Amazon chose to cancel the policies of increasing hazard pay and double overtime. It also stopped allowing employees to take unlimited leave when they find they are sick or unsafe. Kosgi, director of the warehouse worker Resource Center in Los Angeles, said: “The workers who left were replaced by new workers who desperately wanted these jobs, regardless of the conditions.”
Collapse of traditional business district
Traditional retail stores don’t have much characteristics. They just help create a sense of community, but the epidemic has exposed how vulnerable they are. In the past 18 months, many stores have closed because their owners can’t afford rent. However, the epidemic is only the latest blow to mom and pop stores that have been the cornerstone of American towns for generations. Over the past two decades, Due to Amazon’s low price and fast delivery, traditional stores have lost customers.
Moreover, there are rumors that Amazon has not paid federal income tax for several years, which makes the competitive environment more unfair. At the same time, small businesses must pay the statutory corporate tax rate of 21%. A 2019 survey found that three-quarters of independent retailers believe that Amazon is the main threat to their survival. Reporter Alec macgillis He said that the rise of Amazon has left the once prosperous commercial streets unattended. This has had a particularly serious impact on people in low-income areas. Many people have to go far to buy food and necessities in physical stores.
But McGillis believes that Amazon is not only destroying the retail structure of the United States, but also deepening the gap between the rich and the poor. McGillis meets workers in many poor communities in China. They get up at dawn and work 12 hours in shifts in Amazon warehouse to package products for their rich neighbors.
Across the United States, Amazon relies on the lower class of the United States to complete the work of generating huge profits, which are transported to richer areas of the United States, such as Seattle, Boston and Washington, D.C. in these areas, educated scientific and technological workers make more money. This leads to higher rents in these cities, making it more difficult for small businesses to afford to continue their business.
Amazon’s market power now covers many industries. Taking advantage of the success of Amazon’s e-commerce business, Bezos launched Amazon video, a streaming media service, and AWS, a cloud computing network. In 2017, Amazon also acquired whole foods. But McGillis pointed out that simply not shopping on Amazon can still have a positive impact. He said: “It’s a good thing to avoid Amazon as much as possible. You are contributing to promoting a healthier and more diversified retail pattern, including local enterprises in your community. Closing this app and really participating in the world around you is the real value.”
When asked about the impact on small businesses, agrat said that these companies have been able to turn to Amazon to sell products online. She said: “SMEs sell more than half of the products purchased on Amazon and create millions of jobs in their communities. Our success depends on the success of our small business sales partners. We invest billions of dollars to support them and help them connect with customers.”

Nevertheless, Amazon makes it easy for consumers to keep a distance from their front-line employees, making us less adapted to the struggles of those who provide services for the convenient life we are used to. But we are not trapped by this reality. As the epidemic subsides, McGillis believes that we can choose to reinvest money into the local community by supporting small businesses in our community. “Of course, we are all subject to these greater forces of technology and globalization, but we also have private agents. Amazon’s success is the result of our collective decision as consumers to accept this way of consumption and this way of life,” he said
We need strong willpower to quit shopping on Amazon. Over the years, many of us have relied on Amazon’s algorithm to recommend products according to browsing history and advertisers’ ranking, but in the store, we will find many things we have never seen before.
How Amazon changed you and me
In the experiment of quitting Amazon, to her surprise, segland found that she really liked to hang out in small shops in the city center every week. For example, when she went to a hardware store to buy a rake, a knowledgeable staff member in her 60s helped her choose a tool that was strong enough, light and easy to use. When looking online, segland found that it was actually cheaper than the price on Amazon.
She suddenly found that the convenience provided by Amazon was a lie in many ways. It’s faster and cheaper to buy this rake in a physical store, and you can get face-to-face advice to make sure you don’t buy the wrong thing. On Amazon, buying the wrong thing often happens and involves a time-consuming return process.
It’s worth asking, how do we believe that sitting on the sofa and buying a rake is a better choice than walking into the store? Elizabeth Schwab, Professor of behavioral economics at the Chicago Institute of professional psychology, said Amazon had mastered all the tricks to keep consumers interested in the website.
By cultivating this behavior, we develop a habit that feels difficult to get rid of. “Amazon has created a powerful website that points all the psychological clues that are very persuasive to us to the market,” she said
Schwab explained that Amazon emphasizes the scarcity of products by explaining the quantity of inventory, emphasizes immediate satisfaction by emphasizing how quickly you will arrive if you buy products now, and reduces the purchase risk by allowing you to return goods when you don’t like it. “Internal effects also play a role. Becoming a prime member means not only getting discounts in apps, but now more and more in the real world, when you go to whole foods and Amazon stores, you can get discounts on specific products there,” she said
Amazon wants us to think it’s hard to live without it, but we’ll find it much easier to quit it than we think. We’re not far from all the big stores: we occasionally go to other supermarkets when we need to stock up on paper towels, cleaning products and staple foods in the pantry. We should spread the money everywhere, not all into Amazon. But in the past six months, segland has also found a large number of small online retailers providing daily necessities, which happen to be more in line with our values.
For example, grove collaborative is a certified company B (which means it has a legal obligation to balance profits with social welfare) and sells sustainable cleaning and personal care products. Thrive market sells environmentally friendly food at a price usually lower than the retail price. Its members start at $5 a month and pay additional membership fees for low-income families. Misfits market combats food waste by saving high-quality organic produce thrown away by grocery stores because it looks imperfect.
Turning to these retailers does bring some inconvenience. Some brands need a membership card to enjoy free delivery service, otherwise there will be a high minimum. Misfits market charged a flat freight of $5.50 for all orders, which was difficult to accept at first. But it should be reminded that prime is not free, and the annual fee is $119. These new websites will force people to pay more attention to online shopping rather than buying impulsively whenever they find what they need. We need to consider what we really need.
Is your choice important?
Six months after quitting Amazon, segland sometimes wondered whether her decision had any impact. After all, how can defection among 153 million prime members affect the system? But both McGillis and kowski think it’s worth investing money elsewhere. First of all, it supports many enterprises trying to compete with Amazon, which also urges us to break the blind consumption habits that Amazon is trying to cultivate.
In the end, if we consumers make Amazon, we may also destroy it. Kowski said: “If you look back at Amazon’s history, you will find that Amazon has responded to public pressure in setting emission reduction targets, selling facial recognition technology, increasing hourly wages, etc. they accept these signals not only from their profits, but also from organization, public participation and how people talk about the company. Therefore, each of us can choose Quitting Amazon will have a greater impact than expected. “(reviewed by Tencent technology / Jinlu)