Last Update: December 04, 2013

I've had a few days of too-ing and fro-ing following the screening of a documentary about the methods used by Amazon to provide the excellent service provided to customers, and the cost to it's employees. The documentary was filmed in the Swansea depot by an undercover worker using a hidden camera, and was frankly, shocking.

Workers are employed for a 45 hour week at a wage of £7 per hour, rising to £8.35 for a night shift. On an average day each worker can travel 11 miles or more on foot, and each pick is timed to the second. To explain: A handheld scanner gives a location within the 820,000 sq. ft warehouse; the worker must reach the location within a specified number of seconds; when he scans the item and puts it in his trolly a new location is given and the seconds start to countdown; he then has to run to the next location before the clock runs down and repeat the process. He must pick a minimum of two items per minute. Workers deny that this is possible at a walking pace.

This relentless schedule repeats for each nine-hour shift, although a one hour break is permitted. Should a worker be late, even by two minutes, or be forced through illness to go home, he receives a half point penalty. A phoned-in sickness garners one whole point. Three points within a three month period is instant dismissal. Being late on six, two minute occasions = loss of livelihood.

A health and safety specialist described working practices as "All of the worst practices in one place at one time".

As a result I've decided to change my Amazon Affiliation to another provider.

My interest is books, and countless independent book shops have been driven to the wall by Amazon's slave labour policies, and book dealers using an Amazon shop front have no chance of competing with Amazon's discounts and therefore make very few if any sales. If they do, Amazon takes a 15% over-ride, thus reducing any profit a discount seller can make.

There are other, slightly more expensive affiliates in my chosen area. They use more traditional methods of order picking, and as they specialise in Christian books, like me, I expect and will confirm that higher standards and greater worker care will be prevalent.

I'm posting this because some of you may have been unaware and may wish to adjust your offering to suit.

YouTube link by request - 28 minutes:

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Trialynn Premium
Sounds like working in a sweat shop! What a sad situation.
naturalis Premium
Wow, I was totally oblivious of this! Thx for the heads up. So many companies appear impeccable on the outside but are rotten on the inside. Sad but true I guess :S
mike 003 Premium
Why does the government allow it? To say nothing about their tax returns!
OldCodger Premium
Bravo, Paul. Looks like I've bought my first and last book on Amazon and will have nothing further to do with them.

So, is this what it takes to run a profitable online or offline business? The "big boys" of sports shoes and clothing employ similar work ethics and do a bit of squirming when outed, but I doubt if conditions in the sweat shops improve. I've worked in a warehouse picking and packing chemicals & scientific instruments but never under such pressure or appalling conditions, because I had to. Left as soon as I didn't have to.
:) george
okydoky Premium
It's on YouTube "BBC investigate working conditions at retail giants Amazon". Reminds me of my former employer, although the pay rates were much better for me. Makes you think, but it's the way the world is these days.