It’s unspeakably awful to work in an Amazon warehouse. You have to walk between 11 and 24km a day, enter and exit the buildings through a set of airport-style security scanners that take 30 minutes to get through, and you’re constantly being watched. Now, we have yet a whole new sort of horror story.
Bloomberg just published a chilling report on Amazon’s anti-theft intimidation techniques. We’ve added emphasis:
In an effort to discourage stealing, Amazon has put up flatscreen TVs that display examples of alleged on-the-job theft, say 11 of the company’s current and former warehouse workers and antitheft staff. The alleged offenders aren’t identified by name. Each is represented by a black silhouette stamped with the word “terminated” and accompanied by details such as when they stole, what they stole, how much it was worth, and how they got caught — changing an outbound package’s address, for example, or stuffing merchandise in their socks. Some of the silhouettes are marked “arrested.”
Internal theft is a concern for any major retailer, and given the size of its inventory, it’s no surprise that Amazon take the crime especially seriously. Plus, given the high turnover and low pay of Amazon warehouse employees, it’s easy to see how theft could be a big problem.
But Amazon is using fear and oppression as a way to coerce its employees into working faster, longer, more productive work hours. Make no mistake about it: If you’re caught stealing from Amazon, the company will take legal action against you and embarrass you in front of all your former coworkers.
One former employee likened the fear-mongering experience to prison. Whether it’s fair treatment or not, however, it is technically legal. And as long as that’s the case, it is hard to imagine Amazon using anything but fear to convince its poorly paid employees to obey the rules.