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Some Amazon drivers are going to extremes like peeing in bottles to make deliveries on time

September 12th, 2018 at 7:34 PM

Neither rain nor snow nor the absence of a bathroom facility will apparently stop Amazon drivers from their appointed rounds.

With apologies to our vamp on that old motto for the postal service, Business Insider is out today with the results of interviews it’s done with almost three dozen Amazon delivery drivers, and the picture that’s painted of their working conditions is — well, pretty brutal. Then again, this is Amazon, where frugality is practically a religion that eliminates from the company’s billionaire chief executive, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that some of these drivers say they’ve resorted to extremes like peeing in bottles. Instead of, you know, pulling over and stopping for a quick bathroom break.

They’ve peed in bottles, bags, even outside right on the road. Anything to keep to what sounds like a near-impossible schedule — like dropping off as many as 300 packages during a nine-hour shift that’s supposed to include a 30-minute lunch break and two 15-minute breaks to go to the bathroom. Try to work that math out for yourself. Many of these drivers report that it either can’t be done, or can barely be done as long as you’re pretty much flying through red lights and basically sticking to a near-inhuman pace.

Inc. magazine looked at the math and figures you’d have to deliver one package every two minutes and 24 seconds in order to clear 200 items in eight hours (factoring in one hour for breaks).

“How many packages do you have left?”

That’s the response Zachariah Vargas told BI he got one day when he called an Amazon dispatch supervisor six hours into his shift delivering packages. A normal question from the supervisor, you’d think — except Zachariah had just explained that he’d accidentally slammed the door of his truck on his hand. Blood started to pour, and both his arms started to shake. He thought he could see bone.

The supervisor told him to deliver the dozens of packages he had left before he returned to the station or went for medical help. There was no first-aid kit in his truck, so he ignored that command and headed back anyway.

“‘Are you dying right now? Girls have come back with worse wounds than you,'” he told BI was the response from his supervisor.

There are plenty of other stories like that across Amazon’s network, which is probably to be expected given that Amazon delivered more than 5 billion packages to Prime members around the world last year. Prime members pay $119 a year and get free two-day shipping on millions of items, as same-day delivery on others.

Of course, there is a cost associated with meeting that demand.

“In interviews over the course of eight months, drivers described a variety of alleged abuses, including lack of overtime pay, missing wages, intimidation, and favoritism,” BI reports. “Drivers also described a physically demanding work environment in which, under strict time constraints, they felt pressured to drive at dangerously high speeds, blow stop signs, and skip meal and bathroom breaks.

“In response to this story, Amazon said that some challenges exist within its wide network of delivery providers and that it’s working to improve the system.”

One Chicago-area driver interviewed said everyone he knows speeds “like crazy.” “That’s the only way we were able to finish our routes on time. We were zooming through residential areas, all of us, all the time.” He said at one point he almost hit a child playing in the street.

Another driver, a former Army combat-arms specialist, told BI “it was nearly impossible to finish a delivery route within Amazon’s nine-hour time frame. He said the delivery job was more physically and emotionally challenging than his time in the Army.”

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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