By Michelle Crouch via Reader's Digest
1. IF YOU see me go up and down your street eight times, it’s not because I’m lost. It’s because our routes make no sense. They are computer-generated and have us constantly doubling back to where we already were, often by making unsafe turns. Sometimes we have to cross busy four-lane roads on foot to get where we need to be.
2. THAT MEANS I do have to block traffic sometimes. “Drivers who are stuck behind me swear at me or lay on the horn,” a Pittsburgh driver says. Please remember that I’m just trying to do my job and I will be on my way in a minute.
3. AMAZON USES an app to monitor and score our driving. We can be fired if our score drops too low. But the app is flawed: It penalizes us for braking hard, even when it’s the right thing to do. And if the motion of the vehicle jostles our phone, we get flagged for distraction. Some of us wrap our phones in towels and place them in the glove box so they register as little movement as possible. Now Amazon is installing cameras that can detect when we look at our phones or yawn. Many of us see this as an invasion of privacy. Plus, it doesn’t address the real reason why we sometimes drive dangerously: aggressive delivery quotas.
4. IN A ten-hour shift, we’re expected to cart as many as 400 packages to 250 stops—that’s about one stop every three minutes. To get it all done, we skip meals, and many of us actually run from our vans to each doorstep. And yes, we pee in bottles. “I’m not going to drive to a gas station and back,” says a driver in Houston. “That’s 15 minutes, which can really put you behind.” (An Amazon spokesperson replies, “These anecdotes don’t represent the experience of the vast majority of drivers. In fact, more than 90 percent of drivers finish their routes before their scheduled time.”)
5. WE WEAR Amazon uniforms, drive Amazon vans, and are subject to Amazon rules, but most of us don’t actually work for Amazon. Instead, we work for third-party companies that lease Amazon vans and pay us to operate them. That allows Amazon to control us without taking responsibility for our working conditions. (Says Amazon, “We’re proud that our Delivery Service Partner program has empowered more than 2,500 entrepreneurs across the United States, Canada, and Europe.”)
6. BY ALL means, include delivery instructions with your order, especially if your home is hard to find. (If I can’t find it, your delivery will be sent back to the warehouse.) And make sure your house number is visible and illuminated. You wouldn’t believe how many people have something—usually bushes—covering the number. We deliver as late as 10 p.m., so a light is helpful. But don’t write that you need your delivery at a specific time—I don’t see the instructions until I’m at your address.
7. THANKS FOR the snacks! During the pandemic, a lot of customers put out nuts, granola bars, and water for us with thank-you notes. If you’d like to tip us (please do), we prefer cash. According to a Federal Trade Commission complaint, between 2016 and 2019, Amazon secretly withheld tips meant for drivers who used their personal vehicles to deliver for the company. Earlier this year, Amazon agreed to pay $61.7 million to settle the claims. The FTC said that in total, Amazon stole nearly one-third of drivers’ tips during those years to pad its own bottom line.
8. HERE’S WHAT we’ve noticed about rich people: They seem to order more ordinary items such as toilet paper and cereal that they could just as easily pick up at a store. They also tend to have long driveways, which are not fun, since Amazon doesn’t like us to drive in reverse. But apartment complexes are the worst. “We might have 20 deliveries in one complex, and we have to deliver each to a door, so we have to keep running back to our vans,” says a Dallas driver. If your complex has a parcel locker, please, please, please direct us to leave your package there.
9. WE WISH that you wouldn’t order certain items, especially if you live on the third floor of a building without an elevator. For instance, Amazon puts 50-pound dog food bags in boxes. As we’re carrying them, the bags move around inside the boxes and throw us off balance. We also dread cases of bottled water—those suckers are heavy. That’s why many of us are in the best shape of our lives. A driver in New York says he lost 60 pounds in five months. Another says that after nine months on the job, “My thighs were so massive, I felt like a male ballerina.”
10. THIS JOB has obliterated any love we ever had for dogs. “I don’t care how friendly you say your dog is, I’m not taking that chance,” says an Amazon driver in Pittsburgh. “Too many of us have been attacked.” Another hazard: customers who are too friendly. “One time, a customer came to the door with just a towel on,” a driver recalls. “I hand her the package and she says, ‘Do you like what you see? Come in. Nobody has to know.’ She was attractive, but I wasn’t going to risk my job.” (Amazon drivers are not allowed to go inside a customer’s home.)
11. BUT I can leave goods inside your garage. If you download the free Amazon Key app and purchase a myQ smart garage door kit (for $29.98), Amazon can give me onetime access to your garage so I can put your stuff inside—safe from the weather and porch pirates. Another option: a special parcel drop box or plastic bin on your porch. I can’t put your package in your mailbox—it’s illegal under federal law.
12. SOME OF us have left for FedEx. “I’m now a part-time driver for FedEx, and I’m making more than I did working full-time at Amazon,” a former Amazon driver in Houston says. “FedEx also requires us to take breaks. We can get fired if we don’t.” While Amazon encourages us to take breaks, “we really can’t afford to take any,” says a driver in Little Rock, Arkansas. And if we do happen to finish early, our managers often send us out to “rescue” another driver who’s behind.
13. STILL, THE job has its perks. It’s nice not being in an office, and most of us make at least $15 an hour. There are also heartwarming moments, such as when a customer offers us a home-cooked meal to go or when we get to a house and there’s a kid at the door eagerly anticipating what we are there to deliver. When people see us pull up in the van, they usually break into big smiles.
SOURCES: AMAZON DRIVERS IN PENNSYLVANIA, ARKANSAS, NEW JERSEY, INDIANA, COLORADO, NEW YORK, AND TEXAS, AND A FORMER AMAZON DRIVER IN HOUSTON WHO NOW WORKS FOR FEDEX