The Plight of the Warehouse Picker

Journalist Mac McClelland worked as a picker in an order fulfillment warehouse, not unlike the one that got a bit of press attention in Allentown PA recently, after workers passed out from the heat.

The days blend into each other. But it’s near the end of my third day that I get written up. I sent two of some product down the conveyor line when my scanner was only asking for one; the product was boxed in twos, so I should’ve opened the box and separated them, but I didn’t notice because I was in a hurry. With an hour left in the day, I’ve already picked 800 items. Despite moving fast enough to get sloppy, my scanner tells me that means I’m fulfilling only 52 percent of my goal. A supervisor who is a genuinely nice person comes by with a clipboard listing my numbers. Like the rest of the supervisors, she tries to create a friendly work environment and doesn’t want to enforce the policies that make this job so unpleasant. But her hands are tied. She needs this job, too, so she has no choice but to tell me something I have never been told in 19 years of school or at any of some dozen workplaces.”You’re doing really bad,” she says.

From I Was a Warehouse Slave {mother jones; via daring fireball}.

So small businesses are forced to close their doors because finding a better price online is as easy as launching a smart phone app; big companies don’t collect sales tax on their orders, making their products cheaper, and ensuring that local governments don’t get the revenue; and there’s a proliferation of sucky, bone-crunching warehouse jobs that people are, in some instances, lining up to apply for.

And the internet was supposed to be good for small business?

Amazon: I guess they were talking about the heat

Maybe Amazon wasn’t named amazon “because it was a place that was ‘exotic and different’ and the river [founder Jeff Bezos] considered the biggest in the world, like he hoped his company would be…” [wikipedia]

Maybe it’s amazon because their warehouses are really, really hot. Amazon rain forest hot. 

Perhaps I’m being flippant, but it seems as though there’s a dark side to free shipping on orders over $25.

Or so says a report released last month in the Morning Call:

During summer heat waves, Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stress. Those who couldn’t quickly cool off and return to work were sent home or taken out in stretchers and wheelchairs and transported to area hospitals. And [thanks to eager temp agencies] new applicants were ready to begin work at any time.

Take a moment and give thanks for your non-Amazon-warehouse job, find a local shop to do business with, and read the article or listen to the interview {via WHYY’s Radio Times}.