Black Friday at Amazon, Explained by a Former Warehouse Manager

via VOX

What’s it like working inside these fulfillment centers?

During my first few weeks of training, when I was just observing, it was clear to me immediately how hard this job is. The associates have mandated breaks where they have to clock in and out by certain times, but the managers do not get any sort of break or lunch. Most of us just never ate. Everyone is on their feet for 12 hours a day.

Are all those reports about timed breaks and surveillance true?

Yes, it is all extremely accurate. We had to track how long someone hadn’t packed or picked something. As managers, we were encouraged to monitor that, and if five minutes went by without an activity, we were supposed to go over and talk to that person. Everything is tracked inside Amazon because all the packages are being scanned and have time stamps. I would watch the internal system on my laptop and monitor all the packers to make sure there were no dead spots.

We didn’t specifically have timed bathroom breaks, but the break system was rigid. Associates got a 30-minute lunch break, two 15-minute breaks, and an additional 15 minutes of “time off for tasks.” So if there was an emergency phone call to be made, they’d take that on their time off tasks, and I’d scan their badge so the system would authorize them leaving.

If someone was out for more than 30 minutes, it was a first warning. If they were out for more than an hour, it was an immediate firing. It was really difficult for me because the firings were automatic in the system, and I had no control over helping out associates. I had to fire people multiple times, and they were devastated because they counted on the health insurance.

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