Amazon Delivery Partners Rage Against the Machines: ‘We Were Treated Like Robots’


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Amazon Delivery Partners Rage Against the Machines: ‘We Were Treated Like Robots’ - Yahoo

Three years ago, Inc. issued an invitation that seemed too good to pass up: Start your own company and earn as much as $300,000 a year delivering packages for the world’s largest online retailer.

The offer had strong appeal for would-be entrepreneurs. With an upfront investment of as little as $10,000, these new “delivery service partners” could have a fleet on the road in weeks. Amazon pledged to use its negotiating power to help the fledgling companies get better deals on vehicle insurance, classified ads and leases for its signature blue vans. Tens of thousands of people applied, eager to draft off of Amazon’s seemingly unstoppable growth. Today some 2,500 of these small businesses—captained by military vets, construction contractors, retired college professors—employ more than 150,000 drivers in the U.S. and around the world.

Ted Johnson was a typical recruit. He and his wife, Karen, moved from Illinois to New Hampshire, leased 80 vans and hired 160 drivers. A military veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Johnson was resourceful. He translated Amazon’s training materials into Spanish and hired non-English speakers to help address a labor shortage if Amazon was overwhelmed by demand. When his drivers had downtime, he paid them to make deliveries for a local food bank. Amazon was so impressed it sent him cameras to make a documentary about being a delivery partner.

But even as he congratulated himself on finding a second act he could call his own, Johnson, 56, was constantly torn between making money, meeting Amazon’s demands and treating his workers fairly. Ultimately, he was forced to shutter the business at a loss, the casualty of a system that Johnson said imposes unrealistic demands on the drivers who play a critical role in delivering packages to customers around the U.S.