This essay is based on a conversation with a 60 year old Amazon warehouse worker. He asked to remain anonymous for professional reasons, but Business Insider has seen documents confirming his identity, salary and employment. The text that appears below has been edited for length and clarity.
I started working for Amazon as a warehouse packer 4 years back. I initially took the job because my wife got sick and we needed health insurance. Health insurance has been active on Amazon since day one.
I struggled the first year. It was hard on my legs and my body. I work 10 hours a day with 2 45 minute breaks. That means I’m on my feet for 8 and a half hours every shift,
As time went on, I managed to handle it a little better. I developed a system whereby I do intermittent breaks and simple stretches at my desk to make things easier for myself.
I’ve recently been moved to a different packaging department. Although he was very good at what he did, he wanted to slow down. my arm hurts and I had to have surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, I had problems with my hands before joining Amazon, but they got worse the more I worked.
Black Friday is extreme: you frantically try to get ahead
In my warehouse, a week before the busiest time of the year starts, everything is ready. Then it’s common for the plant to shut down an entire shift, which they call a stress test, to make sure everything is working.
The peak period starts just before Prime Day and lasts until the Christmas holidays, A week before a big day like Black Friday, overtime is mandatory.
During Black Friday, Prime Day and the holiday season, Work shift increased from 40 to 55 hours a week: 11 hours a day 5 days a week,
“Stress, burnout, turnover and a cutthroat environment”: an internal Amazon study criticizes the company’s culture
The size and type of boxes do not change, only the quantity. But I am a big grower year round. When I was a packer, I tried to do a little more than usual because there was so much going on.
I find that when we get to peak period, all hell breaks loose and I look around and people are running around. With the increase in orders, there are more boxes to pack and most of the staff are very stressed, but I really enjoy it.
I am very quick at what I do and I produce a lot. When there’s a lot to do, I put my head down and next thing I know I’ve packed hundreds of boxes. Usually, from 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., I’d have time to pack 380 boxes.,
For food I was trying to reach 500. Every shift, I would make at least 1,000 boxes, though I would get up to 1,100 on busy days.
I have found that many Apple AirPods are bought on Black Friday. Plus lots of sex toys and electronics and Amazon brand products like Fire Sticks.
Many children’s toys have also passed through my hands. When I moved here, I packed a lot of books, but they’ve been less popular lately.
When I started working at Amazon, I loved the competition.
There is a lot of competition and we all know who the big makers are. When the game starts, it’s a lot of fun.
You are there for 10 hours. Can you imagine living in your head for 10 hours? Either you are going to pack thoughtlessly or you are going with a purpose. You need to have a system that you like, that doesn’t stress you out, and that gets you the job done.
Supervisors used to say how much each employee producedStarting with the lowest and then referring to those who were making 100 packages per hour.
They did it publicly for a while, but then it stopped being funny because people would come up to me and say I was stupid for trying so hard.
They were saying, “Amazon doesn’t care about you, they’re going to ruin you.” But I get paid for working.
I think some people have complained to HR about the numbers being made public, but I’m not sure. Now messages are sent through our computer terminals.
Ranking position and volume are provided; For example, out of a total of 65 packers, one is said to be at the third position at the rate of 117 boxes per hour.
On Black Friday and other peak periods, Amazon offers incentives
Amazon used to give away $50 gift cards (47 Euros at current exchange rates) for its platform during the peak period. now it’s changed and Raffle prizes like TV, Cycle or Grill, Once a week, the managers choose a winner.
Instead of going through each department and picking one department, they consider the entire plant. It’s like a lottery. How are you going to win it?
Once, the supervisors announced the prizes, and a man who would never be at work got a 60-inch television. A fast-moving worker saw this and panicked. He never did the same thing again.
Many people think that raffles are rigged because the same people get the same prizes. Now when I get a ticket, I give it to someone else. I think they should just give $200 (about 188 Euros) every quarter to recognize the best performance, not a raffle.
Every time there’s a pay raise, you can be the worst employee in the world and still earn as the most productive of your group.
In early 2022, I earn $16.4 (15.4 euros) per hour, although Amazon raised my pay to $18.4 an hour in October, Recently there has been an improvement in the salaries of all the employees.
Improvements come from years served, however, on a practical level, people who work 3, 4 and 5 years get the same amount. On Thanksgiving week, I can make $1,150.
However, you also have to worry about inflation. this is not right. I work with a guy who used to be the fastest at packing, but this cycle of inflation and the raffle system killed his rhythm.
I really want to retire, even though I have to reach certain financial goals before then. I am so grateful for the ability to take care of the health of my family, especially my wife. I just wish it was not at the cost of long hours and damaged hands.