Amazon Furniture Assembly Service Adds New Chaos to Delivery Workers’ Lives

On the Clock is Motherboard’s report on the organized labor movement, stage work, automation and the future of work.

Some Amazon delivery drivers are now required to install and assemble furniture, appliances and other bulky items for customers inside their homes as part of the new premium delivery service from Amazon. Amazon, in a move to compete with other retailers that offer similar services, such as Wayfair, Home Depot and Best Buy.

The program has already aroused the ire of some drivers who say they have not been offered any meaningful training in furniture assembly, and that the time Amazon has allocated for these deliveries significantly underestimates the work involved in the assembly. transporting items to customers’ room of choice anywhere in their home, unpacking cartons, assembling these items, transporting the packaging and sometimes repackaging the item on site if the customer is not satisfied for any reason . Motherboard obtained a strange video from Amazon explaining the system to employees. It is narrated by a monotonous robot and at one point features two animated Amazon employees named Steven and Amy, who also have robotic voices.

“Thank you very much for choosing us! Can you confirm that you are satisfied with this delivery and service? A monotonous voice representing Amy said to a customer.

“Absolutely! Love this service you rendered! I would definitely choose this service again in the future,” responds a slightly different robotic customer voice.

“It’s our pleasure,” Amy replies.

In the real world, real people perform these services and they don’t always go so well. The drivers were asked to assemble coffee tables, ottomans, televisions and beds.

“It’s been a fucking challenge. It always takes a lot longer than you expected,” an Amazon delivery driver from the Hampton Roads, Va. Metro area told Motherboard. “The moments they give seem completely random and very distant. And there was absolutely no practice. They just said you were going to do that.”

Motherboard granted the driver anonymity because he feared retaliation from Amazon.

For example, Amazon allocated 11 minutes and 15 seconds for two drivers to transport a 59-piece ottoman, made by Christopher Knight Home, to the customer’s room of choice, unpack and assemble it, according to a schedule obtained by Motherboard. One of the drivers for that delivery said the entire process took 35 minutes, more than three times the time Amazon calculated.

Customer reviews of the same Christopher Knight Home ottoman on the Amazon website suggest that while some customers found the assembly easy, others couldn’t figure out how to attach the top and bottom halves, or claimed that there was “missing material” missing. Drivers don’t receive training on how to assemble specific items before they arrive at a home, and it’s fair to assume they might run into similar issues. Generally speaking, assembling furniture can be so difficult, complicated, or frustrating that there are memes and video games about it.

Amazon delivery drivers are already working under extreme pressure and oversight from Amazon to make up to 400 deliveries on 10-hour shifts. In order to stay on top of their job, drivers are regularly forced to skip lunch breaks, pee in bottles, circumvent safety rules and sprint through busy streets to meet productivity demands. Amazon delivery drivers are seriously injured at nearly three times the rate of UPS drivers, according to a report released this week.

Amazon drivers won’t be paid extra or allowed to receive tips from customers for furniture assembly, according to the two drivers whose delivery providers participate in the program in Virginia. In April, Bloomberg reported that Amazon is piloting this program in Virginia and two other markets.

“We were told we are doing this as a reward because we work at one of the top performing Amazon delivery stations in the country,” another Amazon delivery driver in Virginia told Motherboard. “They said everyone should do it. No pay raise. Everyone is very upset not only because there is no extra pay, but people are concerned about the blame for the lack. training. “

“Amazon offers the installation and assembly of heavy and bulky items, such as furniture, a similar offering to that already offered by other furniture retailers,” said Alexandra Miller, an Amazon spokesperson. .

Miller added that participation in the program is optional for Amazon delivery companies, who can remove their drivers from the program if they wish. “This service has been implemented in several areas and the team looks forward to expansion,” Miller continued.

Miller told Motherboard that all drivers have received two hours of training for the program, followed by a 20-question exam at the end of the training which they must pass in no more than two tries.

But the two drivers participating in the program said they only received a seven-minute animated training video narrated by a monotonous robot, two carefree workers and dissatisfied customers. The exam on this video has only two questions. Motherboard reviewed the training video and confirmed that it does not offer any instruction on how to assemble furniture or what types of furniture operators need to be ready to assemble, and that the exam only has two questions. .

Motherboard also obtained a few other delivery schedules for the new program which indicated that the time slots for these deliveries were measured at the last second.

For example, Amazon allowed two drivers less than three minutes and 44 seconds to transport a King-size Casper mattress to its customer’s room, unpack it, and set it up. The mattress weighs 104 pounds, according to its listing on Amazon.com.

Drivers had less than 7 minutes to deliver and assemble a 234-pound dining table.

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Amazon didn’t respond to a question about how it calculates the time it takes to assemble a piece of furniture, but those time slots don’t seem to account for the time it takes for drivers to take a box up the stairs. or walk through a big house. or building to the guest’s room of choice.

Amazon drivers, who are regularly disciplined and fired for falling behind on their quotas, fear that this new program – which is yet another example of Amazon’s self-proclaimed “customer-obsessed” ethic – will their jobs in danger.


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