The Detroit Post
Wednesday, 08 December, 2021

Do Amazon Fresh Drivers See Tip

author
Earl Hamilton
• Sunday, 06 December, 2020
• 11 min read

Amazon guarantees third-party drivers for its Flex program a minimum of $18 to $25 per hour, but the entirety of that payment doesn’t always come from the company. If Amazon ’s contribution doesn’t reach the guaranteed wage, the e-commerce giant makes up the difference with tips from customers, according to documentation shared by five drivers.

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Contents

The California Labor Code’s Provision 351, which targets the practice, does not apply to contractors because they are seen as independent business owners. A source familiar with the company’s practices who was not authorized to comment on the record said Amazon contributes an average of $19 per hour to contracted drivers wages.

Amazon determines how much it will pay each driver based on the length of the shift and any increases in customer demand, according to emails reviewed by The Times. Drivers who make deliveries for Amazon ’s Prime Now service noticed a drop in their tips in early 2018, prompting them to send questions to customer support.

Customer support representatives wrote in emails that the base pay drivers receive for each shift could vary from $18 to $25 per hour and that includes 100% of their tips. In response to the public scrutiny, Instacart Chief Executive Poor Meta announced internally Wednesday that the company would end the practice, BuzzFeed News first reported.

The delivery drivers weren't aware of the practice due to the lack of transparency. They weren't told how much of the money they get came from tips, so some of them had to experiment by ordering items themselves to figure out what was going on.

Here's the full text of the email Amazon sent to contractors: “We are excited to announce that starting August 22 we will be raising Amazon's minimum contribution for Prime Now, AmazonFresh, and Whole Foods Market blocks. “While earnings vary by region and block, with the change to Amazon's minimum contribution, we expect nationwide average earnings for these blocks to increase to more than $27 per hour,” the email reportedly read.

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Back in 2015, a group of Prime Now drivers sued the company, accusing it of withholding tips paid via credit cards. Choose a time slot when you will be available to receive your order in person.

We're happy to leave your order with a doorman or security guard if necessary. Doorstep Delivery isn't available for buildings with secure entries or limited access.

Our packaging is designed to maintain the correct temperature of your products, but we encourage you to retrieve your order as soon as possible. Delivery addresses in eligible regions receive free shipping on orders of $35 or more before tax.

If your region is eligible for the $35 local free shipping threshold, it will automatically apply during checkout. AmazonFresh Pickup is available to Prime members in select cities at no additional cost and without an order minimum.

Prime members in participating cities will have the option to choose a pickup location as their AmazonFresh account address, then reserve a time slot. Prime members will have the added option of picking up orders in as little as 30 minutes.

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That’s the best thing about only delivering orders is that it’s pretty fast, you don’t have to deal with customers, and if you like strategizing locations you can make many deliveries add up to a better than average hourly wage. The problem is that customers who might want to tip in cash (which I usually suggest) won’t have any way to do that because if you’ve had any Whole Foods (Amazon Prime Now or Fresh) deliveries, you know it’s a drop and run task.

You might argue that with several deliveries a few dollars commission adds up and the driver can make the promised $20 an hour or more that they are shooting for. Any driver that has to navigate the ridiculousness of Atlanta driving deserves that; and more.

One of the challenges I’ve noted though is that the selection of items isn’t as good as say Publix or Kroger. Still, the organic and non-GMO products are extensive and for a person who needs fresh foods (greens, veggies) each week I can’t beat it.

The only thing that should affect your tip (and in some cases, you have a few days to change the tip) for Amazon Now delivery of Whole Foods groceries should be speed, checking to be sure that no items were damaged in transit, and that nothing is missing. This gig economy is changing the way work is done and in the United States, we pay less per income than many countries do comparatively.

The dollars you invest in a gig economy worker has a direct and meaningful impact. A delivery driver’s exposure to that risk is intensified simply by engaging.

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Amazon has announced that it’ll be ending its practice of using customer tips to pay its Flex drivers wages, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times and confirmed by The Verge. Per Prime Now’s FAQ section: “Tipping is completely optional and can be changed up to 24 hours after delivery for orders other than those from Amazon Restaurants.

You don’t pay extra for an individual delivery as long as your order is $35 or more before tax. While it doesn’t seem like there’s a markup on items ordered via Prime Now, you’re still shopping at Whole Foods.

Even though Postmates discourages customers from giving cash tips, it’s long been the standard in the food delivery business. Cash tips are also preferred by many drivers, since they’re not taxed, and they aren’t reported to Postmates.

SNAP Debt cards from participating states can be used as a payment method on Amazon .com. Items must be sold and shipped by Amazon .com, AmazonFresh, or Prime Pantry.

This is irrespective of the customer tip or bonus payments based on criteria like peak demand hours or 5-star ratings. Because DoorDash works with many restaurants their schedule often depends on the business hours of their partners.

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is being asked to prioritize food deliveries to people with disabilities during the coronavirus lockdowns that have made it harder for them to stock their pantries. Who don’t have direct support professionals who can take them shopping, and who may lack access to the resources needed to navigate the community on their own,” Anchor CEO Barbara Merrill wrote in a March 20 letter to Bezos.

“ Amazon is in that position to ensure that help is on the way so that you don’t have to suddenly put four people in the direct support professional’s car and drive to the grocery store,” Merrill told The Post. The company has already funded the delivery of over 70,000 meals to more than 2,700 seniors and medically at-risk people in the Seattle area by partnering with a local caterer, an Amazon spokesperson said.

Amazon thrives off convenience and low prices, meaning that for certain members of society it really can function as a valuable tool due to their lack of income or time outside of work, both larger systemic problems that need to be addressed in their own right. I’ve now gone for nearly two years without buying anything from Amazon, including digital purchases like Prime, Kindle or Audible and, while some of this is due to my own privilege and living about 5 minutes away from my local high street, it has been achievable.

When high earners, or big business, don’t pay their taxes it means there’s less to go around for everyone, and it’s the vulnerable who end up being hurt. Founded in Seattle by Jeff Bezos in 1994, Amazon was created to exploit the loophole of not having to collect sales taxes when selling online, which at the time was only a requirement for physical stores.

“The average warehouse worker at Walmart makes just under $40,000 annually, while at Amazon would take home about $24,300 a year,” CNN reported in 2013. A November 2016 study by the Institute for Local Self Reliance, a community development advocacy group, analyzed more than 1,300 wage postings on Glassdoor and found that positions at Amazon ’s fulfillment centers paid about 9 percent less than the industry average.

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If you’ve heard something bad about Amazon it’s usually to do with their warehouses, where employees pick and pack products for delivery. There are multiple accounts of abuses at various Amazon warehouses, both in the UK and America, but certain details seem to appear again and again.

Multiple reports can be found of employees pushed to meet extremely high targets, subjected to strict breaks and a terrifying work environment, monitored electronically, and worried that not meeting targets will result in immediately losing their jobs. One woman tragically suffered a miscarriage while working, which she believed was ‘partly as a result of continuous pressure to hit targets’.

In 2011 staff in a Pennsylvania warehouse worked in 100-degree heat with ambulances waiting outside, taking away workers as they fell. The request showed 115 call-outs to Amazon ’s site in Hugely, near Birmingham, in comparison to only 8 calls to a nearby Tesco warehouse of a similar size.

In 2013 Jeff, an employee at Amazon ’s warehouse in Chester, Virginia, collapsed at work and was pronounced dead less than two hours later. His autopsy cited heart problems as the cause of death, and it’s impossible to know whether the exertion or intensity of the job was a contributing factor.

Some of these temps, like Jeff, are hired for the extra work created around the holidays, known as ‘peak season’, and let go shortly after with minimal notice. Jeff had died in January, well after peak season had ended and confident that he would become permanent staff, but there was nothing to indicate if or when this would happen.

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(Source: www.salesman.org)

Dispatch workers were also required to pay physical examination fees, take sick leave unpaid, receive no extra wages for overtime, receive no social insurance, and have no contributions made to their housing provident fund (even though dispatch workers are meant to be registered for social insurance and employers are meant to make social insurance contributions). Despite these differences, all workers in the factories are subject to long hours, low wages, and poor conditions.

As wages are low, workers must rely on overtime hours to earn enough to maintain a decent standard of living. In spite of that, the factory cuts the overtime hours of workers as a form of punishment for those who take leave or have unexcused absences.

Other major issues at the factory include inadequate fire safety in the dormitory area, lack of sufficient protective equipment, absence of a functioning labor union at the factory, and strict management who subject workers to verbal abuse. In 2015 The New York Times released a lengthy report on the workplace culture at Amazon ’s Seattle offices, and it makes for intense reading.

Interviews with over 100 current and former employees paint a picture of an environment of ‘unreasonably high’ standards and ridiculous working hours (the report details emails arriving after midnight then text messages asking why they weren’t answered, ‘marathon’ conference calls on Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving, criticism from bosses when they can’t reach employees on vacation, and working at home on nights and weekends). Being ‘vocally self-critical’ is described in the leadership principles, workloads are described as ‘extreme’ by employees who used to work on Wall Street, and several fathers talked about leaving as they felt pressure from colleagues and bosses to spend less time with their families.

The New York Times interviewed one former employee, a father of two, who wondered whether Amazon would bring in younger workers with fewer commitments. In these meetings employees were expected to memorize print outs given to them a day or two before, sometimes up to 60 pages long, of data on which they are cold-called and pop-quizzed about.

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“The company is running a continual performance improvement algorithm on its staff,” said Amy Michael's, a former Kindle marketer. Workers are encouraged to tear apart each other's ideas in meetings and to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses.

The examples given include ‘I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks’, and interviews with other employees suggest this tactic is often used to sabotage others. In 2013, Elizabeth Millet, a former Army captain who served in Iraq, joined Amazon to manage housewares vendors and was thrilled to find that a large company could feel so energetic and entrepreneurial.

Her boss assured her things were going well, but her colleagues, who did not see how early she arrived, sent him negative feedback accusing her of leaving too soon. Some workers who suffered from personal crises felt they were evaluated unfairly or edged out instead of being allowed to recover.

Multiple interviewees described returning from cancer treatment and subsequently receiving low performance ratings and being told their personal life was interfering with their work. Employees returning after serious surgeries and miscarriages were put on performance improvement plans and monitored to ensure their focus stayed on their job.

It seems that Amazon has a tendency to rely on data driven methods and analysis for running its operations, but this approach ultimately results in dehumanizing employees and disregarding other factors at play, such as race and gender, that unconsciously affect the way business is conducted. The report also details how many employees don’t last long at Amazon, and jump ship to other organizations such as Google and Facebook.

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One of the reasons that Flex Drivers can’t earn a full living is because Amazon ’s algorithms don’t properly compensate them for their work. While Amazon will pay you for the allotted block if you deliver in less time than estimated, these estimates don’t account for factors outside of driving, such as navigating large apartment buildings, leading to a ‘99% probability that you will exceed your block end time.’ If you go over that time, you aren’t paid for it.

The source of all of these problems boils down to Amazon ’s adoption of a gig economy system: treating drivers as independent contractors without health care, benefits or compensation if injured on the job, but expecting them to do the work of proper employees. It seems a lot of issues with Amazon workers would be solved if they stopped subcontracting out for temporary and flexible employees.

All in all, I just don’t want to purchase from any sort of company that avoids that much tax, hurts so many people, and has a lot of money going into political lobbying. In general, try to look out for locally owned businesses or larger stores that have unions and permanent employees, where workers have proper representation and rights.

Better working conditions for Amazon employees needs to be enforced through public policy, such as laws on minimum wage, labor standards, and ensuring the gig economy and temporary workers aren’t exploited, as well as making sure those who enforce and monitor these things are properly funded and carry real power. If you’re in America Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a great example of someone calling out Amazon on their ridiculous tax concessions.

Americans responded by using antitrust laws to break up the railroad trusts and stop their anti-competitive behavior, and that’s what we need to do now with Amazon. Doing so would safeguard the web’s inventiveness and the economy’s dynamism by ensuring that businesses have a chance to emerge and grow without being stifled by a dominant Overlord.

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