Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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How Amazon’s next-day delivery network brought chaos, exploitation, and danger to communities across America

BuzzFeed reports:

Amazon is the biggest retailer on the planet — with customers in 180 countries — and in its relentless bid to offer ever-faster delivery at ever-lower costs, it has built a national delivery system from the ground up. In under six years, Amazon has created a sprawling, decentralized network of thousands of vans operating in and around nearly every major metropolitan area in the country, dropping nearly 5 million packages on America’s doorsteps seven days a week.

Amazon drivers say they often have to deliver upwards of 250 packages a day — and sometimes far more than that — which works out to a dizzying pace of less than two minutes per package based on an eight-hour shift.

The system sheds costs and liability, even as it grows at lightning speed, by using stand-alone-companies such as Inpax [one of hundreds of small companies that make up Amazon’s gigantic delivery network across America] to pick up packages directly from Amazon facilities and deliver them to the consumer — covering what’s known in the industry as “the last mile.” Amazon goes further than gig economy companies such as Uber, which insist its drivers are independent contractors with no rights as employees. By contracting instead with third-party companies, who in turn employ drivers, Amazon divorces itself from the people delivering its packages.

That means when things go wrong, as they often do under the intense pressure created by Amazon’s punishing targets — when workers are abused or underpaid, when overstretched delivery companies fall into bankruptcy, or when innocent people are killed or maimed by errant drivers — the system allows Amazon to wash its hands of any responsibility. [Continue reading…]

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