I have no idea how much money I have spent at Amazon since they started. When I look at my books (and I have a lot of books) a very great chunk of them came from Amazon, ditto DVD's, and CD's. And why not? They are cheap and offer an excellent service.
Then you read articles like the Times recent piece:
Amazon, Britain's most popular website for Christmas shopping, is making its staff work seven days a week and threatening them with the sack if they take time off sick.
Staff were warned that days off for illness, nonattendance or lateness would result in "points" against them. Any sick days, even if justified by a doctor's note, resulted in a point against the worker.
The area manager for packing, Christophe La Corne, told staff that overtime was "mandatory" and that he was going to be "strict" about enforcing it. He said he "did not want to hear people's excuses" about why they could not work the extra day.
Conditions in Amazon's sweat-shop style packing house on the M1 would not have raised an eyebrow in a Dickens novel:
- Made to work a compulsory 10.5 hour overnight shift at the end of a five-day week.
- Set quotas for the number of items to be picked or packed in an hour that even a manager described as "ridiculous".
- Set against each other with a bonus scheme that penalises staff if any other member of their group fails to hit the quota.
- Made to walk up to 14 miles a shift to collect items for packing.
Is this why Amazon is so cheap? Do their profits depend upon hiring the poorest from Eastern Europe, paying them the least amount legally possible, working them into the ground, and treating them without human kindness? That's what it sounds like.
Oh it's all perfectly legal. And that's the worst part about it, because it's legal they think it's right. I wonder if Christophe La Corne has kids? I wonder he'd encourage them to work 7-day weeks at Marston Gate for minimum wage?
I'd always had this idea of Amazon as a benevolent organisation. They make EC2! Werner Vogels is a nice chap! Their service is so good! What on earth could be wrong with them?
I wouldn't damn Amazon on the basis of one newspaper report. But it has made me very uncomfortable about the idea of buying from them again. When I consider receiving an item and thinking about the situation of the poor bugger who packed it. Not the happy Amazon employee I imagined but some poor sod from Romania at the end of a 10 hour shift.
Let's just say that I will be much more likely in the future to pay a little more to feel that I am not buying my books, DVD's, and CD's from people who may be on the verge of abuse.