Amazon, we gotta talk.
No, not about your recent policy change regarding third-party book resellers. That is a problem, and we’ll have to hash it out over drinks one of these days.
But you’ve got a bigger problem on your hands right now, and it affects your entire site, not just your stranglehold on the publishing industry.
I’m talking about your delivery service, Amazon Logistics.
For the benefit of the people listening in to our little chat here, Amazon Logistics is Amazon’s effort to save money on shipping by cutting UPS, DHL, and the US Postal Service out of the loop. And let’s be clear here: Amazon doesn’t own fleets of airplanes and trucks, nor do they hire thousands of delivery personnel. The delivery magic is performed by commercial carriers under contract to Amazon, with much of the “last mile” delivery–actually bringing the packages to your door–done by contractors.
Yeah, Amazon’s delivery service is part of the same “gig economy” that’s working so well for Uber drivers and other non-employee workers.
As Amazon puts it, they’re looking for people who want to “deliver packages for Amazon using your car and smartphone.”
And that’s where Amazon’s problem lies.
See, the way it works is that they cram those cars full of packages. The smartphone app provides routing instructions, and at each stop, the driver has to find the package, scan it with Amazon’s app, and then bring it to the door.
This isn’t hearsay, by the way. It’s personal observation. My office overlooks my front door, so I see all the delivery people who come by, not just to our house, but to a half-dozen of our neighbors’ houses as well.
UPS, FedEx, and the other delivery services who use actual employees as drivers have the bugs worked out of their systems. When we get a package carried by these folks, it goes like this:
- A truck displaying the company logo comes up the street on the side where parking is legal.
- The truck parks at the curb,
- the driver gets into the back, finds the package,
- brings it to the door–often ringing the bell–
- then returns to his truck and drives off down the street.
Here’s how it goes for one of Amazon’s gig economy workers:
- A car comes up the street on the side posted with “No Parking” signs.
- The driver stops in the middle of the street (halfway around a blind curve, by the way), turns on his emergency blinkers, and opens the driver’s door.
- He then opens the back door and leans into the car, to search through the pile of boxes that reaches from the floor to window level.
- Assuming he finds the package–and he doesn’t always–he stands in the middle of the street while he scans the barcode, then crosses to the sidewalk, leaving both car doors open,
- throws the package over the gate (yes, I’m speaking literally: a heave, a toss, a hurl–pick your favorite word meaning a semi-guided flight through the air),
- before returning to his car, closing the doors, and sitting (still in the middle of the blind curve) while checking the smartphone for directions to the next location.
See the difference?
I won’t even get into the issue of anonymous cars cruising slowly through residential neighborhoods, though I wonder how many Amazon drivers get reported to the police as suspicious individuals.
I’m not even really complaining about the cavalier treatment of the packages, though I’ll admit to being irked. I’m concerned about the safety of the delivery guys* and anyone else driving through the neighborhood.
* Lest anyone accuse me of sexism, let me note at this point that I have never seen a female Amazon delivery person. I’m sure they exist, and I’d bet they engage in the same unsafe behaviors as the male delivery people.
So, yeah, Amazon? You really ought to look into how your scheduling and routing practices encourage unsafe behavior by drivers trying to squeeze as many deliveries into a day as possible. Do it before someone gets killed. If nothing else, do it because lawsuits are expensive. But do it.