In 2015, the emporium of tycoon Jeff Bezos and his company Amazon, the largest eCommerce giant that exists today, pulled a 'sharing economy' exercise under the name Amazon Flex. With Amazon Flex, anyone with a driver's license can become a 'worker' of the company, acting as a delivery person. A system that, apparently, far from providing decent jobs is giving rise to new strategies in which, as always, the employee has the losers and the employer, in this case rightly the richest man in the world, the losers. of win.
In this video, which belongs to a series of documentaries by Vice, we witness the story of a couple who, together, work on the Amazon Flex program. The work proceeds as follows. Every day, the couple take cover behind their tablet or mobile and access their site on Amazon Flex . Then, they begin to 'refresh' the page of pending shipments, to accept those who come and earn money with the deliveries.
To refresh the screen they have to compulsively press it and then slide a bar at the bottom of the screen . A tiring task that, in addition, does not guarantee that you will be able to obtain orders. You simply go to the screen and cross your fingers.
When she gets a sufficient number of pickups for shipping, 64-year-old Beverly Karpinksky prepares to get her car, with maintenance that comes out of her pocket and gasoline that, of course, also comes out of her pocket, and go through the 45 minutes separating her home from the corresponding Amazon headquarters, where a long queue of 'freelancers' like her and her husband awaits her. Beverly is in a delicate situation. He must take care of his sick mother, whose care requires a greater financial effort since she had to go to live in a specialist center.
A history of precariousness
Beverly assures that Amazon "has saved her life" but moments later she also affirms that she maintains a "love-hate" relationship with Jeff Bezos' company. For three months, the couple received no income except for the welfare check that her husband received. One day, Beverly saw on the Craigslist page, a famous website similar to our mythical Cambalache, where even people themselves offer themselves to do all kinds of tasks, that Amazon required carriers for their orders.
When Beverly manages to get out of the huge queue, having placed all the packages to be delivered in her own car, her workday begins. The application informs you about how many packages you have to deliver in total and how many stops there are. Once you have located the package to be delivered of all those you have, you must scan it with your mobile phone, ring the bell and leave it at the door.
Salary is a separate issue. In Arizona, for example, a Flex employee can earn $ 18 an hour, much of which is lost as soon as they walk in due to the expense of gas and vehicle maintenance. If you have problems with the car, also, do not expect any technical service. There are no bosses to complain to, just a customer service email. If you have a problem with your work, you should write an email to the address provided that always interacts with the employee through automated responses. Amazon may cut off your access to the application when it deems it appropriate, without giving you any kind of explanation.
Amazon Flex, or a questionable sharing economy system
In the video, we can see Beverly's husband, who has had a mishap with a rental car (not even his), being 'thrown' on the road. On his way to the delivery of the second package of the day, the car's GPS has played a trick on him, taking him down a path of rocks and stones that has been fatal for his route. Now you will waste precious time on the shoulder, waiting for the rental company truck to check and fix the car, as well as with the vast majority of packages still undelivered. A time that Amazon is not going to pay you, in any way . Nor will you have the right to claim anything.
Beverly and her husband need the job. They are in a situation where any income, no matter how small, is welcome. And they find the position that Amazon is offering them a job but, nevertheless, it does not guarantee them any stability , nor does it facilitate their salaries to become high enough to be able to support themselves and their families.
On days like Amazon Prime Day the activity intensifies and is when there is more work. On the part of Amazon, they have always declined to give data about the number of carriers that make up their Amazon Flex program. What we can guess is the large amount of money Amazon saves with this type of 'sharing economy' actions . Amazon has its own informational algorithms about the demand that drivers may have, over a period of time. In this way they ensure that the money they invest in a driver will only be effective when that driver is really needed.
What is the situation of Amazon Flex in Spain?
In Spain we also have the possibility of participating in the Amazon Flex program in six cities: Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, Seville, Valencia and Zaragoza and the plans of the Internet giant is, of course, to extend this service to all of Spain. If you are interested in participating in the program, in which Amazon ensures that we will be able to get up to 28 euros per hourly blocks of 120 ′ (let's make a paragraph in the word 'until' to keep our feet on the ground), we have to register in the program . In it we will be asked a series of questions, such as availability and the area where we prefer to make the delivery. The only requirements to be an Amazon Flex dealer is to be over 18 years old, have a driving license and have Spanish nationality.
With regard to the situation of Amazon employees in Spain, things are not easy. During the celebration of Prime Day, in which, according to the brand, more than 100 million orders were placed , a strike was held to demand better rights. Amazon employees allege strenuous working hours with little right to rest, repetitive tasks, miles and miles traveled each day. A strike that ended, in certain informational pickets, with police charges, injuries and detainees. The monitoring of the strike, according to unions, was 70%.