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back to article Undercover BBC man exposes Amazon worker drone's daily 11-mile trek

The Beeb has sent an undercover reporter into a British Amazon warehouse in a bid to show what life is like for its worker drones. Adam Littler, 23, strapped on a hidden camera and took a job as a "picker", collecting orders from an 800,000ft2 (74,322m2) warehouse. He claimed to have walked 11 miles (17.7km) each shift and said …

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Lowest common denominator

"We don't think for ourselves, maybe they don't trust us to think for ourselves as human beings, I don't know."

Probably right, but they're not paid to think, they're paid to be fast and efficient rather than waste time thinking and as some employees probably can't do both at once, all have to be treated equal.

If the warehouses were smaller, it would be automated, people are still sometimes cheaper.

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FAIL

Re: Lowest common denominator

HOLY SH*T I HAVE TO WORK, THAT'S EXPLOITATION, STOP THE PRESS, BLOW THE WHISTLE, WAAAHHHAAMBULANCE!

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Re: Lowest common denominator

Pallets maybe but items of different sizes and hidious packing materials like a usb mouse in a blister pack nah

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Is this a story?

11 miles in a shift? 8 hours? 1.375 miles an hour ~ 40 yards/minute? Is that excessive for stock picking? It's not fun but it's not sprinting

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Devil

Re: Is this a story?

And you save the subscription for the gym.

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Re: Is this a story?

"11 miles in a shift? 8 hours? 1.375 miles an hour ~ 40 yards/minute? Is that excessive for stock picking? It's not fun but it's not sprinting"

And how does that compare to someone working on a production line, doing an 8 hour shift sitting in one place and pushing a button every so often while they wait for DVT?

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Re: Is this a story?

Try walking continuously for 8 hours. Then tell me it's easy. Then do it again tomorrow. Asshat.

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Re: Is this a story?

I know those who are on their feet for 12 hours a day (or very close to it), and do that 4-5 times a week.

Nurses. Some of those are very fit (physically) after all this. Any it's full time job, working weekends. You do get used to it

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JDX
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Re: Is this a story?

Postmen seem to manage, even carrying a bag full of post. Now who's the asshat?

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Re: Is this a story?

Quote: "Try walking continuously for 8 hours"

In the days when I was supporting an end-user network consisting predominantly of Windows 3.11 (and later Windows 95) I used to do that on a daily basis for a living as an IT job. Mileage was not that far off either. With staircases and lugging PCs to/from the repair shop inclusive.

I used to clock even more as an intern doing molecular biology work - 8+ hours a day, running constantly between 4 different pieces of equipment located in 4 different labs _AND_ washing dishes with nicely grown "molds" on them in the meantime. McDonalds and Amazon are a song compared to some of the lab work out of there. Even the most disgusting customers in a restaurant are nowhere near a petri's that was used to grow Bacillus Subtilis grown on it.

It is not the mileage which is the problem here - it is the Amazonic attitude.

They have a name for this type of services - "The Mechanical Turk". The metrics, work organization, etc are meant to convert you into a machine attachment. It is the idea - you are a service orderable on AWS (Amazon's own storefront orders it along with everyone else). It is this which gets you, not the mileage. You are an automaton, you have been hired as one, you are controlled as one and you shall be one.

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Re: Is this a story? @stephen gray

I could manage a 20 mile walk back when I was 12. 11 miles in a day isn't excessive for anyone with a reasonable degree of fitness (it's probably even going to help).

It's not the kind of job I'd like to do, but that's more because it would bore me rigid.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is this a story?

I worked in picker packer environments for a while (though my job was to keep the shelves stocked, not do the picking, but it's the same really). Walked a lot, earned not a lot, listened to some music, had a laugh with co-workers, didn't love it, didn't hate it, saved up my pay for a few years, went to university, got a career.

I think the reason journo types see this kind of thing as scandalous is that it's the first time they've ever actually been subjected to this type of work. It says more about how beneath them they consider it than it does about the working conditions themselves.

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Re: Is this a story?

The purpose of shit jobs is to motivate us to get better jobs. I've done a mind numbing number of mind numbing jobs, some are shitter than others. I would put this amazon picker role as "meh" on my own personal "would you do this for cash?" scale, alongside other similarly light physical labour jobs that I've done - bar work, boxing dog food, bulk mail sorting, postie, gas meter man and so on.

Compared to some of the more hellish jobs I've had though, and it seems like this guy is just winging. Try cutting turf for 12 hours a day, or working in the (very) unclean side of a hospital laundry.

However, it is much much harder than some of the more cushty roles I've had - receptionist, delivery driver, data entry clerk, software engineer - the last one is a doddle btw, no way I'm going back to cutting turf.

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Re: Is this a story?

Try being a postman for a month. See how you feel.

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Re: Is this a story?

@15:56 GMT Anonymous Coward

This is some of the most sense I've seen on the Reg recently, shame you went AC.

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Big Brother

Re: Is this a story?

"You are an automaton, you have been hired as one, you are controlled as one and you shall be one."

I can understand this. I see the people working on a production line and they are quite capable of doing their jobs, or nattering to each other. Where it falls apart is talking and working. As mind numbing as the repetitive work is, many just cannot talk and perform their jobs effectively at the same time. They slow down. They screw stuff up. And then you get the ones that gesticulate wildly with their talking and can pass an entire minute flinging their arms around and not doing any work at all.

So while Amazon's "you are just a number, not a free man" approach might sound horrible, I rather suspect that if they didn't take this hard line, they'd need twice as many staff to maintain the same throughput.

[besides, isn't their work practice the thing of legend now? surely there are few people who enter these days without already having heard the stories?]

Big Brother, 'cos he is always watching your performance level.

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Re: Is this a story?

Cover the timer with a post-it et voila, a nice walk.

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Re: Is this a story?

"I think the reason journo types see this kind of thing as scandalous is that it's the first time they've ever actually been subjected to this type of work. "

Very well put. The first thing that crossed my mind when reading the article on BBC this morning was how the 23 year old journo sounded like a spoiled brat who's spent his time in uni smoking he-knows-what and having a good time while being supported by his parents - and now is shocked to find out that people in real world have to do real work for their money. FFS, it's not rocket science. You get paid £8.25 an hour for something that takes 5 minutes to learn. You want more money and more interesting work? Spend your youth (and in some cases, the rest of your life) finding something you have a a natural talent and passion for, Invest tenth of thousands of pounds and a good number of years in your education - and *don't* work as a stock picker. But don't make national news out of the fact that some jobs are more boring than others. Actually, the editors at BBC who promoted this piece of non-news to the front page have a lot more to answer for than the actual "under cover" journo.

Oh, and by the way, living in a big city, full of noise, and pollution, and having to finish stuff in work by deadlines, and having to put up with office politics, and shitty bosses, with screaming kids at home, and worrying about loosing your job and not being able to pay your mortgage, and, and, and ... well - pretty much everything is bad for your mental health. Welcome to adult life - get on with it and stop blaming big bad Amazon.

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Re: Is this a story?

Back in the day I worked as a roofer's assistant, carrying shingles up a ladder. In Houston TX, in the summer. It was regularly 100 degrees outside, 100% humidity, and a lot hotter on the roof. I got to the point where I could carry two 80 lb. bundles up the ladder (I did break a few ladders), balancing one on each shoulder. I had to keep three or four roofers busy.

When I got home I took a hot shower, then a cold shower, then collapsed into bed and slept a few hours. Then got up and had dinner.

So - walking 8 hours in an air conditioned warehouse? Hah!

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Re: Is this a story?

> Postmen seem to manage, even carrying a bag full of post. Now who's the asshat?

They don't carry, they have a wheeled trolley, and any post not delivered by 5:00pm is put back into the nearist postbox ...

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Re: Is this a story?

"Try walking continuously for 8 hours."

Many, many (many, many, many) years ago I worked as a swimming pool lifeguard. Just standing around doing nothing for 8 hours a day, day after day, is surprisingly tiring too.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is this a story?

@Tom 38: "The purpose of shit jobs is to motivate us to get better jobs"

There are no better jobs ..

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Re: Is this a story? - yes it is ...

"This is some of the most sense I've seen on the Reg recently, shame you went AC", Lusty

If you don't mind me saying so, you are talking total BS. Prof Marmot clearly stated that this kind of work environment causes ill health.

"The characteristics of this type of job, the evidence shows increase risk of mental illness and physical illness"

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My postman has a bulging sack still.

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Re: Is this a story?

Well said !

Nothing to add here :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is this a story?

Another convenient pro Amazon drone reply. The one percent in the U.S. owns your soul and laughs at how you brag about being a 21st Century wage slave. Eejit! www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/09/11/how-the-1percent-won-the-recovery-in-one-table/

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Re: Is this a story?

Did it for 5 years before I got into IT. It requires you to make an effort until you're fit enough for it not to bother you. If you're not physically able to be that fit, don't take that job. If you are, it's not a problem. Asshat.

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Re: Is this a story?

Yes, but he's really a journalist. You know, someone used to sitting on his butt all day everyday. Imagine the complaints he must have had about the blisters on his poor little feet.

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Re: Is this a story?

Every assembly line worker. The summer holidays after school I took a job on an assembly line packing loo cisterns. Easy enough but like my fellow packers, I was on my feet all day except for a 15 minute break in the morning and 1 hour at lunch. There are lots and lots of jobs like this and have been since the dawn agriculture.

What world do you live in? Maybe mummy and daddy should have forced you to use a plastic spoon once in a while.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is this a story?

If they don't like the physical exercise perhaps they should find a less demanding job. I would love to have an excuse to do 11 miles of walking exercise a day!

Whoever is complaining about this should be lucky the jobs are there at all, won't be long before they're replaced by robots entirely.

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Devil

Re: Is this a story?

Did 6 months at Amazon starting a year ago today (coincidentally). As a packer, you can natter away quite happily, as long as you keep your count up. Still the hardest I've every worked and was frankly relieved when I got a job back in IT.

As I said to them on the day I left, "It's not what I would have chosen to do, but it's kept food on the table, so thanks for the opportunity" As others have said, I don't think Mr Journo has done much manual labour in his life.

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There is a lesson there and it is this is what happens when you didnt pay attention at school.

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"There is a lesson there and it is this is what happens when you didnt pay attention at school."

What if you're still in school? What if you had a deprived childhood and never got a chance to finish school, or performed poorly because of your situation at home? What if you have learning disabilities? What if [insert any one of the many reasons people may want/have to take a job like this].

I'm not saying this Amazon thing is particularly horrendous, certainly doesn't sound much worse than restocking the freezer in a supermarket or working in an abattoir or something like that, but don't assume that the only reason anyone would take it is because they're lazy and didn't get 5 GCSE's.

Have a look at current unemployment rates, particularly among the young and recently graduated.

Here's your lesson: life is more complex than your black and white view of the world, you short-sighted arsehole.

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Devil

hokum,

I do agree with you that damial Kelly probably didn't cover the subject at hand in a holistic manner. But after your last sentence I wonder: is this a sign of frustration because you didn't pay enough attention at school?

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blah blah blah whine whine whine spot the media studies student!

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Anonymous Coward

My thoughts exactly!!!!!!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @hokum

Fuck you. Didn't pay attention in school? I was top of my classes. Didn't go to uni because I didnt want to, and yeah I work in a supermarket. Don't assume I'm stupid. Yes, there are a lot of simple people working in supermarkets, bit I also work along side guys who have multiple degrees. Are they stupid aswell?

Fuck you and your elitest ideology.

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Yeah because if EVERYONE paid attention at school jobs at Amazon would have way better conditions and pay so much more, right?

Right?

Got to love the brain-dead first-line support staff we get here who think they're better than people with real jobs. One of my friends just won GCHQ's entry-form puzzle competition. He works in Tesco's warehouse.

Because he chooses to.

Did you choose to read your script every day?

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Re: I was top of my classes

AC wrote:

>Don't assume I'm stupid. Yes, there are a lot of simple people working in supermarkets, bit I also work along side guys who have multiple degrees. Are they stupid aswell?

That'll be "but", "alongside" and "as well"

>Fuck you and your elitest ideology.

That's "elitist"

It's OK, I won't assume you are stupid.

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Re: I was top of my classes

If you're stupid or underprivileged, count yourself lucky you live in a country where the "worst job" involves walking for 8 hours a day for a decent minimum wage. In the majority of the world, this would be seen as a great job.

If you never got a break but are not stupid, this kind of job pays enough you could still continue your education and get into something better.

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@Evil Auditor

No chap, I did alright and have an okay job that I enjoy, but thanks for your concern.

It is, however, a sign of frustration at the udder idiocy of people like that moron above who take the attitude that people working in minimum wage positions are lazy, or stupid, or both. It's this kind of thinking that's led to the poor and unemployed being demonised as scroungers by the Tories and certain segments of the media, and it pisses me the fuck off.

I'm also kind of annoyed at you assuming that my defence of them means I must be in the same position, but not quite enough to insult you over it.

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@hokum

Thank you for the clarification. Well, I didn't take damian Kelly's comment very seriously*. That's why it made me smile. I don't and probably never will know damian Kelly's real attitude towards this topic. But if something looks like irony and smells like irony is probably is irony.

*And neither should you mine. Although part of my day job is to piss people off.

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@AC 14:44 GMT

Unfortunately, this does neither look nor smell like irony. You may have been top of your class. What class exactly? By any chance, it didn't involve comprehension/reading skills, did it?

Then again, maybe my skills are below par as I really couldn't find the elitest (sic) ideology in hokum's comment. But what the heck do I know! @hokum, are you elitist?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @AC 14:44 GMT

I'll give you the spelling mistakes, should've botherd to proof read....

But the point still stands. Don't judge people becuase of the position they're in. Its people like that, the ones that think they are better than you because you work in a shop... they are the ones I feel sorry for.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @AC 14:44 GMT

Well, aside from my terrible spelling. I seem to have made another fatal error.

Didn't scroll up enough before clicking reply. My comment was not aimed at hokum but at damian whatever his name is, the op.

Apologies hokum, that was not aimed at you.

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@AC 17:44 GMT

Now it makes sense! :-) But I believe you lack an irony detector.

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Quite. So given that he chooses to, I guess he's not complaining. Or running hidden cameras for the BBC?

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