FBA: Unseen costs of using an Amazon warehouse

Something I didn't get into in our previous discussion of the pros and cons of Fulfilled By Amazon was the implications of what sort of business practices you are supporting by allowing Amazon to handle your inventory.

Back in March of 2012, Mac McClelland wrote a great story about her experience working in a giant internet fulfillment warehouse. The article was published by Mother Jones, and it was a real eye-opener for me. I always viewed Amazon as a progressive business, but now I'm not so sure.
The article exposes horrible things, like: unrealistic picking and packing goals, mandatory overtime, staffing through third party companies as a means to dodge accountability, no scheduled time off without penalty (even for health reasons), extreme temperatures, electric shocks, finers for crying, and more.

While the article doesn't specifically name the business for which this warehouse operates, it is implied, and I believe it, that Amazon operates in this fashion. Amazon is the largest internet retailer and often boasts of new Fulfillment Warehouses opening and the jobs that are being created. But are all jobs created equal? 

I leave it to you to judge whether these 3PLs (3rd Party Logistics) warehouses are a problem. Surely, even a harsh job like that is better than being unemployed (?). I just want you to be informed. When you switch from being a small Picking home business to an FBA business, you are taking a large step deep into participation in this system.

I don't fool myself that being an independent merchant through Amazon (even while not doing FBA) is not also financially supporting the largest of the internet businesses that uses 3PLs. Heck, being a customer of Amazon could be considered an endorsement of these business practices.

But knowing that some poor person working at a warehouse is getting terrible back pain and carpel tunnel while earning only $7 an hour to pick and pack my items is a big factor in choosing whether or not to go with FBA.

And on that note, here are some surreal photos I found on Imgur of Amazon Fulfillment Warehouses:

Ok, that last one was from Raiders of the Lost Ark. I couldn't resist.


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  2. It's actually nice to see someone else who thinks about these things as well. Myself I have worked in factories and warehouses ever since I started working. I work in a vending warehouse right now. I worry sometimes about things like this about whether I am contributing to a larger problem or not by selling on Amazon. From experience I know warehouse work is not easy and you're not usually paid what the job being done is worth. Basically I don't know I mean I can't change the world. I can only be aware of these things and try to avoid them as much as possible.

    1. Thanks for commenting on this post.
      It can be hard to know the long distance effects of every choice we make (in this case, whether to use FBA or sell on Amazon at all). There are consideration on every side (warehouse and factory work being better than no work, etc.)
      The best we can do is try to be educated about the possible impact of what we do and where we spend (and make) money.

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