There are few things more important to Amazon than delivery. A large part of the reason the retailer is valued at $360 billion is that it has managed to get customers the things they want, cheaper and faster than its competitors. Someday, the company promises, drones will deposit boxes at people's doorsteps. But for now, the job of handling the holiday delivery crunch is left to an army of people like Angel Echeverria. Echeverria, 38, drives for LMS Transportation, a local courier in Inglewood that delivers packages for Amazon.
Amazon is pulling an Instacart and counting customers' tips towards Flex drivers' base pay, according to an investigation by LA Times. The Flex program, which you can think of as Uber for high-speed deliveries, promises contract drivers a base pay between $18 and $25 an hour. But based on the emails the Times reviewed and according to the drivers it interviewed, the e-commerce giant has been dipping into contractors' tips to be able to meet its minimum pay commitment. Amazon apparently wrote this line in several emails sent to drivers: "We add any supplemental earnings required to meet our commitment that delivery partners earn $18-$25 per hour." It's not entirely clear what it means by "supplemental earnings," and whether it truly pertains to tips due to the lack of transparency about its drivers' earnings.
Just before the morning rush hour on a recent Thursday, a brigade of vans rolled up to a low-slung warehouse near Los Angeles International Airport. Workers in bright green vests crammed some 150 Amazon.com This logistical dance wasn't performed by United Parcel Service Inc., UPS 1.15 % FedEx Corp. FDX 0.87 % or the U.S. Postal Service, all longtime carriers for the online-retail giant. It was part of an operation by Amazon.com Inc. AMZN 1.97 % itself, which is laying the groundwork for its own shipping business in a brazen challenge to America's freight titans.
In early December, a YouTube video of a Sagawa Express Co. delivery man throwing and kicking parcels went viral. The scene was recorded outside a Tokyo apartment building to which, apparently, the man had failed to deliver some packages because the recipients were not at home. This caused him to lose his temper, since it meant he would have to return later, and he took out his frustration on the parcels. To make matters worse, the day was quite windy, forcing the man to chase after several boxes. Sagawa apologized to the public and said the delivery man "regretted" what happened, but by that point the video had already been viewed thousands of times and TV stations had covered it extensively.