How draconian are Amazon HR policies?
November 26, 2012 2:52 PM   Subscribe

There was an item missing from a recent Amazon delivery I received. If I complain, is someone at a processing center going to get fired?

It's a relatively low-value item (about $10) that is annoying to not have but not crucial or anything. I'd like to have the item (and not pay for it twice) but it's not a huge deal either way.

What I'd like to know-- ideally from someone who has worked at Amazon in management or in warehouse operations-- is if I do ask/complain about it, is whoever packed the box going to get fired? If this is a reasonable possibility, I'll just eat it.

I know that Amazon workers deal with some pretty difficult conditions to begin with, and I'd rather not contribute to any misery.
posted by charmcityblues to Shopping (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No, unless it's missing because someone stole it.
posted by empath at 3:07 PM on November 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

This strikes me as what the Catholic Church calls "an excess of scruples". Your request for an item you paid for and did not receive isn't over the top or cruel, and catastrophizing about terrible things that might happen to some warehouse worker seems odd.

As empath says, nobody gets fired for one mistake in the picking and packing process. Stuff goes wrong. Get your thing.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:27 PM on November 26, 2012 [26 favorites]

Get your thing. For the most part, employers don't fire a specific individual when one small thing goes missing. It's when a GIANT/expensive thing goes missing, or a ton of small things go missing over time.

I've never worked for Amazon, but I've worked front- and back-of-house retail and in a warehouse.
posted by SMPA at 3:37 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, pick-and-pack is a team effort. In the warehouses I've been in, two or three people would have some level of responsibility for (1) getting (2) the right thing (3) into the right box and then (4) making sure the right thing is still in the right box before (5) sealing the box, (6) putting the shipping label on the box, (7) getting it onto the right pallet/loading space, and (9) scanning it "out." You're more likely to get fired for not going fast enough than for making a single mistake.

BTW, Amazon puts a lot of money into making this simpler and more efficient, but even with the robots doing the transport, it's still people doing the picking and packing at the final points in the warehouse.
posted by SMPA at 3:47 PM on November 26, 2012

You paid for a product, you have every right to receive something you paid for. I understand you might not want to unintentionally screw someone over, which is very nice of you, but I highly doubt someone is getting fired over a small error. Plus basically giving Amazon free money because you hear they don't treat their employees well I don't think sends the right message.
posted by jeahc at 4:17 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

If Amazon is wasting money tracking down and firing people over a single $10 part I doubt they'd be terribly successful. The few times I have dealt with customer service they have been very accommodating. Call them, get your thing, don't fret.
posted by edgeways at 4:33 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Amazon runs a ruthlessly fast-paced system in order to keep prices low and shipping times fast. The occasional mistake is the cost of running that system. You can be sure they track and measure such mistakes, and you can be sure you are not the only one. I bet they run analytics on different warehouses and will take action if the mistake rate at a particular warehouse becomes unacceptably high, but I'd bet the action is just a single memo and perhaps increased monitoring.
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:20 PM on November 26, 2012

I haven't worked for Amazon, but I've worked retail. Cash registers were always wrong - always - usually by a couple cents. Occasionally by a couple dollars, very occasionally by many dollars. This was not cause for discipline, much less firing -- unless the same person was consistently very off, which meant they were not being careful enough.

Big companies do track this kind of thing; if one person has the average number of missing items, it's not going to matter. Mistakes happen. No one will get fired. If someone consistently packs orders incorrectly (and is significantly worse at the job than average), they might get fired, but maybe they should get fired.
posted by insectosaurus at 6:11 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can't comment on Amazon HR policies, but I spend my working day in distribution centers/ catalog order fulfillment operations, and a lot of stuff falls out of boxes when it's traveling around on conveyors. The boxes also jam up. Things fall out. Many people touch a box before it gets sealed and put on a truck. They're not going to fire the person who packed your order just because you're missing a $10 item.
posted by coldhotel at 7:34 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

It probably will cost Amazon more than $10 to train a new hire than it would to replace the missing item. I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by elizeh at 7:37 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I guess reading this article gave me a low opinion of the working conditions / firing triggers. I also guess that my concern over a $10 hairbrush probably generalizes to mean that I should consider not buying from Amazon anymore (a difficult proposition given my isolated physical location, but oh well) and support more humane companies.
posted by charmcityblues at 7:53 PM on November 26, 2012

Well, think of it this way, if there is someone working there who is stealing things out of boxes, don't they deserve to be fired? If it was just forgotten, the inventory count will check out, but if someone stole it, I'm sure Amazon would want to know.
posted by markblasco at 8:13 PM on November 26, 2012

SMPA is correct. There are probably 30 or more possible touchpoints in getting a box packed up even in a simple distribution center. I can't imagine how crazy a dc like Amazon's would be.

No one is going to get into trouble over one small item which didn't get to the box. Speed is more important that 100% accuracy at the individual packer level unless it's a consistent problem.
posted by winna at 8:22 PM on November 26, 2012

I've worked in pick and packing. We had things missing from final orders occasionally - usually small things that just didn't get checked right. Wasn't because anyone stole it - more because even if you're checking, you make mistakes.

Just ask for a replacement - probably the person who made the mistake will never even hear about it.
posted by Ashlyth at 3:06 AM on November 27, 2012

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