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Amazon Confidential: Week 4, The Investment Strategy

At an all hands meeting of Amazon warehouse workers, managers prep them for the peak season, with CEO Jeff Bezos himself making an appearance via webcast, in Part Four of Amazon Confidential: Confessions of a Warehouse Worker.

So it’s Monday night and I’m working 10-hour nights now, 5 pm to 3 am. I probably walk somewhere around 8 miles a night or more. We had a “big” corporate meeting today; call it more like a “big business” rally. They crowded us all into a meeting room where managers tried to prep us for the upcoming “peak season” in November where we’ll be working between 50 and 60 hours a week.

Can’t wait!

Apparently I’m not alone. I spy several workampers nodding off in the back row as the presentation unfolds.

“We’re making our numbers now!” one manager announces, sort of waving his fist in the air. I’m happy for him, but really, “WE”? He has nothing to do with the numbers. In fact I’ve never even seen this guy before. It’s us crazy geriatric workampers who are making the numbers work.

We get to watch founder Jeff Bezos on a live feed which later I learn was taped, because my campground neighbor who works days saw the same film. Anyway, it turns out Mr. Bezos is all pumped up about the company stock. He talks about buy backs and turns at least once to someone off camera to ask, “What’s it up to now?”

I’m paraphrasing of course as we’re not allowed to take notes or pictures during the meeting. But I can bet you he knew exactly what number Amazon stock was selling for at that minute. He probably had a live ticker tape running on the table in front of him.

“Why’s he talking about Amazon stock?” a neighbor sitting at my table whispers.

“Beats me,” another whispers back. “I don’t have a 401K in this company.”

“Personally I think he’s hoping we will all buy a few shares with our next paycheck,” another guy suggests. We all grin.

Within minutes you can see people zoning out at the mention of stock options.

There is a lot of irony at this meeting. First, we’re geared up for the coming push of 50 and 60 hour weeks. Then we’re shown a pyramid chart outlining the relationship of number of accident occurrences based on hours worked and people being tired. Hello! We’re all old. Most of us are at least sixty or older, I should say. I met one guy the other night working here who’s pushing eighty!

By the time we walk out of the long meeting I wonder if the managers have forgotten the cautionary words they gave us during training. “It’s a job, not a career.” They have clearly forgotten that trying to “Work Safe” is hard when floor managers are pushing us to produce more.

The one fascinating tidbit I did take away from the meeting was the mention of future plans for the company. They want to move away from UPS and use their own facilities to sort and ship product. I envision a huge network of Amazon trucks from coast to coast, convoys bringing produce from California to homes across the Northeast. Of course, the downside to all this is the overhead of maintaining that shipping fleet. Perhaps I didn’t quite grasp the concept. I think I’ll go buy Brad Stone’s “The Everything Store; Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.” I think it’s available on Amazon and I have a 10% employee discount.

Coming up in our next installment: Who Needs Who?