Valued at nearly $1 trillion, Amazon is one of the most powerful companies in the world. The Seattle-based retail giant employs over 600,000 people and operates 100 sortation and fulfillment centers in North America, sometimes sending out as many as 1 million items per day to customers. But Amazon does more than just retail. Amazon publishes its own books and comics, finances TV shows and movies, operates a Texas wind farm, builds robots, streams music, delivers prescription medications, and operates web services for everyone from Medium to the CIA. And that’s not even counting its high-profile acquisitions, which include Twitch, IMDB, Zappos, and Whole Foods, among countless others.
Nearly all of us use Amazon, one way or another. But what is it like working inside the beast? Over the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you stories from workers at every level of the Amazon empire to find out.
Welcome to The Amazon Diaries.
When Jeff Bezos was brainstorming names for his new venture in 1994, Relentless was the banner that came closest to making the cut. Friends warned Bezos that it sounded sinister, and Amazon was ultimately chosen to become the history-making name. But something about Relentless spoke to Bezos — so much so that he even registered a domain for the name. Type Relentless.com into a search bar today, and you will be redirected to Amazon’s website. Back in 2013, I spent six months at Amazon’s Hemel Hempstead warehouse and discovered the relentless reality for the workers behind the trillion-dollar brand.
Mention Amazon to those who work at its warehouses, and cheap books, one-click delivery, and the A-to-Z smile are unlikely to be what springs to mind. I worked for Amazon for six months in 2013. When someone mentions it to me, my mind flashes to the headlines from my time there: 60-hour weeks, backbreaking efficiency targets, draconian redundancies, illness, depression. Relentless, the word lurking behind the consumer-facing infrastructure, is the reality for Amazon’s workers.
Amazon’s warehouses are called fulfillment centers, with no…