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Q: First, the obvious question – Why did you write a memoir about your two decades of being connected with Amazon somehow?
Lately, I feel that Amazon’s story is being told in a polarized way, either too glorious or too poor. In many business magazines Amazon is praised as the ultimate “Day 1”-company, a company that reinvents themselves every day and in other publications Amazon is denounced for the treatment of their workers.
Both points of view contain some undeniable truths. Still, though I witnessed impressive operations, as a transportation specialist, I could not find any “Day 1”-thinking during the 468 days I worked for Amazon Logistics. In fact, I found that the company was unable to solve issues other professionals such as YMCA counselors or even children solve daily. That is the story that has not been told in the past.
Q: So, when did “your story with Amazon” begin?
In 1997. Having helped my husband to self-publish two books in my birth country Austria, I wanted to publish a book in the United States but here things used to be a lot more complicated. Then, Jeff Bezos began to revolutionize the book selling industry and, eventually, the publishing industry. Because I studied film and mass media, I followed everything he did closely. In my opinion, Bezos was the new Gutenberg.
Q: And when did you start working for Amazon Logistics?
In August 2019. I liked working in the logistics industry. In the past, I worked as a Fedex subject matter expert and as an account manager and also in sales and marketing for an NVOCC (non-vessel operating common carrier) and freight forwarder for a few years. Hence, when, in 2019, I was looking for a job at a cool company, I was thrilled to find out that my favorite company opened a warehouse in my hometown.
Q: Did you encounter any of Amazon Logistics’ problems which have been mentioned in the news lately?
No. I worked at a distribution center and I am proud to say, at age 58, I was one of their best stowers. Distribution centers aren’t brutal environments, because in contrast to fulfillment centers they operate on 6-hour shifts.
While, from the beginning, I saw issues that blew my mind, like awful training, no quality control, and the worst designed internal competition initiative, these realizations did not prompt me to leave. I was enthralled with the company. I was certain that sooner or later I would stumble over an example of Amazon’s famous “Day 1”-thinking. Then, the Covid-crisis struck.
Q: What happened?
Suddenly, there was no denying anymore that a company like Amazon could have done a lot better in ensuring that their workers were safe from contracting the virus. But, instead of applying “Day 1”-thinking and pondering “best solutions,” they pretended it was business as usual.
Meanwhile, because of Covid, Amazon Logistics’ warehouse workers moved 127.1 million bags of dogfood, in boxes that weighed close to 50 pounds. Each one of these packages had to be moved by at least nine workers, in under 12 seconds.
And that was just the dog food.
Q: So, what’s the message of your book?
My memoir tells my personal story.
Still, there can’t have been many persons who admired Amazon more than I did in the past. In 2016, I wrote and published a book which explained how Amazon vendors could get product reviews on Amazon – the proper way. I also released a German edition.
At the time, I called Austrian newspapers long distance, on my own money, explaining how great Amazon was in my opinion. This effort yielded two whole page articles, NYT page sized articles, in Austrian publications.
Unfortunately, three years later, when working for Amazon Logistics for more than a year, I found mostly uninspiring, instead of creative “frugality.” It seems to me that the company has gone from creating irresistible products to trying to squeeze out pennies or even dollars from people they deal with in the two subsidiaries I am familiar with.
Q: What surprised you the most about working for Amazon Logistics?
Amazon Logistics is an efficient company however, to me, it looked like Amazon’s leadership principles which are presented on the warehouses’ lunchroom walls are merely letters on these walls. It is a story which hadn’t been told yet.
So, I told it.