Is Amazon Chaotic?

September 1, 2019

DarkCyber found a FedEx tag on the door to our office. An Amazon FedEx delivery driver determined that we were not in the office. We were. Now what? FedEx did not care. We did not bother contacting Amazon. Will the package arrive? Who knows? But an outfit engaged in real news has invested one year in gathering information about Amazon’s delivery systems and methods. Note: This short write up will also be included in the Amazonia column in DarkCyber on Monday, September 2, 2019. Here’s a preview:

The Chaos of Amazon

DarkCyber read “Even Amazon’s Own Products Are Getting Hijacked by Imposter Sellers.”

This sentence seemed important, although its source is Marketplace Pulse, an information service with which DarkCyber has little knowledge:

“It just highlights yet another case of the chaos that exists on Amazon”

The “it” is hijacked listings. The procedure is to locate a product and then wait until Amazon stops selling that offering. Then a bad actor or a semi bad actor uses the listing to sell unrelated products. Reviews? Positive, of course. The write up explains the procedure this way:

One common tactic is to find a once popular, but now abandoned product and hijack its listing, using the page’s old reviews to make whatever you’re selling appear trustworthy.

There are some mechanics involved; for example, one source in the write up allegedly said:

She [former Amazon professional] says these listings were likely seized by a seller who contacted Amazon’s Seller Support team and asked them to push through a file containing the changes. The team is based mostly overseas, experiences high turnover, and is expected to work quickly, Greer says, and if you find the right person they won’t check what changes the file contains.

Is this a problem? Sure. Fix? Not an easy one. Think of the challenge as a type of YouTube vetting challenge. There’s so much going on, so much churn, one gets chaos. Interesting?

A Wobbling Flywheel?

The Cost of Next Day Delivery” is interesting. We noted this assertion:

Amazon’s next day delivery system has brought chaos and carnage to America’s streets. But the world’s biggest retailer has a system to escape blame.

That should activate the Amazon management team. A “Have you stopped beating your dog?” question puts the individual who is to respond near high RPM flywheel.

We noted this passage from the allegedly accurate essay:

the company’s [a subcontractor to Amazon] drivers worked under relentless demands to deliver hundreds of packages each shift — for a flat rate of around $160 a day — at the direction of dispatchers who often compel them to skip meals, bathroom breaks, and any other form of rest, discouraging them from going home until the very last box is delivered.

Okay, one example. A fluke? An outlier? An anomaly?

Buzzfeed asserts that Amazon:

in its relentless bid to offer ever-faster delivery at ever-lower costs, it has built a national delivery system from the ground up. In under six years, Amazon has created a sprawling, decentralized network of thousands of vans operating in and around nearly every major metropolitan area in the country, dropping nearly 5 million packages on America’s doorsteps seven days a week.

Amazon responded to this Buzzfeed essay, according to Buzzfeed, in this way:

“The assertions do not provide an accurate representation of Amazon’s commitment to safety and all the measures we take to ensure millions of packages are delivered to customers without incident. Whether it’s state-of-the art telemetrics and advanced safety technology in last-mile vans, driver safety training programs, or continuous improvements within our mapping and routing technology, we have invested tens of millions of dollars in safety mechanisms across our network, and regularly communicate safety best practices to drivers. We are committed to greater investments and management focus to continuously improve our safety performance.”

Buzzfeed, says Buzzfeed, conducted a year long investigation into delivery by Amazon. The conclusion:

Amazon’s pivot to delivery has, all too often, exposed communities across the country to chaos, exploitative working conditions, and, in many cases, peril.

Amazon kills people. Okay. The delivery vehicles are often poorly maintained. Subcontractors may have interesting pedigrees like interactions with law enforcement. Drivers may be attacked by a dog.

Amazon, like other super efficient, edge companies, pressures its suppliers. The method has worked for companies like Toyota. But the difference, it appears, is that Amazon is not unionized. The workflow for some delivery procedures may be based on what DarkCyber calls the “high school science club management method”. This ungainly phrase suggests, “We make stuff up as we go along.” Is it possible that this approach to management is one which allows cost suppression because mid level staff who often create guidelines, procedures, and handbooks of “rules of the road” are not needed. Making up procedures on the fly is expedient.

Buzzfeed focuses on the problems which, it appears, can be addressed with unionization and a mechanism for accountability. Examples in the Buzzfeed write up range from a desire to maximize resources to abuse of power, for example, this statement from the article:

“Amazon, you are so big,” he said. “Why do you want to treat your business partner this way?”

The answer, it seems to DarkCyber, is that efficiency generates “customer satisfaction” and “revenue.” Which is more important? Buzzfeed does not say. The article points out:

“Our [Amazon’s] #1 priority,” it said, “is getting every package to the customer on time.”

Net net: Buzzfeed is likely to step up its analysis of Amazon. Amazon, DarkCyber hypothesizes, will step up its scrutiny of Buzzfeed.

What other business practices will “me too” news organizations research and document? Amazon has been around since 1994. Interesting time lag: A quarter century and now an exposé? DarkCyber will stay tuned.

Stephen E Arnold, September 1, 2019


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