Amazon Warehouse, Up Close

Warehouse in Lower Macungie Township in PA–the hot as hell warehouse inspected by OSHA.

Reading the interesting post of John Pollard, my memory kicked in, and reminded me of my up close and almost personal view of a real live Amazon warehouse, full of books to be pulled, and boxed and shipped to the various customers around the world. I happened upon it, as my husband and I often do, accidentally, while exploring a route to a giant something or other. Could have been a Catsup bottle or milk can or whatever, but after we found it, clicked enough pictures for posterity, I turned around, and low and behold a sign with the familiar word I’ve always associated with oversized super women, Amazon, appeared.  I had the husband adjust our direction to enter the parking lot of a long ugly warehouse with no visible humans, no openings, no windows, unless in the office part, and no activity. For around a minute I thought perhaps it was abandoned. But rounding the end of the warehouse we found a more congenial area, if congenial means one opening, with a couple of people handing out boxes, and, an area with one dinky picnic table, a couple of attached benches, and a lone individual eating. Oh, and did I mention, the spot was entirely caged with open fencing–up to the top–completely enclosed. By golly, no slimy picker person will abscond with the latest paperback, not from this joint!

Turns out it was this giant catsup bottle on top of a building that led us to the Amazon warehouse.

Unfortunately, I’m not Nancy Drew, Brenda Starr, or even Barbara Walters. I knew what questions I wanted to ask the guy chewing on his packed sandwich, but worries about getting him into trouble, MY getting into trouble, held me back from interrogating the poor man. I did ask one really important question–important to me. Last year the news was full of Amazon’s lack of air within a Pennsylvania warehouse, I would assume much like the one I was at. No doors of the warehouse were allowed to be open to relieve the over 100 degree temperatures, for fear of rampant stealing. Considering the heat, I think a worker bee would have collapsed en route to carrying contraband books to the nearest pawn shop.  No air was allowed in-and no cooling system existed. Naturally, air conditioning was out of the question. I mean, next temporary drones would want guaranteed jobs after 6 months of picking faster and faster until their bladder burst from lack of bathroom break time. So, I asked the man if the interior was air-conditioned. He was startled, not so much by the question, but  from seeing someone outside his mini prison. He answered, yes, they had air-conditioning. I added–for how long? He gave the answer I expected–they just got it recently.

Just recently. And why did Amazon decide to air condition their warehouses? Because of  the press, and more importantly, the proper authorities were notified, via the emergency room attending physician who had to repeatedly treat people who collapsed from heat stroke or exhaustion. Amazon was completely aware of the situation–their solution was to keep a permanent ambulance outside the Pennsy place. All for cutting the middle man, Amazon realized that if they had the means with which to transport a fallen peon, then no need to alarm or notify  law enforcement to the latest casualty. But those pesky left wing news people had to get wind (they were the only people in this sorry story that got any air at all) of  this little situation, and then blew it out of proportion for the rest of the world to see and talk about.

OSHA, the government agency that oversees this type of behavior starting looking into the situation, with  letters going back and forth with explanations from Amazon. OSHA finally sent  sent people in to inspect. Result–suggestions were made, no penalties inflicted.  Amazon danced over and beyond this little hitch in their golden paved road. I almost started asking about the picking of merchandise and how one got demerit points, but the man explained he worked as a maintenance person, not as a picker, so that ended my quest for investigative journalism kudos.

And I can’t lie. I was very nervous driving around the parking lot trying to get close enough to take some pictures–always expecting some long arm of their private security, which I envisioned as thugs a la every Mannix episode made, to take me by the throat, haul me from the car, and I’d disappear until  a humongus pile of Oprah pics for the last 15 years was cleared and my crushed body was unearthed, my face unrecognizable with printing from She’s Come Undone on my forehead.

So what prompted the CEO to air-condition his warehouses? Well, the fantastic ‘Morning Call’ newspaper from Allentown, PA that first broke the story, did follow ups–and they found that only a couple months after the fiasco of heat related health issues, Amazon applied for the proper paperwork to install permanent air conditioners. So, unlike what Bezos wants people to believe, they aren’t a forward looking company out there leading the way on this type of machinery, the air conditioning was installed in direct correlation to the heat scandal. However, business experts disagree. They believe that the air conditioning was installed not for public relation purposes or humanitarian ones, but because much of Amazon’s newer  products cannot withstand high heat. Oh, yes, of course. The well being of the kindle and other electronic devices are far more important and a legitimate reason for spending money, much more so than the welfare of humans who do the work of carrying kindles to the area where they are packed and shipped. And if those humans continue to be fallible, Bezos has purchased a ton of robots who do the job with no complaints about heat stroke during pregnancy, or freezing outside for over 2 hours in sub-degree temperatures after a fire alarm goes off, to avoid theft. Is it me, or is this company a little too paranoid about stealing? Other companies have employees among valuable merchandise, and those workers aren’t treated like chain gang alumni.

So what did we learn here? Nothing much new, except I was able to verify, from a real live person who works within in a real live warehouse, that they really did go without any kind of air movement with all doors closed– up until the media bru-ha-ha.

It may not mean all that much to any one else, but my reading and believing what I read, and my reacting to it by boycotting Amazon in my personal purchases, was made a whole lot easier to do, now that I have been up close to the real thing.

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