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America is not ready for Instant Delivery

December 20, 2018

In a new marketing ploy by Prudential, a series of billboards have gone up around the country with the following slogan: “Robots can’t take your job if you’re already retired”. 


We live in a time of massive technological advancements which creates immense fear of technology. Among low-skill workers, there is fear that robots will come to replace them in warehouses. However, there is little emphasis put on the inhuman conditions that these workers are forced to work in for less than a living wage.  


In a recent episode of The New York Times’ podcast The Daily, a woman named Tasha Murrell spoke about her experience working for the massive company XPO Logistics. The company harbors 98,000 employees and works with over 50,000 businesses in over 1500 locations around the world. They focus on ‘supply-chain solutions’—in other words, getting goods where they need to go as fast as possible. 


Among Murrell’s experiences, she detailed watching a coworker die after collapsing following a supervisor threatening to dock her ‘points’ if she went home. After the company refused to honor her doctor’s request for light lifting, Murrell miscarried her third child. She recalls her supervisor yelling at her to get an abortion. She was working 12-13-hour days on a minimum wage salary. 


These long days in massive factories with copious amounts of workers is all because of simple supply and demand. As retailers begin to receive more and more orders, they must operate on a time crunch. Logistics companies come in to fill the gaps between products and delivery. As consumers grow to expect their items to arrive quicker, employees of these companies must accommodate. 


Jeff Bezos and Amazon can be pinpointed as the beginning of this revolution with free two-day Prime shipping on eligible items on the site. Once Amazon’s national impact began, however, two days was no longer a short wait. In Seattle and other places near Amazon headquarters, Prime items can be delivered to your door within hours.  


Amazon has had its fair share of humanitarian issues. The company has been slandered by rumors of mandatory overtime requirements, unfair point-systems and time crunches so intense that employees had to relieve themselves in trash cans or water bottles. Most recently, senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill that would force employers to help pay for employee’s federal benefits through taxes. He called it the ‘Stop BEZOS Act’- a convenient abbreviation for ‘Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies’. 


The bottom line is that companies such as (but not limited to) Amazon and XPO are considered “top-heavy” companies—The CEO profits immensely from the work of many underpaid workers. This was true even before instant-delivery came to fruition, but as demand for items to be delivered within hours or days increases, factory workers are feeling the strain. 


In the past decade, shopping has gone from a daily commitment to a task that can be completed with the click of a button and delivered to your doorstep. While consumerism is thriving under this new instant-delivery market, there is a massive human toll on the employees of companies that strive to get products out within hours. Until America can take a long, hard look at the ethical issues that surround instant delivery, our society is simply not ready for something so advanced and demanding.  

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