Amazon’s Flex is summed up as, “You use your own vehicle to deliver packages for Amazon as a way of earning extra money to move you closer to your goals.” It is currently implemented in over 50 cities across the US.
Arstechnica posted a story regarding the odd amount of automation that goes into the Flex drivers program. From driver verification to ratings to firings, much of it is determined and doled out by algorithms rather than people. Flex appears to leave contractors in a lurch if something goes wrong, though.
On the one hand, it is understandable that this system would have to be in place. These people are contractors with no true direct supervisor. With so many remote employees, the most economical route would be to automate supervisory or disciplinary actions.
Where is the oversight, though? If a Flex driver is terminated due to a bad verification selfie, who is there to readily fix the issue rather than the employee having to petition the firing? Who is reviewing why an employee’s ratings are dropping? Looking at the raw numbers does not always tell the whole story.
Unfortunately, drivers are left in the cold if they do find themselves fired. There is an appeals process. If that fails, the contractor can choose to pay $200 for arbitration. If you’re in a right-to-work state, the avenues for legal recourse may be slim-to-none.
Since the pandemic started, I’ve met quite a few people who chose to deliver packages rather than food or people. They wouldn’t go into details about the program. So, I’m assuming there’s a pretty stern NDA in effect.
I don’t blame them for keeping quiet. From what I’ve seen of Amazon’s warehouses, I am pretty turned off. When I saw how closely monitored warehouse employees were, I asked, “Do we really need that many cameras pointed at the two restrooms workers have to run to, so they don’t get a reprimand?”
The conditions these contractors and Amazon’s warehouse workers find themselves in make me wonder what the company is ultimately building towards. It’s not better for employees, and it certainly isn’t for verifying the authenticity of the merchandise the site lists/sells/ships.
Where are the algorithms that flag suspicious merchandise? Amazon is full of knock-offs, counterfeits, and collections of ROMs that are not licensed. We could argue about the positives and negatives of video game ROM files, but for this story, we’re looking at what Amazon turns a blind eye to.
During Prime Day this year, I saw the company’s official Instagram was advertising a 3DS cart with 500 games on it. All the games shown were Nintendo, Bandai, Nickelodeon, Universal, WB, and others. We all know this isn’t some official collaboration.
These 500-in-1 carts are not uncommon on Amazon. They come in all shapes and sizes, from entire game systems to NES carts, to SEGA carts, to pre-loaded arcade controllers. Who is ultimately responsible for protecting both the consumer and the copyright holder?
Does Nintendo have to comb through each listing and flag the offenders? Where is the algorithm that spots these multi-carts and instantly puts them on a list for verification?
Amazon could say that they’re not really responsible because another company lists and ships the items. However, there are plenty of other examples of these collections that are shipped by Amazon directly. Does this mean the company actively and willfully breaking the DMCA?
ROMs aren’t the only issue but were the easiest to demonstrate here.
I reached out to Amazon earlier today and asked what systems are in place to flag counterfeit merchandise or collections of unlicensed/illegal ROMs. We did not immediately hear back.
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