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Where our stuff comes from

primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' BoopinDetroit, MI Icrontian
edited Feb 2012 in The Pub
I know we all order tons of stuff online; this is a pretty interesting article about the life of a megawarehouse worker. Makes you think a bit about the conditions we're willing to tolerate in order to get our stuff.
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Comments

  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    Yeah, I just read that. Making me reconsider my "almost always Amazon" ways.
  • CantiCanti =/= smalltime http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9K18CGEeiI&feature=related Icrontian
    Reminds me of this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jungle

    This is the disgusting result of a society where everything revolves around making as much money as possible. Oddly it's consumer demands that force companies to create conditions like this in order to stay in business. It's because people feel entitled to things like free shipping and getting their order in just a few days that workers are held to such unrealistic expectations for fear of customers taking their business somewhere else. It's pretty sad to see that the standards created to improve the factory work conditions of more than 100 years ago don't seem to apply to the relatively new business of an online shopping warehouse.
  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    edited Feb 2012
    @Canti, "Only through education, through remembrance, and through constant vigilance can we ensure that the tragedies of the past serve as clear lessons for the future."

    From the Israeli representative to the General Assembly of the UN, link. This is referencing the slave trade directly, but is appropriate in a whole slew of contexts.
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI Icrontian
    Sometimes I think I do lean towards socialism. The older I get and the more I see, the more I realize that capitalism is really the root cause of many of these ills.
  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    INB4 "but free market will solve all the problems"
  • JokkeJokke Bergen, Norway Icrontian
    Terrible. I almost feel quilty for shopping so much from Newegg. It's almost getting to the point where one cannot buy anything in fear of where it has been and where it comes from.
  • IlriyasIlriyas The Syrupy Canadian Toronto, Ontario Icrontian
    edited Feb 2012
    The world of Capitalism is one where a company is allowed to do whatever it takes to beat out their competitors and make the highest maximum profit and to hell with all the individuals who make it possible, all that matters is how much money the company bigwigs and shareholders can stuff into their pockets.

    It's terrible that in a world where 'human rights' are valued so highly by society that conditions like this are allowed, not only to exist, but to continue.

    Although I've made very few purchases from online sources I still feel horrible for doing it because I KNOW that people are experiencing such horrible conditions specifically so that my order can arrive within 3 days of placing said order. That said I've made it a habit of grabbing most everything I want from local shops/stores regardless of a price increase compared to online businesses but I can't and won't use that as a 'moral high ground' conditions within the Capitalist system are terrible period and until society as a whole takes a different stance on consumerism we will be forced to live in a reality where situations like this not only exist but are encouraged by the system itself.
  • NiGHTSNiGHTS San Diego Icrontian
    Oh gad. Staying away from this thread.

    No matter what economic system you choose, you're going to have those that abuse it. Rather than focusing on the corporations at the top, try thinking about how the system we have benefits the many, many small to midsized businesses that account for a much, much larger part of the economy as a whole.

    ...or just stick to the talking points of the internet. That's cool too.
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI Icrontian
    edited Feb 2012
    I wouldn't call that massive, in-depth, personal experience "talking points". That was a well-researched story.
  • GargoyleGargoyle Purveyor of Lincoln Nightmares Illinois Icrontian
    Since we're within the capitalist system, the onus is on either individual consumers or government regulation to avoid situations like this. I desperately hope we can avoid predictably polarizing opinions on our economic system that lead to closing the thread and us not having nice things.

    What I wonder is if we were outraged enough when GameStop removed OnLive vouchers to call for a boycott... why can't we boycott Amazon for treating their workers poorly?
  • NiGHTSNiGHTS San Diego Icrontian
    edited Feb 2012
    I wouldn't call that massive, in-depth, personal experience "talking points". That was a well-researched story.
    Was responding to comments in this thread, not article.
  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    edited Feb 2012
    Oh gad. Staying away from this thread.

    No matter what economic system you choose, you're going to have those that abuse it. Rather than focusing on the corporations at the top, try thinking about how the system we have benefits the many, many small to midsized businesses that account for a much, much larger part of the economy as a whole.

    ...or just stick to the talking points of the internet. That's cool too.
    Based on these numbers (specifically, Table 2A), that argument doesn't seem to ring true in terms of total paid employees, annual payroll, or total sales and receipts (which my non-finance brain is guessing = revenue).

    Size of Firm
    Number of Employees (%total)
    Annual Payroll (%total)
    Revenues (%total)

    Small ( <250 )

    28.9
    24.1
    20.3

    Medium (250 < x < 750)
    10.5
    9.7
    10.6

    Large ( >750 )
    60.6
    66.1
    69.0

    Simplified math from my excel-ing, please feel free to correct. I'm staying non-partisan, dearest mods!
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI Icrontian
    The funny part about this system is that we can boycott Amazon and it won't change much; Amazon's management (the people who can change these situations) are most likely totally unaware that these conditions exist. That's one of the biggest flaws with a system that provides financial incentive to maximize efficiency at every step. The top says "this could stand improvement" and the lower down you go, the more depraved it gets; each "boss" up the chain merely likes the improvements they see. The top doesn't know what's going on six steps down the chain, but they do like the fiscal improvements and they reward the subordinate for improving.
  • GargoyleGargoyle Purveyor of Lincoln Nightmares Illinois Icrontian
    Even if that's the case, they know now that there are multiple news reports of these conditions. This is just like the Apple/Foxconn controversy. Amazon is hardly the only company involved, but they drive a great deal of the demand and make a great deal of money from the practices.
  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    Even if that's the case, they know now that there are multiple news reports of these conditions. This is just like the Apple/Foxconn controversy. Amazon is hardly the only company involved, but they drive a great deal of the demand and make a great deal of money from the practices.
    Agreed, but the article discusses the degrees of separation between decision makers at all levels and the actual (almost always, temp) worker at the end of the chain and how that ends up creating situations like this.
  • GargoyleGargoyle Purveyor of Lincoln Nightmares Illinois Icrontian
    edited Feb 2012
    This reminds me of local food movements where people are demanding to know more about the production of what they eat. I don't know enough to say whether those movements are driven more by consumers or artisan food creators (say, Jeni's Ice Creams in CBus), though.
  • NiGHTSNiGHTS San Diego Icrontian
    edited Feb 2012
    @Tushon PDF Warning: http://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/sbfaq.pdf

    Fine, we can use those numbers

    Small firms:
    • Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
    • Employ about half of all private sector employees.
    • Pay 43 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
    • Have generated 65 percent of net new jobs over the past 17
    years.
    • Create more than half of the nonfarm private GDP.
    • Hire 43 percent of high tech workers (scientists, engineers, computer programmers, and others).
    • Are 52 percent home-based and 2 percent franchises.
    • Made up 97.5 percent of all identified exporters and produced 31 percent of export value in FY 2008.
    • Produce 16.5 times more
    I'm not sure why you took this outside the PM, and we're not really accomplishing anything, but for the sake of it sales =/ revenues. There are costs of sales associated with each product, which chew into the revenue of a company many times over, depending on your market. Payroll is misleading, IMO, due to various industries and payscales associated with such.

    If you want to focus solely on number of employees hired, fine. As I said in the PM I feel a company as large as 1200 employees is still small, IMO. Large enough to be publicly traded might make the best benchmark (since everyone on the internet loves the bottom line argument), but even then small firms and startups can have IPOs to market (and produce absolutely no revenue, either).
  • Cliff_ForsterCliff_Forster Baltimore, MD Icrontian
    I worked for http://www.fastenal.com/web/home.ex for a short time some years back. I saw what they do to their warehouse slaves in Scranton PA, it was deplorable. They abuse people way past any reasonable hour, they did not offer reasonable wages for people working over in order to meet increased demand. Horrible company. Basically you stayed until all the orders were filled, and if you missed your kid's ball game, that's tough, they just did not care about the people working for them.
  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    Not being critical of you, just putting that into public perspective. Just a conversation, friend. Sorry if opening the discussion up didn't look that way. No offense meant! I also do think we are accomplishing something (relative increase in knowledge)

    I appreciate your input there, and if you adjust the numbers as you stated (for what I have available), the argument gets much closer! I don't know that I agree that large enough to be publicly traded is the best benchmark, but I'm also much less knowledgeable than you and others about that issue (I've been much more aware of politics than financials over the last 5 years or so). Large enough to be publicly traded would just be hard to pin down due to companies like Koch Industries, Cargill, et al being enormous but private. Where would you draw the line as "large enough"?

    After adjusted numbers (employees):
    small x <1250 ---------- 42.4%
    Medium 1250 < x < 5000 -- 8.3%
    Large x > 5000 --------- 49.3%

  • SnarkasmSnarkasm Madison, WI Icrontian
    So the standard two options in a situation like this is A) hire more pickers/workers/wage slaves, or B) pay the existing ones more. Would any wage justify the same "work impossibly hard until you're done" mentality? Would everybody be equally all right with paying an extra 60 people the standard crap wage if it made everybody's jobs just a tiny bit easier? Say you're the business owner: which way would you go?
  • ThraxThrax Professional Shill, Pokémaster, Watch Slut, Mumble Hivemind Drone Austin, TX Icrontian
    Reminds me of the franchulates from Snow Crash.
  • NiGHTSNiGHTS San Diego Icrontian
    Sigh, sorry @Tushon I'm not sure what was going on last night, apparently I was in a mood. Apologies for lashing out.

    Issue with raising hourly rates for these workers is that it ultimately raises the rate for the "skilled" labor you're also hiring in, say, a general and administrative category of cost expense analysis (your supply chain management graduate, for instance). Costs go up across the board, which in the long run ends up doing more harm than good. It's a tricky balance.
  • SnarkasmSnarkasm Madison, WI Icrontian
    Does it, though? You can make the argument that your pickers are worth more than your manager to your success, and that they do a harder job. You can certainly still pay the manager a bit more, but that gap can be lowered to appreciate and provide for your hardest physical workers.
  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    Does it, though? You can make the argument that your pickers are worth more than your manager to your success, and that they do a harder job. You can certainly still pay the manager a bit more, but that gap can be lowered to appreciate and provide for your hardest physical workers.
    Hence, how many countries have a much more "reasonable" payment structure for executives vs average employees (1950s US = ~50x, vs current times anywhere from 350-500x)
  • mertesnmertesn I am Bobby Miller Yukon, OK Icrontian
    Does it, though? You can make the argument that your pickers are worth more than your manager to your success, and that they do a harder job. You can certainly still pay the manager a bit more, but that gap can be lowered to appreciate and provide for your hardest physical workers.
    Right, but even if that happened, one of two scenarios occurs: either the manager's pay gets reduced and that money gets absorbed into the bottom line increasing profits ever so slightly, or it gets rolled into pay raises for all the workers...for a grand total of about $0.02/hour. Before taxes.

    Any significant change for the positive is going to cost the first company to implement it a ton of money because people are just going to shop elsewhere because it's cheaper...and no company wants to be first on that front. Everyone would have to implement at roughly the same time. The drawback there is that product and/or shipping prices would increase a slight amount, affecting the (largely uninformed and uncaring) consumer who will endlessly scream about how the companies are all colluding to increase profits on the backs of the consumer. Doesn't matter what the truth is.
  • ardichokeardichoke Buttes Master B Lansing, MI Icrontian
    Or... these companies could take a slight hit on their profit, pay people more and not raise prices. The market wouldn't like that though. Profits must always go up, every quarter, all the time.
  • SnarkasmSnarkasm Madison, WI Icrontian
    ^ This is what I was getting at.

    The stock market itself has corrupted things in a lot of ways. A single business owner with no shareholders gets to do things as his morality dictates, and can probably realize that his quality of life is not significantly impacted by putting 100k of his $1 million salary back into the company to improve wages and benefits. A CEO reporting to thousands of shareholders has to keep them all happy and increasing the company's value, personal values be damned.

    Seems like it's that way most of the time, anyway. There are exceptions, of course, but being beholden to shareholder returns is one of the great drivers of the "nothing but the bottom line matters" mentality.
  • CantiCanti =/= smalltime http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9K18CGEeiI&feature=related Icrontian
    So the standard two options in a situation like this is A) hire more pickers/workers/wage slaves, or B) pay the existing ones more. Would any wage justify the same "work impossibly hard until you're done" mentality? Would everybody be equally all right with paying an extra 60 people the standard crap wage if it made everybody's jobs just a tiny bit easier? Say you're the business owner: which way would you go?
    1. Hire more people because unemployment is a problem.
    2. Not treat people like shit and get mad when they can't meet impossible goals.
    3. Go out of business or loose my job for caring about something other than maximizing profits.
  • SnarkasmSnarkasm Madison, WI Icrontian
    Attaboy.
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