There were photographs in the original email, but they won’t be visible here. You can see then online by searching for Amazon Warehouses.
I don’t know how much of this is true, but even the Wikipedia article says Amazon employees are badly exploited and underpaid (see below) so maybe we shouldn’t shop Amazon any more than we should shop WalMart (or other big chains) if we care about exploited workers. Maybe we’ll just have to stop shopping altogether because, IMO, they ALL cruelly exploit their workforces one way or another.
I do know that not everything is sent from Amazon warehouses and a lot comes directly from independent suppliers, but I don’t know what percentage is sent from Amazon warehouses. My book publisher contact is very much down on Amazon, and refuses to buy anything from them or to sell through them because they apply pressure to publishers to cut their prices to the bone and they’re powerful enough to make a negative impact on the whole book publishing industry. They probably have a similar negative impact on other industries.
As the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon needs somewhere to put all of those products. The solution? Giant warehouses. Eighty to be exact. Strategically located near key shipping hubs around the world.
The warehouses themselves are massive, with some over 1.2 million square feet in size (111,484 sq m). And at the heart of this global operation are people (over 65,000 of them), and a logistics system known as chaotic storage.
Chaotic storage is like organized confusion. It’s an organic shelving system without permanent areas or sections. That means there is no area just for books, or a place just for televisions (like you might expect in a retail store layout). The products’ characteristics and attributes are irrelevant. What’s important is the unique barcode associated with every product that enters the warehouse.
Every single shelf space inside an Amazon warehouse has a barcode. And every incoming product that requires storage is assigned a specific barcode that matches the shelf space in which it will be stored. This allows free space to be filled quickly and efficiently.
At the heart of the operation is a sophisticated database that tracks and monitors every single product that enters/leaves the warehouse and keeps a tally on every single shelf space and whether it’s empty or contains a product.
There are several key advantages to the chaotic storage system. First is flexibility. With chaotic storage, freed-up space can be refilled immediately. Second is simplicity. New employees don’t need to learn where types of products are located. They simply need to find the storage shelf within the warehouse. You don’t need to know what the product is, just where it is. Lastly is optimization.
Amazon must handle millions and millions of orders. That means that at any given moment there is a long list of products that need to be “picked” from the shelves and prepared for shipment. Since there is a database that knows every product required for shipment and the location of each product inside the warehouse, an optimized route can be provided to employees responsible for fulfillment.
Since Amazon deals with such a wide variety of products there are a few exceptions to the rule. Really fast-moving articles do not adhere to the same storage system since they enter and leave the warehouse so quickly. Really bulky and heavy products still require separate storage areas and perishable goods are not ideal for obvious reasons.
In this storage system a wide variety of products can be found located next to each other. A necklace could be located beside a DVD and underneath a set of power tools. This arbitrary placement can even help with accuracy as it makes mix-ups less likely when picking orders for shipment.
Overall it’s a fascinating system that at its core is powered by a complex database yet run by a simple philosophy.
It’s “Chaotic Storage”.
[the following is from Wikipedia]
Alleged mistreatment of individual sellers
Amazon has faced scrutiny from numerous individual sellers who have claimed that Amazon unexpectedly closed their accounts, and subsequently withheld their funds for indefinite time frames. According to Section 5.k of the Amazon Seller’s Participation agreement, Amazon may earn interest on funds collected from buyers before they are disbursed to sellers, meaning Amazon can increase their earnings by delaying disbursement.
Poor working conditions
Amazon has attracted widespread criticism by both current and former employees, as well as the media and politicians for poor working conditions. In fall 2011 it was publicized that at the Allentown, Pennsylvania warehouse, workers had to carry out work in100 °F (38 °C) heat, resulting in employees becoming extremely uncomfortable and suffering from dehydration and collapse. Loading-bay doors were not opened to allow in fresh air as “managers were worried about theft”. Amazon’s initial response was to pay for an ambulance to sit outside on call to cart away overheated employees.
Some workers, “pickers”, who travel the building with a trolley and a handheld scanner “picking” customer orders can walk up to 15 miles a day back and forward, and if they fall behind on their targets, they can be reprimanded. The handheld scanners feed back to the employee real time information on how fast or slowly they are going, and also serve to allow Team Leads and Area Managers to track the specific locations of employees and how much “idle time” they gain when not working.
In a German television report broadcast in February 2013, journalists Diana Löbl and Peter Onneken conducted a covert investigation at the distribution center of Amazon in the town of Bad Hersfeld in the German state of Hesse. The report highlights the behavior of some of the security guards who apparently either had a Neo-nazi background or deliberately dressed in Neo-Nazi apparel, and who were intimidating foreign and temporary female workers at its distribution centres.
On 2 August 2013 the Daily Mail ran an expose outing Amazon UK for employee GPS ‘tagging’ and subjecting them to harsh working conditions, describing employees as ‘human robots’, the newspaper said that Amazon employed ‘controversial’ zero-hour contractsas a tool to reprimand staff. A Channel 4 documentary broadcast on the 1st August 2013 employed secret cameras within Amazon UK’s Rugeley warehouse documenting worker abuses and made similar claim to the Daily Mail calling the working practices ‘horrendous and exhausting’.
There’s more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon.com#Poor_working_conditions