Say you have a particularly busy week and realize as you’re running out the door that you’re out of both coffee and paper towels. Who wouldn’t love being able to order a refill on Amazon over their lunch break? With Amazon Prime, both items will likely arrive within two days, sometimes even sooner. It’s like magic; addictive magic that we’ve all come to expect. Behind the scenes, it’s much more complicated. In reality, Amazon locations are a pain to deliver to and pick up from, and their methods may not be sustainable.
The basics of Amazon shipping
There’s a reason that your comfy pair of winter boots or last-minute birthday gift arrived so quickly. Most Amazon sellers send their goods to large Amazon warehouses. There are more than 50 warehouses across the U.S., so there’s one relatively close to almost any residential address nationwide. That’s how Amazon can promise 2-day shipping. The goods really don’t have to travel that far. Based on product availability and distance from the nearest warehouse, same-day shipping may even be available.
There’s a dark side to all of this, however. To start, Amazon has a sizeable history of complaints regarding employee welfare and ethics. The corporate giant supposedly installed $52 million worth of air conditioning units in their U.S. warehouses to make working conditions more comfortable, but there’s still room for improvement. For example, warehouse workers at Amazon locations are on their feet all day, and they have extremely demanding quotas to fill.
From a shipping standpoint, Amazon locations are even worse.
From the outside, Amazon’s system appears flawless. While it saves customers time, it costs the drivers who service Amazon locations. At the majority of Amazon locations, wait times are killer. Of our dispatches who have serviced Amazon locations in the past, particularly one of the largest warehouses in Moreno Valley, the wait times were crushing. Drivers waiting to drop off a few pallets expected to wait for two, four, even five hours for a single load.
One hour of wait time is typically offered free. Longer wait times are typically charged at $50 per hour to the shipper. Few payors are willing to pay those detention fees without a fight, however. The shipping companies delivering to Amazon locations then have to rope in other departments to settle the charges. In the end, it renders the shipment a waste of time– particularly when drivers are already on overtime.
To break it down, a driver’s clock in time doesn’t start until they hit the dock. If they arrive for a 12 pm appointment but aren’t serviced until 2 pm, they can’t charge detention for the time they spend waiting in line. Essentially, it ends up costing carriers to service Amazon facilities due to the lengthy wait times and price gouging. When issues arise, as they almost always do, there’s no one to reach out to for help. At the locations themselves, there’s no one around to ensure drivers are serviced in a timely manner. And if there are billing issues? Don’t even bother calling the accounting department. No one will answer. Amazon is simply such a powerhouse that they can make their own rules. Either play their game or don’t play at all. We’ve chosen the latter, for more reasons than one.
Even those of us who avoid working with Amazon aren’t immune to its influence. Virtually instant Prime deliveries make it increasingly difficult for smaller carriers to compete with the digital freight brokerage Amazon quietly launched in 2019. A brokerage which, we might add, consistently undercuts market prices, making matters even more difficult for the rest of us.
The problem with Amazon locations isn’t close to being solved.
With an ultra-complex shipping system like Amazon’s, problem-solving is equally complex. There’s never a respite from new orders, so Amazon never has a chance to fix the structural problems that are keeping their warehouses in a state of delay and disarray. In fact, the problem is only getting worse. The more Amazon grows, the bigger their problems, and the longer the wait times. This is true now more than ever when we’re still facing an unprecedented supply chain crisis.
For this very reason, we avoid servicing their locations. While it’s tough to imagine swearing off Amazon Prime altogether, we encourage fellow consumers to give their business to small, family businesses as much as possible. At the end of the day, your neighborhood shop is probably more sustainable than Amazon’s convoluted system.