Amazon pays its drivers more, but only if you say thank you

In 2021, Amazon drivers were overworked, harassed and underpaid, especially during the holiday season. This year, the tech giant is tipping its drivers $5 when the customer says “Alexa, thank you my driver.”

The new initiative, which the company announced on Wednesday, aims to “give customers an opportunity to say thank you.” Amazon said the first million “thanks” will give each driver a $5 free bonus for the customer. In addition, the top thanked drivers will receive $10,000, of which $10,000 will go to a charity of their choice. The company introduced the pseudo tip gimmick so customers could thank delivery drivers without actually paying them more.

“We love hearing the countless stories from customers about the many ways delivery drivers are making their lives better,” the company said. “We are excited for this new opportunity to thank these everyday heroes and give our customers the opportunity to help us.”

Meanwhile, Amazon is being sued by DC’s Attorney General over allegations that the company deceived consumers by using tips to cover delivery drivers’ base pay. The allegations were settled in a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) case last year, but Attorney General Karl Racine is trying to reinstate the claims.

“My office is suing Amazon for stealing tips from delivery drivers through a deceptive, illegal system that led consumers to believe they were increasing drivers’ salaries, when in fact Amazon was diverting tips to reduce its own labor costs and increase profits ‘ said Racine in a tweet.

The total cost of the Amazon program—$5 for the first million “thanks” plus $20,000 for each of the top five thanked drivers—is $5.1 million.

Amazon has an estimated 250,000 drivers, which means the $5 million averages just $20 per driver for a potential vacation bonus. Amazon’s market cap is close to $1 trillion, so this initiative accounts for 10,000 percent of its net worth.

Meanwhile, the company spent $4.3 billion last year to crush Amazon’s union campaign. While Amazon drivers make between $18 and $25 an hour, over 70% of UPS workers make $42 an hour, according to S&P Global, as Amazon dominates market share in e-commerce and delivery.

Amazon recently made investments to increase driver benefits and raise wages by $1 an hour, but Amazon’s labor advocates say so dollar is not enough. Those investments, which will approach $1 billion over the next year, come at a time when Amazon may be literally running out of employees to work in its warehouses.

While Amazon could use that money to pay its workers with no customer aspect involved – as it refuses to abide by national labor laws – hopefully the initiative will bring some kindness into the days of Amazon drivers who can be clouded with hostility.

The main thing is that Amazon passes on real tips.


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*Initial publication: December 8, 2022 at 8:45 am CST

Jacob Seitz

Jacob Seitz is a freelance journalist originally from Columbus, Ohio, interested in the intersection of culture and politics.

Jacob Seitz Amazon pays its drivers more, but only if you say thank you

Jaclyn Diaz

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