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Bloomberg has a story about how a number of the delivery partners who are a critical part of the infrastructure that allows Amazon to get packages to customers in a speedy and efficient manner are saying that the company "imposes unrealistic demands on the drivers who play a critical role in delivering packages to customers around the U.S."

The story notes that "video cameras, telematics devices and smartphone apps monitor drivers’ every move. Software dictates how many packages a driver should be able to deliver in a 10-hour shift, a number that keeps creeping up and can be difficult to meet. The system is designed to maximize efficiency and discourage hazardous behavior, such as texting while driving. But the algorithms often get things wrong, several delivery owners said, dinging drivers for offenses they didn’t commit. These demerits affect the report cards the delivery contractors receive each week. The lower the score, the less Amazon pays them."

The story notes that Amazon "argues that automating these businesses is the only way it can manage an enterprise of such daunting scale and complexity. But if error-prone algorithms have marginal consequences for Amazon, they can be catastrophic for a small business owner who suddenly sees his or her income reduced or cut off entirely. Amazon is willing to accept a certain amount of collateral damage. After all, there are always new recruits ready to take the place of those who don’t measure up."

You can read the entire story here.

KC's View:

This is a fascinating story, and I find myself somewhat conflicted in my response to it.

On the one hand, I am bothered by the whole reliance on machines and algorithms and the seeming inability by Amazon to understand real-world nuance.  We all know that in any moment there can be dozens, maybe hundreds of variables that can affect how and when things work - or don't.  One of the ways that a business thrives, it seems to me, is by understanding that it is by empowering people to work through or around those variables that superior service can be achieved.  Denying the existence of variables and nuance doesn't; t strike me as being logical.  Or realistic.

But, let's face it.  The depth and breadth and complexity of what Amazon is trying to create here is enormous - I'm sure it seems as if machines and algorithms are the only way to have any sort of handle on it.

The thing is, there are times that Amazon seems capable of doing almost anything, times when Amazon seems to defy laws of physics in delivering superior service.  Maybe it needs to apply some of that magic to this issue, and find a way to make nuance and variables a feature rather than a flaw in the system.