When speed kills

I understand that the capitalistic system, at least in theory, is based on businesses competing with each other to provide the best product for the lowest price and that as a result the consumer benefits. But what concerns me is when the drive to be better is based on a metric that is not really that important. Unlike safety and quality which are good metrics, one metric of dubious value is speed of service. Because of the drive for speed, we have online retail giants like Amazon, already under fire for the awful conditions under which its workers have to labor and the poor wages it pays, boast about the rapidity with which it delivers the product to your door.

One consequence of that boast is that the drivers that deliver those goods are accused of driving recklessly and causing deadly crashes.

CBS 2 Investigators catch Amazon delivery drivers creating dangers on the road. With one pedestrian dead and another who says he suffered severe injuries, CBS 2’s Dave Savini looks into the drivers working at a local Amazon warehouse.

Outside the warehouse in Little Village, the CBS 2 Investigators watch Amazon delivery drivers hit the road and rack up traffic offenses too – blowing red lights and stop signs, turning illegally on red, parking in fire lanes and cutting in and out of traffic without using turn signals.

CBS 2 also found Amazon drivers in vans and personal cars loaded with packages – stacked so high their mirrors were obstructed. One after another, they roll out of the warehouse and zipped down streets, including in Raul and Steven Salinas’ neighborhood.

“Well I heard a loud yell,” said Steven Salinas said about the night his father was hit by a van they believe was driven by an Amazon delivery driver.

Chicago Police surveillance video shows Raul Salinas and his dog crossing the street. The van failed to stop for a stop sign, hits Salinas then leaves the scene – a hit and run.

Another consequence of that drive for speed is that workers are put under great pressure to work quickly and this can take a serious physical toll. Bill Foister, a 48-year old worker at one of Amazon’s warehouses that ship goods out, had a heart attack and apparently lay on the floor for 20 minutes before someone came to his aid. But that was not all, according to his brother Edward.

Edward noted that a week earlier, his brother had gone to the warehouse’s AmCare clinic and reported headaches and chest pains. According to Foister, his brother had his blood pressure taken and was told he was dehydrated, given two beverages to drink, and sent back to work.

“There was no reason for my brother to have died. He went to AmCare complaining about chest pains. He should have been sent to the hospital, not just sent back to work just to put things like toothpaste in a bin so somebody can get it in an hour,” Edward said. “It seems Amazon values money way more than life. If they did their job right, I wouldn’t have had to bury my little brother.”

Another worker said:

“After the incident, everyone was forced to go back to work. No time to decompress. Basically watch a man pass away and then get told to go back to work, everyone, and act like it’s fine,” said another Amazon worker on the shift.

There are not many things in life where speed is of the essence, and getting stuff delivered to your door is not one of them. But if we, as customers, choose whom we buy from based on things like speed and price, we are ensuring that companies like Amazon will drive their workers harder and faster with poorer wages and working conditions with predictably tragic results.

That is the reality of capitalism in the US today.


  1. Jenora Feuer says

    And this sort of thing is exactly why most pizza places stopped doing ’30 minutes or its free’ offers. Since the cost came out of the driver’s paycheck, the drivers were doing stupid things to be on time… and that was reflecting badly on the company.

    Amazon is big enough that it has apparently decided it doesn’t care about the PR consequences…

  2. says

    Businesses put the onus of responsibility (and loss of income) on the employee and believe they can absolve themselves of any (which they usually can). They tell the employee, “get this done, I don’t care how,” knowing that it’s going to eventually result in someone’s injury or death. It’s a single-person scale version of the NOLA Hard Rock hotel failure. (It’s the same attitude as the Bush regime in 2001 when they repeatedly told the CIA “wrong answer” until theygot the answer they wanted.)

    Domino’s “30 minutes” scheme resulted in debilitating injuries and $78 million in punitive damages. I hope those $3 they saved on pizzas covered the claims.


    Recently in Taiwan, two scooter drivers were recently killed because of speeding while delivering. Worse yet, the companies (Uber Eats, Foodpanda) claim they are “private contractors” to avoid legal obligations, and failed to report their deaths. The last lines from the item are infuriating:

    Couriers are employees rather than contractors, which means that the two companies would have to provide their workers with labor insurance and issue compensation for any work-related accidents, the Ministry of Labor said on Monday.

    However, on Tuesday both companies said that they have no intention of changing their business models.


  3. says

    I shop online quite often. I cared about the delivery time exactly once. It was autumn, tree leaves had already started to change their color, and I had ordered some photo gear. I wanted to get it before tree leaves fell off. On that occasion I had failed to plan ahead and make my purchase sooner. Other than that one occasion, I really don’t care whether my stuff arrives a day sooner or later.

    I don’t buy anything on Amazon as long as whatever I need is available in some other shop, which is the case almost always. The only things I (rarely) buy from Amazon are rare used books that aren’t available from other stores.

  4. says

    Yet one more reason to never, every buy any product through Amazon.

    If I can’t find another source, I just don’t buy.

    The cost to society—from many angles, is simply too high

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