Media & Entertainment

What is this weird Twitter army of Amazon drones cheerfully defending warehouse work?

Comment

Here is a strange little online community to puzzle at. Amazon has developed an unnerving, Stepford-like presence on Twitter in the form of several accounts of definitely real on-the-floor workers who regurgitate talking points and assure the world that all is right in the company’s infamously punishing warehouse jobs.

After Flamboyant Shoes Guy called out the phenomenon, I found 15 accounts (please don’t abuse them — they get enough of that already). All with “Amazon smiles” as their backgrounds and several with animals as profile pictures. All have the same bio structure: “(Job titles) @(warehouse shorthand location). (Duration) Amazonian. (2- or 3-item list of things they like.)” All have “FC Ambassador📦” in their name. All have links to an Amazon warehouse tour service.

And all ceaselessly communicate upbeat messages about how great it is to work at an Amazon warehouse and assuring everyone that they are not being forced to do this. The messages all seem cut from the same cloth, frequently along the same exact patterns:

https://twitter.com/AmazonFCPhil/status/1030490786687864837

https://twitter.com/AmazonFCShaye/status/1031995219712122880

https://twitter.com/AmazonFCJeremy/status/1030623816362479616

The workers say that they don’t receive compensation for being ambassadors; it’s a “totally optional role” they have taken on voluntarily (Update: it’s a bit more complicated than that — see below). They also claim to be warehouse employees in the ordinary sense. If so, they’re putting their numbers at risk by taking the time out to bang out long tweets hourly on how great they’re doing.

Their most frequent topics of conversation are how they get bathroom breaks, the pleasant temperature of the warehouses, the excellent benefits and suitable wages, friendly management and how the job isn’t monotonous or tiring at all. FC Ambassador Carol, for example, is downright elated to be a picker, and is clearly a Bezos admirer.

https://twitter.com/AmazonFCCarol/status/1032701254714236929

https://twitter.com/AmazonFCCarol/status/1032696962913628161

https://twitter.com/AmazonFCCarol/status/1032697133135261696

You can practically hear the smile on her face.

I have a friend who worked as a picker for a while, admittedly some years back. He said it was some of the most mind-numbing yet physically demanding work he’s ever done. I understand that some folks may just be happy to have a job with full pay and benefits — I’d never begrudge anyone that — but the unanimous and highly stilted positivity on display in these ambassador accounts really seems like something else.

It’s no secret, after all, that Amazon has an image problem when it comes to labor. Reports have for years described grueling labor at these “fulfillment centers,” where footsore workers must meet ever-increasing daily goals, their time rigidly structured and room for advancement cramped. Just recently Gizmodo’s Brian Menegus has had a couple of great stories on current — not past — labor conditions at the company, and of course there have been dozens of such stories detailing exploitation or generally poor conditions over the last few years. And not just here in the U.S., either.

Amazon latest to face UK complaint over ‘bogus self-employment’

Certainly Amazon may have improved those conditions. And certainly they would want to get the message out. But these accounts are equally certainly not the grassroots advocacy they seem to be. (There’s already a parody account, naturally, or perhaps one of the ambassadors slipped the leash.)

I’ve asked Amazon for more details on what this program really consists of, and how it comes to pass that warehouse workers are being not paid to monitor Twitter, regularly rebutting critics with clearly canned stats and the kind of forced humor one would imagine they would indulge in if their overalls hid a shock collar. I’ll update this post if I hear back.

Update: Amazon says these “FC ambassadors are employees who have experience working in our fulfilment centers. It’s important that we do a good job of educating people about the actual environment inside our fulfillment centers, and the FC ambassador program is a big part of that along with the fulfilment center tours we provide.”

The program just started a couple weeks back; there are apparently 14 total, not 15 — either I can’t count or I mistook an inactive or fake one for the real thing. Several have also disappeared from the original collection since last night.

An actual former ambassador and three year Florida warehouse veteran Chris Grantham explained it in more detail to Yahoo Finance’s Krystal Hu, who shared the information with TechCrunch:

When I was there they just got an extra paid day off and a gift card after Peak [pre-holiday season]. This is what I got. A paid day off (that expired in 3 weeks lol) and a $50 Amazon gift card. Plus, they gave us lunch. Coldcuts and sandwich bread. I absolutely did not get paid more to train people.

Ambassador isn’t a ‘job’ you do every day, its just something you are trained to do. You go to a 4 hour class and they teach you how to teach others to tie a knot using a set of instructions. This is how new hires a supposed to be taught. You are supposed to teach them right from a script using a set protocol. Becoming an ambassador was a way to get out of loading trucks, or packing boxes for 10 to 12 hrs. You may ambassador 1 day then unload trucks for the next 3.

I stopped doing it after the first year I was there because it didn’t pay more. It’s voluntary. Your manager picks them. Generally speaking ambassadors are the “kiss asses” of the department.

In case it isn’t obvious, Chris is no longer at Amazon and is happy to speak his mind. Thanks for helping us clear this up, Chris.

More TechCrunch

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

Ahead of the AI safety summit kicking off in Seoul, South Korea later this week, its co-host the United Kingdom is expanding its own efforts in the field. The AI…

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

15 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

3 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

3 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data