Headlines over drivers peeing in bottles have changed attitudes to Amazon.
One in three British adults say they’re less likely to buy items from Amazon after news broke that some of its delivery drivers were forced to urinate in bottles.
The statistically representative survey of 1,259 adults in the United Kingdom, exclusively conducted for CyberNews, shows that people are thinking twice about the convenience of Amazon purchases now they’ve been made aware of the working conditions those delivering their packages have to toil under.
The online retail giant has been embroiled in an online argument with US representative Mark Pocan, who has lambasted Amazon for paying its workers low salaries, trying to disrupt attempts to form a union, and having such high workloads that its delivery drivers were relying on peeing in bottles to make targets rather than stopping for bathroom breaks.
In response to Pocan, Amazon’s PR department initially tweeted “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you?”. However, they were forced to apologise and admit that workers did in fact pee in bottles because of the time stresses they were put under after outlets, including The Intercept, published internal documentation showing that managers were warning drivers not to leave bottles they had urinated into – or bags they had defecated into – in delivery trucks at the end of shifts.
Amazon apologises for lying
Amazon’s extensive apology to Pocan said the company’s denial that its workers peed in bottles was “an own-goal, we’re unhappy about it, and we owe an apology.” However, its defence was that many other companies in the gig economy also have similar work standards, sharing news reports that showed other firms did it – which many criticised as missing the point of the problem.
“We know that drivers can and do have trouble finding restrooms because of traffic or sometimes rural routes, and this has been especially the case during Covid when many public restrooms have been closed,” the statement said. “This is a long-standing, industry-wide issue and is not specific to Amazon.”
The company added:
“Regardless of the fact that this is industry-wide, we would like to solve it. We don’t yet know how, but will look for solutions.”
Yet the airing of the controversy has caused blowback against the company, with a significant proportion of consumers saying they may reevaluate whether they want to buy from Amazon now they know the strains workers are under.
One in three Brits rethinking Amazon attitudes
The survey of 1,259 adults, which was conducted using Google Surveys, which the tech giant says its weighted results are independently verified to be as representative of populations as traditional pollsters, found that 35% of people were either “a little less likely” or “much less likely” to order items from Amazon now they know the firm has been criticised for not giving drivers enough time for bathroom breaks, forcing some to “find alternatives.” (Google refused to run a survey that mentioned the words “urinate in bottles” or even the phrase “meaning some use bottles,” claiming users may find the action “offensive.”)
But the results weren’t as clear-cut as they may first seem. A roughly equal proportion of people – 36% - said they didn’t know whether the news would make them change their minds on how much and what they bought from Amazon. And around one in four of those surveyed said they would keep the amount they purchased from Amazon about the same.
Women were more likely to stop buying from Amazon than men, with four in 10 saying the news made them rethink their choice. Younger adults were significantly less bothered about workers’ treatment than older ones: around one in four of those aged 18-24 said they were less likely to buy from Amazon as a result. The GMB union, which represents employees, some of whom work in Amazon warehouses in the UK, has long run a campaign against the firm’s treatment of workers, saying they “are not robots.”