Buyers and sellers of fake vaccine cards have flocked to messaging app Telegram, which has reportedly seen a 200% increase in sales since March

Telegram app logo
  • Telegram is a heavily encrypted messaging platform that can be accessed worldwide.
  • There has been a 200% increase in fake vaccine card sales on the app since March.
  • Fake COVID-related products are illegal to buy and sell and violate most social-media guidelines.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Shady deals for fraudulent COVID-19 vaccine cards have blossomed on messaging platform Telegram as mainstream social-media companies and authorities have cracked down on buyers and sellers.

Cybersecurity data firm Check Point Research began a probe into alleged Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for sale on the “dark web” in January, but its investigation quickly led to investigating other pandemic-related sales across the regular world wide web.

That was when a different platform entered the chat – Telegram.

Telegram, which has more than 500 million users, operates much like other messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, WeChat, and Viber, except it offers several unique features, like the self-destruction of messages and accounts after a certain period of time. Telegram is easier to access than the dark web because it can be downloaded from the App Store, funneling ordinary people into its message stream.

Check Point said it found a 200% increase in the number of vaccine card sales on Telegram since March. The data firm only expects this number to grow as US cities, universities, and workplaces begin rolling out vaccine mandates and millions of eligible Americans decline getting inoculated against the novel coronavirus.

“Advertisements being extended on social media platforms are ultimately funneling [users] to a darker, more dangerous criminal world with these vendors on Telegram,” Check Point spokesperson Ekram Ahmed told Insider. “And these Telegram vendors are likely an extension of darknet vendors.”

“There’s been a macro shift that has happened from the dark net all the way towards Telegram, in terms of these fake or fraudulent coronavirus services,” Ahmed added. “I think as more and more vaccine mandates get rolled out, this market thrives.”

Telegram messages about fake vaccination cards
Telegram messages with undercover Check Point Research about buying fake vaccination cards.

The end-to-end encryption is available for features like voice or video calls and Telegram’s “secret chats” feature, providing an extra barrier of protection for users. But most other activity on the app can be monitored by Telegram administrators, who can technically alert authorities to observable activity around the sale of vaccine cards.

Telegram did not respond to Insider’s request to comment on how its platform is being used.

In recent months, arrests have surged related to the sale and usage of fake vaccine cards. Buying and selling fake cards is a federal crime because the cards have unauthorized use of an official government seal.

Government agencies like the FBI and the FTC are arresting those who partake in these sales.

“The only legitimate way to get proof that you’re vaccinated – or that you test negative – is to get vaccinated and to test negative,” a spokesperson from the FTC told Insider.

Buying and selling fake vaccine cards violate the terms of agreement for social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, spokespeople from the companies explained to Insider. Those platforms use algorithms and second-hand user reporting to catch accounts in violation of these rules. Violators can face suspension and termination from the social media sites.

Aside from the potential legal liability for taking part in fake vaccine-card sales, there’s the risk of handing over personal information to near-anonymous vendors who populate Telegram. When Check Point investigated the app posing as potential buyers, Ahmed and his team were asked intrusive questions about personal details by fake vaccine card vendors, including location, birthday, email address, workplace, and banking information.

Vendors can use this sensitive information against buyers, committing crimes like identity theft or fraud.

“The type of information that they ask for is a little bit more intrusive than what you would need to just craft a fake card and ship it over,” Ahmed explained. “Anytime you share your information with someone on the darknet, or even these Telegram vendors, you have no idea what they can do with it.”

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Warby Parker is going public with a Buffett among its investors – but it’s Jimmy, not Warren

jimmy buffett
Jimmy Buffett.

  • Warby Parker’s investors include a Buffett, but it’s Jimmy, not Warren.
  • The eyewear retailer disclosed the musician is a shareholder in its S-1 filing this week.
  • The two Buffetts aren’t related but call each other “Uncle Warren” and “Cousin Jimmy.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Warby Parker is going public with a Buffett among its shareholders. But it’s Jimmy, not Warren.

The eyewear retailer – which is pursuing a direct listing after securing a private valuation of $3 billion last year – listed Jimmy Buffett as a stockholder in its S-1 filing this week. Jimmy Buffett is a musician whose hits include “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburgers in Paradise,” while Warren Buffett is an investor and the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

The two Buffetts took a DNA test to check whether they shared more than a last name, but learned they weren’t related, The New York Times reported in 2018. They call each other “Uncle Warren” and “Cousin Jimmy” anyway, the newspaper said.

Both men oversee corporate empires. Berkshire owns dozens of businesses including Geico and See’s Candies, and holds multibillion-dollar stakes in Apple, Coca-Cola, and other public companies. Meanwhile, Margaritaville spans hotels, restaurants, drinks, merchandise, retirement homes, casinos, and even a Broadway musical.

Jimmy has known Warren for around 30 years, and the singer has attended Berkshire’s annual shareholder meetings many times and performed a few skits for the crowd, he told MarketWatch in 2018. Warren has also given business advice to Jimmy, and underscored to Bloomberg the value of the musician’s followers and their lifelong loyalty to him.

“Jimmy doesn’t need a revolving group of fans,” he said. “He basically just accumulates them, and he doesn’t lose them. Except when they get old and die.”

Buffett isn’t the only familiar name on Warby Parker’s shareholder list. It also features “Originals” author Adam Grant, who turned down the chance to invest when the company’s cofounders were college students, and Alexander von Furstenberg, the investment chief of Ranger Global Advisors and the son of fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.

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Users can now shop directly on TikTok thanks to its partnership with Shopify

Shopify and TikTok partnership for in-app shopping
  • TikTok unveils a new in-app shopping feature in its latest partnership with Shopify.
  • TikTok users can now purchase items from sellers directly from videos and retailer profiles.
  • Since the pandemic, e-commerce has increased, creating ways for social platforms to get involved.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

TikTok users can now shop directly in the app.

The new TikTok Shopping feature, announced Tuesday, lets Shopify merchants with a TikTok For Business account add a shopping tab to their TikTok profiles and sync their product catalogs to the app and creating a direct link to their online store.

Sellers can also link directly to their products in their videos by tagging them, allowing TikTok users to shop directly from videos, the company said in a press release.

Kylie Cosmetics, a beauty brand owned by Kylie Jenner, is one of the first adopters of this new feature.

“I built my business on social media; it’s where my fans go first to look for what’s new from Kylie Cosmetics,” Kylie Jenner said in a statement released by Shopify. “I have so much fun creating TikTok videos, and I love sharing posts of my fans using the products. That’s why I’m excited for Kylie Cosmetics to be one of the first to let customers shop directly on our TikTok!”

TikTok and Shopify first unveiled their partnership last October to US merchants with advertising on the app. Trying to develop its social commerce and e-commerce strategy, the partnership first allowed merchants to create and manage TikTok campaigns.

Now, by giving users a new way to shop, TikTok hopes to attract new customers.

“TikTok is uniquely placed at the center of content and commerce, and these new solutions make it even easier for businesses of all sizes to create engaging content that drives consumers directly to the digital point of purchase,” Blake Chandlee, president of global business solutions at TikTok, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be expanding our partnership with Shopify and making TikTok more accessible than ever for their merchants.”

Currently, this feature is only available in the US and the UK. Canada will be adding in the oncoming weeks, according to TikTok and Shopify.

Since the pandemic, 70% of Americans are shopping more online, according to data from ESET, a global cybersecurity company, Insider reported. Experts expect this trend to stay.

Last year, Facebook also added an online shopping feature for its users. Earlier in 2021, the social media company also partnered with Shopify to expand the accessibility of social commerce by integrating Shopify’s Shop Pay buy button into Instagram and Facebook Shops.

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What is the Wish app? The e-commerce platform that offers discount products, explained

An Android phone showing the logo for the app Wish, along with the tagline "Wish - Shopping Made Fun."
The Wish app is available on both iPhone and Android.

  • The Wish app lets you shop for discount products from the online Wish marketplace.
  • Wish itself is an e-commerce platform that lets users sell and buy all sorts of products.
  • The Wish app is mostly safe, but users should be wary of buying fake or mislabeled products.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

You’ve probably heard about the e-commerce company Wish, which has become a power player in the online shopping world. It’s known for its cheap prices, long shipping times, occasional customer service woes, and easy-to-use app.

Here’s a guide to Wish and its mobile app, including what it is, how it works, and if it’s safe.

What is the Wish app?

The Wish app allows customers to shop from Wish, a San Francisco-based e-commerce platform. Like eBay and Amazon, Wish is an online marketplace for buying and selling products; however, one of the key distinctions is its emphasis on cheap products.

While you may not find many prominent brand names like Apple on Wish, you can find smartwatches – among many other popular products – for less than $5.

A page in the Wish app adverising glasses, shoes, clothes, and a laptop.
Wish offers clothes, electronics, jewelry, and more for low prices.

If there’s a product you want to buy, there’s a very good chance that someone on Wish sells it. For household supplies, you can find pest control devices, food storage containers, and garbage bags. In the Fashion tab, you can buy sundresses, leggings, and bathing suits. And in Gadgets, you’ll see listings for drones, hearing aids, and portable hard drives. It’s like a bazaar in your phone.

However, these low prices and lack of strict guidelines can come with drawbacks, as we’ll discuss later.

How to buy from the Wish app

1. Download the Wish app on your iPhone or Android device and open it.

2. Sign up for a Wish account – you can use your Facebook, Google, or Apple credentials – or tap the tiny Skip button in the bottom-right corner.

A page in the Wish app, asking the user to sign up for an account. The tiny "Skip" button in the corner is highlighted.
You can create an account right away, or skip the process.

3. Use the themed tabs or the search bar to find an item you want to buy, and when you find something, tap its photo to open the listing.

4. Read the listing and reviews to ensure it meets your specifications, then tap Buy.

A page on Wish advertising a mousepad, which has a "galaxy" design on it.
Make sure you’re buying the right product, and read available reviews.

5. At the bottom-right corner of your screen (or top-right corner on the website), tap the cart icon. When you’re ready to check out, tap Checkout.

A checkout page on Wish. The only item in the cart is a mouse pad, which costs $1.90. The "Checkout" button is highlighted.
Check the price and then checkout.

7. Follow the onscreen prompts to complete the transaction.

Is Wish safe?

Wish is a very popular app, but it’s trailed by a history of poor customer reviews and accusations of fraud.

Most reviews of Wish are positive. However, a 2019 Vox report that looked at the app’s reviews found a variety of complaints from users, accusing the company of failing to send purchased products, refusing to issue refunds, making unauthorized credit card charges, and more.

The app can also be very pushy when it comes to suggesting products. As you use the service, you’ll be constantly bombarded with potential discounts and coupon opportunities, most of which are styled to make it seem like if you don’t immediately take them, they’ll disappear.

A Wish page advertising a smartwatch, tanktop shirt, smartphone case, and an iPad case.
These products are labeled with “Limited Quantity Deal” and “Almost Gone,” pressuring the user to buy fast or lose out.

In his review of the Wish website, Insider editor Dennis Green said Wish “takes a gimmicky approach to commerce, trying to make consumers feel special through psychological tricks.”

He also said that the products “seem untested and suspect.” As we noted earlier, Wish features low prices and very little content moderation. It’s not hard to find knockoff brand name clothing and accessories. In the electronics department, it’s become a trend on YouTube to build a computer using only components bought from Wish and watch them fail to run.

While you’re shopping on Wish, remember the phrase “You get what you pay for.” If you find a product that’s priced way cheaper than you expect, you might be buying a fake.

A Wish page for an Nvidia GTX 1050Ti graphics card. The image and description are filled with broken English, and the price is listed as $76.
If you find a product that’s priced far lower on Wish than other websites – for example, this GTX 1050Ti, which usually sells for upwards of $300 – be wary.

You should also be prepared for long shipping times. Most products on Wish are manufactured and shipped directly from China and other Asian countries. In Insider’s experience, it sometimes took a month or more to receive orders, and when they arrived, the packaging was occasionally damaged.

Wish can offer some incredible deals. But be careful while shopping, and do your research before buying anything.

How to contact Wish customer service by phone or email, or through the appYes, Amazon delivers on Sunday – but not everywhereWhat is Amazon Locker? How to use the free and convenient delivery pick-up systemIs eBay safe? Yes, but its safety protections tend to favor buyers over sellers

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Your Whole Foods delivery order is getting about $10 more expensive if you live in one of these 6 cities

whole foods prime delivery amazon
  • Amazon plans to add a $9.95 fee to Whole Foods grocery deliveries through Prime in some markets.
  • Prime members across six US markets have been informed of the new fee.
  • The company said the service charge will help offset operating costs.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon is adding on a $9.95 delivery fee to Prime orders of Whole Foods’ items across six US markets.

A Whole Foods spokesperson told Insider the fee will be rolled out in the greater Detroit, Boston, and Chicago areas, as well as in Portland, Maine, Manchester, New Hampshire, and Providence, Rhode Island.

In a notice sent to shoppers last week, the grocery chain said the additional charge would help cover operating costs for delivery orders, but would not apply to grocery pickups, Bloomberg first reported.

The spokesperson told Insider the fee is part of a pilot program. It will help cover delivery logistics and allow the chain to avoid raising prices on its products.

Whole Foods launched its grocery delivery service in 2018, shortly after e-commerce giant Amazon bought the chain for $13.7 billion in 2017. The grocer offered free deliveries for Prime members who had bought over $35 in groceries.

The Whole Foods service quickly went head-to-head with other top Amazon delivery options, including Prime Pantry and Amazon Fresh. In January, Amazon shut down its Prime Pantry service in order to streamline its grocery offerings.

Since the onset of the pandemic, grocery services like Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods delivery have become increasingly popular as more customers look to social distance. But, as the cost of goods continues to rise with increased shipping costs, as well as product and labor shortages, the new fee indicates Amazon may not be immune to inflation.

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PayPal falls after earnings beat estimates but 3rd-quarter guidance disappoints

paypal
  • PayPal shares declined Thursday as third-quarter revenue guidance fell short of expectations.
  • PayPal said eBay’s payments moving off its platform is happening faster than anticipated, dampening its outlook.
  • PayPal’s second-quarter adjusted earnings of $1.15 share beat expectations of $1.12 a share.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

PayPal shares dropped Thursday after third-quarter revenue guidance fell short of expectations as a plan for eBay to migrate its payments off PayPal’s platform is moving faster than anticipated.

PayPal had been processing the online auction company’s payments following eBay’s spinoff of PayPal in 2015. A five-year agreement for such action ended in July 2020. PayPal said late Wednesday it now expects third-quarter revenue of $6.15 billion to $6.25 billion, including a potential “drag” of $465 million from the eBay migration. That outlook is below the $6.45 billion consensus estimate.

PayPal sees an “accelerated pace of merchant migration in international markets, as well as some additional core pressure, which magnifies this result,” the company said during its earnings call late Wednesday.

The stock fell 5% during Thursday’s session and was down by as much as 6.7% to $281.60. The shares fell by more than 5% late Wednesday.

The pullback presents “an attractive opportunity,” Bank of America analyst Jason Kupferberg said in a research note Thursday reiterating its buy rating on PayPal. He said core underlying trends for PayPal remain robust, including second-quarter revenue growing by 32% year-over-year excluding eBay.

“We view the accelerated pace of eBay migration positively, as this headwind will be largely behind PYPL sooner than anticipated,” he wrote.

For the second quarter, adjusted earnings of $1.15 a share beat the estimate of $1.12 a share from a Refinitiv survey of analysts. PayPal’s total revenue climbed to $6.24 billion from $5.26 billion a year earlier but was slightly below the $6.27 billion consensus estimate.

During the second quarter, PayPal added 11.4 million net new active accounts, pushing up active accounts to 403 million. It backed its guidance of adding 52 million to 55 million new active accounts in fiscal year 2021.

So far this year, PalPay shares have gained about 23% and have nearly doubled over the past 12 months.

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A start-up that’s on the hunt to buy third-party Amazon sellers is offering Tesla Model Ys and $50,000 cash prizes for referrals

A white Tesla Model Y sits in a showroom with people walking around it.
E-commerce start-up Acquco is offering free Tesla Model Ys to people who successfully refer Amazon sellers for purchase.

  • Start-up Acquco is offering free Tesla Model Ys to people who refer Amazon sellers it then buys.
  • The e-commerce start-up is offering the equivalent $49,990 cash prize for successful referrals.
  • Many firms have sprung up in recent years to buy and scale profitable Amazon third-party sellers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An e-commerce company that acquires third-party Amazon sellers is offering a Tesla Model Y or $50,000 cash for every referral that leads to a purchase, suggesting that the market is hotting up further.

Acquco announced on its website Wednesday that it wanted to expand its portfolio of Amazon sellers who earn at least $1 million in annual revenue. It’s offering up to $10 million worth of Tesla Model Ys or an equivalent $50,000 cash prize for referrals.

“Acquco is looking to grow its portfolio and [is] hoping to reward you along the way,” the company says on its promotional webpage. “If we acquire a business that you refer us, we will buy you a Tesla.”

Amazon sellers are hot property among retail start-ups looking to package small and medium-sized companies into a larger business they can more easily scale. These third-party sellers take advantage of the enormous reach of Amazon’s platform and delivery services.

Amazon said in an October press release that its third-party sellers had raked in more than $3.5 billion in sales on its 2020 Prime Day, up 60% from the previous year, and were growing at a faster rate than its own retail business.

Aggregator start-ups like Thrasio and Perch have sprung up in recent years bring third-party Amazon sellers together to propel their growth. Acquco said on its website that it has so far raised $160 million in venture capital.

Read more: Big firms are popping up to buy third-party Amazon sellers, who made up more than half of the retail giant’s $386 billion in net sales in 2020. Here are the biggest players in this fast-growing trend.

Acquco CEO Raunak Nirmal, a former Amazon employee who founded Acquco last year, told CNBC in an interview Thursday that the company had received about 200 referrals since the Tesla scheme launched the day before. He told CNBC that Acquco was prepared to spend up to $10 million on Teslas for successful referrals.

Prices for Model Ys start between $47,000 and $53,000, according to Tesla’s website.

Acquco did not immediately respond to Insider for comment.

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2 delivery companies in Oregon reportedly stopped working for Amazon, their only client, alleging ‘intolerable’ conduct and unsafe working conditions

GettyImages 1230935623 An Amazon.com Inc. delivery driver carries boxes into a van outside of a distribution facility on February 2, 2021 in Hawthorne, California. - Jeff Bezos said February 1, 2021, he would give up his role as chief executive of Amazon later this year as the tech and e-commerce giant reported a surge in profit and revenue in the holiday quarter. The announcement came as Amazon reported a blowout holiday quarter with profits more than doubling to $7.2 billion and revenue jumping 44 percent to $125.6 billion. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)
  • Two delivery companies reportedly cut ties with Amazon, accusing it of poor pay and work conditions.
  • Triton Transportation and Last Mile Delivery say Amazon changed rules and routes without notice.
  • They’re reportedly seeking $36 million and won’t resume deliveries unless their conditions are met.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Two delivery companies in Oregon made the decision to effectively shut down rather than keep delivering for Amazon, according to Vice.

Last Mile Delivery and Triton Transportation stopped working with Amazon, which is their only client, last week, The Oregonian reported.

“Amazon has been nickel and diming us so bad that if we don’t make change we can no longer offer the support and incentives that thus far we have been able to provide,” wrote Last Mile Delivery co-owner Tracy Bloemer in a letter to workers seen by The Oregonian. “We believe most of the routes are unsafe and require drivers to deliver in an unsafe manner.”

The companies sent a letter to Amazon accusing the e-commerce giant of “intolerable, unconscionable, unsafe, and most importantly, unlawful” conduct in the past two years, according to Vice. Together, the delivery companies employ roughly 150 drivers and make more than 20,000 Amazon deliveries in the Portland area on average every day, The Oregonian reports.

The companies said Amazon nixed delivery routes and changed rules without notifying them, according to Vice. The letter, obtained by Vice says that, because drivers commit to routes ahead of time, Last Mile and Triton are still on the hook for wages even if Amazon cuts routes at the last minute due to low inventory or warehouse staffing.

In the letter, the companies also accused Amazon of accessing drivers’ personal information, reducing reimbursements, firing drivers without giving the companies a say in the matter, and allocating deliveries unevenly among workers. Because deliveries weren’t evenly divided, some workers ended up needing to drive faster, potentially endangering other drivers or pedestrians, and work 12-hour shifts, even though Amazon only reimburses them for 10-hour shifts, according to Vice.

Last Mile and Triton are seeking $36 million to cover company damages and pay for laid-off drivers, Vice reports. They told the news outlet they won’t resume Amazon deliveries unless the company agrees to its terms regarding pay and working conditions.

“Earlier this week, two Delivery Service Partners abruptly threatened to stop servicing the Amazon account and jeopardize the livelihood of their drivers if we did not pay them $35MM within 48 hours along with a string of other demands,” Amazon spokesperson Kate Kudrna told Insider in an email response on Friday. “We refused their demands and they followed through with their threat, terminating their contract with us, leaving their employees confused and looking for answers. We’re doing everything we can to support the affected employees including connecting them with other Delivery Service Partners in the area who are hiring.”

Amazon says it has more than 2,000 delivery service partners employing more than 115,000 delivery associates across the US. These workers earn more than $17.50 an hour on average, according to the company.

Amazon came under fire earlier this year after drivers said they had to pee in bottles because they didn’t have time to use the restroom on their routes. Amazon has denied those claims. Delivery workers have also expressed frustration with surveillance cameras that Amazon said it installed in vans for workers’ safety.

Working conditions for the company’s warehouse workers are also under scrutiny, with one analysis finding that these Amazon workers were almost twice as likely to be injured than their counterparts at Walmart.

Last Mile Delivery, and Triton Transportation did not respond to requests for comment.

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Insiders reveal what it’s really like working at Amazon when it comes to hiring, firing, performance reviews, and more

Jeff Bezos and Andy Jassy surrounded by images of workers and robots in Amazon warehouses
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Andy Jassy.

  • Insider is investigating Amazon’s workplace amid a major effort to unionize the company.
  • The e-commerce and cloud giant has a complex performance-review system some employees say is unfair.
  • Amazon is investigating allegations of gender bias in its Prime division after Insider reporting.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon is the second-largest US employer and still one of the fastest-growing in the country. It offers income and benefits to well over 1 million people, and it’s been a source of jobs and shopping convenience during the pandemic.

With that level of influence, Amazon’s operations have come under intense scrutiny, which has prompted a nationwide unionization effort. The following covers everything you need to know about what it’s like to work at the company.


How Amazon culls its workforce

Andy Jassy
Under outgoing CEO Andy Jassy, Amazon’s cloud unit has built up an impressive roster of cloud security partners – but they often also work with competitors Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

Insider is investigating Amazon’s system for improving, or ousting, employees deemed underperformers. Once managers label workers as struggling, they are put on a “Focus” coaching plan. If they fail there, the workers are moved to another program called “Pivot,” and then finally to an internal company jury that decides their fate at the company.

The system has been criticized by some current and former employees, who say it is unfairly stacked against them and can encourage managers to give bad reviews to good staff. Amazon says it gives managers tools to help employees improve and advance in their careers. “This includes resources for employees who are not meeting expectations and may require additional coaching. If an employee believes they are not receiving a fair assessment of their performance, they have multiple channels where they can raise this,” a company spokesperson said recently.

Amazon has a goal to get rid of a certain number of employees each year, which is called unregretted attrition. Some managers at the company told Insider they felt so much pressure to meet the target that they hire people who they intend to fire within a year.

Read more


The company has been hit with allegations of bias

amazon logo

There’s been a rash of lawsuits filed against Amazon alleging gender and racial bias. In May, five current and former female employees sued the company Amazon, claiming “abusive mistreatment by primarily white male managers.”

In February, Charlotte Newman, a Black Amazon manager, filed a suit alleging gender discrimination and sexual harassment. And last year, a high-profile female engineer called on the company to fix what she saw as a “harassment culture,” Insider reported.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company investigated the cases, found no evidence to support the allegations, and doesn’t tolerate discrimination or harassment.

Read more


Amazon’s warehouses churn through workers

Robots in a UK Amazon warehouse
Robotic Amazon warehouses use robots to ferry shelves of items around the warehouse floor. Above, a photo taken in an Amazon warehouse in the UK.

The company’s fulfillment centers employ hundreds of thousands of people, offering pay and benefits that are competitive versus other retail-industry jobs. But the work can be grueling, some staff don’t stick around long, and there are growing efforts to unionize this modern blue-collar workforce.

Amazon warehouses are partly automated, using robots that zip around the shop floor fetching pallets of merchandise and bringing them to employees who pick the correct items and pack them for shipping. The company hires thousands of extra temporary workers each year to support a surge in orders during the holiday shopping period.

During the pandemic, online orders have jumped at an unusual time for Amazon. It prompted an unprecedented hiring spree last year but caused tension with workers concerned about entering warehouses that could spread the virus. These issues came to a head earlier this year, when employees at a fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, voted on whether to form a union. The effort failed, but there’s a bigger union push gathering steam.

In his final shareholder letter as CEO earlier this year, Jeff Bezos defended Amazon’s working conditions, but said the company needed “to do a better job for our employees.”

Read more


Amazon’s delivery network relies on thousands of drivers

Amazon delivery drivers pee bottle 4x3

The company partners with UPS, FedEx, and the US Postal Service, but it also operates a massive fleet of in-house delivery vehicles. These vans are driven by a combination of employees, third-party courier services, and contract workers.

Amazon is known for imposing strict time constraints on drivers and tracking how many times they stop and how fast they drive. While the company factors in break times – a 30-minute lunch and two 15-minute breaks – some drivers say they either can’t or don’t want to take them.

Earlier this year, a US lawmaker tweeted that Amazon workers have to pee in bottles. The company denied this, but multiple drivers confirmed it was part of the job. Amazon later apologized and said drivers have trouble finding restrooms because of traffic and being on rural routes, adding that the issue has been exacerbated by closed public bathrooms during the pandemic.

Read more


How to get a job at Amazon

Amazon job fair 2017
Job seekers line up to apply during “Amazon Jobs Day” at a fulfillment center in Fall River, Massachusetts, in August 2017.

Amazon remains an important employer that is growing quickly. Unlike some of its Big Tech rivals, the company offers a range of positions, from highly technical roles to blue-collar jobs. It’s recruiting methods range from massive job fairs to tough one-on-one interviews.

The company ranks among the top employers among technical students. In a survey published last year, Amazon came 10th in a survey of engineering students, beating out Intel and IBM but trailing Tesla and SpaceX.

Read more

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An Amazon driver said she nearly lost her house and had her car repossessed with her kids’ Christmas presents inside after an algorithm suddenly fired her

Amazon Delivery Driver
An Amazon delivery driver.

After three years working for Amazon’s contractor delivery service, Amazon Flex, 42-year-old Neddra Lira said she was suddenly fired last October.

As a result, Lira said, her car was repossessed and she stopped paying her mortgage. When the car was repossessed, it had donated Christmas presents inside for her three children, Lira told Bloomberg.

“I nearly lost my house,” she said. Lira’s other job, as a school bus driver, was on hiatus in October 2020 as schools were still mostly remote and pandemic lockdowns remained in place.

Amazon’s Flex program is a contractor position where drivers use their own vehicles. Deliveries routes are chosen through a corresponding app – like Uber or Lyft, but for Amazon package delivery.

Just before her firing, Lira was assessed by Amazon’s Flex app as being in “Great” standing as an employee, screenshots obtained by Bloomberg show – part of the algorithmic tracking of Amazon’s contracted delivery drivers.

Then, on October 2, 2020, Lira said she received an email saying she’d violated the service’s terms and was “no longer eligible to participate in the Amazon Flex program.”

After weeks of emails and appeals, Lira’s case was reviewed and denied by a string of emails from employees she’d never met.

It’s not clear what caused Lira’s firing in the first place, but Amazon Flex drivers speaking with Bloomberg describe tracking issues with Amazon’s algorithms: The inability to account for a long line of Flex drivers outside of the delivery station, for instance, or car maintenance and repair issues that can cause delivery delays.

Amazon representatives didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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