I’m an Amazon delivery driver who’s had to pee in water bottles and eat lunch in my van. I hate the new surveillance cameras and feel like I’m always being watched.

Rivian Amazon delivery van
“During the holiday season, I was targeted in attempted robberies and have had people follow me while out on my route,” says Angel Rajal, who started driving for Amazon in July.

  • Angel Rajal, 26, is an Amazon delivery driver living in Las Vegas.
  • He’s been penalized for changing the radio station and calls the new surveillance cameras “annoying.”
  • This is his story, as told to freelance writer Meira Gebel.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After four years of working in an Amazon warehouse, I applied to be an Amazon delivery driver.

I wanted to be a driver because I thought I would have a lot more freedom and wouldn’t have to deal with the uneven management style in the warehouse.

Angel_Rajal
Angel Rajal.

I started as a delivery driver in July, in the middle of the pandemic, driving a classic Amazon van, but have enjoyed being in a customer-facing role compared to the distribution center. (Rajal, like most Amazon delivery drivers, is hired by a local delivery service partner (DSP) and considered an independent subcontractor.)

However, during the holiday season, I was targeted in attempted robberies and have had people follow me while out on my route.

Working as a delivery driver comes with its own pains, too. You’re in a packed-to-the-brim van for more than 10 hours a day, are expected to deliver up to 400 packages, and each package is expected to be delivered within 30 seconds.

The routes, too, sometimes take you to rural areas where public bathrooms are out of reach.

There have been multiple times where I’ve had to pee in a plastic water bottle because there was no bathroom available to me.

Many public restrooms are closed because of COVID-19, but most of the time I’m out in the mountains making deliveries and feel pressured to keep up with my route.

My current route is fairly rural, and it would take me 15 minutes to get to the nearest restroom. It would take over 40 minutes round trip and put me far behind schedule, which would dock points from my score.

I used to enjoy being an Amazon delivery driver. But ever since the company installed cameras in our vans, it feels like we’re always being watched.

Amazon says the AI-powered, 270-degree cameras are motion activated and not recording all the time.

They can tell what the driver is doing. I get a “distracted driver” notification even if I’m changing the radio station or drinking water. Sometimes if I turn my head away from the front of the van, I’ll get a ding.

It’s getting to be so annoying. For every “distracted driver” notification, I’m being docked points from my safety score, which is reviewed by management and can be used to dock my hours or fire me. Amazon said the camera is there to help us with safety, but it feels like an invasion of privacy.

Most of the drivers in my DSP feel just as frustrated as me with the new cameras. Amazon has also changed its routing algorithm and marks multiple deliveries in one area as a single stop, even though the houses and apartments are spread out and are oftentimes on the other side of the block. It’s changes like these that make our jobs so much harder.

I used to think I would have freedom as a delivery driver, but most of the time I eat my lunch in my van on the side of the road of my route because it would take me too far out of the way to find a park and enjoy the fresh air.

I used to work for Amazon in the customer service returns department.

My job was to process every single return customers sent back to the company, make sure the items were not damaged, and determine whether the item could be resold.

The warehouse was the biggest warehouse I’ve ever seen. I estimate over 1,000 people worked there throughout various departments.

I worked the night shift, meaning I worked from around 7:15 p.m. to 7 a.m. Before working for Amazon, I worked in security, so I was already used to the long, late-night hours.

Amazon warehouse workers are expected to “make rate” – a productivity metric where we have to process a certain number of packages and items within an hour or risk dropping in rate, being written up, or fired if we fall too far behind. In my department, I was expected to process 40 to 60 returns in a single hour, which was stressful and at times seemed impossible.

I was written up twice during my time working in the warehouse.

The first was because I had a bloody nose and didn’t make rate for the hour I spent tending to it.

The second was when I had to leave early to deal with a family emergency. Whenever you don’t make rate, it goes into your performance review.

The most challenging thing about working in the warehouse was leadership and management.

In my experience, managers showed favoritism to some and overlooked others when it came to promotions. I applied for ambassador roles (workers who trained new hires) multiple times and never received a promotion or raise.

Leadership also contradicted one another often. I would have one manager tell me to do a task a certain way and another tell me to do it the opposite. The managers often disagreed on the right ways to train new hires and coach associates on simple tasks like processing items.

Sometimes managers would yell at each other in the presence of associates.

It felt like the company had no structure and anyone could make up the rules as they went along.

It also felt like we were discouraged from using our paid time off and vacation hours. Managers would often tell associates to “be careful” of how we spent our PTO because if we ever had an emergency and didn’t have enough hours to make up the rest of our shifts, we wouldn’t be able to leave. (PTO is determined by how an employee is classified, whether part-time, full-time, or salaried, and increases based on how many years are spent working for Amazon.)

There were times when associates talked about forming a union, but nothing ever came out of those talks.

My job as a warehouse worker for Amazon was easy in terms of tasks, but was physically demanding.

The one thing I liked about working for Amazon as a customer service associate was the pay and that medical benefits were available when you started. But overall, the experience in the warehouse itself was very negative.

I would say about 60% to 70% of the drivers I’ve talked to are interested in unionizing.

I stay up to date on Amazon news through employee social media forums on Facebook and Reddit.

A lot of Amazon workers are paying attention to what happens in Alabama with the union vote and believe unionizing is the way to go for better pay and better working conditions.

In a statement to Insider, Amazon spokesperson Deborah Bass wrote: “Like most companies, we have performance expectations for every Amazon employee and we measure actual performance against those expectations. Associate performance is measured and evaluated over a period of time as we know that a variety of things could impact the ability to meet expectations in any given day or hour. Netradyne cameras are used to help keep drivers and the communities where we deliver safe. We piloted the technology from April to October 2020 on over two million miles of delivery routes and the results produced remarkable driver and community safety improvements – accidents decreased 48%, stop sign violations decreased 20%, driving without a seatbelt decreased 60%, and distracted driving decreased 45%. Don’t believe the self-interested critics who claim these cameras are intended for anything other than safety.”

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Boston Dynamics unveils Stretch, a new robot designed to move boxes in warehouses

stretch Boston Dynamics
Stretch robot.

  • Boston Dynamics just introduced Stretch, a new robot for moving boxes in warehouses.
  • The company is best known for creating Spot, the robotic dog.
  • Stretch is in a pilot program now, and will make a commercial debut in 2022.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Boston Dynamics, the robotics firm behind Spot the robot dog, just unveiled a new robot. Stretch is designed to work in warehouses moving boxes, with a long robotic arm for moving objects.

It’s a “box-moving robot designed to support the growing demand for flexible automation solutions in the logistics industry,” Boston Dynamics says. It is the company’s first entrance into warehouse automation, although Spot has been used in some warehouses.

Read more: How to ace the job application and hiring process Amazon’s billion-dollar self-driving startup

The new robot is optimized for any tasks that require moving boxes, including unloading trucks and eventually building orders. The base can move in different directions to navigate loading docks and maneuver around tight spaces and changing layouts.

stretch fast_0 Boston Dynamics
Stretch robot.

Boston Dynamics says Stretch’s robotic arm is lightweight and custom-designed with a “smart gripper” that can handle different types of boxes and coverings. Computer vision technology enables Stretch to identify boxes without need specific training for each customer.

The company is looking for pilot customers to test Stretch before it is commercially available in 2022.

Take a look at the new robot in action here.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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Watch the Tesla Semi speed around a race track in a new testing video

Tesla Semi
Tesla says the Semi will enter

  • Tesla shared a clip of its upcoming big rig speeding around a race track on Sunday.
  • Tesla is set to start delivering the Semi this year.
  • The carmaker said its truck will have a range of 500 miles and a 0-60-mph time of five seconds.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Tesla has been promising to roll out its first electric big rig, the Semi, for years now. And the truck may be nearly ready for prime time, judging by a new testing video Tesla shared on Sunday.

On Sunday, Elon Musk’s automaker tweeted a video of a pre-production Semi speeding around a race track with the caption, “Semi on the track.” In the clip, the vehicle can be heard emitting a jet-engine-like whirring sound as it banks a corner.

Tesla claims the Semi can hit 60 mph in 20 seconds with an 80,000-lb load. Without a trailer in tow, the Semi can hit 60 mph in a blistering five seconds, Tesla said when it revealed the truck in 2017. The truck is powered by four independent motors on the rear axles.

Read more: How to land an interview at Amazon’s white-hot self-driving startup, according to its hiring director

The Semi costs an estimated $150,000 for the model with a 300-mile range. A 500-mile-range truck is expected to cost around $180,000, Tesla says. Businesses can reserve a Semi for $20,000.

Since 2017, Tesla raked in thousands of reservations from major companies like PepsiCo, Walmart, and Anheuser-Busch – along with shippers like FedEx, DHL, and UPS – but it has yet to deliver a single truck. It’s unclear how many reservation holders, if any, have canceled their orders in the interim.

The carmaker has delayed production multiple times, and now plans to begin manufacturing the Semi this year.

As it gears up to deliver its first tractor trailers, Tesla has appointed a new head of its heavy trucking division. Jerome Guillen, formerly Tesla’s president of automotive, took the reins of the project on March 11, according to a regulatory filing.

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Tesla names new head of trucking division as the company nears its first Semi deliveries

Tesla Semi
Tesla plans to start delivering the Semi in limited numbers this year.

  • Jerome Guillen, formerly Tesla’s president of automotive, will head up its trucking division.
  • The change was announced in a regulatory filing dated March 11.
  • Tesla unveiled its class 8 truck, the Semi, back in 2017 and says deliveries will begin this year.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Elon Musk’s new title of “Technoking” isn’t the only leadership change happening at Tesla. As of Thursday, the company has a new head of its trucking division.

In a regulatory filing dated March 11, the electric automaker said it had appointed Jerome Guillen, who had served as Tesla’s president of automotive since 2018, to lead the division.

Guillen has worked at Tesla in various leadership roles since 2010, according to his LinkedIn profile. Starting in January 2016, he assumed the role of vice president of trucking and programs, leading the Tesla Semi project.

The move comes as Tesla prepares to deliver its first Semi trucks later this year.

Read more: It’s time to retire comparisons between Apple and Tesla, once and for all

“As Tesla prepares to enter the critical heavy trucks market for the first time, Mr. Guillen will now leverage his extensive background in this industry to focus on and lead all aspects of the Tesla Semi program,” the company said in the filing.

Tesla unveiled the Semi, a battery-powered class 8 truck, in 2017 to much fanfare. But its production has been postponed several times since. Tesla initially eyed 2019 for the first deliveries and later pushed production to 2020 and finally to 2021.

During a conference call in January, Musk said Tesla could theoretically start producing Semi trucks at any time, but that it doesn’t have enough batteries to put in them. Still, Tesla plans to start building Semis in limited numbers this year.

It has racked up thousands of preorders for the $150,000-$200,000 truck from shipping giants like Walmart.

Tesla also said Guillen will lead the deployment of the “related charging and servicing networks” for the Semi.

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Ford CEO says US should boost battery production to avoid a future supply-chain crises

ford factory
The chip shortage has impacted production of Ford’s top-selling F-150 pickup.

  • The US needs to grow its battery production, Ford CEO Jim Farley said at a conference Wednesday.
  • Farley said that’s crucial for avoiding the next global supply-chain crisis. 
  • A worldwide shortage of semiconductor chips has hobbled the recovering auto industry. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Ford CEO Jim Farley called on the US government to bring battery production closer to home if it wants to avoid another shortage of critical auto parts. 

“We need to bring large-scale battery production to the US, and we’ll be talking to the government about that,” the Ford boss said during the Wolfe Research Auto Conference on Wednesday, per Bloomberg. “We can’t go through what we’re doing with chips right now in Taiwan. It’s just too important.”

The comments came as a worldwide shortage of semiconductor chips has forced automakers around the globe to cut shifts and halt production at entire plants, slowing down the recovery of an industry that already faced limited production last year due to the pandemic. The chips are needed for a variety of critical vehicle systems, including infotainment screens and engine-control units. 

The impact of the drop in supply is also rippling across the smartphone, PC, and game-console industries

In early February, Ford announced it would temporarily reduce shifts at two plants that build its best-selling model, the lucrative F-150 pickup. During Ford’s fourth-quarter earnings call with investors, CFO John Lawler said the supply-chain disruption could diminish first-quarter 2021 production by up to 20% and cut the company’s 2021 earnings by up to $2.5 billion

Fellow Detroit carmaker General Motors issued a similar prognosis, estimating in its 2021 guidance that the shortage could cut earnings by $1.5 billion to $2 billion. GM said the issue would not affect its electric-vehicle initiatives or production of its most popular, high-margin SUVs and pickups. 

Tesla is stopping production of the Model 3 sedan at its Fremont, California, plant for two weeks, Bloomberg reported Thursday. Some industry watchers have theorized that the chip shortage is to blame for the disruption. 

“We believe this shutdown is more around chip shortages (and not demand driven) which continues to plague GM and other automakers in the near-term, although it appears improvement from a chip perspective is on the horizon for Tesla and others,” Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said in a Thursday note. 

Amid pressure from lawmakers and industry leaders, President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday aimed at reviewing US supply chains of several goods, including batteries and semiconductor chips.

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RightHand Robotics director of product management explains why automation is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity

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Artug Acar, director of product management at Right Hand Robotics

Throughout the pandemic, logistics has become the center of attention well beyond the e-commerce world. Consumers running out of hygiene supplies; shortages of food on the shelves at their local grocery stores; difficulties reserving a reasonable time slot for online food delivery – these have brought heightened visibility into logistics for consumers, industry professionals, and venture capitalists, alike. This global realization that effective logistics is now more critical than ever in society has made it apparent that meeting customer demand and managing growth requires improved efficiency in the supply chain. Automation is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity.

As companies look for ways to keep up with increased demand, a smart approach is to add automation into an existing system. At this time of digital transformation, companies look to cutting edge technologies that they can embed into their existing operations to provide short-term improvements. Unfortunately, incremental upgrades in the system for processes that were not designed for automation often cause unforeseen problems, subsequently leading to blaming the new technologies for these significant issues. Traditional hardware components and methods, however, rarely mesh well with new technologies. The key to solving this problem is stepping back and looking at the overall system as a whole to really gain the most out of these new high-tech products.

However, this concept is not new – visualizing automation in warehouses has been going on for around 30 years. What is new is the rate of innovation and the level of automation now available. Today, automation can impact the heart of your core business with new technologies that can automate picking, pack-outs, and even front-door delivery. It requires team effort to ensure that you can meet customer demands without disrupting your supply chain.

A brilliant example of team effort and the steps it takes to meet customer demands is in the 2019 movie, “Ford v Ferrari.” This film depicts the American automaker Ford putting together a winning formula consisting of a powerful driving machine, a skilled driver and a team that was fully in tune with the need for all parts to work seamlessly together in order to get the most out of the Ford GT40. To be victorious required synchronizing different variables — from the race car designer to the ownership team and talented pit crew; the right wheels and engine; to the driver who knew how to handle the track properly. All these came together to make the Ford GT40 program a success – a true team effort.

So, how does this apply in a warehouse? Ask yourself, “Who is my team now?” Your team is beyond your four walls. When we think about going through a digital transformation, these are the three most critical parties involved and scenarios that typically take place:

1) You and the warehouse/logistics division that are investing in the new technology and putting resources into it. You know that automation is about being lean, and you are prepared to implement process improvements such as Kaizen to get the most out of automation.

2) The companies that are developing breakthrough products. You must work hand-in-hand with your innovation partner to ensure that your needs are being included in their roadmap.

3) The integrators (sometimes the technology companies themselves) who are in charge of meeting your needs with the available solutions. When a core step is affected, the limitations of the technology may not allow your expectations to be met, and integrators are crucial for bridging the gap between what the technology can provide and what you need achieved.

At this point, integrators play a critical role. Working with older systems while adapting newer technologies is not an easy task. The result is that projects take longer, and both the customer and the technology provider go through multiple iterations. Each party shares responsibility in the success of these projects.

Take for example one of the most successful case studies of digital transformation ever seen from our previous generation: Kiva Systems. Kiva was created by Mick Mountz (now board member at RightHand Robotics) after he experienced the burden of fulfilling customer expectations by relying on legacy technology for a growing industry while working at Webvan. What Mick and the Kiva team did was not just integrate autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) into an existing solution, he also analyzed the problem and developed a solution that completely changed how logistics and warehousing industries were thinking about automation. AMRs have been around since the 1950s, but until Kiva introduced their solution to the market, they had never been used the way they are today.

Since then, the pace of digital transformation has accelerated dramatically. Computing power and the evolution of vision systems, along with advancements in machine learning, opened up all-new possibilities that were not conceivable a decade or so ago. Right now, the challenge is not about developing components to solve these problems. Today’s innovators must build a solution for a complete overhaul of the legacy systems, so that the industry can get the most out of these breakthrough technologies.

Major players in the industry are looking at this problem by taking a step back – just like Kiva did 20 years ago. Large ASRS (automated storage and retrieval systems) companies such as AutoStore and ASRS integrators such as Element Logic are considering the capabilities that are needed to utilize these newer technologies at full capacity. Additionally, automated piece-picking, which is what RightHand does, is a growing market that ASRS companies are looking into for additional support within their systems. As the warehouse landscape improves for these breakthrough technologies, integration will be faster and continuous.

Successful automation is defined by how well exceptions are handled, and that requires a complete solution rather than small fixes. For example, an exception could be dropping an item during transfer. With a well-thought-out product in place, the automated piece-picking system would be able to detect this issue and either resolve it automatically or notify the site operations team to assist. These types of systems would consist of a flexible, nimble gripper connected to a robot arm, enhanced with vision capabilities and enterprise-level artificial intelligence software, integrated and designed to detect and address such issues effectively. New innovations and upgrades in these systems are now more widely available thanks to rapid technology developments. With the right system in place, exceptions can be minimized and easily resolved, leading to higher overall equipment efficiency – a key metric for automation systems. 

At the macro level, companies that are undertaking digital transformation would benefit more by doing a complete overhaul with buy-in from every team member. For a successful transformation, vendors and integrators must align around continuous improvement processes, including KPIs and timelines. At the micro level, your choice of partner is as important as the solution they are providing.

Now more than ever, implementing automation in warehouses is critical for a business to sustain itself, keep up with increasing demand, and manage growth. For warehouse professionals who are contemplating how to automate their systems, remember to apply lean processes and make it a team sport – that is the recipe for success. 

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FedEx is limiting the number of items small businesses can ship during the pandemic-fueled holiday and retailers are calling it a ‘shipageddon’

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FedEx’s small business customers are facing daily shipping limits as low as 75 packages per day.

  • FedEx is placing daily package limits on some businesses as its shipping network faces capacity issues during the pandemic-fueled surge in online holiday shopping.
  • Carriers have taken similar steps before, but small business owners told Business Insider that FedEx hasn’t been transparent about the current wave of quotas, which have been as low as 75 packages per day and hit them right before Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
  • Shipping experts told Business Insider that smaller businesses are likely getting hit the hardest because of worse access to customer support, fewer resources to make alternative shipping arrangements, and less bargaining power with FedEx.
  • The pandemic has also forced UPS, Amazon, and other major carriers to impose restrictions on businesses and scramble to add capacity during what experts have called “shipageddon.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Like many e-commerce businesses, Letterfolk held its annual holiday sale early this year – the week before Black Friday – in an attempt to get customers’ orders to their doorsteps before the pandemic-fueled surge in online shopping overwhelmed mail carriers.

Letterfolk, which makes bespoke letter boards and other home decor and is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, has four full-time employees and five to 10 part-timers during peak season. But on the Saturday after its sale, co-founder Johnny Galbraith had gathered all hands on deck, even rounding up family and friends to help fulfill the flurry of orders.

“We were feeling great because we had done our holiday sale early, we had about 3,000 orders in the queue, and that was after already having shipped out a decent volume,” Galbraith said.

But when he got home Saturday night, Galbraith got a call from his FedEx representative, who told him Letterfolk would be capped at its September shipping levels plus an additional 10%.

“The math on that worked out to be 110 packages a day,” Galbraith said. That equaled out to less than 4% of the orders his company was waiting to ship that Saturday.

“We had been pretty loyal to FedEx, probably 75% of our shipping business has gone through them, the [remaining] balance going through USPS, and so we didn’t really have any contingency plans,” Galbraith said. He attempted to find a workaround, even offering to personally drive the packages more than 400 miles to larger FedEx hubs in Denver or Las Vegas, but was unsuccessful.

“I felt like this could really compromise our entire small business operation. We’ll lose the trust of our customers,” he said. “And then to apply it the week before Black Friday with no warning, it was just unbelievable. It was just crazy to have to adapt to that among all the other challenges that a year with COVID is presenting.”

‘Unprecedented surge’

Galbraith isn’t alone, either in being capped by FedEx this holiday season or in facing challenges getting clear answers from the company about the quotas.

Business owners from Portland, Oregon, to Toronto, Canada, told Business Insider they’ve faced daily limits of just a fraction of their expected shipping volume – in one case as low as 75 packages per day – and in some instances weren’t told about the limits by FedEx ahead of time.

“FedEx expected an unprecedented surge in packages during this season, and we implemented various measures proactively to prepare. This included hiring more than 70,000 seasonal workers, moving to seven-day operations and accelerating Sunday delivery capabilities, improving the efficiency of our delivery routes, and, as always, proactively working with our customers to understand their expected volume and identify opportunities to ensure the best possible service throughout the season,” FedEx spokesperson Janna Hughes told Business Insider in a statement.

“In some cases, volume has significantly exceeded customer projections. We know how important it is to our customers that their packages are delivered on time, and we remain committed to working with them on ways to leverage our network flexibility,” she added.

FedEx and other carriers have been forced to take extreme steps to prepare for the unprecedented holiday rush expected this year as COVID-19 exposure risks drive more shoppers online and more packages into carriers’ shipping networks.

Scott Wingo, co-founder of e-commerce software company ChannelAdvisor and the host of an e-commerce podcast, coined it “shipageddon.

According to analysis from eMarketer, online shopping is expected to grow 35.8% this year, and logistics data company ShipMatrix recently told the Wall Street Journal that, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it expects there to be an excess of about 7 million packages per day that the shipping industry won’t have the capacity to ship.

Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that UPS imposed limits on major retailers, including Nike, Gap, L.L. Bean, Hot Topic, Newegg, and Macy’s. Last week, CNBC reported that Amazon had capped the number of products third-party sellers can ship to its warehouses, causing them to lose out on some holiday sales.

Jason Goldberg, chief strategist for RetailGeek and co-host of the podcast with Wingo, told Business Insider that, while carriers have rolled out package limits and higher rates in past years in response to increased shipping volumes, rarely did they actually refuse to pick up packages.

Another key difference with companies like Letterfolk, he said, is that while FedEx has conversations with larger retailers months in advance in order to estimate how much they’ll need to ship, many smaller businesses don’t have that level of access to FedEx or the leverage to negotiate better prices and quotas.

“Nike or Gap were not surprised in the slightest that they hit their caps… they knew what their cap was, they were informed well in advance,” he said. “It’s more likely to be a surprise for the smaller shipper.”

While it’s possible a particular business owner may have missed communication from FedEx about the caps, Goldberg said that multiple businesses in an e-commerce group he belongs to reported being blindsided by FedEx’s limits.

‘Caught us off guard’

That was the case for Second Closet, a Canada-based self-storage company that began using its warehouse space to help businesses fulfill their e-commerce orders during the pandemic.

“We found out one day, about a week before Black Friday Cyber Monday, that FedEx was going to cap us at 80 shipments a day,” Jarrett Stewart, senior operations manager at Second Closet, told Business Insider.

But Second Closet didn’t find out about its own quota directly from FedEx – it only learned about the new caps from one of its own merchants. That business had received an email from a FedEx representative with instructions not to send more than 80 packages per day on Cyber Monday and the day after.

“Basically, if you have 100 packages on Monday, please have the warehouse hold back 20 packages until the following day. The volumes in the network are extremely high at the moment and will get even more crazy over the next week, so we just need to manage capacity,” the FedEx rep said in the email, which was seen by Business Insider.

“Moving forward, I now have to submit and get approval when you are shipping 30 packages or more, which can take some time,” they added.

That email implied the caps might only apply during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Stewart said. But that Thursday, the merchant received another email from FedEx asking the merchant to remind Second Closet about its daily limits after they shipped 135 packages on Wednesday, suggesting the caps had been extended.

“Caught us off guard, and it wasn’t for the lack of asking for a heads up,” Stewart said, adding that while FedEx had warned Second Closet about possible delays this holiday season, it provided nothing beyond “generic statements” when he asked about the caps.

As a result, Stewart said, Second Closet couldn’t “set expectations with merchants on a proactive basis,” and has had to issue refunds in some cases.

‘Highly chaotic and disorganized’

Multiple small business owners said they were similarly frustrated at the lack of clarity from FedEx around who would face shipping limits, how the limits were determined, how long they would be in place for, and whether they could help reduce some of the bottleneck by dropping off shipments at FedEx’s hubs.

“The little guys are complaining that it’s highly chaotic and disorganized and that no one’s taking their calls and they’re getting bad information… the communication is very spotty and ad hoc,” RetailGeek’s Goldberg said.

Read more: CEO of logistics startup that works with Sephora, Home Depot, and Levi’s explains why shipping updates are essential ‘even if it’s not good news’

Stewart said FedEx has not been as responsive as other carriers in answering his questions about peak season challenges, adding: “They will always point you towards their different phone numbers, to different emails for customer support, so it’s hard to have that one-to-one relationship with an account rep.”

“It’s really been inconsistent,” another business owner in Portland, Oregon, told Business Insider. “The day after Cyber Monday, they called and said we were capped at 150 units. We brought everything else to our FedEx hub, and they were okay with that. Then the word from our account manager was we’re capped at 150 unless there is more room in the truck.”

Several business owners said they also tried to bypass their shipping limits by dropping packages at FedEx’s distribution hubs, to varying degrees of success – but that also introduces other issues.

“There is a big loophole in this whole system… FedEx and UPS are not in the business of turning away packages,” Goldberg said, “so they don’t actually have a robust infrastructure to enforce those caps.”

“If you drive those packages to a distribution center or a FedEx store and drop them off, they’re highly unlikely to get refused because they don’t even get scanned when you drop them off… they’re going to get processed later,” he said. “A lot of small sellers have bypassed their caps by just finding some alternative way to get them into the network.”

‘A small guy can’t do that’

While FedEx declined to share details about how it determines daily limits, experts said smaller businesses are likely being hit the hardest.

“I’ve been particularly worried about the small merchant,” Wingo told Business Insider. “The problem is, they don’t have the ability to go and negotiate a quota.”

Larger businesses can, as part of larger conversations around things like exclusivity and shipping rates, also tell FedEx what they expect to ship and negotiate higher shipping limits.

“A small guy can’t do that. You just don’t have the financial leverage,” Wingo said.

“Think about who FedEx least wants to alienate for next year,” Goldberg said. “It’s a Walmart, right? It’s not the mom and pop shipper.”

Galbraith said he understood that dynamic, admitting Letterfolk is “a drip in the ocean of packages that FedEx is moving.” But, he added, “I was hoping to hear more from FedEx about this issue… to make sure that you’re not being singled out as a small business owner.”

“I understand if it was being applied consistently,” he continued. “But a couple hundred packages for a small business – it kneecaps everything that we’re doing. And so for us to come out of this and then give FedEx all of our business again… I just don’t see that happening.”

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