Ten current and former drivers for delivery companies contracted by Amazon say they’ve been told by their managersignore basic safety issues, like jamming doors, damaged seatbelts, low tire tread, busted rearview cameras, and broken mirrors.
Amazon contracts 2,000 private delivery firms through its DSP (delivery service partner) program, which accounts for 115,000 drivers in the US who help with the company’s daily fulfillment operations.
The ten current and former drivers described instances where there was active concern for their own safety while driving an Amazon van, but were unable to report it. “Once we arrive at the lot, we have to personally conduct a 60-point check on our vehicles before we get assigned to our routes,” a part-time Amazon DSP driver told Insider in April. Chastity Cook, a former DSP driver in Illinois said to CNBC, “[managers would] tell us, just make sure everything’s great and go. We just checked down the list. We don’t even stop to read it and make sure everything is there.”
Courier Express One, Cook’s former DSP employer, did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Amazon invests millions into safety mechanisms in their delivery network, including regular compliance auditing, two daily vehicle checks, and taking delivery vans out-of-service if they need maintenance. But it can costs a DSP potential deliveries and revenue.
According to the DSP program brochure, DSP fleet owners earn revenue based on a rate based on the length of a delivery route and a rate based on the number of successfully delivered packages. Vehicle costs, including routine maintenance, damages, and insurance, are deducted as ‘ongoing operation costs.’
“When safety protocol is broken, we take various actions including ending our relationship with a DSP if warranted,” Amazon said in a statement made to Insider. “We’re actively investigating the experiences in [the CNBC] story and don’t believe they are representative of the more than 150,000 drivers that safely deliver packages every day.”
“The safety of drivers and communities is our top priority and the vast majority of DSPs and drivers share that commitment,” Amazon added.
Target is the seventh-largest retailer in the world, pulling in more than $92.4 billion in sales last year. The store operates across the US, with 1,897 stores in all 50 states, and it employs nearly 409,000 people.
Nearly eight out of 10 US shoppers are Target customers, according to data from the analytics firm Numerator prepared for Insider.
Numerator found that Target’s typical shopper is a white suburban mother between 35 and 44 years old. She typically has some college or a 4-year degree education with a household income of $80,000.
The typical customer visits Target every other Saturday or so – about 21 trips per year – and picks up 7 products for a total cost of about $49 per trip, Numerator found.
In its annual report Target says that sales are roughly equal across its five product categories: apparel and accessories, food and beverage, “hardlines” (like appliances or sporting goods), home furnishings and décor, with a slight edge in favor of beauty and household essentials.
About 4% of her spending takes place at Target – about a third of what she spends at Walmart. Target shoppers also tend to choose Target-owned private labels, especially for children’s apparel. The company says one third of its 2020 sales – or about $30 billion – was related to its exclusive in-house brands, including All in Motion, Cat & Jack, Made By Design, and Project 62.
Restaurant dining rooms are reopening in most of the US, but Americans are still drive-thru devotees.
Major fast-food brands reported quarterly earnings this week, and executives made it clear that drive-thrus are still huge for business.
Yum Brands Chief Financial Officer Chris Turner emphasized Taco Bell’s drive-thru success over the last quarter to investors in an earnings call. “The drive-thru experience is an increasingly critical competitive advantage for our brands,” he said, noting that drive-thru times improved by six seconds year over year even as the chain served four million more cars.
Taco Bell has increasingly prioritized drive-thrus over the last 18 months and made some major changes to improve the drive-thru experience. To some customers’ dismay, last year the chain cut over a dozen items, including potatoes and and Nachos Supreme, to shorten wait times. The cuts paid off – in the third quarter of 2020, Taco Bell served 30 million more customers than in all of 2019, and each order was completed 17 seconds faster.
Starbucks similarly credits its drive-thrus with the chain’s strong recovery as pandemic restrictions eased. “We continue to see strong sales recovery in the rural and suburban areas of the business, and in particular drive-thru,” Group President, North America and COO John Culver told investors.
Culver said that Starbucks is focusing on decreasing drive-thru wait times for customers. The chain has been testing new strategies for keeping drive-thru wait times down, even as customizations remain popular and average ticket size is elevated. Baristas can take orders through digital drive-thru screens, which the company previously said are installed at about 3,800 stores. Finally, Starbucks is also renovating 150 US drive-thrus that are space-constrained to make them more efficient, Culver said.
McDonald’s also emphasized the importance of drive-thrus in an earnings call. CEO Chris Kempczinski began the call by talking about the “iconic” McDonald’s experience and referencing how the chain pioneered drive-thrus in the early 1970s. He touted McDonald’s improved drive-thru times, which have shortened by 30 seconds in the last several years, with a slight three-second setback this year. He says times are still improving, though hurt by the labor shortage.
Like its competitors, McDonald’s is also investing in drive-thrus to make them even fast and more efficient. McDonald’s corporate has been pushing franchisees to upgrade drive-thrus since 2019 after years of increasingly long wait times. Since then, many of the chain’s 14,000 US drive-thrus now have double lanes, which are key to reducing bottlenecks. McDonald’s is also still working with AI technology in drive-thrus from the startup it bought in 2019, Aprente. Kempczinski said that the technology is in ten drive-thrus right now.
He credits the hotels’ strong staffing to its culture, which he said has worked on for nearly four years. “We believe a happy team equals happy guests,” Verkist said. “You cannot have one without the other.”
“There is no ‘fear-driven’ leadership in our organization,” he added. “We strive to create a workplace that our team enjoys coming to each day and feels supported.”
Verkist let some staff go early on in the pandemic but stayed in contact with them. Some college students quit their jobs because they no longer needed to stay in Bellingham after their classes went online, but he said the vacancies got filled quickly.
He now hires around 35 workers across both hotels, and doesn’t contract staff from outside the company.
Verkist prides himself on the perks he offers to his staff, too. He said that he raised starting wages to $15 an hour last May, and offers bonuses of between $250 and $500 to up to four staff members a month.
He also gives staff $15 in bar credits for each shift they work to get a free meal at the hotel’s restaurant either during or after their shift. Outside of working hours, staff get a discount at the restaurant, too.
Verkist added that he focuses on promoting from within, and has never hired a manager from outside.
The labor shortage stems from issues ‘that have been laying low for years’
A third of former hospitality workers said in a Joblist poll that they wouldn’t return to the industry.
“This is a mass exodus like I’ve never seen before in my lifetime,” Peter Ricci, head of Florida Atlantic University’s hospitality and tourism management program, told Insider.
This comes as travel is rebounding massively amid the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. “People are traveling like crazy again,” Ricci said.
Ricci said that some business owners had a short-term view and blamed the tight labor market on supplemental unemployment benefits, but that it really stemmed from issues “that have been laying low for years,” like low pay, few healthcare benefits, and a lack of flexible hours.
“If we get closer to starting wages in other industries, we’ll level the playing field,” he said. In the meantime, hotels and restaurants may have to raise their rates and menu prices or reduce their operating hours, he said.
“Eventually incentives and benefits will draw workers back,” Joblist CEO Kevin Harrington said – and the “silver lining” is that the labor shortage could create a better environment for workers, he added.
We headed to Victoria’s Secret’s flagship store in London on a sunny afternoon.
It’s located on New Bond Street, one of the more upscale shopping areas in London.
The most immediate difference we noticed was the marketing in its store windows.
In the past, these would have shown racy images of its Angels. But with the Angels brand behind them, these were swapped out for more body-positive campaigns where the focus is on a day-to-day, toned-down look of underwear.
The store seemed radically different when we walked in. Previously, the lights were dimmed, music was booming, and images of its Angels (that have been described as borderline pornographic by some shoppers) covered the walls.
On this visit, it instantly felt more modern and light inside.
But as we headed deeper inside the ground floor area, it felt a lot more similar to the old Victoria’s Secret than we had first thought.
The lights may have been turned up but its signature pink, black, and white interior remained…
A spokesperson for Victoria’s Secret told Insider that it plans to completely redo all its stores eventually. For the moment, some stores will only have more minor aesthetic changes.
…as did its boudoir-like fitting rooms.
While we weren’t expecting the interior to be completely redone, we were expecting to see the more toned-down lingerie that appeared in the windows to be front and center of the store.
Instead, it put its most risque lingerie near the entrance, including its “Very Sexy,” “Luxe,” and “Dream Angels” collections.
It might have abandoned the Angels and its racy marketing but it felt like it’s not quite ready for the product to match that.
Its signature push-up bras were in prime position but plus-size mannequins, maternity bras, and more casual underwear were nowhere to be seen.
As we headed to the staircase at the back of the store we noticed a major change.
In the past, videos of its Angels walking its annual runway show would have run on a loop on the screens behind the staircase. When we visited, these videos had been swapped out for shots featuring curvier women.
As we headed up to the next floor, we were immediately greeted by a stand showcasing one of its partnerships with a British lingerie brand.
The brand on display, Bluebella, was outspoken about the lack of inclusivity in the lingerie world before it partnered up with Victoria’s Secret. The tagline of its new collection for Victoria’s Secret is: “Lingerie designed for women who buy lingerie to please themselves.”
This was our first glimpse of its swimwear collection.
Victoria’s Secret scrapped swimwear along with some of its apparel offerings in order to focus on underwear in April 2016. It brought this back in 2018.
This area of the store was dedicated to its more laid-back styles, including athleisurewear.
We were surprised to see that there wasn’t a bigger focus on these casual styles at the entrance of the store.
We found a mix of sports bras and casual T-shirt bra styles here.
Next, we headed down to the bottom, and final, floor of the store.
This sprawling section is devoted it its Pink brand, which is targeted at college-age and teen customers.
This was the first time we spotted its new fuller-sized, mannequins. Victoria’s Secret is promising to bring these to all of its stores.
While analysts have praised the mannequins as a more inclusive move, some shoppers say it’s still falling short by not offering enough extended sizes.
“If I’m a size 14, which is on the smaller end of the plus-size range, and the largest panties Victoria’s Secret makes are uncomfortably tight on me, I think about the 50% or more of women who are still unable to wear the brand,” writer Mandy Shunnarah said after visiting Victoria’s Secret’s pilot store in Columbus.
Victoria’s Secret said it offers up to a size 20, though not in all styles.
The Pink brand was once the strongest part of Victoria’s Secret’s portfolio from a sales perspective. But around 2018, sales slipped at the brand and it was forced to lean on heavy discounting to shift stock.
While we still spotted a discount section at Pink, there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of product on sale.
At that time, other teen-focused brands such as American Eagle’s Aerie started to take market share with more inclusive marketing and body-positive campaigns that resonated with young shoppers.
Pink is clearly doubling down on this now. Videos promoting its campaigns around diversity and inclusion were playing in the background of the cash register for customers to watch while they check out their shopping.
Pink is known for being a logo-heavy brand, something that analysts have said can be detrimental. If a brand stops being seen as trendy, shoppers no longer see the value in their logos and they spend elsewhere, for example.
Epic kicked off the lawsuit in the summer of 2020 after it skirted Apple’s App Store fee by implementing its own payment system into the “Fortnite” game. Apple booted the app from its store as a result.
Apple is one of the Big Four tech companies that has faced considerable antitrust scrutiny in recent years, scrutiny that has only mounted since last summer. CEO Tim Cook testified before Congress alongside other executives as part of an ongoing investigation into online market competition.
Lawmakers are cracking down on tech’s biggest players for various reasons. For example, Google has been probed over its search and online ads business, and Apple has been scrutinized over its App Store.
Shopify has been going through some big changes after a year of monster growth.
Founded in 2006, Shopify found success with a business model of providing e-commerce tools to small and medium-sized businesses lacking large technology budgets. That success accelerated in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to take their e-commerce operations more seriously, some for the first time, and consumer shopping habits shifted online.
The trends were apparent in Shopify’s financials: It reported 86% revenue growth for 2020. Its gross merchandise volume – or the total sales conducted on the platform – grew 96% year over year.
Insiders say that the past year has meant changes for Shopify’s culture, too. Current and former Shopify employees say there’s been a “wave” of turnover, both in the company’s C-suite and in its middle ranks. Frustration over how CEO Tobi Lütke and other leaders handled a series of racial incidents in the summer of 2020 also came to light.
Here’s a rundown of Insider’s reporting on Shopify, including recent departures, cultural issues, growth ambitions, and high-profile partnerships.
Cultural stumbles frustrated some employees
Current and former employees told Insider about a series of incidents in which they felt company leadership failed to properly respond to internal debate on racial issues in the summer of 2020. With protests in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd also taking place at the time, tensions were high.
One such incident involved a conversation among staff about the uploading of a noose emoji to Shopify’s Slack messaging system. As the discussions grew heated, Lütke changed a Slack channel where debate was taking place to be read only. A few weeks after, he sent an email to managers clarifying his stance on the role that companies should play in their employees’ lives.
Shopify announced in April that its chief talent officer, chief technology officer, and chief legal officer would be leaving the company soon. The news followed the departure of Shopify’s chief product officer in September.
Shopify works with more than 1.7 million merchants and has ambitions to attract even more businesses to its platform by launching new products and services. It also plans to hire more than 2,000 engineers in 2021. Shopify now employs more than 7,000 employees.
Walmart will require certain employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, the company said Friday.
The retailer’s new rule will apply to employees based at the retailer’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, according to a company-wide memo. “Market, regional, and divisional” management-level employees who travel and “work in multiple facilities” will also need to get vaccinated, the memo said.
The deadline for getting vaccinated is October 4, 2021. According to the memo, Walmart will also “implement a new process for verification of vaccine status” for its workers.
The vaccination requirement does not apply to employees who work in stores, clubs, or warehouses, the memo said.
Walmart also announced Friday that it would require store workers in areas with “high transmission” to mask up at work.
Walmart is the first major retailer to require certain corporate employees get vaccinated, and among the first to reinstate mask requirements for some store workers.
Other retailers will likely follow suit, as Walmart led the way for stores to close on Thanksgiving and raise the minimum age to purchase firearms.
“We continue to watch with deep concern the developments of the pandemic and the spread of variants, especially the Delta variant,” Walmart chief people officer Donna Morris said in an email to employees. “We know vaccinations are our solution to drive change. We are urging you to get vaccinated.”
Walmart’s new policies come as the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads rapidly across the US. The current 7-day average of daily new cases increased by 64% compared to the previous 7-day average, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A leaked presentation from the CDC found the variant is more transmissible than the common cold and seasonal flu, but did not lead to severe illness or death in vaccinated individuals. The University of California Davis Health found 97% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated as of July 22.
The city government of Chattanooga, Tennessee, will be stopping curbside recycling pickup starting July 30 due to employee shortages.
The recycling collection service will be suspended until the city is able to fill 32 open commercial driver positions, it said Thursday on Twitter. City officials are recommending residents personally deliver their recycling to Chattanooga’s recycling drop-off centers.
The starting pay for CDL (commercial driver’s license) truck drivers is $29,865 – 118% less than the starting pay for drivers recruited by local pickup companies, according to a presentation the mayor’s office made to the Chattanooga city council earlier this week.
The office also presented data that most qualified job candidates are turning down these vacant municipal positions, some of which have been unfilled for more than two years, because of the pay. The city is then forced to hire less-qualified applicants who require more training and manager supervision worker.
“The impact to recycling due to our driver shortage illustrates one of Chattanooga’s most acute problems,” said City of Chattanooga’s Chief of Staff Brent Goldberg. “Pay for city employees is far below the market rate, a problem our budget will address when we present it to [Chattanooga’s] City Council in August.”
A wave of employee retirements, resignations, and COVID-19 illness may contribute to further public work disruptions, according to city spokesman Ellis Smith.
“In spite of supervisors filling in on a regular basis, garbage and brush pick-up could also be impacted if the driver shortage continues to grow worse,” Smith said.
The tweet also linked to an external top application page where people can apply for one of the open pickup driver positions. Applicants will need to have a commercial driver’s license to apply.
Now, employees in areas experiencing “high transmission” will be required to wear masks at work. Customers in those areas will also be “encouraged” to mask up, although they won’t be required to don facial coverings.
On July 27, the CDC updated their recommendations for fully-vaccinated individuals. Now, the organization recommends that vaccinated individuals “wear a mask in public indoor settings” if they live in an area with “substantial or high transmission” of the COVID-19 Delta variant.
As the world’s largest retailer, Walmart’s decision is sure to ripple throughout the industry. And it wouldn’t be the first time that the company has spurred action across the business world on an issue largely unrelated to retail.
Most notably, retailers followed Walmart’s lead after the Arkansas-based company raised the minimum age to buy firearms to 21. That decision came after Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that it would stop selling assault-rifle-style guns altogether in the wake of the Parkland shooting.
More recently, other retailers allowed followed Walmart this year when the company announced that it would once again keep stores closed on Thanksgiving.
Walmart’s rule change could also potentially take some pressure off smaller retailers – like restaurants. Local businesses in Ohio recently spoke to the Columbus Dispatch about how fraught the decision to require masks can be when many customers reject wearing face masks. Retail workers have had to play “mask police” throughout the pandemic, which has led to violent exchanges – some fatal – between employees and shoppers.
Amazon even took a jab at the biggest retailer in a December Bloomberg report. “What surprises us is that we are the focus of a story like this when some of the country’s largest employers, including the largest retailer, have yet to join us in raising the minimum wage to $15,” an Amazon spokesperson told Bloomberg after the publication reported average industry compensation dropped by 6% within two years of 68 counties where Amazon opened warehouses.
“We’re obviously really well aware of what’s happening nationally with this discussion around $15 and think that that’s an important target,” McMillon said on a February call with investors, “but also think that that should be paced in a way that’s good for the US economy.”