It’s a hard thing, in this world, to admit when you’ve been wrong. To look your critics in the eye, muster your courage, and say “You were right. I screwed up. And I’m committed to making it better.” So kudos are in order, today, for Amazon, for bravely stepping up and admitting that it lied when stating that conditions for its workers were not so draconian that they’re often forced to pee in bottles rather than get penalized for going to the bathroom. And, sure: Did the horrifyingly massive retail giant do so via a sheepishly posted press release dropped on its press site late on a Friday night? Yeah. Did they neglect to propagate said press release through their many different social media accounts, including the Amazon News one that kicked this latest scuffle off? Of course. Do they spend large portions of the release quibbling with definitions, shunting blame onto others, and saying “Hey, everybody does it?” Well, yes. But still: Kudos!
This latest critique of Amazon’s endlessly critique-able worker practices kicked off last week, when @AmazonNews responded to a tweet from Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan with a glib “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you?” Given the many Amazon workers who have documented instances in which they were penalized for leaving their stations to use the bathroom, this didn’t sit well with a lot of people—no matter how many cheerful Amazon employees that then hopped on Twitter to state their love for the company in ways that definitely made them sound like human beings, and not a horde of social media robots.
Last night, though, the company (kinda) owned up. While it still holds to the claim that warehouse workers don’t pee in bottles (“If any employee in a fulfillment center has a different experience, we encourage them to speak to their manager and we’ll work to fix it”), Amazon did admit that “the peeing in bottles thing” is, indeed, a thing for its delivery drivers. But that’s not Amazon’s fault! Traffic! COVID! What is a multi-multi-multi-billion dollar company to do?
Third, we know that drivers can and do have trouble finding restrooms because of traffic or sometimes rural routes, and this has been especially the case during Covid when many public restrooms have been closed. This is a long-standing, industry-wide issue and is not specific to Amazon. We’ve included just a few links below that discuss the issue. Regardless of the fact that this is industry-wide, we would like to solve it. We don’t yet know how, but will look for solutions.
It’s not clear which bit of this response was more irritating; Bezos and Co.’s continued efforts to deny that any of its worker issues could possibly be their own fault, or their use of the phrase “own-goal” to describe the admitted lie. Anyway, they issued an apology to Rep. Pocan, having clearly used their massive infrastructure and planning departments to accurately identify exactly who they owe a mea culpa to in this situation.