My Real Amazon Story

Where have I been? The simple answer is, in a funk. The more accurate answer is that I’ve been having a crisis of spirit.

If you’ve kept tabs here you probably know I spent the last seven months working in an Amazon Fulfillment Center on the night shift. I loved it.

Leaving Amazon was my choice, but not because I wanted to leave. I was having a battle with a manager and I losing—despite video evidence, eye witness accounts and multiple complaints from various employees against the same manager. Now that story is the one lodged in my brain and I can’t seem to write anything else.

So here’s to getting past it…

It started in March. I had switched shifts and had a new manager. She was a timid girl right out of college. For this story, I will call her Forlorn. The other manager on our shift was an aggressive woman that ignores personal boundaries. For this story, I will call her O’Dear.

Officially O’Dear was the “Packside” manager. I was on what was called Sortside. Sortside and Packside are two separate departments that work side by side with different jobs, different rates and separate managers.

I would like to say the trouble started in May, but in hindsight I realize the real problem existed long before I got tangled in the mess. I believe it probably began the day O’Dear  got hired on at Amazon as a manager… but I wasn’t there then. For me, it began when I made the wrong friend.

Artist’s rendering of O’Dear

Where Forlorn was a quivering shadow and O’Dear was a blustering bull, there was an assistant manager with a heart of gold I will call Freesia. Freesia sunk her whole heart into our department and everyone loved her—Sortside and Packside alike.

She bought gifts and prizes for us from her own money. She would step in and work alongside us to give us a boost. She always had an encouraging word and a smile. As I said, we all loved her. I think that’s why O’Dear hated her, and later anyone who claimed Freesia as friend.

By contrast, O’Dear was always in everyone’s business. She insisted we high five her everyday when we left work, whether you wanted to be touched by her or not. Her high fives were not simple gestures. They involved her holding you in her sweaty hand while she asked you personal questions. We all had to do it, no excuses. No wonder colds ran rampant through our shift.

O’Dear did (and does) many things that are inappropriate. I didn’t know it then, but she had a long list of formal complaints against her from many associates from different departments. She told outright lies and did her best to pit associates against each other. She had favorites that she was quick to drop in the dirt for a new face.

But enough of the long and arduous details. Those are the main characters of this tale—Forlorn, O’Dear, Freesia and Me.

The Packside Phenomena.

Because O’Dear was who she was, everyone was trying to get away from Packside. They quit, were fired and transferred by the dozen. The result was that Packside was in desperate need of help.

I was asked one day if I would be willing to cross over to Packside and help out. I had started out as a Packer, so I didn’t need to be trained and had a decent pack rate. I agreed. I packed for about two hours, making a good rate each hour. Then O’Dear came into our wall.

“Angela, you are consistently my worst packer every day,” she said to me. I was amused. She was confusing me with someone else. I hadn’t packed for months. I just apologized to her and kept packing until it was time to clock out.

The next week she approached me on Sortside.

“Angela, you know how it is your job to check your write ups on your Work Center?”

I shook my head no. I didn’t know there was a way to check for write ups on my Work Center. I asked her how, but she brushed my question off.

“It doesn’t matter. I’m just letting you know you have two write ups from last week.”

I assumed she was still confused about my apparent Packside write up the week before.

“Were they for packing?” I asked.

“No, for Sortside. Your rate was less than 400.”

“Whaaaaaat?!? So I have two write ups? I’ve never even had one before. At three I’m fired! I’m about to be fired!”

Now I was shocked. A rate of 400 meant you were barely moving. That’s the rate you got if you were working with a broken leg—or dead. I told O’Dear that wasn’t possible and there had to be a mistake.

On my break, I did what I thought an associate was supposed to do when they had questions or concerns: go to Human Resources. In HR they were as confused as I was. I had no write ups at all on my record. Unfortunately, they inquired into the situation. Many people got involved. Things got ugly.

Apparently when a manager tells lies to an associate, it’s bad. Sometimes. Depends on the day. That day it was wrong for managers to tell associates they could be fired when they weren’t even close. Just that day though.

Later, O’Dear cornered me and scolded me for going to HR. I should have come to her. I reminded her she was the one that said to check my Work Center for write ups. I had only gone to HR to ask how. On a side note, there is no way to check for write ups on the Work Center. That was another lie.

O’Dear found me every day after that to ask why I was mad at her and remind me to come to her, not HR, if I had problems. She told me how much trouble I had caused her. I assured her I just wanted the situation to end.

Then Freesia unexpectedly got fired. There was a lot of questions and shock now she was suddenly gone. Even more than shock were the ripples of fear that shivered their way on the back of rumor. Freesia was what stood between Sortside and O’Dear. Forlorn just did whatever O’Dear told her, even to the detriment of Sortside. We had no more protection on Sortside.

After that, O’Dear had no fear. She walked up and down the pack walls, whooping what she considered to be work calls to inspire us. She regularly told workers they had write ups when they didn’t. Somehow people found out they could check with HR to see if the write ups were real. That caused more all uproar.

People started walking off the job. Associates started being fired mid-shift and just vanishing. Everyone called in their vacation time and leave for any reason they could. Our numbers dwindled from the hundreds to the handful. The formal complaints against her racked up.

O’Dear made sure I was put on the slowest, broken walls until my rates actually did suffer. I got my first real write up. O’Dear told me I didn’t want to do anything too crazy about it because I had family I cared about that worked for Amazon. On a side note, they were fired days after I was.

By then I’d gone to HR three times and knew it was a futile waste of time. I started looking for another job. The next week, I got my second write up. I accepted another job and turned in my notice. The next week I got my third write up.

O’Dear approached me and asked why I was getting so many write ups and turned in my notice. What was wrong with my rate, she asked. I was always on the broken, slow walls, I told her. Suddenly she was my best friend.

“I didn’t know you were having this problem, Angela.” She started rubbing my shoulder. Personal boundaries! 

“Forlorn doesn’t take care of you as a manager, does she. I’m so glad she is away for the week so I could find this out and help you. I will make sure you are on a fast wall tomorrow.”

I was confused, but the next day I was put on a fast wall. My rate soared and I was happy. Later that day, O’Dear approached me again. She blamed Forlorn for my problem, again, and suggested I go to HR and let them know that my manager wasn’t supporting me and was the source of my issue. I agreed.

I promptly went to HR and reported, but not Forlorn. I turned in a detailed account of how O’Dear suggested I turn in my manager. I wrote down three pages of what happened. I had kept a notebook with details, times, quotes and places. It’s not odd. I worked for newspapers.

Of course, going to HR was a mistake—but for a week things were awesome. O’Dear thought I had played into her hand and done her bidding. Suddenly, we were besties. I got the fast walls. She gave me candy and prizes. Life was good and very, very funny.

Forlorn came back from vacation and asked why I had turned her into HR. I told her the whole story and denied saying anything to HR about her at all. I warned her about O’Dear and cautioned her about the danger she was in. She just blinked and retreated into her shell. Mentally, she was probably planning her next vacation.

That was it for me though. I guess O’Dear finally figured out that I hadn’t played her game after all. I was fired a week before my notice was up. I was quitting anyways. HR gave me the option of quitting to keep it off my record, but I requested they actually go through the process of firing me on principal. Forlorn had to come to HR for my termination, but it took forever because no one could find her. I think it took two and a half hours to fire me due to lack of manager.

I had just published Bitter Suites and finally had a copy in my hand that I was supposed to give someone later that night. One of the HR guys and I had a good chat about the book and the writer’s process while we waited. Finally, Forlorn was found and I was fired. The poor thing was shaking as she did the deed. I gave her a final warning about O’Dear and walked out.

The most interesting thing about being fired I discovered after I was escorted from the building. I clicked into my Work Center to screenshot pertinent information before I was locked out. Newsflash! I had just been transferred to a new manager. Turns out we didn’t need to wait for Forlorn after all. O’Dear was my new manager. Surprise, surprise.

So this is my tale. I’ve been busy since then working my new job and trying to wrap my head, and my feelings, around the whole situation. I chain smoked for a few weeks. I brooded a lot. I ignored emails. I tried not to write this story. In the end, here I am, ready to move on. And now I can.

Thanks for indulging me.

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith's work has been published in several print and online publications, including the “Horror Writers Association's Poetry Showcase” vols. 2-4, “Christmas Lites” vols. 1-6 and the “Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy” anthology. She has nearly 20 books of speculative fiction and poetry for adults, YAs and children. Her first collection of poetry, “In Favor of Pain,” was nominated for an 2017 Elgin Award.
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4 Responses to My Real Amazon Story

  1. It’s a shame the company supported such a bully and didn’t protect its workers, but it sounds like you’re lucky to be out of such a toxic work environment.

  2. Marge Simon says:

    I surely can relate as a teacher under a mentally sick principal for some years –and you know you need the job but —where do these horrible people come from?

    Good for you, Angela! Power on!!

  3. Robin says:

    Wow! People can be horrible creatures given the opportunity and the license. Sounds like the Amazon center was fertile territory for creatures like O’Dear: As thick and smelly and manure but a lot less useful

  4. Pingback: Exquisite Corpse: Deceptions | AngelaYSmith.com

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