Inside Amazon - March 6th, 2020

Inside Amazon (Mar 6th, 2020)

Employees stay home / Turnover by design / Uncommon research into the common cold

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1. Amazon is among the Seattle companies that are encouraging employees to work from home after the coronavirus reached Washington this week. One Amazon employee in its headquarters city has been diagnosed with the disease. The work from home advisory goes through the end of the month. The majority of U.S. deaths from the coronavirus have been in Washington. Geekwire reports and Twitter posts confirm that a large enough number of employees are working from home, and Seattle traffic has seen a visible reduction. INRIX has reported on the reduction in traffic and increased Seattle travel speeds. -- CNN

2. As a follow-up to our story earlier this week, Amazon truck drivers have finally heard from headquarters that they should stay home if they are feeling sick - at least 24 hours if they feel feverish. They were also advised to wash their hands frequently and disinfect steering wheels and other parts of their trucks that they touch. Inside Amazon has also seen similar internal emails that were sent to warehouse employees. -- BUSINESS INSIDER

3. A new report verifies the stories of Amazon warehouse workers' complaints about unsafe and brutal working conditions that have been reported off-and-on for the past year, and have been highlighted on Twitter with the #AmazonWeAreNotRobots hashtag. The report released today by the National Employment Law Project verifies these claims. In a story in Time Magazine, workers said they routinely walked 15 miles a day along with other physically challenging tasks, and documents show how the company tracks and fires workers if they are not efficient enough. Turnover rates in all Amazon warehouses are high. In Riverside, Calif., Amazon employs 29,928 warehouse workers. Since 2011, the turnover rate there has risen from 38 percent to 100 percent. Now it is coming to light that this may be turnover by Amazon's design, with workers being paid $2,000 to $5,000 to leave after just a few years of service if they agree to never work for the company again. The report concludes that Amazon has "made a decision to have an extreme pace of work and they need a stream of new workers for a short period of time. Amazon has figured out that that’s how they maintain ultra-high productivity metrics.” -- VICE

4. January sales outperformed retailer Kohl's expectations due in part to its participation in the Amazon returns program. Kohl's actual revenues were $6.54 billion for the month, with earnings of $1.99 per share. Wall Street had forecast them to be $6.52 billion in revenue and $1.91 per share. While customers have been able to use Kohl's as a convenient place to drop off Amazon returns for almost a year now, the influx of holiday returns also brought a surge in shopping while packages were being returned. Nearly two million packages were returned to retailers, including Amazon, this January -- THE MOTLEY FOOL

5. Amazon tried its newest retail concept today in Seattle with an Amazon Pop-Up store located next to an Amazon 4-star there. The pop-up is a "rotating shopping experience" that features various collections of themed merchandise. The first store in the Seattle location contains bedding products in a theme called "Everything Sleep. From A to Zzz." The Amazon Basics brand bedding, Fire TV Stick and tablet, and Echo smart speakers are featured. The pop-up is 1,100-square-feet and is made to "float" in mall settings. Since November, Amazon has introduced five Pop-Ups outside of Seattle with themes that included Barbie’s 50th Anniversary, Marvel’s Avengers, and Fisher-Price “Let’s Be Kids."-- GEEKWIRE

6. In a leaked recording obtained by Business Insider last year, the former executive in charge of Amazon's physical stores was heard saying that in the future, that part of the business "could take a long time as innovations happen by continued focus on smaller innovations over time." Steve Kessel made the comment in an internal staff meeting. He compared the expected ramp-up of brick-and-mortar stores to mirror those of Amazon's one-day shipping service - which was 20 years in the planning - and roll-out stages before taking hold. Since that time, Amazon has stopped disclosing adjusted revenue growth rates for its physical stores, leading some to speculate the move was in direct response to the leaked audio. -- US NEWS

7. A top-secret years-long project that is part of Amazon's Grand Challenge group is working on finding a cure for the common cold. According to project insiders, “Project Gesundheit" is part of Amazon Cloud division AWS and includes scientists and technologists. With the common cold costing the economy at least $40 billion every year in lost productivity, the secret group is hoping to develop a vaccine. Amazon has declined to comment on the project. -- CNBC

8. Paul Kotas, the head of Amazon advertising, is among a group of 12 executives reporting directly to CEO Jeff Bezos. The move is seen as the importance of advertising to Bezos and the company. Amazon combined its media group, marketing service and advertising platform under the Amazon Advertising umbrella, naming Kotas as senior VP of the group. -- MARKETS INSIDER

9. The 2020 Retail Industry Report by Trendsource released today shows that despite concerns that Amazon's one-day delivery may be spoiling shoppers, online buyers still value lower shipping cost over speed. Some are fine with waiting up to a week as long as the delivery is free, say the authors of the report. Accuracy of the promised delivery date is as important as speed as well. The report says its findings are especially true for purchases over $30. -- WWD

10. While your Amazon Echo may work hard for you turning lights on and off, delivering news, and taking notes as you make grocery lists, you can use the little helper to have some fun as well. Here are nine games you might not know you could play using Alexa on your Amazon Echo:

  1. Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader
  2. Escape the Room
  3. Song Quiz
  4. Twenty Questions
  5. Deal or No Deal
  6. Jeopardy!
  7. The Magic Door
  8. Lemonade Stand
  9. The Wayne Investigation

Written and curated by Kathleen Walder, writer and humorist who began her journalism career using  a typewriter.  She co-hosts KatSoup, a weekly program on Ohio’s Radio Reading Service for the visually impaired and print disabled. Her blog, Date-a-palooza, takes a jaundiced look at the world of online dating. Follow her on Twitter @KatWalder.

Edited by Beth Duckett, staff writer at Inside.

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