I accept that there are always two or three sides to every story... at least. But last night's BBC Panorama programme (25.11.13) about Amazon: The Truth Behind the Click really shocked me, not least because I feel I have been conned. Not by the BBC, but by the company that ironically has featured like a corner shop in my life for so long. No need to nip into town, I'll just pop upstairs and sort it with a click. Never before have I come across such a gulf between the projected image - friendly & reliable - and the employment practices unveiled by BBC Panorama.
I am also miffed that I am still such an innocent in the ways of the world. I don't like to be taken in. Somewhere in my mind I have had this image that Amazon is benign. Ok it doesn't give writers the best deal on the planet, though it does offer them a path to find an audience. In my life I have been inclined to trust a bookshop, and of course Amazon is far removed from a bookshop, though it still cloaks itself as one.
And ok it doesn't pay its taxes properly (in my opinion), but hey, I pay too much tax anyway so why not share in the spoils by getting some cheap product? Then of course Amazon is a clean hi-tech operation. Slick. Shiny warehouse full of techno elves sorting everything with software and robots, wide aisles, simulated daylight, happy music. That's how I imagined it; the kind of delusion that enabled me to shop there happily, singing while they worked.
And ok it does offer employment, but I really had no idea that the warehouse might so easily be compared to a Victorian sweatshop, even worse than a call centre.: miserable, no daylight, no time to talk, relentless targets, long hours and penalties for human failure. I could not believe that in the European Union there is still major company that can discipline an employee for being ill. (I feel a class action related to stress in the workplace coming on somewhere down the line.)
Is it all true? Who do you trust? Amazon clearly didn't get a proper right to reply in the programme. Panorama was only on for thirty minutes. But it was long enough for me to take a hard look at myself. I feel extremely uncomfortable.
I have decided to give Amazon the elbow, and look elsewhere. It is not going to be easy. Amazon is like a cigarette habit. Shopping local will be a good place to start.