One side effect of the e-commerce explosion has been increased media attention to the warehouses and DCs that fill all those orders. And the coverage isn't always favorable.
For example, there was last year's exposé of an Amazon.com warehouse by the Allentown, Pa., Morning Call newspaper and a Huffington Post article about the low-wage world of warehouse temps. Now comes "I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave: My brief, backbreaking, rage-inducing, low-paying, dildo-packing time inside the online-shipping machine" in the March/April 2012 issue of the muckraking magazine Mother Jones.
Author Mac McClelland, the magazine's human rights reporter, has written previously about warehouse work conditions. For this lengthy article, she signed up with a temp agency and for several weeks picked orders in a DC operated by an unnamed third-party logistics company on behalf of an Internet retailer. She describes her experience in vivid detail, including training, draconian restrictions, inadequate pay, physical injury, and unreachable productivity expectations.
McClelland does distinguish between warehouses serving online retailers and other types of facilities, and explains the economics and consumer expectations that are forcing down wages and cranking up the mental and physical stress levels for workers in e-commerce fulfillment. But the article rightly suggests that when it comes to online retailing, both consumers and warehouse operators have some serious soul searching to do.