Amazon: Work Hard. Have Fun. Make History
By: Kim Cassell
It’s a sortation center. And, without much hoopla, SEATTLE-BASED Amazon opened it for delivery business in January of this year in a Silverman Group spec building at the Concord Airport Business Park. It now employs 350-PLUS people covering three shifts, seven days a week.
Its first distribution center in North Carolina, the $4.4-million space spans 222,500 square feet of the total 403,750-square-foot building – smaller than the Amazon fulfillment centers that typically occupy more than 1 million square feet.
Aaron Toso is an Amazon spokesperson. Referring to the new Concord center, “(It) is part of a new network powering our ability to provide customers with everyday delivery, and we know our customers love Sunday delivery,” he says.
Like FedEx, Amazon is utilizing the United States Postal Service to defray delivery costs. “Packages are transported from Amazon fulfillment centers to our sort centers and from there to customers’ local post offices for final delivery. We handle packages that contain small items like books, electronics or consumer goods in this building,” Toso explains.
This strategy sees Amazon buying up real estate near numerous key cities. “We locate facilities as close to our customers as we can to offer superfast shipping speeds and a great Prime service. We came here less than a year ago because our Concord location is perfect to serve our customers in the Charlotte area,” Toso says. “We also choose locations based on where we can find a strong workforce and we have found talent in abundance here.”
In 2013, Amazon about doubled its order fulfillment spending – to $8.6 billion – as well as its acquisitions of operations center space: 48.3 million square feet in North America alone. The company also introduced the idea of drones as local package deliverers.
Cabarrus Magazine spotlighted drone technology in its April 2015 issue, but rogue drone users have occupied a timeslot on the national news too often since then. Just last month, two jetliners came within 100 feet of an unmanned drone: a JetBlue flight and a Delta flight approaching JFK International Airport.
Reported cases (to the FAA) tripled to 650 in the first seven months of this year compared to the same timeframe in 2014. And last year’s total number of reports is expected to quadruple by this year’s end. The FAA is being urged, once again, to enforce stricter regulations and punish those accountable for what could potentially become catastrophic air disasters. So, while Amazon continues to test drone delivery, the FAA may squash their plans.
Add to that, a New York Times article published last month that described the punishing working conditions that Amazon employees walk into every day – and know it from their first day at job orientation.
Amazon owner Jeff Bezos introduces his articles of faith to each new recruit, a set of behavioral principles to be aligned with and utilized daily.
Corporate boundaries are lowered so that employees feel empowered to succeed. Secret email about poor-performing or unhappy co-workers, very long workdays and keeping up the frenetic pace of the profit-driven company can take their toll, but compensation is generous when self-sacrifice is given and the customer base is satisfied.
On a more positive note, now that Amazon has a presence in Cabarrus County, it’s hopeful that local nonprofits will benefit.
In 2013, Amazon introduced AmazonSmile (www.smile.amazon.com). It’s a means for Amazon users to shop the site, knowing that a half-percent (excluding rebates, shipping & handling, gift-wrapping fees, taxes or service charges) of their total purchases will go to a charity of their choosing. There is no ceiling to the amount that can be donated but it isn’t tax-deductible since Amazon’s foundation is sending the donation; it will receive the tax deduction.
There are also some items that currently don’t fall within AmazonSmiles’ giving parameters: digital-media like Kindle e-books and Amazon’s subscribe-and-save products.
Here’s how it works. Customers are provided a list of Amazon-chosen charities on the special website listed above. If they prefer a different one, they are welcome to search a database containing some 1 million nonprofits. While the pricing and the look of the shopping page are the same, AmazonSmile-eligible products are indicated on their detail listings.
True, this requires consumers to spend their own money in order to get a small portion of it to their charity, but the holidays are coming and many of us shop on amazon.com. The alternative is to simply give to your favorite charity straight-up.
With AmazonSmile, shoppers can change charities when they so choose and charities themselves can register to be listed in the database. They can visit org.amazon.com for more information.
On the local front, “Since August, we contributed $5,000 to Operation Homefront in North Carolina (a nonprofit aiding U.S. military and their families) based on feedback we received from associates,” Toso adds. “We continue to seek out opportunities to be engaged in a meaningful way.”