Amazon furniture assembly workers report poor training and tight schedules

The company is running a pilot where delivery workers also assemble furniture and appliances.

Lucy Nicholson / reuters

A few months ago, reports indicated that Amazon was piloting a new service where its delivery drivers not only dropped off products — they'd also assemble things like furniture, appliances and other large items. Given Amazon's problems keeping its workers safe and happy, it's not surprising that this program sounds like it's off to a rough start. Motherboard spoke with several drivers are dealing with issues like nonexistent training and unrealistic schedules for making a delivery and doing an assembly.

For example, one anonymous drivers that Motherboard spoke with claimed Amazon allowed 11 minutes and 15 seconds to transport and assemble a 59-part ottoman. One driver said that the whole process took 35 minutes, more than three times longer than Amazon allotted. (Even 35 minutes feels pretty quick, as most people who have struggled putting together IKEA items will probably attest.) The pressure feels even more intense when you add in the fact these drivers don't have any prior experience putting together these items before they have to deliver them.

Motherboard saw a copy of some delivery schedules that further reinforced the time crunch these drivers are under. One appointment to deliver, unpack and set up a 104-pound Casper king-size mattress was less than four minutes, while another set of drivers had less than 7 minutes to transport and set up a 234-pound dining table. Drivers aren't being paid for this extra work, nor are they allowed to accept tips from customers.

I spoke about the report with Alexandra Miller, an Amazon spokesperson from whom Motherboard also received comments. As she said to Motherboard, Miller noted that Amazon's delivery service partners who participate in this program are doing so by choice; Amazon isn't forcing them into it. She also said that Amazon's partners then only include specific workers who the partners have chosen to include in the program. Those workers are required to go through two hours of training and pass a 20-question exam before participating — though the drivers Motherboard spoke with said they only saw a seven-minute instructional video and had to answer a couple questions.

Finally, Amazon said that the people working these delivery routes should have experience doing such work — it's not that someone who usually delivers books or toilet paper would end up having to put together a bed. Judging from today's report, though, it sounds like that isn't always the case.

This is just the latest labor-related issue for Amazon. The company has long been under fire for the way it treats its warehouse workers, who are injured at rates that exceed the national average, but its delivery people work in similarly strained conditions. Given that this is still a pilot program that hasn't been rolled out in a big way, hopefully issues like these workers have encountered will be taken seriously assuming the program does move forward.