If you see smartphones hanging from trees outside an Amazon delivery station or your local Whole Foods, it’s not because the gig-economy Christmas decorations are already in place. (It happens earlier every year!) These phones are there for contract drivers who play with Amazon’s distribution system.
Bloomberg has a good overview of how the system works, and it’s quite ingenious. A shadow someone places multiple devices in trees near a Whole Foods or Amazon delivery station. Drivers using Amazon’s various delivery apps to get their route assignments, then sync their phones with those clustered around the pickup point. Phones closest to the station will be pinged when a delivery is ready for a driver – before anyone not using the system has a chance to claim it:
Phones in the trees appear to serve as master devices that route routes to multiple drivers nearby on the plot, according to drivers who have observed the process. They believe that an unidentified person or entity is acting as an intermediary between Amazon and the drivers and instructing the drivers to secure more routes, which is against Amazon policies.
The authors are likely hanging multiple phones in trees to expand work across multiple Amazon Flex accounts and avoid detection by Amazon, wireless industry consultant Chetan Sharma said. If all the routes were routed through a single device, it would be easy for Amazon to detect them, he said.
“They’re playing with the system in a way that makes it harder for Amazon to figure it out,” Sharma said. “They are just one step ahead of Amazon’s algorithm and its developers.”
This not only allows drivers to pick up deliveries a fraction of a second before their fellow students / competitors, but also makes it harder for Amazon to track down the offending drivers. It is also a way for drivers who might not be authorized to work for delivery applications, such as undocumented people or those without a valid driver’s license, to earn money by impersonating a driver. other driver. The legitimate pilot accepts a delivery job and will essentially outsource it to a phantom pilot.
People in the concert economy are feeling the pressure of competition more than ever. COVID-19 means fewer people are using Uber or Lyft, pushing these drivers to seek other forms of income. The high unemployment rate is also pushing more people in the odd-job economy to make quick cash by making deliveries. The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending August 15 was 29,224,546, an increase of 2 195,835 from the previous week.
Amazon, for its part, is investigating the regime after several drivers complained, but it has also told delivery drivers that the results of its investigation will not be released to them.