A strange phenomenon occurred near Amazon delivery stations and Whole Foods stores in the suburbs of Chicago: Smartphones hanging from trees. Delivery drivers place them there to compete with other drivers.
Drivers place several devices on a tree near the delivery station. Drivers then synchronize their own phones with those in the tree and wait nearby to be notified of an order. Reason according to individuals with direct knowledge of functions of Amazon, is to take advantage of the proximity of the headphones to the station, combined with software that constantly monitors the Amazon shipping network.
The fact that drivers resort to such extreme methods is a sign of the fierce competition in the labor market in USA suffering from double-digit unemployment rates because of it pandemic. A smartphone hanging from a tree can be the key to getting a $ 15 ride ahead of someone else.
Drivers have posted photos and videos on social media to try to figure out which ones technology is used to receive orders faster than other devices. Some have complained to Amazon that unscrupulous drivers have found a way to distort the company's delivery system.
Amazon told Bloomberg it would investigate the matter but would not be able to reveal the outcome of its search to delivery guides.
What exactly do drivers do? They approach the smartphones that are hung and synchronize them with their own devices. They then sit or stand waiting for a notice of a route.
Drivers compete for Instant Offers, which require an immediate response and usually take 15 to 45 minutes to complete. Instant Offers are sent by an automated system which identifies who drivers are close via their smartphone. When drivers see an Instant Offer, they only have a few minutes to accept it delivery or lose it to someone else.
The system can detect the location of a smartphone and of course the distance plays a role. This means that a phone in a tree outside the door of Whole Foods will receive the delivery offer, before drivers who can sit in their car just one block away.
Phones in the trees seem to serve as the main devices that send routes to many nearby drivers, say drivers who have noticed procedure. They believe that an unknown person or entity acts as an intermediary between Amazon and the drivers and charges the drivers by securing more routes, which is contrary to Amazon policies.
One driver said the company should take steps to ensure that all drivers are treated the same way and the process is fair. "Amazon knows that," said the driver, "but it does nothing."