Getting the Money to Start Your Own Business (FT Press Delivers Elements)

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Do you believe that this item violates a copyright? Amazon Music Stream millions of songs. Amazon Drive Cloud storage from Amazon. Alexa Actionable Analytics for the Web. AmazonGlobal Ship Orders Internationally. Amazon Inspire Digital Educational Resources. She phones in but she will receive a "point". If she receives three points, she will be "released", which is how you get sacked in modern corporatese. And then there's "Les", who is one of our trainers. He has a special, coloured lanyard that shows he's an Amazon "ambassador", and another that says he's a first aider. He's worked at the warehouse for more than a year and over the course of the week I see him, speeding across the floor, going at least twice the rate I'm managing.

He's in his 60s and tells me how he lost two stone in the first two months he worked there from all the walking. We were told when we applied for the jobs that we may walk up to 15 miles a shift. He'd been a senior manager in the same firm for 32 years before he was made redundant and landed up here. How long was it before you got a permanent job, I ask him.

Permanent employees have blue ones, a better hourly rate, and after two years share options, and there is a subtle apartheid at work. You can be working alongside someone in the same job, but they're stable and you're just cannon fodder.

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I worked there from September to February and on Christmas Eve an agency rep with a clipboard stood by the exit and said: It reminded me of stories about the great depression, where men would stand at the factory gate in the hope of being selected for a few days' labour.

You just feel you have no personal value at all. Why haven't they given you a proper job, I ask Les, and he shrugs his head but elsewhere people mutter: It's HR picking names at random. It's some sort of black magic nobody understands. Walking off shift in a great wave of orange high-vis vests, I chat to another man in his 60s. He'd been working in the Unity mine, near Neath, he told me, until a month ago, the second time he'd been laid off in two years. He'd worked at Amazon last Christmas too. And I couldn't have worked any harder!


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I worked my socks off! When I put the question to Amazon, it responded: We were able to create 2, full-time permanent positions for seasonal associates in by taking advantage of Christmas seasonality to find great permanent employees but, unfortunately, we simply cannot retain 15, seasonal employees. And this is what Amazon says about its policy relating to sickness: Like many companies, we employ a system to record employee attendance.

We consider and review all personal circumstances in relation to any attendance issues and we would not dismiss anyone for being ill. The current systems used to record employee attendance is fair and predictable and has resulted in dismissals of 11 permanent employees out of a workforce of over 5, permanent employees in There's no doubt that it is hard, physical work.

My week as an Amazon insider

The Panorama documentary majored on the miles that Adam walked, the blisters he suffered, the ridiculous targets, and the fact that you're monitored by an Orwellian handset every second of every shift. But lots of jobs involve hard, physical work. That's not the thing that bothers people. Almost everybody remains stoical in the face of physical discomfort and exhaustion. My team leader is no corporate droid. He started on the shop floor, sounds like Richard Burton, and is gently encouraging. They pay shit because they can. Because there's no other jobs out there. Trust me, I know, I tried. I worked for Sony before and they were strict but fair.

It's the unfairness that gets you here. An unfairness that has no outlet. In the wake of the BBC documentary, Hywel Francis, the MP for Aberavon, managed to get a meeting last week with Amazon's director of public policy, a meeting he's been trying to get for years. He's reluctant to speak about the complaints he's heard from his constituents but says that "the plant is exceptional in the local area in having no union representation.

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It's been a long haul to even get in there and find out what is going on. On my third morning, at my lowest point, when my energy has run out and my spirits are low, it takes me six minutes to walk to the airport-style scanners, where I spend a minute being frisked. I queue a minute for the loos, get a banana out of my locker, sit down for 30 seconds, and then I get up and walk the six minutes back to my station.

To work at Amazon is to spend your days at the coalface of consumerism. To witness our lust for stuff. The celebrity chef cookbooks incense me. They don't even bother taking them out of the boxes. They lie in great EU butter mountain-sized piles at the ends of the aisle. Cook an egg on the telly and it's like being given a licence to print money for all eternity. The vast majority of people working in the warehouse are white, Welsh, working class, but I train with a man who's not called Sammy, and who isn't an asylum seeker from Sudan, but another country, and I spend an afternoon explaining to him what the scanner means when it tells him to look for a Good Boy Luxury Dog Stocking or a Gastric Mind Band hypnosis CD.

It's the Barbie Doll girl's Christmas advent calendar, however, that nearly breaks me. I traipse back and forth to section F, where I slice open a box, take another Barbie advent calendar, unpick the box and put it on the recycling pile, put the calendar, which has been shipped from China, passed from the container port to a third-party distributor and from there to the Amazon warehouse, on to my trolley and pass it to the packers, where it will be repackaged in a different box and finally reach its ultimate destination: Because nothing captures the magic of Christmas more than a picture of a pneumatic blonde carrying multiple shopping bags.

We want cheap stuff. And we want to order it from our armchairs. And we want it to be delivered to our doors. And it's Amazon that has worked out how to do this. Over time, like a hardened drug user, my Amazon habit has increased. In , I ordered my first non-book item, a This Life series 1 video; in , my first non-Amazon product, a secondhand copy of a biography of Patricia Highsmith; and in , I started doing the online equivalent of injecting intravenously, when I bought a TV on the site.

What constitutes late, I ask. I grew up in South Wales and saw first-hand how the s recession slashed a brutal gash through everything, including my own extended family. I've always known that there's only a tissue-thin piece of luck between very different sorts of lives. But then my grandfather worked in a warehouse in Swansea. In my case, there really is only a tissue-thin piece of luck between me and an Amazon life. At the Neath working men's club down the road, one of the staff tells me that Amazon is "the employer of last resort".

It's where you get a job if you can't get a job anywhere else.


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And it's this that's so heartbreaking. What did you do before, I ask people. And they say they're builders, hospitality managers, marketing graduates, IT technicians, carpenters, electricians. They owned their own businesses, and they were made redundant. Or the business went bust. Or they had a stroke. Or their contract ended. They are people who had skilled jobs, or professional jobs, or just better-paying jobs. And now they work for Amazon, earning the minimum wage, and most of them are grateful to have that. Next in line is everything: Swansea's shopping centre down the road is already a planning disaster; a wasteland of charity shops and what Sarah Rees of Cover to Cover bookshop calls "a second-rate Debenhams and a third-rate Marks and Spencer".

We try and kill them with kindness," she says.

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It's cheaper, often for her, to order books on Amazon than through her distributor. There is no end to Amazon's appetite. Their ambition is to sell everything. They already have their digital services and their enterprise services. They've just started selling art. Apparel is still very immature and is set for expansion. Groceries are the next big thing. They're going very strongly after that because it will cut down costs elsewhere. If they can start running their own trucks in major metro areas, they can cut down the costs of third-party shippers.

In the UK, I point out, everyone already delivers groceries: Tesco, Asda, Waitrose, Sainsbury's. And everywhere it kills jobs. And even the remaining jobs, the hard, badly paid jobs in Amazon's warehouses, are hardly future-proof. Our lust for cheap, discounted goods delivered to our doors promptly and efficiently has a price.

We just haven't worked out what it is yet. It's taxes, of course, that pay for the roads on which Amazon's delivery trucks drive, and the schools in which its employees are educated, and the hospitals in which their babies are born and their arteries are patched up, and in which, one day, they may be nursed in their dying days. Taxes that all its workers pay, and that, it emerged in , it tends not to pay. In , it transferred its UK business to Luxembourg and reclassified its UK operation as simply "order fulfilment" business.

The Luxembourg office employs people. The UK operation employs 21, You do the math. Brad Stone tells me that tax avoidance is built into the company's DNA. From the very beginning it has been "constitutionally oriented to securing every possible advantage for its customers, setting the lowest possible prices, taking advantage of every known tax loophole or creating new ones".


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It's something that Mark Constantine, the co-founder of Lush cosmetics, has spent time thinking about.

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