Amazon recently introduced a delivery driver feature allowing customers to send employees $5 tips for their efforts. Launched on December 7th, folks send the cash by telling their Alexa-enabled device to “Thank my driver.” The person who delivered their most recent package is then notified of the gesture. Drivers will also receive an additional $5 from the company at no cost to the customer.
“We’ll be doing this for the first one million thank you’s received,” the Amazon website said of the delivery driver tips. The five drivers that get the most money during the promotion will also be rewarded with $10,000 and an additional $10,000 donated to their charity of choice. “We love hearing the countless stories from customers about the many ways delivery drivers make their lives better,” the digital retail giant continued.
The company added that they are excited for the opportunity to thank these everyday heroes and give customers the ability to help spread the appreciation. According to NPR the Amazon delivery driver tips promotion maxed out in less than 48 hours due to high participation. But not everyone was pleased with the initiative. On the day of the launch, the retailer was sued for stealing tips from drivers in previous years.
Filed in Washington D.C, the lawsuit accuses Amazon of stealing delivery driver tips and tricking customers along the way. The suit focuses on the 2015 launch of Amazon Flex, which allowed independent contractors to deliver packages for the e-commerce outfit with their own vehicles for $18 to $25 an hour. The document says that drivers initially received the gratuity, which the checkout process added for customers by default.
But in 2016, Amazon quietly changed its rules to direct the delivery driver tips into employee salaries. While promotional material assured customers and staffers that all the money would go to drivers, it was actually being used to subsidize the company’s labor costs. After the Federal Trade Commission brought the same claims against the retail giant, the company agreed to reimburse almost $62 million to drivers in 2021.
Amazon also agreed to stick to its original pay model, which let delivery drivers keep all the tips they earned. If the formula was to be changed the retailer needed clear consent from employees. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine says, filing the lawsuit asserts that the company violated the district’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act. And while it may have settled with the FTC, the entity escaped appropriate accountability like civil penalties for consumer harm.
Despite Amazon launching appreciation programs like delivery driver tips, employees say working conditions at the retailer are still inhumane. While customers enjoy speedy receipt of their purchases, maintaining that high level of productivity puts a strain on staffers. The company’s last-mile drivers are paid an average of $44,000 a year to deliver about 200 packages or more per day, NPR reports.
As a result of low pay and cruel working conditions, employees have been attempting to unionize. But sadly, their actions are being met with controversial anti-union practices. In one instance, a federal judge issued a cease-and-desist order against the company after a staffer was fired for trying to organize. Hopefully, the Amazon delivery driver tips lawsuit sides with workers who’ve been wronged.