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Being homeless is better than working for Amazon

29 November 2014

From The Guardian:

I am homeless. My worst days now are better than my best days working at Amazon.

According to Amazon’s metrics, I was one of their most productive order pickers – I was a machine, and my pace would accelerate throughout the course of a shift. What they didn’t know was that I stayed fast because if I slowed down for even a minute, I’d collapse from boredom and exhaustion.

During peak season, I trained incoming temps regularly. When that was over, I’d be an ordinary order picker once again, toiling in some remote corner of the warehouse, alone for 10 hours, with my every move being monitored by management on a computer screen.

Superb performance did not guarantee job security. ISS is the temp agency that provides warehouse labor for Amazon and they are at the center of the SCOTUS case Integrity Staffing Solutions vs. Busk. ISS could simply deactivate a worker’s badge and they would suddenly be out of work. They treated us like beggars because we needed their jobs. Even worse, more than two years later, all I see is: Jeff Bezos is hiring.

I have never felt more alone than when I was working there. I worked in isolation and lived under constant surveillance. Amazon could mandate overtime and I would have to comply with any schedule change they deemed necessary, and if there was not any work, they would send us home early without pay. I started to fall behind on my bills.

At some point, I lost all fear. I had already been through hell. I protested Amazon. The gag order was lifted and I was free to speak. I spent my last days in a lovely apartment constructing arguments on discussion boards, writing articles and talking to reporters. That was 2012 and Amazon’s labor and business practices were only beginning to fall under scrutiny. I walked away from Amazon’s warehouse and didn’t have any other source of income lined up.

. . . .

I furthered my Amazon protest while homeless in Seattle. When the Hachette dispute flared up, I “flew a sign,” street parlance for panhandling with a piece of cardboard: “I was an order picker at amazon.com. Earned degrees. Been published. Now, I’m homeless, writing and doing this. Anything helps.”

. . . .

I’ve applied for many jobs, and any prospective employer that runs a Google search of my name can see my discontent with my last employer.

. . . .

I don’t know what the picture of the average American homeless person is, but I’m sure it wouldn’t include me. I graduated college. I have been published in a scholarly journal and a social-justice oriented website. I have completed my MA in American Studies. I ditched plans to pursue a PhD because it clearly wasn’t going to be a viable career option: I did not appreciate the so-called privilege to become volunteer labor and work for less than minimum wage as a graduate student, and then maybe, if I were so fortunate, become an adjunct professor. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was living a fantasy, thinking that a student of the humanities would be tolerated, and paid decently, in the corporate world of the modern university. I could never afford to perform an unpaid internship and that damaged my long-term career prospects. I had to work at jobs that paid money, jobs like the one at Amazon, while I went to school and took out loans.

. . . .

My wallet does not contain a single bill. I need glasses. I need winter clothes. I need cash and an opportunity. Anything! I’ve applied for jobs, both professional and with physical labor. Taken my MA off my resume so I don’t look overqualified. I’ve tried everything. Maybe it’s because I protested Amazon; maybe it’s because my credit is wrecked. Maybe it’s because I used homeless services as addresses. Maybe it’s because there really aren’t many jobs available.

. . . .

I’ve worked for places to live in Oregon, mostly cooking and feeding families. It was a kind of Maoist re-education program– a little too much like slavery for my comfort.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

The Guardian is rapidly becoming PG’s go-to destination for prime Amazon Derangement Syndrome.

Amazon

154 Comments to “Being homeless is better than working for Amazon”

  1. Wow. Entitled much? I worked as a paralegal under very similar situations and chalked it up to experience, rather than complain about it online. I’ll bet she’s never seen an episode of “Dirty Jobs.” If she had, she would’ve realized how posh her job was at Amazon.

    • Oh, she probably saw Mike Rowe cracking a joke and thought “Doesn’t look that bad.”

      OTOH I’d pay cash to see her spend a month at one of those jobs.

    • Can’t agree more with Andrea. And this article is not at all a service to humanities education, in case if Guardian is trying to support that cause by publishing this piece, because it only encourages literature/art students to think that whining about the world in their ivory towers of utopia is more acceptable behaviour than bracing yourself up to survive the social dynamics of any workplace you join.

  2. I had lousy underpaid jobs…if I got discontented, I left them. I didn’t go on a crusade. I looked for another one. My hubby, a really smart guy, has been laid off a few times. No job security exists in the US. For anyone. Although if you get certain jobs -like President–you’re set for life with a nice paycheck and high-paying talking and book gigs. 😀

    I hope the gal finds a job, but I could have told her when she majored in “American Studies” that finding work was gonna be tough. Shoot, hubby has a tech degree and finding a job that didn’t require nearly 12 hours a day 6 days can be tough, since things can move to India or China and the expectation is “work your a** off, don’t complain, stay as long as you can, and forget holidays” or we can replace you with someone younger, cheaper, or overseas.

    What’s job security? I don’t know what that is.

    And if she thinks homeless is better than working at Amazon, then maybe she should take a look at some of the things my mom and dad had to do to keep food and shelter in play. Worse than anything Amazon could throw at you. I mean, like, I saw where my mom worked: I think I”m still traumatized that my lovely, amiable, gentle mom worked in a disgusting sweat shop for minimum wage. Without grumblign and complaining.

    I get to complain for her. But to her, it was “taking care of the family.”

    I’ll take a backbreaking warehouse job over living on the street. I’d rather be exhausted and bored and frustrated…than homeless.

    • She’s allowed to feel whatever way she wants about the jobs she’s had. People have different reactions to different jobs. I know there are plenty of jobs some people would consider dream jobs that I would consider horrible and vice versa. The biggest problem for this woman is she really doesn’t seem to have much more to offer an employer besides whining so I doubt she would be all that attractive to an employer if she truly is looking for work. She’s sabotaging herself and she’ll probably blame companies like Amazon forever to keep from having to realize that.

      • You’re right. She might know all about American studies–whatever that entails–but does she have any skills? And by that, I mean any kind of basic skills. Can she mop a floor? Ring a register? Anything other than Amazon warehouse?

        Any honest job shouldn’t be beneath someone, although I’m not saying that is the attitude this woman is taking, I’ve seen it in others. If someone sticks with a job, they can move up or move on to something related.

        • My guess that unless she’s writing up her angst about society, she will not be happy. So, she needs to be in a field that lets her write about the unfair system, be an activist against the unfair system, etc. And there are totally valid jobs that will allow this. But she may have to pay a lot of “I don’t wanna do that” dues to get to a point where she can do that. And you know, most of us have to do that–work years at jobs we think are kinda s***** and low-paying (I had NO benefits beyond 2 weeks vacation at some of my jobs, ie, no health insurance, no 401K, no pension, no nada but pay and a couple weeks off) and boring. This is what you do to get some marketable skills. I’m out of the job market 24 years and I can’t do s*** anymore. I have to go and get myself up to speed (since I can’t do manual labor due to health issues). That’s the world. Most of us have to to crappy jobs until we find something we like. Or we have to study something new to get marketable skills if our skills are obsolete.

          Shoot, hubby has a master’s degree and he’s over in the next room learning Ruby on Rails. And he’s 54, with a textbook in his field and 20+ patents. But you gotta keep learning or you’re screwed.

          And I’m learning Photoshop (which I suck at) so I can make my own covers and maybe sell some pre-made ones from home in a year or two. Skills.

          I keep thinking all those hours and months she spent online kvetching and talking to reporters, maybe she could have used them to apply for jobs or thinking of how to create a job with that credit card capital she had. Be her own boss of some kind of advocacy or tutoring (hey, she’s got a degree) or write essays for Elance buyers, etc. :::shrug::: She could have written a book in the couple months she used credit to stay in that apartment, between job-hunting. For real.

        • People tend to believe what they are told growing up. In this instance it sounds like this person was told that all they had to do was get an education and they’d be set.

          Nope. An education is good but it doesn’t relieve you of the need to work crappy jobs for crappy wages for crappy hours with crappy bosses all while being crushed by debt.

          Tens of millions are in the same situation and you don’t see them homeless. There’s more to this person’s story for sure. Probably some sort of mental health issue, that’s usually what it is with homeless people.

  3. Apparently, she thinks taking the risk of being horribly victimized is better than having a decent job and safe place to live.

    I was homeless in Denver from Aug to Dec in 2001. I still have no idea how I survived that experience without being raped. If I were looking at homelessness now, I’d far rather work any job that hired me than take that risk again, and working as an Amazon picker would be an absolute dream job for me. I’d lose weight, have plenty to keep my hands busy, and my mind would be free to craft all the story ideas it wanted to (as I walk from one place to another in the vast warehouse). Being an Amazon picker sounds enough like manufacturing fuel filters (Purolator) and household/gardening appliances (Black & Decker) that I could do quite well in it.

    Of course, I’m not too spoiled to actually work, and I’m also quite smart enough not to ruin future job prospects like this woman has.

    Being college edumacated don’t make you smart, girl, and it’s no kind of preparation for real life.

    • Everybody has their personal preferences. I can see how being homeless could sometimes be better than the constant stress and unhappiness of some jobs. Her experience is her own, so I don’t begrudge her that.

      That said, the media sure is laying it on thick with their attempts to paint Amazon as a bully. It’s getting very boring and I doubt they’re convincing many people who weren’t already on their side. Everyone else probably has Amazon open in the other tab of their browser while they’re reading this crap.

      • No. I can’t believe you’re saying that homelessness isn’t that bad. Her big problem with her job was stress? Stress comes from what’s happening in your head. This girl said she was isolated and talked about her degrees and being published. In other words, reality was clashing with what she thought it should be. Stress. She needs to go hungry for a while or something until she realizes that no one owes her a dime. Otherwise, she’s just eating on someone else’s dime.

        I’ve had jobs that made me miserable. Guess what? I looked for another one.

        • It seemed to me she was complaining about being bored and lonely. No sympathy, sorry, those were her own issues, not Amazon’s.

        • Umm, I didn’t say homeless “wasn’t that bad.” You misread my comment. I was saying that I can see how some people would think homelessness is better than certain situations they have to endure. For some people it’s jobs that absolutely wreck their mental wellness. For others it’s something else. I’ve known teens, for example, who ran away from abusive parents, because for them homelessness was easier to endure, even though it was still scary. I know adults who have done this who still say it was easier to endure when they did it than whatever situation they ran away from. While most of us would/could not bear homelessness, some people would prefer it. I’m just saying, different strokes for different folks as far as what we can all tolerate. I think there’s a real strong current of “my way is the right way and everyone should be just like me” here in the U.S. That’s just not how reality works.

          • I see. I still disagree that homelessness is actually better, but it’s true that some situations harm a person’s mental wellness. I don’t think homelessness is the only other option.

  4. Is there any job that will satify her? There’s a lot of other jobs and opportunities she doesn’t seem approve of either. I work as a janitor at a gym, it’s better than being homeless.

    • My son is a janitor. He was able to go to school in the evening to be a personal trainer, but while he finished that up, he decided he actually wants to be a teacher so he continued taking classes. He then got a job at another place as a janitor working 5p-1a and making a bit more money. Next week, he has an interview at a college–also for a janitor, but it pays 25% more, and includes free tuition and benefits. I sure hope he gets it because he would actually be making pretty good money in this day an age. Almost as much as a teacher and maybe more than some make to start.

      • Plus that benefit… free tuition! That’s worth quite a bit if he takes classes in something practical (not American Studies.)

        • That’s worth quite a bit if he takes classes in something practical (not American Studies.)

          Ha! 😀 Yeah, I can’t see him taking that. He’s really into weightlifting and physical fitness, and completed his personal trainer education to become certified–he just has to take the test. The problem is, when he looked into jobs as a personal trainer, gyms tend to want them to hang around and only get paid when a client actually wants to use one. So they might hang around the gym for five hours, but only get paid for one of those hours. He can’t afford to do that, so he keeps working as a janitor.

          • Personal training is the worst job in the gym. And a lot of people go into it with no clue what it’s like. It may vary at other gyms but it’s heavily sales based where you might spend two hours with one person and walk away with no sale, all on your own time. You can make money at it but knowing how to workout yourself is the least important thing. I’ve seen overweight trainers make a killing and bodybuilders fail fast.

            • Yes. This. You have to be good at building up a clientele. That’s the main skill. Makin’ sales.

              My fat buddy made a living for a few years as a trainer. Had an online certification, a couple of go to diet plans, some fun circuit regimens not too strenuous but definitely good enough to feel good and look good.

              Mostly though he just kicked it at the gym and ‘sold sessions’.

              • Sadly, the son who is a good salesman is not into physical fitness. The son who is, has always been a little shy and quiet until he gets to know someone.

                • Just my 2 cents M.P., but why not own the gym? Maybe use that free tuition to take a few business classes? Sounds like he has everything else he would need already.

                  Then he could hire his brother to sell memberships! 🙂

    • Is there any job that will satify her?

      This person was born to teach your kids in academia.

    • I clean hotel rooms to support my writing habit. When I make it big, I’m sure the line will be “hotel maid writes a book” when I’ve been a whole lot of other things in my life.

      Why did she panhandle with a sign that said, I was an order picker at amazon.com… now I’m homeless…” and not include the caveat “but work is hard so I quit”“.

    • One of my best jobs was evening janitorial. I spent the evening alone listening to podcasts and writing scene ideas in my notebook. I worked that job so I was the opposite shift as my hubby so we avoided childcare while I also did distance education to become an educational assistant. It paid better than retail.

  5. I see the homeless on our streets and there isn’t much I wouldn’t do to keep from joining them. Good grief. Spending days and night hustling for a meal and a warm place to sleep, never mind all the other mind numbing problems you’d have. Just the thought of it scares me silly.

  6. Sounds to me like she’s found her dream job – sitting with a home-made sign while passers-by hand her $100 an hour. In her own words, she’s stronger, healthier and happier than ever.

    What’s her grouse?

  7. The guy is certainly free to complain, loudly, that “Amazon Suck!” but speech has consequences. Trash talking your employer of the web will certainly get noticed by future job prospects; it’s not like this is a huge secret. As for the complaints about warehouse metrics? All I have to say is I did it for 10 years. I didn’t like it, and it was terrible work, but it paid the bills. If you go in expecting white collar, or anything BUT a hard earned dollar/pound/euro/whatever, you’ll only end up disappointed.

    • Just re-read it and realized that the ads writer is a woman, my bad.

    • I totally agree with that. We’re free to dislike the work we have to do to pay the bills, but that doesn’t make it smart to trash talk your employer if you still need to keep working. Some jobs are incredibly hard and unpleasant and it would be great if nobody had to do them in the first place just to pay the bills, but the best way to avoid those jobs is to get qualified for other, better jobs. The more people who do that, the harder the employers of the crappy jobs will have to work to get employees, in theory.

  8. Nothing wrong with protesting poor worker treatment. Amazon like Walmart is a behemoth. Someone’s got to say something, though true there is a price to pay. I would suggest that she perhaps seeks career options as an activist. It’s low paying but a personal history of speaking out and talking truth to power is respected and admired in that field. It’s understandable also that the fearful rank and file might belittle her situation but I hope she stays strong.

    I became homeless the first of September of this year. I’ve worked the same job for the last three years. It’s not a great job but the only one I’ve been able to secure after I graduated college. However, I live in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Where studio apartments go for $1400 a month single occupancy and the rental vacancy rate is .06%. When I lost my place to live, I began living in my car because even though I actually make pretty good money for someone right out of college, after taxes, student loan, car payment/insurance, medical and such high rent, I’d be left with no money for food, gas or savings. So I’ve rented a storage unit for my things. I got a place in a SafePark program, so I park at night in a secured parking area with others who share my plight.

    In a time when jobs are so hard to find, I can’t at this time justify quitting my job and moving to a “cheaper” city unless I find a job there first. So for now I am homeless. There are an estimated 3000 people like me in the city in which I live. Lots of well educated people find themselves in insecure situations.

    I wish all of us strength and perseverance.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your circumstances. I can’t imagine being homeless. The fact that a person with a job can’t afford a rent over her head (or going hungry) makes me angry. Hope you’ll find something better soon.

  9. Really? This guy is “deranged” about Amazon because he found their globally famous intolerable working conditions intolerable? You try working in utter soliude to meet ever-escalating quotas under constant surveillance, in stifling heat all summer long, for a company that would rather provie amubulance service to victims of heat prostration thaan air condition their warehouses. But somehow I doubt you’ll be taking Jeff Bezos up on his employment opportunities any time soon…unless he’s looking for a PR flack.

    • From what I’ve heard from warehouse workers, this sounds pretty typical of those kinds of jobs so I’m not sure why it’s just Amazon that gets this kind of criticism. Warehouse work is hard, and I’d say maybe it’s a less conducive environment for humans than robots, but of course the humans would also be mad if Amazon went to having all robots in their warehouses.

      • Maybe it depends on the warehouse. I have a friend who worked in an Amazon warehouse and he loved it. He also got in shape pretty quickly. Only reason he left the job was because Amazon closed it.

    • No, SHE is putting all the blame on Amazon for not liking warehouse working conditions and leaving the job before lining another one up, and that’s Amazn’s fault, too, I guess. Usually, before ditching a job, folks look for another, so they can keep paying bills. If one is laid off or fired, obviously, this is not an option. But hating a job is fine–leaving it and then not finding work and not being able to pay bills is NOT AMAZON’S FAULT.

      Every time I left a job (willingly, not the last one I had to leave due to being ill an unable to work for 2 decades), I had another one lined up. I hated the every-weekend work on A job after 4 years of not havng weekends, so I went and looked for job B that offered ALL weekends off. Paid the same, fewer benefits, but weekends mattered enough to me to make the trade-off. When I needed time off to finish my degree and job B didn’t allow it, I found job C that was part-time and I could go to school (few weekends worked, too). And when I got my degree, I found a job within that field that gave me most weekends off and double the pay of my non-degree job with some nice benefits on top and career advancement opportunity. (And it was not in my IDEAL field, but one that was hiring, so I was pragmatic in picking that major.)

      And then I got sick and had to quit.

      But, really, every person I know who hates their job and wants out of it, with rare exceptions (the ones with parents to support them or spouses with good jobs to give leeway), they look for another job while STILL employed so as to have consistent income for bills. It’s not always a perfect system–again, lay-offs, firing-but it tends to be what bill-paying adults do: get a job before leaving a job so, you know, food on the table, rent money comes in.

      Or is that deranged?

      • This. She planned for unemployment by taking out credit cards (absolutely the dumbest move you can make) to fund her living expenses instead of lining up additional work. Maybe she planned to do that after she had collected benefits… But really, there is no guarantee you’ll get a job right as your benefits end, and the longer you are unemployed the worse it looks.
        Also I do wonder about her comments that “we’ve found it’s best to keep moving on” and that trading service for room and board was like slavery. There are stories behind those statements, more interesting to me than the state of Amazon’s warehouse.

    • I have worked that kind of job, thanks. Except mine was more physically grueling. Amazon warehouse jobs are hard, demanding, but honest and honorable work. If you’d care to back up your claims, let’s have it out right here.

      Amazon offers far, far more than a typical warehouse job. They pay for part of your school and training so that you can work your way into a better job, either with them or someone else, for crying out loud. If you don’t like your warehouse job they will literally pay your way into a better one. All you have to do is put in the effort.

      Yes, effort. That’s this girl’s problem. She took her dissatisfaction and badmouthed her employer and “spent [her] last days in a lovely apartment constructing arguments on discussion boards, writing articles and talking to reporters.” You know, instead of learning skills or searching for a new job.

      • I’ve been to Amazon warehouses and have worked in warehouses off and on when I was younger. The description of the warehouse here seemed pretty typical, nothing shocking at all.

        It’s not even the worst job in the US either. She should try picking strawberries. I did that growing up and then again off an on for some family friends. That’s the hardest job I’ve ever done, completely crippling. We can’t get even get American born people to do it, only 1st gen immigrants.

        Never seen an American born person last more than 2 days. They usually quit at noon on the 2nd day if they ever even show up the 2nd day. Some show up and they can barely get out of their cars. Ha! I’m 35 now and if I were to pick for a season I’d have to do a week or two of half days before my body could handle it.

        And surely there are harder jobs still! Like lumber jacking! Coal mining!

        Life is hard. 🙂

        Luckily the strawberry jam business isn’t on the forefront of some sort of culture war or technological disruption or my relatives would be in huge trouble…on the internet! 🙂

        • Talk about not having air conditioning. 🙂

          Back when I worked in a factory, a lot of my coworkers didn’t even have AC in their homes. They didn’t whine about it either.

      • My job wasn’t picking a bunch of little stuff like they do at Amazon. No, it was picking full-sized upholstery on a 45-ft (5 tier) order picker and plate setup. She wants to complain about a “hard job”? Try hauling around 150-300 lb pieces of furniture at a 36 piece per hour pace in a 5 million square foot facility. That was my night, every night except Sunday, for almost a decade.

        I have to admit all of the reporters and whining Amazon warehouse workers irritate me to no end. They think they know what a bad warehouse job is? I know 3 dozen guys who’s daily schedule would make every one of those ADS imbeciles cry uncle.

    • I’ve worked my share of crappy jobs. Quite a few make what the OP describes sound like a day at the spa. (She should try cleaning milking barns for a summer or join the Army.) What I learned is that what is pure hell for one person is another person’s heaven. I also learned that whiny babies make lousy employees, no matter what they do.

      • I think most of us who’ve had crappy jobs in our lives are grateful for the lessons they’ve taught us, Jaye.

        I know I’m very thankful for being in a cozy room, making up stories, rather than being outside breaking ice on the water trough and hauling hay and grain out for the livestock, which is what I was doing 35 years ago at this time.

      • Agreed. I made a decision some years back to never ever complain about work ever again. Ever. Not for one second.

        It’s freakin’ magic. I’m far less stressed now. It’s like I just accepted that ‘yeah, life is hard, so effing what?’

        I cut people off who complain about work too. I cut them off or I walk away from them. The negativity doesn’t help me or them or anyone else. So I don’t tolerate it. I’m kind of extreme about it.

    • I have worked in an Amazon warehouse during the Christmas season. It paid twice as much and was less stressful than the Christmas season I worked at Target.

    • Steven, she also didn’t like working as a graduate student and she didn’t like cooking for families. She does like getting a hundred dollars an hour panhandling and making signs asking for free laptops.

      The story would have more creditability if she had left Amazon and worked at a different warehouse and found that preferable. Or if she appeared to be able to hold on to any job. I’ve worked a lot of s***** jobs in my life, including in warehouses, and frankly being allowed to work alone, or being computer monitored, was preferable to me than having a boss looking over my shoulder the whole time.

      There are still real sweatshops in America, really horrible places and really really abusive bosses of all shapes and sizes. I have yet to read anything to make me believe Amazon is anywhere close to that, and enough to believe Amazon is above average in the categories of work they need done.

      Bashing Amazon based on antidotal stories of unhappy workers for the purpose of propping up the negotiations of Big Publishers is worse than useless. Someone needs to bring better evidence to me than “globally famous intolerable” conditions, since clearly thousands of Amazon workers find it tolerable.

      If we really care about workers, higher minimum wages, tighter restrictions on overtime and breaks, paid vacations and health care are something I can support.

  10. Amazon is trying to incorporate robots in their warehouses now. Check out Hugh’s post on the subject: http://www.hughhowey.com/the-new-warehouse-workers/

    • And when they fully automate and have maybe a couple overseers of robots per warehouse, there will be protests that they are laying folks off and not thinking about the social consequences of their automation. Watch.

    • I think they’ve been trying to do that for a while now. People will complain no matter what. Working in a warehouse sounds like very difficult work for a lot of workers, but Amazon still needs the work done and we consumers still demand that it be done regardless of who/what is doing it.

      • The smart guy is the one who’s learning how to service and repair the robots.

        • Which will employ, at best, one of the hundred who lose their job to this automation. The more likely outcome is that every person who currently works in the warehouse will lose their job because they don’t have the mechanical or intellectual aptitude for that kind of technical work.

          We like to say that people can do anything they set their mind to but that simply isn’t true. It’s been a long running concern of mine that our consumer-fueled economy simply isn’t set up to handle large-scale automation. I’m afraid we’re already about 1/3 to 1/2 through the scenario Marshall Brain wrote about in his book “Manna”, and there isn’t going to be a techno-utopian escapist ending for our version of the tale.

          • It’s sad, but I think you’re right. I know we like to extol adaptability as a virtue, and in general I think that’s a good thing, but I think it’s also not very likely that most people will be that way, or that everyone CAN be that way. Most people like stability and the economy is, for better or worse, becoming less stable. People will have to work harder, more unconventional jobs or find some other way to make a living. They need to stop looking at the old ways of doing things and wondering why they don’t work as well anymore. We’re so far beyond that now that lamenting the past is really just a waste of time.

            • We were discussing this a couple years ago in a family get-together, and I said if I had a kid I’d tell them to think hard about jobs that must be done by people (so far) and can’t be outsourced to Asia or Africa or Latin America, and try to study those, even if it’s not college. Plumbers, hairdressers, auto mechanics, dentist, roofers, physical therapists, nurses, massage therapists, chef, makeup artists. The more likely you need someone present and hands to do the work, the more likely the job will stick around for a while. I mean, pipes are essentially the same. Hair hasn’t changed and it’s still cut with scissors. Roofs aren’t going away and robots fixing them sounds a long way away.

              If it can be done via computer or robot or long-distance, you may end up jobless.

              I’d rather my kid have their own salon or plumbing business or run a nursing staffing service or have a catering business or be a dentist or dental hygienist or a specialty organic produce local farmer than learn programming or do any kind of physical labor a robot could do in 10 years or that will be sent overseas.

          • In 1900, farming employed half the population. Now it employs 2%. People said all the same stuff.

            • Factory line work isn’t that much different than crop planting or harvest. Neither requires advanced knowledge and can be done by people who can only intellectually handle manual labor. What, precisely, is left for those people to do when automation has rendered their feasible skill set irrelevant, especially in an economy where most don’t have the time or resources to pursue a higher education or “retraining”?

  11. Cry me a river, and try working for Dollar General, Walmart, or any other retail corporation.

    Dollar General’s really awesome. They tell you right up front that 70% of loss (theft) is internal. Meaning you, and every other employee, is considered a thief just waiting for an opportunity.

    And believe me, you’re lucky if you’re fired or quit without being accused of stealing. I heard both times I worked for them how every manager had stolen, along with all previous employees.

    Yet, last time I worked, I was constantly picking up $100 or more worth of empty packaging every day, because of shoplifters. Couldn’t keep an eye on everyone, because I didn’t have enough payroll to hire enough people, or schedule properly. And you’re not allowed to do anything about the shoplifting, either.

    I’d have taken working in Amazon’s warehouse over the DG bull crap any day.

    Don’t even get me started on how DG pays, either salaried or hourly employees.

    • Retail is pretty miserable. I’ve yet to meet more than one person who actually enjoyed working retail in their youth.

  12. In case anyone didn’t catch it, this girl is trying to build herself a political career.

    “I have been published in a scholarly journal and a social-justice oriented website. I have completed my MA in American Studies.”

    For those that don’t know what “social justice” is, it’s basically the idea of a moral (and thus legal) obligation to the collective of society. This isn’t the kind of thing you get into without being politically active and opinionated.

    How did she respond to her coming homelessness?

    “I spent my last days in a lovely apartment constructing arguments on discussion boards, writing articles and talking to reporters. That was 2012 and Amazon’s labor and business practices were only beginning to fall under scrutiny.”

    So instead of looking for another job, she argued with people on internet forums, wrote articles, and talked to reporters. Why? Because she just wanted the attention? No, she was looking for a job. She wanted the kind of job that railing about social justice and Amazon would earn her. In other words, activism and politics.

    • Dang it, Jim! By that definition, I’ve turned conservative. When the h*** did that happen? 😉

    • I agree that she should have been looking for another job. The girl chose what she chose because she obviously believes very differently than you. She seems to think that people shouldn’t have to live like this even though she hasn’t proven why she deserves to live differently. Most of the people on this board seem to have agreed that that’s just part of life. It’s a totally different way of looking at things.

      • Liz, I think you and I actually agree on the core of my problem with this girl. If she thinks homelessness is better than honest labor, that’s fine. I say she’s crazy, but that’s her decision, and even if I think it’s bad for her I wouldn’t try to take away her right to choose. But the talk about her masters, talking to reporters, and especially her involvement in social justice have nothing to do with making that decision. I mean, come on, social justice teaches that other people owe her something if they have more than she does. You want to live on the streets? Fine. But it’s your choice, not because other people are failing their obligations to you.

  13. Hmm… I read this and for some reason I don’t think Amazon is responsible for all of her problems and difficulties in life. But nice try by the Guardian to make it look that way.

    My quick guess would be that much of it started when she took out a lot of loans to get that college degree and spend years in graduate studies, only to ditch it all when she decided she didn’t want to be a low paid professor. Then she found it almost impossible to pay back the loans with working class jobs and got her credit ruined when she abandoned them. Now she’s in a situation where even if she gets a job, they’ll garnish some of her wages, so panhandling seems like a better option.

    Perhaps the Guardian can give her a full time job writing about how evil Amazon is. Isn’t that all they publish these days?

    • She might have done the loan thing but I try not to judge those people too harshly. Being told your whole life that school is the most important thing and you can’t be anything without it, taking out big loans seems like a no brainer. Like there’s no other option. That was my take anyway.

      Also the way federal student loans work is that you can get deferment until you really start working, then they take like 12 or 13%. It’s really not a big deal to have student loans.

      This is just a crazy person though. That’s her main problem. The rest is just details.

      • I tell kids to spend a couple years after HS getting a certification in welding, drafting, Xray technician, or programming. Then they can feed themselves. That’s a big step too few people take. When they can feed themselves, they can then go to college for whatever they want, and avoid returning to their childhood basement in debt. Their parents tend to glare at me and mumble obscene incantations.

        • Yes, that’s the smart way. I don’t think many people understand how expensive college is and how truly ill prepared you are at 18.

          I lucked out and graduated with a lot of work experience, since I worked real jobs the entire time. Even then it was hard adjusting from college life to working life because I ended up just doing the same job I did in college. Managing apartments.

          It’s even more crappy because you realize you were lied to, that your parents and everyone else bought into the propaganda of higher education. That it’s the road to easy street. So then when I didn’t have some super powered job despite my awesome grades in college my entire family thought of me as the failure instead of re-examining their expectations. I did exactly as I was told and ended up with the same job I would have always had.

          Getting a law degree made it a bit better but you work even harder as a new attorney then this homeless lady ever did at Amazon. You work so hard as a new attorney with so much pressure and stress, I wasn’t able to keep up, my body and mind just burnt out a quit.

      • Jo, you and I are right about the same age (I gleaned from your response somewhere) and I know what you mean. When we were coming up through school the narrative was like this:

        “If you don’t go to college, you’ll work a horrible job and be poor.”

        “If you go to college, you’ll get a great job and have money and do important things.”

        And in some cases this was actually spoken aloud by teachers. I think this woman child is a victim of this kind of nonsense, if nothing else.

  14. The press and anti-Amazon folks love to have it both ways. They’ll milk this until Amazon automates the warehouses, then beat up on Amazon for automating. And rarely if ever acknowledge that other warehouses even exist. Doubtful this would have even been published, if not for its mention of Amazon. Amazon as all purpose villian…

    For what it’s worth, my CV includes delivering papers, mowing yards, cutting corn out of beans, janitoring, road crew (shoveling asphalt in the heat of summer), building grain bins, years of night school, paying my own way through college… and working hard at and getting better at every job while many co-workers slacked and whined…

    I can sympathize with the author, but would have to prescribe some tough love… take responsibility for your unrealistic choices, do a reality check, get a job, at (gasp!) Amazon if necessary, and go back to school for a realistic occupation.

  15. Oh, cry me a river. I’ve had my share of crappy, low-paid, over-worked, unappreciated jobs in my life. And every damned one of them was better than being on the street.

    I’ve been homeless, and it was only my luck in having family that would take me in long enough to get on my feet again that saved me and my kids.

    So keep whining, woman. Maybe HuffPo will let you write for them, or Salon might come calling. Then you can build your dream job and be one of the 1%.

    Yeah, right.

  16. And it turns out the Guardian piece isn’t completely honest and up front about who the author is and why she was working at Amazon…
    http://dissidentvoice.org/2012/05/inside-a-dot-com-warehouse/

    Turns out that was her activist hero bit… Now all she has to do is exploit it…

    • And her bio: “Name — Nichole Gracely
      Age — 35
      Hometown — Grew up outside Schnecksville, Pa. I taught ESL in South Korea for more than two years, traveled Asia, been around the Caribbean and zig-zagged the U.S. I worked at the Chicago Board Options Exchange and the Chicago Brauhau. I was a Sales Representative at REI in Eugene, Oregon. I currently live in Bethlehem, Pa. I’ve been around. The east coast is definitely not for me and it’s time to move.”

      Not updated to include Amazon protestor and 100 an hour panhandler in Seattle. Moving on soon. Her specialty: peregrination and complaining about circumstances.

      Thing is, I agree with her on some of her points. I’m for universal health care and increasing the minimum wage and workers being treated with dignity and sharing profits, etc.

      I just think she’s someone who can’t be still and likes to move around, talk to people, look for injustices, and talk about writing that her book. Of course, she would be miserable in a warehouse. And she knew she’d be miserable in a warehouse, since she can’t sit still (see her travels and varied jobs.) This was a planned scheme. She gets to be reporting/activist person. This was never about actually working and taking advantage of a work opportunity. This was “Look for problems, look for bad working conditions, complain loudly, make Amazon a target.” From the get-go.

      Funny how she left that part out. I guess honestly and being upfront isn’t part of her activistic agenda.

      • My first thought was that the story had Social Justice Warrior written all over it. I think you’ve just confirmed it.

        • I know and love a lot of social justice warrior types (also some social justice shamans and bards) and they tend to be hard workers. Just saying.

          • Same here. Shoot, my mom used to take me along on some worker marches when I was a kid. 😀 And door to door to raise money for this or that charity. And she never made much more than minimum wage, but anyone was welcome to come eat or sleep at the house if they had need. She kept a lot of kids in the neighborhood fed when moms and dads were, well, absentee or irresponsible. And when I got married, hubby and I did some marching and sign-holding of our own, and volunteering at the jail and at the abused children’s home and writing letters to editors and senators and etc.

            I’m kinda old and apathetic now. A shame, really.

            So, I’ve met wonderful crusader types who work their asses off to support themselves, their families, and sometimes OTHER families, too. People whose shoes I don’t feel worthy to shine, they are so generous ,merciful and other-concerned. And they will go into jungles to take medical treatment, Africa, clothes drives, head to Haiti after an earthquake. I”ve been very privileged to know some truly heart-huge folks.

            But this gal just doesn’t do it for me. Nope.

      • So she was a seasonal temp at Amazon let go for absenteeism, has not held a steady job in any one location, appears not to have marketable skills, is now 37 and has an employment gap on her resume. Whether or not she bad mouthed her previous employer in public, I would not seriously consider her as a candidate if I were hiring.

      • That might be her aim and there might be a market for it since so many websites are anti-Amazon these days. That course may get her some of what she wants for a little while, but I have a feeling five years from now she’s still going to be unhappy with how her life turned out. She may just not be suited for the types of jobs that she can get (personality-wise anyway). She would be better off examining her motives and, more importantly her skills, to find something she can tolerate and make money doing, but obviously being an agitator is one of the things she finds value in and that will conflict with working for most companies. Those people have *never* really fit into the greater society anyway so she’d struggle no matter what if that’s how she’s inclined. Just look at all the people here writing her off as an “activist.” People don’t like people who stir the sh*t. I suspect that trad pub feels the same way about us that we feel about her.

    • That link is very interesting. So she was treated badly at Amazon, but wanted to be put on Amazon permanent staff. She didn’t walk out in a huff. She was fired. she can’t understand why a company would fire her for not showing up (snow was her issue). Can you imagine how it would go over with Amazon customers if Jeff would email them, telling them their Prime orders will be sent as soon as the spring thaw sets in?

    • Paint me surprised. 😉

  17. I don’t mean to sound callous, but this woman sounds like a character from Portlandia.

    • I love that show. One of the funniest things on the telly.

      They need to add the Amazon-warehouse-worker-who-is-actually-an-undercover-activist-slash-reporter-turned-homeless-activist-panhandler character.

      • Lol. Yeah. A fake homeless person. Seriously making that kind of money as a protester/panhandler and still trying to claim to be homeless is either a lie or the person is insane. Either way it would make a perfect Portlandia character.

  18. I’ve had some really lousy jobs over the years. Some horrible bosses, too. Horrible co-workers. Horrible working conditions.

    When I had the chance, I moved on before I said/did something stupid to jeopardize my future . I never criticized my employers publicly while I was still working in that field, and I was careful later on, too. Burning bridges is lethal, no matter how bad you have it.

    I was in management for a few years before I left the corporate world for good. I interviewed thousands of prospective employees. If they bad-mouthed their previous or current employers or bosses, (even if the complaints were justified) their resume went into the slush pile, because if they’re going to complain on a job interview, they’ll complain as an employee. I would never hire this woman, even if she were the most qualified for the job.

    No matter how bad it was/is, the best thing a person can do to ensure they have future employment is to keep their opinions to themselves, MOVE ON to the next job and be happy.

    I don’t feel sorry for this person because I keep thinking about my father who worked his butt off and had it really rough for years and years, and he rarely complained.

    She’s learned a hard lesson. Perhaps she will grow stronger from the mistakes she’s made and find her niche.

  19. Every high school senior should read this. An American studies major who writes about social justice in scholarly journals meets the real world. Think carefully. The real world isn’t going to change.

    • Terrence I’m not sure this person is talking about ‘the real world’ or whatever. I suspect the person is a liar with an agenda. Still, lots to be learned there. In high school all I got was “go to college and you’re set.” Nothing about loans, nothing about what jobs I’d get afterward, etc…

      Also there’s nothing wrong with a humanities or social sciences degree, it just doesn’t lead to a job easy peasy. It just looks good on a resume and the learning skills make for a brighter future. It doesn’t alleviate the need to eat s*** from your employer though. Lol. No degree does.

      • So true. And there’s a certain amount that can be blamed on the economy. Having a degree aimed directly at a specific job just means you’re qualified, not that you’ll beat out your competition.

  20. To pay my own way through college and business school, I worked a number of menial jobs. At various times I was a medical delivery driver, a Dominoes pizza delivery driver, an undercover theft-prevention worker at grocery stores, a janitor, construction worker, odd-jobber, and a forklift operator in a warehouse picking product and loading trucks. When I needed work, nothing was beneath me. Now at Smashwords with 26 employees, I wouldn’t ask any of my employees to do jobs that I don’t already do myself. But never in my 25 years of work experience have I been subjected to the dehumanizing work environment described in this story, or described by former Amazon employees with whom I’ve spoken. Amazon’s not alone in this treatment. When a company is so fanatically focused on delivering lower prices and faster this and that for its customers, it comes at a human cost. It inevitably leads to this kind of squeeze on the suppliers of labor and product. It’s interesting that Amazon outsources their warehouse work to an outside agency. This makes it easier to treat people as faceless numbers, cogs and interchangeable inputs. Amazon is not alone in their poor treatment of workers, but as the world’s most respected and successful ecommerce company, this scrutiny and more is to be expected. My advice to this woman would be to get a job at Starbucks or McDonalds if that’s what it takes to keep a roof over her head and get back on her feet. On the other hand, I respect her personal view that for her, homelessness is better than working at Amazon. I respect her advocacy, because this isn’t just an Amazon problem, it’s a global problem. As with the Fair Trade movement or indie authorship, consumers would be well-served to care about sustainable livelihoods and working conditions for those that make their cheap products possible.

    • I think the attitude that any legal work in dehumanizing is flawed. I clean toilets and pick used tampons off the soap shelves in the shower stalls. How is that ‘humanizing’? I don’t see voluntarily working in a warehouse or picking in a field as dehumanizing, just more exhausting than I want at 45.

      • I clean toilets and pick used tampons off the soap shelves in the shower stalls.

        Ewww…! What kind of person does that? (leaves the tampon, I mean–not you having to pick it up.) Yuck! I won’t complain anymore about having to suck mucous out of patients. At least the people who need it aren’t intentionally trying to gross me out. 😉

        • Possibly the same women who will hide used kleenex’s behind the Kleenex box instead of walking 5-10 feet to the nearby garbage can.

          It’s not the same ones who pee on the sauna rocks if the benches are set close to the heater, since that’s the guys side.

    • But never in my 25 years of work experience have I been subjected to the dehumanizing work environment described in this story, or described by former Amazon employees with whom I’ve spoken.

      Can you tell us what aspects of this specific story describe dehumanizing conditions?

    • “It’s interesting that Amazon outsources their warehouse work to an outside agency.”
      Amazon has close to 150,000 full and part time employees. I do not believe the majority of warehouse employees are outsource only those like this woman who was hired for peak season as the 80,000 that Amazon is adding this holiday season.

      • It really is true that Amazon uses temp staffing agencies to supply their warehouse workers. Those workers are told they “may” become Amazon employees if they are outstanding workers. Few attain that, but the woman who wrote this article did become an Amazon employee. She was training new workers. It would seem she was fine with working for Amazon, but Amazon wasn’t fine with employing her when she failed to show up for work, so now she’s getting even (in her mind).

    • Hehehe, a fellow Domino’s driver! I did that too, and that’s one of the few jobs I loved.

      Probably wouldn’t love it so much now, in my anti-real life people interacting middle age. 😉

  21. “Being homeless is better than working for Amazon” Translation:
    Not working is better than working for _______ (insert company name) And if you can get tax free money from panhandling life is even better, for some people.

  22. I can certainly understand why someone who might have gotten a PhD might be bored to death by warehouse work. I’ve had tons of crappy jobs myself, and that boredom thing is hard to break. But that’s not exactly Amazon’s fault. Poor educational and career choices are the problem here.

    • Yeah. If I had to do it again I’d have gotten my engineering degree instead of a history and law degree. All my real job prospects are just boring and/or stressful.

      Too bad no one knows anything when they’re 18-20 and making all these big decisions.

      EDIT: Hell if I really had it all to do over I’d have done everything the same but started writing at age 20 instead of age 35. 🙂

  23. I was just whining about my job (office work) and how stultifying it was, when the roofers arrived to re-roof the house. There I was, typing my whines, when these guys were clambering all over an icy roof in 20degree weather, ripping up the old shingles and hammering in new ones, all for $12/hr.

    I couldn’t imagine doing that week after week– just the discomfort, not to mention the danger.

    So I stopped whining. For a while!

  24. Short Version: Working at a warehouse sucked so I figured out how to make money and get attention by bitching about it.

    Good for her.

    The only thing I found interesting was the part about employers Googling prospective employees. A colleague of mine did a project about that in law school. It’s one of the main reasons I never post under my own name, ever, and have no facebook page.

    If you can be found on the web complaining about your employer you can’t expect a tech company or any other big company with a thorough vetting process to hire you. Ever. She needs to take down her articles as best she can, but she won’t. Those articles are of value to her, more valuable somehow than getting a real job.

    But really I think she’s just full of it. Exaggerating and lying. No one that can make $100 in an hour on the street panhandling is homeless.

    • Same here. As much as I’d love to link to my writing work here I have a strict rule of absolutely never mixing work and social media. It’s also why I’ll never say which company I spent a decade doing warehouse work for. I left on good terms and even though I despise the company with a burning passion that’s one resume bridge I won’t burn.

  25. just a couple thoughts from ‘the bottom of the tanks’… if youve ever swept silo dust, argh, or door to door mag sales til your head aches from slamming doors, or worked in the frost room in a fish locker, or delivered telephone books to office buildings, ten at a time, or as others here said, picked up others biohazard waste for others were too lazy to dispose of it properly, or hauling crates of produce complete with the occasional scorpion /spiders creeping onto you, or baking enough for a medium village each day, but only from 2am to 7 am every day, or warehousing without a forklift, or being on one’s feet on concrete lugging stuff back and forth and back and forth til every leg bone and footbone is screaming Now I lay m e down to sleep…

    Like all here, we do what we have to do. At the time, I was so grateful for the work, even though worked for demeaning, and often enough dishonest, and sometimes leering people. We learned to go invisible when certain bosses came around, to just do what we had to do, most of us having young children–we needed the work, had to.

    There is ‘give up on making the rent’ by some, on purpose, pre-planned by not using the wits given, or just sloth, or a weird kind of entitlement that demands others give to them… if cant find that as an adult from work or with family… go to the streets and panhandle… it has similar underpinning, the gig being a fraud ‘i cant /wont take care of myself, so you must take care of me, and if you dont, I bid you to feel guilty forever, so there.’

    I do know of three persons, gifted people, who not well sometimes mentally, literally decided to let it all go and call/enact herself/himself homeless in order to get money from friends and family, to just stop th world for a while, and in all three cases, to write about it for magazines, as a book, and online. I cant explain even to myself why they chose that. I would have fought tooth and nail to never be at the mercy of others or died trying. They however, went gentle’ into that not very good night. They now wear that time of their lives as some kind of badge of honor, talking about it often, and strangers especially, giving them sympathy for what used to be, but is not now. However, I know, and I sense y ou do also, war veterans, and widowed mothers of six, and men in wheelchairs for life, and people who save lives, and those who keep vigil for others beyond endurance and still they persist and do not give up. In contrast, those who slide into whatever either by choice, ennui, laziness, abjext illness, addictions, or for drama– the honor is not equal. Not.

    and yet… many of the men who used to sleep at the back door of the little store i ran, for there was a little roof over an alcove there, they were sweet and dear and gentle and sick and brokenhearted and would have done anything I asked if I needed their help. Unshaven, smelling badder than bad, often soused or red dot eyed… still, most were intelligent, and gallant, yes, gallant, and not an excuse maker amongst them. If I’d gently ask about their lives, they’d say they screwed up, left too many good women slip through their fingers, couldnt stay away from the thunderbird and chianti. And if a violent man came amongst them, they would find a way to call the police to take him away so their little backdoor village would remain peaceful as it could. They did panhandle, and they did spend some of it in wys the givers might not approve. But I also saw how they shared with each other, pooling money and food and bandages and most everything with one another.

    The only time I dont give money to a panhandler is when I dont have any money on me. I’m not sure its the giving of money that is the point, but to stop on the sidewakl and give something, a bit of time, a blessing, a question about if they know where the food shelters are… and then move on. For they will too.

    What the writer re amazon seems to be so huffing about, dont know. But I do know that the men and women — and children– in the streets, are rarely there because they let a job go. Their plaints are often so so few compared to the privileged who decline to work, so as almost to be absurdist comedy… fewer complaints from those who have nothing, vs so much complaining from those who have so much; education, work experience, health, families who do not revile them…

    And, where I live, the truly indigent, are most at risk for being beaten up– just because they exist. Often by groups of young hate-filled young adults… and for that too, it is barely comprehensible, for rape and robbery are not the point given the extreme state of uncleaness many homeless live in and their possessions being no more than bags and boards and bedding–and yet some predate on them for sick kicks. The life, the REAL hellacious life of the street that I know about doesnt even come close to the tidy version the writer of the piece above writes about.

    And yet too, being without a defined rental apartment for instance, doesnt mean that ‘homeless’ across the board means the same thing. Those who board in ‘welfare hotels’ are often the ‘upper echelon’ of homeless… one measure, being able to bathe daily, and cook in your hovel. There are the shelters which are food givers and bed givers and shelter from the weather and also have showers. There is the street with shelter at night, street by day. Then there are the bridges and the river banks and the parks by day and night. The doorways, the steam grates. All different strata of the larger culture of ‘without a fixed home’ and some far more accomodaceous than others. [I think accomodaceous’ might not be a real word, but hope you know what i mean.]

    In my time of tending to those others some will not tend to, I can only say, taht like anywhere else in culture, there are in the majority decent people trying to be as best they can. There are also, amongst those without fixed homes, as in all layers of highest culture and medium and not so hot… people who are exploiters and prevaricators, scammers and persons with no viable conscience. Nobility is from one’s actions, not by one’s state in life.

    Just my .02

    • I too have worked quite a bit with the chronic homeless. It’s not losing a job that did it, it’s a downward spiral years in the making. This lady playing the poor me blame game really ticks me off.

      • I agree Uncle Jo, ‘the downward spiral years in the making’. Add to that often bad twists of fate, and pain. Much pain that is real. I keep hoping for cities to create tiny individual cluster shelters that espec the vulnerable, which is often the elderly/aged, and the young, and the families with children could inhabit with security. Though it is true also, some prefer the outdoors and here as elsewhere there are search vans to find them when the weather is icy cold or steaming hot. To bring them in to shelter temporarily. They often protest and resist. Sometimes the only freedom left is to be able to say no. Many paradoxes and conundrums on the street.

        There’s something pointedly, no glaringly, non credible about the story told re $100 hour… that’s 4 grand a week at 8 hours a day x5 days a week.

        And 52X4 G’s per week for a five day week, is near a quarter million $$$$$ a year. Actual 208k. Being homeless at $208k a year for a 40 hour panhandling schedule makes all other claims truly in need of verifiable facts. Not to mention at $100 an hour, Uncle Sugar likely wants his cut too now that said person has proclaimed such high cash income in public…

        • Yeah. The lady is either a liar (or she misrepresents the facts, same difference) or she is insane. No one stays homeless with that income. Also she’s hardly sleeping on the street like she implies. She’s more likely in an SRO somewhere or staying with a friend.

          I’m fine with people living on the street. However they need to get by. The stress of modern life is pretty bad, it nearly killed me. I was out of work for years, my body just shut off from the stress, heart and breathing problems. But I still had family to live with so that’s what kept me from not being totally homeless.

          • Even if it was 100 a day, that’s enough to put a roof over your head, though not a fancy one. A room to board in. Someone’s basement. And efficiency in a lousy part of town.

            The Guardian should check on this–FACTS CHECK–and see if she really is sleeping out there on the streets and has nowhere to go with a roof. They really should.

            They did an investigative report a bunch of years ago on some homeless folks panhandling at street corners. Turns out they had quite adequate middle class homes and the estimate of what they were getting after a day of can-in-hand at busy intersections was in the hundreds per day. And, in one case, both the hubby and wife had a different corner and bringing in the dough.

            One other one a couple decades past had a a team go out among the town homeless and see what their source issue was (ie, why homeless) and most were either substance abusers or mentally ill. They made the offer to the addicted to help get them in rehab, and most refused. It’s a very difficult issue.

            In this case, she’s not under the spell of a substance (unless she left that detail out) or mentally ill (unless she left that detail out). But maybe she gets the unfettered “woman with the masses” satisfaction being able to say she’s homeless and not dominated by “the man” and writing stories of life on the edge activistically.

            We’re all satisfied by different things. And we all have our ego-needs. Hers seems to be this. A 37 year old woman who wants to roam, be social, write, not be told what to do when, not be accountable to a clock or a boss, not be bored, not be lonely, be part of the protesting community. And that is fine. Her right in a free nation.

            But if the problem is a job mismatch–personality not suited to the job, the problem is not the job. Some might be fine with the job. SHE is not fine with the job. The problem is applying for a job you know you hate, unless it’s just to tide you over to that other job as you look for it. Some of us love jobs where we don’t have to socialize and can work alone. 😀

            And..her right. But if the government is supporting her to do this, then, as taxpayers, we have the right to b**** about freeloaders who won’t take–or try to keep– a job just cause they don’t like it. Cuz it feels “like slavery” to cook or clean for a family to have some pay. If she gets a check from Uncle Sam or Uncle WA to be unsearchingly, willingly unemployed, then yeah–people can find that leechish.

    • I’ve read every message in this thread, but USAF, you’ve knocked my socks off. Thanks

  26. This person seems not to have the responsibility of dependents such as children to take care of, so really the homelessness is a matter of choice. When you are responsible for the lives and welfare of others you hang onto things more desperately. In my younger days I spent a few years homeless, wandering the world, but I did it all in the spirit of adventure, to gain experience to make me a better writer. To compare homelessness with Amazon warehouse work as if one were worse than the other makes no sense to me. In the right context either one can be the best thing for the situation. As a writer, I loved my poverty-stricken years wandering as a hippy bum. As a single parent responsible to feed, clothe, and educate my sons, there was a time a year ago I would have jumped at an Amazon warehouse job and been damned thankful to have it. I’m doing something else now that pays the bills – barely – but the point is, I’ve been through so much and scraped the bottom of the barrel for so long that it always strikes me as spoiled when people come into tough situations with some sort of sense of entitlement. And sometimes pieces of paper from universities are just pieces of paper when faced with the real grit of struggling for survival.

  27. It’s fine to hate your job and b**** about it.

    It’s not fine to blame your former employer for the results of your bitching.

    You know, I am a nonconformist who has a lot of nonconformist friends. Many are unemployable, and don’t realize it, because of personality issues. They have great resumes, and just turn people off in the interview (and can’t see why) or if they get the job, the situation becomes impossible in one way or other — because their social skills are so horrible. It’s like an undiagnosed disability sometimes.

    • I struggle with this. I’ve worked on it though and am very employable. This wan’t always the case. So much anxiety and stress. Now I’m just a little ‘weird’, so I’m told. 🙂

      I have to avoid overly stressful jobs or I sort of crack up but other than that I’m good.

    • Exactly, Camille. I really thought more writers would get that point. This woman’s problems seem personality-based above all else, and this is actually pretty common in our ranks. Writers tend to be nonconformists. They tend to want to go their own way and they often get bored with the conventional, which most regular jobs just have very little tolerance for (and I don’t blame them either). Many writers I know struggle with conventional work because it really is like torture for them. Not because of all of them are just entitled (although some are), but because when they feel they’re not living in accordance with their values, sometimes very real consequences set in. Like all-consuming depression.

      All that said, none of this actually seems to be Amazon’s fault but there are plenty of people who love to blame Amazon. I think it’s very easy for people who struggle with the workaday world to just fall into the popular narrative that has already been laid out for them. Everyone wants answers when something that other people seem to do so well with doesn’t work the same way for them.

      • Liz, your points require a level of self-examination most people are unable or unwilling to undertake, not to mention a certain level of self-confidence to break from the herd. Add on family/societal pressure to conform, and most people break rather than figure out a way to make things work.

        A lot of the folks commenting here have gone through that self-examination process and come through with their common sense relatively intact. It’s not judgment of the young lady, but acknowledgment of the realities of food and shelter that keeps us at jobs we may detest until we can find something more suited to our personalities and talents.

        To me, there’s a huge difference between the 37-year-old author of this piece quitting her job while she still had a home, and my 18-year-old nephew who was kicked out by my mentally ill sister-in-law while he was still in high school, yet he still walked the two miles from the homeless shelter to his dishwashing job in winter. (He was too embarrassed and emotionally/mentally abused to go to any family member or friend’s home for help.)

        So, while I commend you for your sympathy for the young lady, I believe there’s more to her story than what she states.

        • I dig your nephew’s being such a mensch, what a story, what a heart he has. Insightful aunt too. Will hold good thought for hope for his parent.

          • I’m just thankful Nephew is safe, USAF. He’s got a warm place to live, food, and as someone else said, he has an honest job flipping burgers. Unfortunately, his healing process will take longer.

        • God bless your nephew a lot, a lot, a lot for what he had to endure.

          And I also think there’s a lot more to this story. This author has a clear agenda and she’s going to paint herself into the story her way…

  28. You know, it’s funny, but when I had a totally mindless job, I felt the most desire to write. During college, I worked at a number of mind-numbing jobs, from cleaning, personal care aide, waitressing, and cashier. Seems that when my job was primarily manual labor of a very unskilled nature, my mind was freed to imagine and my desire to write fervent. I couldn’t wait to get home after my shift and start writing.

    When I graduated and finally got a job that actually used my mind and my graduate degree, I had no mental energy or desire to write for a long time so I stopped. It wasn’t until I’d been in the position for a few years and my job became routine that I felt like writing again.

    So for me, a mind-numbing job was just the ticket to starting my writing career. There is something about mind-numbing manual labour that is conducive to the daydreaming necessary to be a writer. When your mind isn’t being used, it’s free to imagine.

    With respect to the writer of the article, she sounds like a person who expected the world and was angry that it wasn’t handed to her on a silver platter. She also sounds like she was spoiling for a fight and found a worthy opponent in Amazon. Thing is, Amazon is still cooking along and she is busy whinging and penning articles for The Guardian. When Amazon completely automates its warehouse jobs, then we’ll hear journalists whinging about the loss of decent jobs to robots!

    • Eric Hoffer worked many years as a longshoreman.

    • Bingo! My current job is the one that allows me the most mental freedom. I can plot while I work because my body can go through the routine while my mind plays. I feel like my own spouse, financially supporting the dreams of the other half (in the hopes that the dreams will allow her to eventually quit her day job and spend the rest of her life in the lap of relative luxury 😉 )

  29. The first thing that occurred to me is that Amazon seems to have managed to find plenty of people who DON’T think that being homeless is better than working in an Amazon warehouse.

  30. I think the biggest complaint I’ve read and heard in interviews with Amazon workers is this complaint of being alone and not allowed to talk to others. There was a documentary on it a few years ago, too, and, in that documentary, that was the primary complaint, as well.

    Having been both an employer and an employee, I find the complaints very self-centered and ludicrous. You aren’t paid to talk; you’re paid to work. Work is not a social activity.

    Quite honestly, our education system doesn’t foster a work ethic that prepares people for the tedium of any job, and any job, including being a CEO of a corp is tedious. Medical doctor? Same thing. Lawyer? Same. There are very few professions, careers, and jobs that aren’t going to become boring after awhile.

    And every other complaint mentioned is one that every other employee has to adjust to: boring work, ordered to work when you’re not scheduled, sent home early without compensation when work is unavailable, laid off due to lack of work, etc.

    And when someone is, excuse me, dumb enough to major in humanities, well, you don’t have a whole lot of market value as an employee. Humanities should always be a minor. And if you want to work in the humanities, you’d better plan on being self-employed and darned good at keeping your nose to that very boring grindstone.

    Just my opinion and experience.

  31. I’ve had all sorts of jobs, trust me. When you realize that the labour jobs were the best cos they are honest and don’t suck the soul out of you, then you know you’ve matured. But I gotta agree that berry picking is hard, but if you do it with friends and a radio playing out loud, it is the best!

    Amazon? Like ’em! The have taken the yoke of helplessness from authors who otherwise would not get the chance to publish their books. The big publishers are desperately trying to protect their rice bowls. If you’re good, smart and can do it yourself – have worked a lot of jobs to get the book written, learn a bit more, do it yourself.

    Yeah, as for working, sure it sucks, and mental illness makes it hard, but I am glad for my experiences and have a lot more respect for myself for sticking through and paying for my own alternative treatment cos the medical system doesn’t provide everything a body needs to be in good health.

    Canada has health care, but you do pay premiums in BC. So, it’s all about your priorities, according to what is available to you at the time and what you are willing to do. And sometimes I just don’t think about it. A job is a job and I’m an artist and writer. I know I’m never going to climb no corporate ladder. I work at whatever job I get to keep a roof over my head and decent food in my belly.

    I meet a lot of interesting people. I counted all the jobs I have had. I was a temp for a office placement agency for four years. I kid you not, I worked in 40 placements, from 4 hour assignments to 5 months. Outside of that I’ve had full time permanent jobs that I lost when the economy changed.

    Do you want to know how many jobs I’ve had? 65!

    Some people would say that was an accomplishment, but less aware people who follow advice on how to hire would judge me negatively. And that’s fine. I can’t fix what goes on in peoples’ heads. It sure gives me grist for art, even if every day I wish I could just be home.

    Life is interesting, beautiful and full of interesting people. Even if we’re not in the most ideal situation. Just gotta not take it all so seriously.

    • My warehouse jobs were the best. You can laser focus on being fast. Develop real old school mental discipline. Turn over is high so if you are good they will have you train new people. I loved training.

      I got far more satisfaction out of work like that than I do practicing law. So much pressure and stress. It’s crippling.

      • I would have absolutely loved my job in warehousing if it weren’t for the chronic back injuries I got do doing it. That kind of injury, it stick with you, and only people who have it have a clue how absolutely draining it is. This writer? She doesn’t have a clue. Amazon is fast work. It’s browning work. It’s stressful work, if you let it be. What it ISN’T is backbreaking work.

  32. I always say, “Do what you love. Anything you love to do can make you successful.” This person loves to complain. She complains in an article in the Guardian that she got paid for. See how that works? She could write articles like that for dozens of papers and make enough money to get off the street. 🙂

  33. Did I miss something?

    According to her, Amazon was not her employer. Integrity Staffing Solutions was. That means she was a temp. Amazon adjusted its staffing as it saw fit. ISS abruptly changed her hours in response. Who got short hours and no-notice overtime? The cheerful employees or the whiny b****?

    Did she not realize the job was warehousing for Amazon? Was she dragooned into the job?

    Did she ask ISS to place her in another job?

    If you’re afraid, you’ll have to overlook it.
    Besides, you knew the job was dangerous when you took it.

  34. It’s sad this has turned into a contest of who has had the crappier job. Sometimes this is why I dislike hanging out in writing communities for very long.

    • Liz the point is not who had a crappier job. The point is that everyone has crappy jobs, it’s part of life.

      But if you want to be negative about things you can find negativity where ever you want. See the article for a good example of this.

      • just my .02, I like hearing about people’s life stories. Their trajectories. Working, a book by Studs Terkel, was exactly that– and a best seller, about skut jobs and life on the assembly lines, and more.

        Here, I think our peers stories bring a richness to this comments site. Like you kinda get a snapshot of others who you [I do] read daily here.

        I think too, writers/readers here are reacting to what appears to be an odd ganglia of bragging, hyperbole, [possible over or understatement,] but then victim tone of the newspiece. My .02? ‘Actual activists’ seldom talk about themselves and their travails. The minute it becomes about them by their own storytelling — it is no longer about others or the movimiento. Look to Chavez, Martin, Madiba, Mahatma, andmany many more well known, not to mention those who were in la lucha, the struggle, whose names are barely known.

        That one suffers, is not the point in Social Justice movements. The point is that OTHER INNOCENTS suffer. And that we have to make progress to help those souls.

        revealment: I am an old believer catholic raised in social justice ways and means since a child. Social justice only means this: coming together as individuals and as groups in prayer and as under contract with Creator, in order to tend to, teach, help, aid, comfort those in struggle that is often from being without basic means. This especially includes the struggling sick, the marginalized, the imprisoned, the disabled. [and it is true, when politics gets involved with purity of purpose in caring for others, good things, but sometimes very negative things can occur. We strive to keep as much as we can apolitical so as not to take the focus away from the actual human needs of so many. ]

        And, I am more interested as a writer/journo in what the admin is like at any warehouse/factory, than the name of the company. First comes who are the straw bosses, the petty consigliaris, the line bosses, the ones who are reported to. Then one can better often see the culture of the warehouse, the business of the business. Bashing AMZ tells us nothing about the actual in depth ‘culture’ of that particular warehouse.

        • Your definition of social justice does not match mine. Religion may be part of it for certain individuals and organizations, but atheists also do good things in the name of justice, compassion, and outreach.

          • Sure ps. We’ve many folks of all manners in our groups and thankfully tolerance and often love. For the groups the only asking is goodwill and resources for those who cannot often do for themselves. There is no exclusion. Just that help and hard work are offered. With focus on the needful

          • There’s no reason to accept anyone’s social justice pronouncements.

    • She complained about how crappy her Amazon job was. We, in turn, responded by venting about our own bad jobs and discussing the fact that she’d rather panhandle than work for a good, if demanding, company. I really don’t see what’s so bad about our discussion here.

  35. I’ve worked some s*** jobs in my life, including warehouse jobs.

    They sucked.

    I didn’t write a column for The Guardian about it. And doubt they would have published such a column anyway, unless it used the magic word: Amazon.

  36. Golly, gee. I guess this person must be a Special Snowflake of a different color…

    But still an SS, and with a massive hubristic case of entitlement.

    Poor thing, she started with getting finger blisters and wound up with hand calluses. 🙁

    The horror, the horror…

  37. Her first mistake was majoring in anything that ended in “Studies”.

  38. To those who have worked hard in their life, this appears to be an entitled person who resents having to work for a living. Wah. And then she blames it all on Amazon, which makes our eyes roll. Sounds like she made bad choices and blames others, while trying to leverage sympathy in hopes of a cushy position. Sorry snowflake, roll up your sleeves and toil for your bread instead of begging others while you sit and whine.
    Having started work when I was 7 (yes, you read that right), and had a lot of jobs worse than what she described, sympathy is low, since much seems like it’s her choices. I’m working harder than ever now, and still barely making it, despite a (current) good salary. Trying to write my way to a better future, rather than whine about how unfair people are to me.

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