Amazon opens warehouses for tours
Amazon, known for being highly secretive, is opening up six of its 37 fulfillment centers to tours.
The tours were first revealed earlier last month in Amazon’s annual letter to shareholders. Wrote Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, "I’m always amazed when I visit one of our (Fulfillment Centers), and I hope you’ll arrange a tour. I think you’ll be impressed."
Amazon has now set up an appointments page with tours available in: Chattanooga, TN; Chester, VA; Jeffersonville, IN; Middletown, DE; Phoenix, AZ; and San Bernardino, CA. The hour-long tours will be held on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, beginning May 6. Online bookings began in mid-April and some locations are booked through 2015.
The appointment page reads, "Come see the magic that happens after you click buy on Amazon."
Like those of manufacturers, the tours could serve to market new products or as a branding tool. But the tours seem more designed to help improve the overall images of warehouses.
Amazon’s fulfillment page notes:
- More 20,000 full-time workers were hired at its warehouses last year;
- The number of illnesses and injuries reported at Amazon’s warehouses is 51 percent lower than at a general warehouse, and 33 percent lower than at a department store;
- Amazon’s fulfillment employees are paid 30 percent more than traditional retail stores. Benefits are received the first work day, including health care and stock awards;
- Amazon pre-pays 95 percent of employees’ tuition for courses related to in-demand fields, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a career at Amazon.
Amazon’s efforts to hire military veterans and its charitable efforts are also touted.
With Amazon opening warehouses across the country, the tours seemingly support recruiting efforts. But several columnists felt the tours were particularly designed to offset a series of critical reports in the past year over how warehouse employees are treated. A BBC report that ran last November said that working in a Wales warehouse could cause not only physical but also mental illness, claims Amazon refuted. In December, a unionization effort at its warehouse in Middletown, DE was voted down.
Speaking to CNNmoney, spokeswoman Kelly Cheeseman declined to say if the tours had anything to do with working condition issues. She added, "We know customers are curious to see what happens after they click buy, and we’re excited to show them."
- Amazon Fulfillment – Amazon.com
- Schedule a Tour – Amazon.com
- Amazon’s Shareholder Letter – Amazon.com
- Amazon opens warehouses to tours – CNNmoney
- Yes, you can now take a tour of one of Amazon’s massive warehouse facilities – Geek Wire
- Amazon.com warehouse tours in Phoenix are booked until 2015 – The Arizona Republic
- Amazon Workers in Germany Strike Again, Union Says – The Wall Street Journal (sub. required)
- Amazon to open Middletown fulfillment center to public tours – Middletown Transcript
- Inside Amazon’s Warehouse – The Morning Call
- Amazon workers face ‘illness – BBC
- Amazon’s near sweatshops and awful conditions: It doesn’t have to be this way – Salon
Why do you think Amazon is opening up its fulfillment centers to tours? Are questions surrounding Amazon warehouse working conditions becoming a publicity problem? Will the tours offer much appeal to Amazon customers?