A Peek Inside Online Retailers’ Warehouses [INFOGRAPHIC]

Mark O'Neill 30-03-2012

A Peek Inside Online Retailers' Warehouses [INFOGRAPHIC] warehouseWe all find it very convenient to order online from a site like Amazon. But once we press the “buy” button, we don’t give the purchase a second thought until it arrives, and if it’s late, we’re quick to raise hell. But have you ever wondered what happens exactly behind the scenes when you press that “buy” button? Your purchases don’t magically fall from the sky – it’s all kept in warehouses and those warehouses are staffed by people who apparently work in such terrible conditions that a Chinese person making iPhones in China suddenly has it good. I personally wouldn’t tolerate an hour working in a place like that but everyone’s different.


Our infographic today comes courtesy of The infographic alleges some pretty bad stuff going on in the online warehouses, including 12 hour shifts with few breaks, earning minimum wage, being fired if you use a mobile phone, extreme temperatures, health risks such as back pain and arthritis, and loss of workers rights if you are a temp worker (I can definitely relate to THAT).

Let us know what you think of the infographic. Are you a former warehouse worker with whistle-blower stories to tell? Are you a lawyer on retainer who’s been instructed to deny everything? Let us know your opinions in the comments below.

Related topics: Infographic, Online Shopping.

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  1. brent
    April 5, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    Ohh my

    12 hours a day!! ...NO CELL PHONE!?! ...and heavy machinery!!! *gasp*

    I can't believe some people actually work like this instead of txt'ing or playing games on their "smart" cell phones. umm... I happened to see heavy machinery on the discovery channel one time.


  2. Pat
    April 2, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    I work in an environment like this ($10 per hour, not 6). This is just sensational reporting. We work 12hr shifts and many of us want to work longer for the overtime (not mentioned in this research) I would fire someone for being late, too. It's called working, and if someone feels they deserve more comfortable conditions, they get a different job (yes, even in this job market). Many of the workers are temp, but they will eventually be eligible for hire and raises. Maybe most people look down on these types of jobs. Maybe I'm the exception.

  3. Don
    March 31, 2012 at 1:48 am

    Its no surprise. Your country has been allowed by your government to outsource all the decent paying middle class jobs to 3rd world countries having them done by slave labour. This has created a vast army of unemployed workers who can no longer afford to live even a half decent life. Now your country has exactly what the top 1% of your wealthiest wanted. A huge pool of workers who are willing to work under conditions that 25 years ago would have been unheard off. To put it bluntly they now have a huge pool of slave labour......with your cost of living $7 an hour makes them far worse off than the chinese factory workers slinging out I pads. At least the better chinese factories feed and house their workers, probably in better conditions than someone making $7 an hour in the US can afford. The decline of the American dream is no longer a dream. It is going along nicely just as it has planned by your leaders.(CEO,s)

    • dl
      April 5, 2012 at 6:04 pm

      Who are you do you live in the USA? Perhaps live here or check your facts before you make such assumptions, regarding life, employment and the standards of living. This is fairly insulting as I am sure you intended it to be and an utterly false assumption on your part.

  4. Joe
    March 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    "12 hours with *few* breaks" -- I'm not sure what that means, but that, like some of the other "terrible conditions" cited here don't hold much water without some specifics. If the Infographic was produced by someone else, then you should probably vet the information to see if there's any detail. I opened this link thinking I would find some revealing information about these warehouse workers. That's nowhere near the case...and most workers anywhere could cite several of the same concerns. However, if someone tells me that the workers are routinely subjected to temperatures in extreme of 110 deg F (or below 50 deg F) for 12 hours at a time, now I have a frame of reference, and even the volatile ANOANNIE might have to agree that it's extreme. But "stifling heat" and "freezing cold" have been used to describe the temperature extremes in the office where I work -- a pretty typical cubicle-farm arrangement. Neither of the them are really true -- they're simply subjective descriptions. And I routinely work 10-12 hours with "few breaks" - 1 for lunch, and 2 or 3 bathroom breaks. That qualifies as a few, right?

    I have no problem with someone exposing truly bad working conditions, but nothing here qualifies as that bad to most normally-employed people.

    I also have to call out that comparing these workers to Chinese iPhone factory workers was bad form, if there's no supporting detail. Metaphor aside, those working conditions have been documented in a fair amount of detail, so that addition on your part, Mark, appears to be a tool to incite the reader -- good journalism form, but in my opinion, misleading to the reader.

      March 31, 2012 at 1:39 am

      Joe, you said with a much cooler head than I did. Thank you. Verifying the facts before publishing or picking up a story is what good journalists do. This story is a result of what Not To Do. I could say more, but I am going to keep a cool head and tongue this go-round. However, this article destorys most of 's credibility in my book. Wether the article originated from them or not, they chose to publish it. Again, Thank You Joe. BTW, Mark, If you wish to get technical, I would be classified more as a "Flamer" than a "Troll". Look up the definition in a dictionary, not wikipedia which is written by biased contributers. Thank you much.

  5. RationalCenter
    March 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    This issue is more severe than the infographic would indicate. You can read more in-depth discussions about it at

    I get tired of people who call abused workers "whiners" and say silly things like "They should be thankful they have a job!" There's a difference between working hard and being brutalized. These employers can easily afford to pay their workers better, and can certainly afford to TREAT them better. Just because the employers "put food in their children's belly" doesn't give them the right to treat the employees like dirt or disposable parts. The core of all our morality systems - Christian in particular - is that we should treat all people with respect and compassion, particularly those over whom we have power. These employers are putting people into brutal conditions not because the *have* to, but because they *can.* It is simply immoral.

    • Z.B. Manfred
      April 6, 2012 at 5:08 am

      "The core of all our morality systems – Christian in particular – is that we should treat all people with respect and compassion, particularly those over whom we have power."

      Christian in particular? Really? That includes women, gays, blacks, and people who aren't Christian, or who simply practice a different flavor of Christianity? Namely, Catholics vs. Protestants? How about Catholic molestation victims? Or people like me, who completely disagree with and find religion to be utter B.S. fairy tales and a hypocritical system of supremacist politics and social control -- namely, atheists and secular humanists?

      I don't wish to make this an argument about religion, but just because China is a communist country (and Marxism famously criticizes religion as being just another venue of corruption and oppression, much like ownership of the economy and political power by selfish-minded economic ruling classes aka "the one percent"), doesn't mean America's supposedly Judeo-Christian framework and "opportunity for all" doesn't exploit and harass its workers in many of the same ways as China does, albeit not to the extreme.

      And it truly is the fault of the U.S. for outsourcing its menial labor jobs to China and the Middle East, basically selling the soul of the economy to genocidal thugs in repressive nations under the guise of "exploring the world's markets." Yeah, and Columbus was on a charity mission. A major problem I see is the mere fact that we've become a digital economy, and the East, yet again, is considered the "new world" in terms of trade expansion and market progress. Weren't most of these little gizmos invented in Japan, not to mention the computers used to fill the orders, and the ones the customers place them with? Promoted in $camerica and the tiny parts assembled in China by kids yea-high to a pixel?

      The digital economy involves two things that "geeks" are naturally adept with: Machines and numbers. Human emotions, not so much, and probably not at all. The world is run by sociopathic "aspies" like Gates and Suckerborg for whom people are a commodity. Case in point the catastrophic earthquake that killed thousands in Thailand, where most of the world's hard drives are manufactured. Businesses, manufacturers, and suppliers don't care about the human casualties as much as how are they going to get parts for their company servers and build new products to sell online if there aren't any people to build them. Because the world's businesses are run by mathematicians, the world's factories, their machines designed by engineers, who are themselves mathematicians, and guess which part of the world math is a government-mandated strength among its citizens.

      The Far and Middle East.

      And the ninth circle of evil that is Ivy League business schools and M.I.T.

      As my Greatest Generation grandparents used to say, damn clever, them Chinese. War is built on machines. People are crushed by tanks -- machines -- in Tienanmen Square. And the assembly-line model of distribution is too expensive to keep running if paying people enough of a living wage that they can survive, and making working conditions humane. None of this matters in a digital economy, a machines economy where human beings are reduced to mere ones and zeroes while McTech's ones and zeroes keep growing, with more and more commas added into the mix. Because if the world runs out of people, the tech guru aspie number crunchers won't care. They've probably already invented a robot that does its job without complaining, self-repairs, keeps going-and-going, and renders people.. obsolete. :'-(

    • Z.B. Manfred
      April 6, 2012 at 5:11 am

      I should clarify that I do agree this kind of thing is indeed immoral. I just wanted to state that the belief in a "higher power" as mentioned in the comment doesn't necessarily equate to supposedly "godly" behavior. In many cases, the reverse is true, an attitude of "divinely inspired" entitlement.

      Probably why we have "In God We Trust" printed on the U.S. $1 bill.

    March 30, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    You're just a spoiled lazy sissy-*ss fat *astard. These employers are providing jobs to families who would NOT otherwise be able to put food in their children's bellys. HOW DARE YOU!!! IDIOT LIBERALS LIKE YOU ARE POSTER CHILDREN FOR CRYBABYS POOR POOR ME WAH WAH! AND ENTITLED BRATS! Pathetic!!!!!

    • Mark O'Neill
      March 30, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      I wondered how long it would be before the first troll commenter arrived. And here they are!! Welcome Anoannie to! Enjoy your stay! :-)

      If you would like me to correct your grammar, let me know. I would be happy to help.

      • ANOANNIE
        March 30, 2012 at 2:08 pm

        Not a troll, thank you very much! Just tired of you people that sit on their fat *sses and pass judgement on others who's good work ethic surpasses your "entitled" attitude. If you need help with definitions, just let ME know. I have been a loyal follower of for many years, and your attitude just may very well change that fact. You are a judgemental jerk. Just because someone disagrees with you as vehemently as you wrote your article does not make them a "troll"!

        • Mark O'Neill
          March 30, 2012 at 2:30 pm

          Anoannie, let's straighten a few things out here. First of all, you were the one who left an abusive comment on this post, calling me a "spoiled lazy sissy-*ss fat *astard". Instead of deleting the comment, which I could have done, I chose to leave it and instead try to make light of it and make a joke of it.

          As for the troll comment, I thought you were one, because of the abusive comment you made. According to Wikipedia, a troll is :

          someone who posts inflammatory messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response

          Calling me a "spoiled lazy sissy-*ss fat *astard" is definitely something said to provoke an emotional response. Wouldn't you say? So don't blame me for assuming anything.

          Lastly, I am not "passing judgment" and I am not a jerk (ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I am the nicest guy around). As I said to one of the other commenters, if you want to dispute the facts of the infographic, take it up with the people who made it (Business Insurance Quotes). They merely offered it to us for a post.

          Since I have a lot of work to do today, and because I see no point in continuing an argument which will ultimately lead nowhere, I suggest we stop this comment thread now. OK? In the meantime, I hope you continue to read MakeUseOf. Have a nice day.

  7. Bill
    March 30, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    I haven't read anything in this infographic that makes me think they're being treated unfairly. You have a job and are expected to WORK at that job. Not socialize with friends on your cell phone.

    With obesity being at an all time high in this country and everyone and their mother crowing about how people should exercise more, I would think speed walking would be a great way to exercise. It's not a continuous 12 miles I'm sure so what's the beef?

  8. Sue
    March 30, 2012 at 11:57 am

    I'm a teacher and, except for the heavy equipment (we have kids instead), all the same statements apply-- no cell phones, 10.5-12 hours, on our feet all day, few breaks, and subs earn pathetically low wages. You send your kids do school... how about a peek inside a school building. By the way, if people show up late to work, they SHOULD be fired! Why on earth should a business keep someone who doesn't show up promptly or at all? The business isn't there for the employee, yk.

    • Erin
      March 30, 2012 at 1:15 pm

      I agree with Bill & Sue - I'm not seeing anything that makes me go "oh, poor things." It's a job. You don't like the conditions, go elsewhere. I'm not trying to be mean, but we've all had jobs that aren't ideal, had strict rules, etc.

      And not for anything, but temp workers SHOULD earn less than permanent workers. And you should get in trouble for being late!

      The health risks are not technically health risks either. I work at home now and I'm at risk of carpal tunnel, back pain, etc. I can see if they work around toxic materials, but I'm not getting that this is geared towards those warehouses.

      • Mark O'Neill
        March 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm

        12 hour shifts with few breaks, extreme temperatures, minimum wage? That isn't a job, it's slavery. And I was under the impression slavery had been abolished in the United States.

        • Erin
          March 30, 2012 at 1:54 pm

          I'm sorry - I thought if you had a job you had a choice. I wasn't aware that when you have a job the company owns you and you can't leave unless you're sold. Oh wait, THAT'S slavery.

          Look, I'm not disputing that the conditions may be harsh, but no one is keeping them there. Someone is always willing to do what someone else isn't.

        • Mark O'Neill
          March 30, 2012 at 2:08 pm

          How about the need to pay the mortgage and other bills is what's forcing them to stay? Not everyone can just walk off the job without a care in the world.

          I'm not deliberately trying to provoke a fight here. I'm merely saying that conditions could be made better. Happy employees equals better quality faster work. Everyone wins.

        • Karla
          March 30, 2012 at 2:20 pm

          For Pete's sake-when was the last time you were out and about working in the real world? 12 hour days with few breaks, temperature extremes, minimum wage and health risks like back pain and CTS are all just part of the job.

          Sheesh-when did people get so soft?

        • Mark O'Neill
          March 30, 2012 at 2:34 pm

          Karla, I worked nine years on and off in the hotel and restaurant industry here in Germany. 12 hour shifts with few breaks, extreme temperatures in the kitchens, minimum wage and health risks came with the job.

          Did we like it? No. But we stayed because we needed the money. One guy who I worked with back then now has severe back pain and arthritis in his legs - and he's only 35 years old.

          So I HAVE been working out in the real world before I became the editor of MakeUseOf. I know what it feels like. And you don't necessarily have to be "soft" to complain about unfair working conditions.

        • Erin
          March 30, 2012 at 2:30 pm

          (I can't reply to your last reply in order, so this goes to that one)

          I get what you're saying, I do. We wouldn't be able to survive on one salary - and I'm not making much WAH. BUT, I think the grass is always greener... yes conditions are not ideal. Salary sucks. But I can supply similar complaints from my husband's POB and he's city government/union. More similar complaints from my mom, a 62yo who works in the school system and can't retire because of money yet is absolutely miserable with the working conditions she's in.

          My point is that job conditions are horrible all over, not just for factory workers. And yes, you may not be able to walk out due to financial restraints. But from what I'm seeing in that infographic - it's not much different elsewhere--especially with the economy now.

          And equating it to slavery - a bit much. I still stand by that. And I bet someone who had family that were slaves would take offense.

        • Mark O'Neill
          March 30, 2012 at 2:36 pm

          well, it was not my intent to offend anyone. I am the least offensive guy around.

          So if anyone was offended by that remark, it goes without saying that I apologise and withdraw the remark.

        • Erin
          March 30, 2012 at 3:05 pm

          Hi Mark -

          I think the term is used broadly but the connotation in this manner is off. I don't doubt that you didn't mean to offend. :)

          Thanks for an early morning conversation!

  9. Rob
    March 30, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Wow... what an objective article! You cite so many sources it's unbelievable! The part from the "Unnamed CEO" was truly eye-opening. This is an opinion piece that doesn't have any real facts to it. It's not the type of article I'd want to see on MakeUseOf ever again.

    • Mark O'Neill
      March 30, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      If you want to dispute the facts, contact the makers of the infographic (Business Insurance Quotes) and argue it with them.

      And the last I checked, Huffington Post and Gizmodo were highly regarded sources.

  10. Tanya
    March 30, 2012 at 9:22 am

    I can sympathize on the wages, temperature problems, strict rules, and temp treatment, but the cell phone thing will garner little pity from me. Many companies do not want employees using cell phones or any electronic devices. Distraction and security are usually the reasons.

    • Mark O'Neill
      March 30, 2012 at 9:30 am

      I agree. The phone one is understandable. Companies don't pay people to make calls or texts, or check their email. But the rest of the stuff - if true - is absolutely shocking.

      You would expect these kinds of conditions in Asian sweatshops but not in the West.