Break times are further eroded by an absurd rule by which the company insists that break times begin at the last scan and end at the first scan. Managers can easily track employees by the second on laptop computer spreadsheets. What makes the rule absurd is that the employee has work to do after making the last scan and prior to making the first scan.
For instance, at break time, a picker scans last item to begin break. If he is following procedure, he has scanned the item at 10am for morning break. His break has now officially begun. But, he is still standing in an aisle in the pick mod with an open bin drawer and a full tote. While officially on break, he replaces any items in the bin, closes the bin, pushes his cart to the nearest conveyor, presses “F/enter” on his scanner to finish the tote, places the tote on the conveyer, logs out, drops off his gun, walks to the breakroom or another chosen break destination. (Workers are not allowed to take breaks at workstations, and they are not allowed to sit at workstations at any time.)
In order to return from break on time, he will need to scan his first item by 10:15. While officially still on break, he leaves the breakroom, obtains a scanner, logs in, answers any Connections question, assesses location, walks up stairs to correct floor, obtains cart, obtains tote for cart, scans tote, walks to location, scans bin, scans first item. His break has now officially ended. He is on task.
A packer scans SP00 label on the last item she packed. Her break has now officially begun. (SP00 stands for Shipping Package #. When the SP00 label is applied to the package and scanned, the package is ready to be addressed and shipped.) She places package on conveyor, walks to breakroom or another chosen break destination.
While still on break, she exits the breakroom, walks back to workstation, logs in, answers any Connections question, scans tote (or bin), scans item or items, scans packing slip, builds box, packs box, adds dunnage, seals box, affixes SP00, scans SP00. Her break has now officially ended. She is on task.
When break time and work time overlap one another, the burden is placed on the employee to reduce break time to meet work time expectations. I have been verbally reprimanded for being one minute late in AFE and two minutes late in pick. The manager who reprimanded me for being one minute late in AFE got an earful. I told him it is bad policy for a manager to hassle solid employees (I wasn’t the only one), who show up day after day and do their jobs well, over such trivial matters. He walked away shaking his head, saying, “OK, sorry man.” It is extremely rare for PA or AM to say, “Sorry, man.” The burden is almost always placed on the Tier One employee to explain and defend herself for rate and TOT. The majority of these incidents would have been excused or should have already been noted as excused by a PA or AM. The majority of employees forced to defend themselves are average, hardworking employees who have no intention of abusing the system or putting one over on the company. In a nutshell, Amazon systematically hassles good employees for no good reason. This hassling results in resentment, fear, apathy, low morale, and possibly, “docile bodies.”
I have gone round and round with managers over the scan to scan issue. I mentioned it fairly forcefully to Matt in “Letter to Matt.” However, the policy always seems to creep back in. I am always a little bewildered when a manager says at stand-up meeting with a straight face, “Remember, break times are from last scan to first scan. This means your last pick is at 10:00 and your first pick is at 10:15.”