Parking in downtown San Francisco is no picnic, a fact Atlantic writer Alana Semuels rued during her single day as a driver for Amazon Flex. That's the delivery service Amazon operates that pays independent contractors to ferry packages to homes and businesses in some 50 cities, and Semuels decided to see how this gig-economy option played out. Her conclusion: "NOT. A. GOOD. DEAL." Drivers are paid $18 to $25 an hour, but they're on the hook for all expenses (gas, insurance, tolls, tickets) and not provided with any benefits (sick days, health insurance, worker's comp). It took Semuels several weeks to be approved as a driver, at which point she was able to enter the Flex app and select a shift: 11am to 2:30pm on a Tuesday, paid at $70 total.
"I anticipated a few leisurely hours driving between houses ... listening to an audiobook as I dropped packages on doorsteps, smelling the lavender and sagebrush that grace many front lawns." Ha. Instead, she discovered the 43 packages she needed to deliver had to go to just two office buildings, meaning she'd need to park her car for large spans of time while going throughout the downtown buildings. She asked the Amazon workers who gave her the packages for parking advice. "Lots of people just get tickets," she was told. She narrowly avoided a $110 one, struggled to carry one 30-plus-pound package, found the Flex app wouldn't register her scans, encountered two locked offices that forced her to drive 35 minutes back to the warehouse to return the undeliverable packages. And then there was a final injustice involving her payment. Read the full story for that and more. (Read more Amazon stories.)