Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Is Amazon.com a Sweatshop?

By Rick Munarriz - Updated Apr 5, 2017 at 8:00PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Amazon.com comes under fire in the U.K.

It's the holiday shopping season, so you know somebody has to play the part of Ebenezer Scrooge. According to London's The Sunday Times, the bossy blowhard is none other than Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN).

In a scorching article, the paper delves into the demanding conditions of the company's U.K. fulfillment center in Bedfordshire. Among the allegations cited:

  • Workers must put in a 10 1/2-hour graveyard shift over the weekend, apart from the five-day workweek.
  • Employees face dismissal after taking six sick days.
  • High quotas are set for productivity. For example, someone packing Xbox consoles for shipment must complete 140 units an hour

Naturally, this is just one side of the story. Conspiracy theorists may also note that the article came out on the eve of the busiest online shopping day of the season. If there was ever an opportunistic time to kick Amazon, that would be it. Amazon is also coming off a decent quarter where it hosed down its fourth-quarter outlook.

However, these are the holidays. Retailers -- dot-com and mall-based -- put in hard hours to meet the seasonal peak in demand.

Work is work, after all, and even the Amazon website emphasizes a heavy work ethic.

"We live in a time of unheralded revolution and insurmountable opportunity -- provided we make every minute count," reads an entry entitled "bias for action" under the website's employee values description.

Retailers can be ruthless this time of year, but Amazon can't afford to have its reputation tarnished. Several of the reader comments at the end of the article indicated that shoppers would be turning elsewhere for their holiday needs. If the overseas story begins to fester domestically, you can just imagine online chains like Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK) or real world juggernaut Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) looking to catch some of Amazon's defecting shoppers.

But it shouldn't come to that, not in this tough economy. Eyeing some of the entries in Fortune's latest "100 Best Companies to Work For" list, you see names like Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) and eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) that have been letting employees go as they scale back. Even chart-topper Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is hacking away at some of its industry-envious perks.

Ultimately, Amazon will have to fire back because the last thing it wants to be seen as is a sweatshop. Scrooge eventually comes around, but you have to write your own happy endings sometimes.  

Other headlines to rock out to:

Wal-Mart Stores, Starbucks, and eBay are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Starbucks, eBay, and Amazon.com are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. The Fool owns shares of Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been shopping online for about as long as Amazon.com has been in business. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Amazon.com, Inc. Stock Quote
Amazon.com, Inc.
AMZN
$142.69 (3.53%) $4.86
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Stock Quote
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
WMT
$129.14 (0.21%) $0.27
Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
GOOGL
$119.70 (2.63%) $3.07
Starbucks Corporation Stock Quote
Starbucks Corporation
SBUX
$86.49 (1.95%) $1.65
eBay Inc. Stock Quote
eBay Inc.
EBAY
$48.50 (1.04%) $0.50
Overstock.com, Inc. Stock Quote
Overstock.com, Inc.
OSTK
$30.17 (4.68%) $1.35

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
373%
 
S&P 500 Returns
122%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 08/10/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.