The Amazon worker’s name is Sarah. Or Michelle. Or Rafael. Whoever’s posting from the Amazon-branded Twitter account, they want you to know that work in an Amazon fulfillment center is great and there’s definitely nothing weird going on there.
Last year Amazon launched its “FC Ambassadors” program, which enlists employees to tweet about the company and its fulfillment centers. The tweets, which come from users like “@AmazonFCSarah” and “@AmazonFC Rafael” are part of a PR blitz as Amazon battles allegations of poor working conditions in its warehouses. But the publicity campaign may have backfired on Amazon this week when the paid tweeters piled onto a Twitter user who criticized the company.
Twitter users quickly noted that the pro-Amazon accounts frequently cycled through identities and tweeted from Sprinklr, a corporate social media software, suggesting the workers were posting from devices administered by Amazon.
“FC ambassadors are employees who work in our FCs and share facts based on personal experience,” Amazon told The Daily Beast in a statement. The company did not answer questions about guidelines for the tweets, or whether the employees were paid for the work. In 2018, a former employee said he was paid with a $50 Amazon gift card and an extra day of paid leave that expired within three weeks.
“It’s important that we do a good job educating people about the actual environment inside our fulfillment centers, and the FC ambassador program is a big part of that along with the FC tours we provide,” the Amazon statement continued.
The accounts kicked into high gear Wednesday night after the Twitter user Diana Wilde criticized an Amazon tweet that offered free guided tours of its fulfillment centers.
“You’re not going to convince the working class that everything is fine by telling us where to avert our eyes, we already know what it’s really like,” Wilde wrote. “Why don’t you really treat your workers better, you can afford it.”
Wilde was referring to a series of reports that accuse Amazon of imposing harsh deadlines on workers, who have sometimes peed into bottles on the warehouse floor to save time. Workers have also complained of unrealistic workloads that they say put their safety at risk. Amazon delivery drivers also alleged a similar high-pressure environment, and reported peeing in bottles and suffering injuries when they were rushed on the job.
“They said to come see what it’s ‘really like,’ undermining workers who have publicly complained, and it irked me,” Wilde told The Daily Beast. “So I replied just to speak up, and had no idea it was guarded by some sort of collective consciousness army.”
Twitter user @AmazonFCDylan was there to tell Wilde that work in the centers was great.
“Everything is fine, I don't think there is anything wrong with the money I make or the way I am treated at work,” he wrote.
Other Amazon Ambassadors jumped into Wilde’s mentions.
“I appreciate your concern for the employees,” @AmazonFCRafael tweeted at her. “Every day is an improvement inside the warehouse. But one thing is; there is actually an open door policy at the FCs, which allows us to directly communicate with our managers if we have concerns or issues.”
When another user replied that she was a former Amazon employee, and that the job had worsened her depression, @AmazonFCHannah said she’d also struggled with depression, but that it was not Amazon’s fault.
“I suffer from depression too, and at one point I wanted to quit Amazon,” she wrote. “But I realized it was my fault for the problems I was dealing with, and not Amazon's. I'm allowed to talk to people, but sometimes I don't want to. Now I have some great coworkers to pass the nights with.”
But users scrolling through Ambassadors’ accounts found that they’d previously described themselves differently. @AmazonFCHannah, who currently uses a profile picture of a young woman, introduced herself as “Leo,” a retired public service worker last August. In March, she described herself as “Ciera,” a dog-lover who enjoys playing the Sims video games.
@AmazonFCDylan, who uses a young man’s picture as his avatar, previously tweeted that he was 55 years old. @AmazonFCRafael previously posted as @AmazonFCSarah and as a woman named Michelle. While tweeting as Sarah, the account explained that they “took over for Michelle when she decided to go back to her normal position. Sorry about the confusion! #newdirectionsinlife”
The investigative site Bellingcat noted that many of the Twitter identities were linked to Amazon email accounts. The links to corporate emails and social media tools suggests that the tweets originate from Amazon-monitored computers, rather than employees’ own devices. Sarah’s explanation for Michelle’s leave of absence describes the Ambassador role as a rotating position, after which a Twitter account is reassigned to a new worker and updated with their name.
Although Amazon bills the Ambassador program as a way for workers to share their authentic experiences, the company’s seeming ability to monitor the program raises questions about just how unfiltered the Ambassadors can be.
But as many will tell Amazon’s detractors, they’re allowed to take bathroom breaks whenever they want.
“#igowheniwant,” @AmazonFCRafael tweeted as Sarah.