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Many Amazon delivery drivers say tips have disappeared, even though customers say they've been added

By Benjamin Romano, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

SEATTLE - Many of Amazon's contract delivery drivers have not been paid tips from customers for grocery deliveries, some for as long as 10 days, leaving them out several hundred dollars with no explanation from the company.

It's the third time this year an apparent glitch in Amazon's system has deprived perhaps tens of thousands of workers of the majority of their income from delivering groceries for the commerce giant. Meanwhile, demand for delivery has surged amid the coronavirus pandemic, helping Amazon generate record sales and profits.

Two Amazon Flex drivers have told The Seattle Times that tips on delivery routes in the Seattle area have been dramatically reduced or disappeared in their earnings statements, beginning a week and a half ago.

Similar accounts from across the country have been posted to driver forums on Reddit and Facebook. In one closed Facebook group, which has some 21,000 Flex driver members, not a single person reported receiving their tips, said Ben, a Seattle-area driver, who asked that his last name not be used while discussing the problem.

Amazon Flex drivers pick up delivery routes, delivering grocery orders from Amazon Fresh, PrimeNow and Whole Foods. The routes have a varying number of stops and include a guaranteed base payment from Amazon, but the tips that drivers receive from customers often significantly exceed the base payment amount.

Ben and other drivers who have contacted the company about the missing or diminished tips say that Amazon has told them that it passes on 100% of customer tips to drivers, and that they have been paid the correct amounts.

However, it seems unlikely that Amazon customers would drastically reduce or eliminate tips at the same time. Amazon's customer-facing grocery shopping apps have typically recommended a tip amount of $5 as customers complete their orders, drivers said.

"Unless something changed, customers have to explicitly go in and remove/lower the tip, and there's no way that 6-7 of the customers on a ... route would do that," another Seattle-area driver said via email. The driver also requested anonymity for fear of running afoul of the company.

"It's super dystopian," Ben said. "At the very least, a canned response (from Amazon) saying they're aware of the issue would be helpful."

 

An Amazon spokesperson said Thursday afternoon, "Due to a technical issue, some Flex drivers experienced a delay in receiving their tips. This issue has been fixed and payments are currently in process."

The spokesperson did not immediately clarify whether missing tips would be paid in arrears. Drivers said that when this has happened before, they never received the unpaid tips.

Ben, who sometimes delivers six to eight routes a day to save money for graduate school, said tips represent the majority of his income and that he's out several hundred dollars in the last week and a half.

"Tips make up about 75%-plus of what a driver will make and that's why it's pretty debilitating right now," he said.

The former elementary school teacher often delivers in the same neighborhood where he taught, and knows his customers well. He said four customers he talked to while delivering on Saturday said they thought their tips had been processed when they placed their orders.

Ben said tips disappeared from drivers' earnings in March and July. Each time, the issue was quietly resolved and tips began appearing again, he said, but not before drivers missed out on significant income.

The Amazon spokesperson did not immediately offer an explanation for the repeated glitches involving Flex driver tips.

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