Technology

Amazon uses shock tactic to stop thefts at warehouses

Amazon warehouse Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Amazon is reported to be screening videos at some of its warehouses to deter thefts

Amazon has started screening video clips in some of its warehouses showing how employees accused of stealing were caught and fired, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The news agency says the alleged offenders are represented by silhouettes and the words "arrested" and "terminated" are superimposed.

An Amazon spokesman had no comment.

Many companies tackle workplace theft, but experts were surprised by the severity of the measure.

The report referred to Amazon's US-based warehouses, and the BBC understands the tactic has not been deployed in the UK.

The details coincide with the announcement that the online store is creating 1,000 jobs at a new centre in Manchester.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bloomberg reported that some workers had hidden merchandise in their socks

'New heights'

Bloomberg said it based its article on interviews with 11 of Amazon's current and former warehouse workers and security staff. It reported that one ex-employee called the scare tactic "offensive".

"These videos show former colleagues being caught stealing things [or] changing the addresses on packages as they leave the fulfilment centre, and even some of them with the word arrested stamped on the silhouette," reported Bloomberg's Cory Johnson.

"It's a problem that Amazon is of course very concerned about, but their tactics to try to get people not to steal are reaching new heights."

The news agency said that the clips are shown via flatscreen TVs. These are also used to display information about firings tied to workplace violence, it said, as well as more positive announcements.

It added that in warehouses not fitted with screens, information about sackings is sometimes taped to the walls.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The videos are not being screened to staff in Amazon's UK warehouses

"Lost stock is a massive issue affecting all retailers regardless of whether they are online or store-based," commented Bryan Roberts from the shopping consultancy TCC Global.

"There are lots of measures in place, such as searches to make sure that stuff doesn't go missing. But this perhaps does sound slightly extreme."

Another expert was more critical, saying Amazon's practices appeared to be "profoundly emotionally unintelligent".

"What sort of an organisation has got to the point that it thinks this is a satisfactory or commendable way to be behaving?" asked Matthew Gwyther, editor of Management Today.

"It reminds me of Ben Hur with them standing over the rowers with a whip.

"I find it extraordinary that its relationships with its workforce have reached such a low point that it would do something like that."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Amazon is using robots to help move goods around its warehouses

Amazon is trying to reduce its reliance on humans by deploying robots in its warehouses, which can move goods about and carry out other simple tasks. The firm is also experimenting with using drones to make deliveries.

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