Amazon and its employees play games


May 23, 2019

Today, drill bits and dresses are available for rent and the MLB’s draft rules were made to be bent, but first…
The Hustle Sponsored by Manscaped, Inc.
The Hustle Daily Email

The gig economy is just a big, fun game — but who are the real winners and losers?

Hundreds of employees in Amazon’s massive fulfillment factories spend hours playing video games that gamify their monotonous workdays.

Using dragons, castles, and sports cars, these games boost employee efficiency — in a “fun” way. 

But, according to a report from The Washington Post, games that seem fun often manipulate overworked employees.

Fun, games, and optimized output

Amazon’s games are based on actual output: Employees who choose to play MissionRacer, PicksInSpace, Dragon Duel, or CastleCrafter score points in the game by picking items off shelves in real life.

The games are optional, and employees can choose to compete against themselves or others. Some workers report that the games do, in fact, make repetitive warehouse tasks less boring.

But everyone’s shooting for a high score… including Amazon

Amazon says it does not monitor game performance or require employees to participate, and employees don’t technically get bonuses based on games. 

But, at the same time, Amazon has increased output requirements for its employees from 100 to nearly 400. Games help with that.

One factory worker reported that, in order to win a race car game, she recently picked nearly 500 items in an hour. 

Amazon wants to beat its high score by cutting Prime shipping from 2 days to 1 day — and it will need to force hundreds of employees to break their high scores to do so.

Turning low-skill tasks into high-thrill activities

Amazon is hardly alone in gamifying work: Many businesses offer commission-based pay and bonuses — a type of gamification.

But the games that Amazon and gig economy companies like Lyft, Uber, Postmates, and Wag play are more complex, subconsciously “nudging” employees/contractors to work longer or more unusual hours.

The difference is one of transparency: Sales commissions are contractually definite and clear to employees, while the rules of Amazon’s or Uber’s games constantly change — and they’re known only to algorithms.

Of course, improving employee efficiency isn’t inherently manipulative. But getting employees hooked on games that make their lives tolerable, and then using those games to subconsciously direct their behavior… well, it seems kinda like cheating.

Cheater, cheater, pumpkin-eater
Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on Twitter View in Browser
 

Sofar Sounds raises $25m — but will performers see any dough?

Sofar Sounds, host of secret in-home music gigs around the world, raised $25M.

Surprise living room jam seshes? Very cool… for everyone except the musicians, that is. 

Sofar, a self-styled supporter of local artists, generally pays bands $100 per show and pockets the remaining $1k to $2k from tickets. 

Like Uber, the startup has been criticized for perpetuating the underpayment of those workers so integral to company success. 

Ticket sales are musicians’ bread and butter these days

In today’s streaming age, artists rely increasingly on live performances for earnings. But Sofar is paying peanuts, while simultaneously pulling viewers away from the higher-paying venues.

One musician roasted Sofar for “not-so-delicately wedging themselves in-between the customer and merchant” in a model where “everything but the service-provider is put first.” 

Can’t pay for gas with exposure alone

Sofar CEO Jim Lucchese maintains that artist payout largely comes in the form of exposure and fan conversion (…TYSM, I’ll go deposit that into my account today).

Lucchese says the recent funding inflow will be used to improve the situation. Cue the waiting music.

» Sofar so.. .underpaid
things you should…

COOL: Off while telling the time with this LED clock fan, $13.95

There’s definitely a scientific (or is it physics?) explanation for how this doohickey works, but we don’t care enough to try to find out. All we know is it’s mysterious, entrancing, and we’ll never check the time any other way.
WHAT TIME IS IT? LED CLOCK TIME! →

SPONSORED

HAUL: Your butt up a 30-ft cargo net structure with your best buds, Starting at $99

Registration for this season’s Spartan races is now open — you know, those obstacle courses where you crawl in mud, jump through fire, and drag your friends through swamps? No matter your physical skill or the number of burpees you want to endure (or avoid), Spartan has the race for you.
“THIS! IS! FOR! FUN!” →

SPONSORED

SEE: Into the digital future with Optimizely’s new report, Free download

Optimizely surveyed over 800 business decision-makers around the world on the future of digital business, then compiled their findings into the aptly-named “Digital Experience Economy Report,” or as we call it ~A Digital Crystal Ball~.
PUT ON YOUR READING GLASSES →

Will retail stores all become libraries for products in the new rental economy?

Earlier this week, Home Depot announced plans to double down on tool rentals to cater to pro builders and boost sales.

And on Tuesday, Urban Outfitters launched an online subscription service that will allow customers to rent up to 6 items per month before swapping them out for new threads.

As traditional sellers embrace rentals, they raise the question: Is rent-ail the future of retail?

Like libraries… but for popular products

Improved inventory management systems have enabled new industries to rent, leading to the explosion of new rent-ailers.

The equipment rental market is expected to grow to $60B by 2021, and the online clothing rental market, virtually nonexistent before Rent the Runway, is expected to grow from $1B in 2018 to $2.5B by 2023.

These growing markets are great opportunities for rent-ailers to build giant catalogs of popular products and revamp sluggish sales. But they’re not necessarily good deals for renters.

Why buy when you can rent?… wait a minute… 

Renting provides value to some consumers — namely, the ones looking for specific, expensive products they won’t use much, like power tools or stylish dresses.

But, while no-strings-attached access to bikes, cars, and even dogs may seem attractive, renting everything — including commonly used items like furniture — often ends up being wildly expensive.

» Selling is so last season

Look, Ma — The Hustle’s on TV!

Hey Hustle readers, we’ve got some exciting news to share… 

Our very own Wes “This moustache was made for TV” Schlagenhauf is bringing The Hustle’s hard-hitting business news to life on video every Tuesday and Thursday at 1 pm ET in partnership with Newsy — and he’s lookin’ suavé doing it.

Be sure to check him out here, and stay tuned for more to come.

The strange economics of pro baseball pushed a top US star to Japan

Carter Stewart, a 19-year-old baseball pitcher, shocked America’s baseball fans by skipping the MLB draft and signing a 6-year, $7m deal with a Japanese baseball club.

Why would a potential star ditch the draft?

In short, because it’s easy to strike out in the draft.

It’s hard to feel bad for a 19-year-old who will make millions hitting balls of cork and yarn — but Stewart got a dud deal last year.

Based on his position as 8th overall pick, Stewart expected an offer of $4.98m. But, thinking he was injured, the Braves offered only ~$2m. 

Instead of taking the lowball offer, Stewart went to junior college. But in this year’s draft, Stewart was expecting a lower draft pick — and an offer below $2m.

So Stewart said screw it

Had Stewart stayed, he would have made less than $4m in 6 years (thanks to MLB rules about earnings caps) and become a free agent in 2027. 

But by going to Japan, Stewart will make a guaranteed $7m — and earn free agency 3 years sooner.

Stewart, the first player to dodge the MLB draft, outwitted a system that routinely exploits players — and if his plan works, others may follow his lead.

» Attaboy
SPONSORED

After 820% growth last year, MANSCAPED is tackling its stinkiest region yet: Your feet

For too long, the men of the world have been plagued with the kind of tootsies that no owner could possibly be proud of.

Cracked skin. Funky smells. Sweaty little lint balls from your socks. Yep, with all they go through, it’s no wonder our dogs are constantly barking.  

But a savior has finally arrived: The Foot Duster by MANSCAPED, here to help you fight the foot funk. 

Put your best feet forward

MANSCAPED penetrated the hygiene market by catering to our most… neglected regions, and the Foot Duster is no different. 

Frequently clear out rooms when you pop your sneakers off? Get kicked out of bed for having toes and heels that look like crumbling concrete? Well, the Foot Duster was created specifically for you. 

Their anti-fungal foot deodorant is made with cooling tea tree oil to keep your feet fresh, soft, and bacteria-free.

Each spray repairs dry cracks and features MANSCAPED’s proprietary Active pH Control™ formula, not just healing but preventing future foot infractions. 

Don’t let your hardest workers go unappreciated. Get 20% off AND free shipping with code HUSTLE20 over at MANSCAPED.

Try the Foot Duster → How did you like today’s email?
love it
meh
hate it

share the hustle

Refer coworkers, get free stuff

Step 1: Peek our sweet, sweet rewards 

Step 2: Click “Share the Hustle” below

Step 3: Share the Hustle. 

Step 4: Collect rewards, rinse & repeat.

[%Count%] SHARE THE HUSTLE
REFERRALS
[%URL%]
YOUR UNIQUE URL
Conor Grant
Conor Grant
MANAGING EDITOR
Emily Kelley
Emily Kelley
CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Bobby Durben
Bobby Durben
AD WRITER
Brad “Undefeated in Dragon Duel” Wolverton
HEAD OF CONTENT
Sloan Cranky
Hiking Partner
SUBSCRIBE JOBS ADVERTISE EVENTS SHOP
Facebook Instagram YouTube
Join our Instagram community →
You opted in by signing up, attending an event, or through divine intervention. 251 KEARNY ST. STE 300, SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94108, UNITED STATES415.506.7210 Never want to hear from us again? Break our hearts and unsubscribe
The Hustle

Daily briefings, straight to your inbox

Business and tech news in 5 minutes or less

Join over 1 million people who read The Hustle

Psst

How'd Bezos build a billion dollar empire?

In 1994, Jeff Bezos discovered a shocking stat: Internet usage grew 2,300% per year.

Data shows where markets are headed.

And that’s why we built Trends — to show you up-and-coming market opportunities about to explode. Interested?

Join us, it's free.

Look, you came to this site because you saw something cool. But here’s the deal. This site is actually a daily email that covers the important news in business, tech, and culture.

So, if you like what you’re reading, give the email a try.