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Amazon offers to help employees quit their jobs and start delivery businesses

FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2018, file photo Amazon Prime boxes are loaded on a cart for delivery in New
Amazon is seeking to speed up its shipping time to one day for its Prime members.
(Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

Amazon.com Inc., which is racing to deliver packages faster, is turning to its own employees with a proposition: Quit your job, and we’ll help you start a business delivering Amazon packages.

The offer, announced Monday, comes as Amazon seeks to speed up its shipping time from two days to one for its Prime members. The company sees the new incentive as a way to get more packages delivered to shoppers’ doorsteps more quickly.

Amazon said it will cover up to $10,000 in start-up costs for employees who are accepted into the program and leave their jobs. Those who participate will be able to lease blue vans with the Amazon smile logo stamped on the side. The company said it will also pay them three months’ worth of their salary.

The offer is open to most part-time and full-time Amazon employees, including warehouse workers who pack and ship orders. Whole Foods employees are not eligible for the new incentives.

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Seattle-based Amazon declined to say how many employees it expects to take the offer.

The employee incentive is part of a program Amazon started a year ago that let anyone apply to launch an independent Amazon delivery business and provided $10,000 in reimbursements to military veterans.

The expansion is part of the company’s plan to gain more control over its deliveries rather than rely on UPS, the post office and other carriers. It also gives Amazon a way to grow its delivery network without spending the money needed to buy vehicles or hire workers, said Barb Ivanov, director of University of Washington’s Urban Freight Lab, a research lab that focuses on logistics and supply chain transportation.

“The wage problem won’t be Amazon’s problem,” Ivanov said.

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Overall, more than 200 Amazon delivery businesses have been created since it launched the program in June, said John Felton, Amazon’s vice president of global delivery services.

One of them is run by Milton Collier, a freight broker who started his business in Atlanta about eight months ago. Since then, it has grown to 120 employees with a fleet of 50 vans that can handle up to 200 delivery stops a day. It has already been preparing for the one-day shipping switch by hiring more people.

“We’re ready,” Collier said.

But Amazon is still far from posing a threat to UPS and FedEx, said Beth Davis-Sramek, a supply chain management professor at Auburn University. Those carriers have thousands of trucks and hundreds of planes to get packages where they need to go. And they’re doing more than just delivering boxes to doorsteps, she said; they’re also transporting packages between warehouses and businesses.

“UPS and FedEx will be just fine,” Davis-Sramek said.


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