May 25, 2012, 4:01 PM

Amazon will install air conditioning in warehouses

Amazon is spending $52 million to add air conditioning to its fulfillment centers. 

Thad Rueter

Senior Editor

Lead Photo Inc. announced this week that is spending $52 million to install air conditioning in warehouses that don’t already have it. CEO Jeff Bezos confirmed the move at Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday in Seattle.

Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, has attracted criticism over complaints that temperatures in some U.S. distribution centers can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Last September, The Morning Call newspaper in Pennsylvania described the hot conditions within an Amazon warehouse in the eastern part of that state that lacked air conditioning.

An Amazon spokeswoman says today the e-retailer has already began installing air conditioning in warehouses; she did not say how many fulfillment centers the effort involved. Amazon operates 69 fulfillment centers worldwide. Amazon operates 39 fulfillment centers in the United States, says Scot Wingo, CEO of e-commerce services provider ChannelAdvisor Corp., whose services include helping retailers sell on such online marketplaces as Amazon and eBay. The e-retailer also is building nine more, he says. 

The shareholder meeting reportedly drew at least 100 protestors who not only dislike Amazon’s treatment of its warehouse workers, but also the company’s membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative advocacy group. Amazon didn’t say how much it paid to belong to the group, but the company says it will not renew the membership.

“Each year we evaluate all of our association memberships and we’ve decided not to renew our participation in ALEC, in part because of positions that group took on issues unrelated to our business,” the Amazon spokeswoman says.

The June issue of Internet Retailer magazine will include a story about how e-retailers hire, train and motivate seasonal warehouse  and customer service workers.

Comments | 7 Responses

  • In an environment where every second counts, one would have thought that the comfort of employees who are under continuous pressure to meet fulfillment targets would have been paramount. It's sad to note that some of these fulfillment centers have been without air-conditioning in unrelenting temperatures for some time. At least now, has finally acknowledged keeping their employees cool is just as important as free shipping to their customers.

  • If Amazon orders the air conditioners in the next 7 hours, they can ship to themselves by 10am tomorrow morning.

    • As a former longtime shareholder I believe $52,000,000 could be better spent with added benefits for employees or shareholder dividends or both. I sold our block of Amazon stock a few minutes ago. When top management stops making stupid decisions, like the White House does regularly, we will revisit the stock. DWe dn't expect that to happen soon. This sum could have put a nice bonus in the hands of every Amazon warehouse worker. Given the choice the air conditioning would have lost out! When our warehouse workers were given this choice two years ago 100% of them chose a fat bonus check. Our CEO has been replaced(without a golden parachute) for "listening to "pressure influences" at the expense of keeping the company financially healthy and the workers jobs secure. This proves what has been said many times about management...dumb can be treated but stupidity lasts forever! Good bye Amazon...may you join Sears on the slippery slope of life.

    • richardwagner - your attempt to politicize this story shows the illogical shortsightedness of your righwing association. Given the choice most lower level/skill warehouse workers will choose a fat bonus check over things like 401K, health benefits, and improved working conditions. Don't bother arguing, this has been shown in numerous surveys and research. Sometimes the responsibility of the employer is to provide a safer and better work environment in luie of an immediate gratification like a "fat bonus". But if that doesn't convince you (and I'm sure it doesn't) feel free to google NASA studies related to temperature and worker productivity and the immense difference between say 95 degrees (an easy temperature to reach almost anywhere in a closed unairconditioned environment in USA in summer) and even 80. Take it from someone who works in Miami - it makes a difference. Kudos to AZ for making a much needed, intelligent and humane investment.

  • richardwagner - you sound like a finance guy. its all about the money. However if you were really interested in maximizing profits you would be criticizing Amazon for not having the AC sooner. I would also install a kitchen and offer free food and refreshments. why? not because I'm a social worker but because I want to have the best place to work in the state. I want to be able to pay average wages but provide such great benefits that its the best place to work which will lead to the lowest turnover in the country. By the way payroll taxes add about 25% to all wage costs and all these benefits do not incur payroll taxes. In the end the cost of the AC and the addl benefits are far less than the cost of turnover and finding great employees. I'm surprised that Amazon has yet to figure that out. Oh but then Jeff Bezos is a finance guy. By the way I have nothing against finance guys its just that I don't want to settle for lower profits. I want the max.

  • I cannot beleive the 19th century comments from Mr Wagner. He doesn't understand the fulfillment process at Amazon and by that lack of understanding shows his profound ignorance of wanting to know anything before speaking. Amazon's picking situation is very differwent than a lot of different retailers. If you see the picture above the article it looks like a European warehouse picture where pallets are being put away and then probably being picked from. Amazon takes in numerous small lots of merchandise, stores it and then picks One at a time. Their business model is the nightmare scenario for most of us. We want to ship the fans all day they put,pick and ship the fan parts like the pull cords and the decorative bobbles in all different colors one at a time. Their pickers who are often up on Mezzanines spend an inordinate amount of time picking orders as compared to a forklift driver pulling a pallet. The picker will be walking up and down the aisle picking ones and two's at every third stop roughly 36" apart in a 50' aisle both sides. The temperature on a mezzanine is easily 10 degrees hotter than ground level. So instead of working in 95 degrees they are working in 105 degrees. It is impossible to concentrate and pick accurately in those temperatures, never mind about Dickensian worker conditions. 63 centres for $52M pans out to be about $825k ea and it will probably be an appreciated deductible under one of the new programs. It's not cheap money but it's very smart money and along with what Amazon has done with buying Kiva robotics and a small software company they are really investing in their supply chain. So Mr. Wagner you kciked yourself in the derriere! I think Amazon's going to be a force to be reckoned with both in new products and beefed up distribution over the next few years. I would recommend buying back those shares.

  • For Mr. Richard Wagner, get your rear end on the 4th floor of one of our floors and you would wish you had some kind of cooling system, Can't make to thr top floor come work on loading one trailer on the main floor, yet I agree as a share holder myself I would love to have the money in our pockets , hey that's why we do not as many decent jobs in this country any more because greed does make the man and I'm a woman and really enjoy woking for this company. so next time you want to speak bad of a couple of dollars, I invite you to to come unload a truck with me when the heat index reaches 105- 108, ENJOY YOUR WEEKEND, THANK YOU

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