Yikes

Video shows Jeff Bezos being heckled over warehouse conditions

He can dry his tears with $100 bills while rocketing into space later this week.

An activist of the Attac association holds a cutout sign depicting Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, in front of a banner reading "Stop Amazon", during a demonstration on the site where Amazon plans to build a 38.800 square metres warehouse, in Fournes, southeastern France on January 30, 2021. (Photo by Sylvain THOMAS / AFP) (Photo by SYLVAIN THOMAS/AFP via Getty Images)
SYLVAIN THOMAS/AFP/Getty Images

A video is making the rounds online that shows Amazon founder Jeff Bezos being heckled by a couple out in public.

The video is brief, but shows the world’s wealthiest man walking down the street with a mask on. A man and woman are seated at a table, and as Bezos passes, the man asks, “Do you feel bad when your Amazon workers die in the warehouse sometimes,” to which Bezos gives a brief glance before looking away. The woman quickly adds, “Hey Jeff, nice lazy eye. I wish money could fix that!”

It’s a rare example of a billionaire leader being criticized so publicly, as they often live very guarded, private lives.

Body shaming — It’s a bit of a low blow to go after taunt someone over their appearance — Bezos does in fact have a lazy eye. But some online are arguing that it’s justified considering Amazon is notorious for imposing grueling work conditions on its frontline team. Inside warehouses, the company closely monitors workers to ensure they meet its high demands for performance. Reports have famously documented claims by workers that they pee in bottles and go to other extremes to avoid negatively impacting their metrics, and potentially endangering their employment.

In fact, Bezos himself has responded to rising criticism by acknowledging that Amazon’s treatment of its workers could be better. But he hasn’t followed that up with much in the way of any concrete commitments to improving their situation, and Amazon has aggressively fought back against workers’ attempts to organize and collectively bargain for higher pay or other benefits. But it has been willing to install “wellness chambers” in warehouses, essentially just phone booths where workers can take a break to sit and cry.

We’re sure he’ll bounce back — Bezos is worth more than $200 billion, and his fortune has increased by 12,000 percent since 1998 on the back of Amazon’s stratospheric growth. A recent ProPublica report using leaked IRS documents found in some years, he paid zero federal income taxes. Considering rising inequality and the precarity of many people’s lives, which was highlighted during the pandemic, more people are talking about reforms that could reign in such huge accumulations of wealth.

The question many people ask is, did Bezos really do enough work to deserve more money than he could ever spend? Amazon wouldn’t really be possible without its workers. Or the resources it takes advantage of, like roads and bridges and the U.S. Postal Service. And although he has pledged to donate much money to charity, if Amazon and others compensated their workers better, society may not have many of the issues it’s experiencing today. That wouldn’t exactly be good for the underlying business model, however.

While we’re sure being heckled hurts, we suspect Jeff will manage to console himself with his pending trip to space... and, you know, having the largest personal fortune on earth.