Amazon begins ‘Alexa, thank my driver’ program amid Alexa, driver woes

Amazon is giving prospects a brand new approach to thank the drivers who ship their packages, simply in time for the vacations. Particularly, its “Alexa, thank my driver” program asks them to take action through its voice assistant Alexa.

Sadly for Amazon, the timing of this system’s launch yesterday is awkward in just a few methods. First, it follows information that Amazon is planning large layoffs, with a deal with the groups engaged on Alexa and the gadgets used to entry it. Second, it comes the identical week as a lawsuit alleging the corporate used misleading strategies to guide shoppers to imagine that tip cash went on to drivers as additional pay, when it actually was used to subsidize their base wages. 

Alexa is a part of an Amazon division that has posted main losses in recent times. The unit can be the focus of huge job cuts deliberate at Amazon, as reported by the New York Occasions final month. That raises questions on whether or not the “thank my driver” program is partly an effort to spice up a disappointing a part of Amazon’s enterprise. 

An Amazon spokesperson, requested simply that by Fortune, replied: 

“No. Collectively, tens of thousands and thousands of consumers world wide work together with Alexa billions of occasions every week, and Alexa interactions elevated by greater than 30% within the final yr alone. This program is devoted to offering prospects with the chance to indicate drivers their appreciation.”

Below this system, in accordance with Amazon, “any time a buyer says ‘Alexa, thank my driver,’ the driving force who delivered their most up-to-date package deal will likely be notified of the client’s appreciation.” And “with every thank-you acquired from prospects, drivers may even obtain an extra $5, for gratis to the client. We’ll be doing this for the primary 1 million thank-you’s acquired.” It added, “the 5 drivers who obtain probably the most buyer ‘thank-you’s’ in the course of the promotional interval may even be rewarded with $10,000 and an extra $10,000 to their charity of alternative.”

The spokesperson famous that prospects can thank drivers “by means of an Alexa-enabled gadget, the Alexa app and the Amazon cell procuring app.” With the latter, the method can be carried out by means of Alexa: Prospects begin by clicking the Alexa emblem discovered on the backside proper nook of the procuring app. 

As for why the thank-you messages go particularly by means of Alexa, the spokesperson replied, “It’s a handy approach to share their thanks and likewise permits Amazon to effectively get the thanks over to the driving force.” 

Amazon launched Alexa in 2014, and it sells thousands and thousands of gadgets by means of which prospects can entry the voice assistant, equivalent to its line of Echo sensible audio system. Promoting the customarily low margin gadgets has at all times been secondary, although, to the larger purpose: Getting prospects to make use of Alexa to purchase extra issues on Amazon. 

That purpose has proved elusive. 

In line with Insider, the “Worldwide Digital” unit at Amazon—which incorporates Alexa, Echo audio system, and the Prime video streaming service—had an working lack of over $3 billion within the first quarter, by far the biggest amongst all enterprise models, and was on tempo for a $10 billion loss this yr. And the New York Occasions reported final month that Echo and Alexa misplaced about $5 billion in 2018.

That unit isn’t the one one below scrutiny at Amazon, after all, given widespread predictions of a recession within the U.S. CEO Andy Jassy, talking at the New York Occasions DealBook summit final week, stated he and his management crew had been reviewing 50 or 60 of models and was seeing comparable developments the place the financial system was unsure.

“We simply felt like we wanted to streamline our prices,” Jassy stated of the layoffs. 

Extra broadly, the tech sector has seen a lot of layoffs in latest months forward of the anticipated financial downturn. Final month, for example, HP stated it will let go of 4,000 to six,000 workers over the following three years, and Fb dad or mum Meta stated it will lower 11,000 workers.

If the timing of the “Alexa, thank my driver” announcement falling so near the Alexa-heavy layoffs is a matter of coincidence, it may not be the one one. 

Yesterday, D.C. Legal professional Common Karl A. Racine introduced a client safety lawsuit towards Amazon. The go well with alleges the corporate used misleading strategies to guide shoppers to imagine that tip cash went on to drivers, when it actually was used to subsidize wages. 

“This go well with is about offering staff the guidelines they’re owed and telling shoppers the reality,” Racine stated in a press release. “Amazon, one of many world’s wealthiest firms, actually doesn’t must take suggestions that belong to staff. Amazon can and may do higher.” 

The Amazon spokesperson responded to Fortune: “This lawsuit entails a follow we modified three years in the past and is with out benefit—all the buyer suggestions at problem had been already paid to drivers as a part of a settlement final yr with the FTC.” 

In November final yr, the Federal Commerce Fee stated it despatched Amazon Flex drivers “virtually $60 million in checks and PayPal funds to eligible drivers who had their suggestions illegally taken by Amazon.”

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