https://www.vice.com/en/article/z348y9/amazon-drivers-are-still-peeing-in-bottles

Roughly 18 months after Amazon finally acknowledged its pee bottle problem, the subreddit for Amazon delivery drivers is full of posts reporting that workers are still peeing in bottles on their routes due to the pace of work, and drivers Motherboard spoke to say that drivers regularly still have to pee in bottles. 

Workers in the Amazon delivery driver subreddit r/AmazonDSPDrivers are posting recent photos of pee bottles in their vans, around their delivery hubs, and even one found in a break room fridge. Drivers say they’re finding the bottles everywhere—left over in the vans from other people’s shifts, or discarded in heaps outside the facility. Some posts express being grossed-out or simply amused by discovering pee bottles left by other workers while on the job. 

“I’ve absolutely had to pee in bottles,” one Amazon delivery driver told Motherboard. “I do it almost every single day. Amazon doesn’t care how your route is, and if you get put in a rural area you aren’t around any restaurants or gas stations. All day, for a 10hr routed shift… so peeing in bottles is common. I’ve even rolled the dice and urinated on somebody’s private property because of the lengthy driveway. Could’ve been caught at any time, but when nature calls, there’s nothing you can do.” 

Motherboard spoke to five Amazon drivers who all said that peeing in bottles is still commonplace. Several of those drivers said they’ve done it and have to do it regularly; all had seen or encountered pee bottles in their trucks at some point. Motherboard agreed to keep the workers anonymous because peeing in bottles can be a fireable offense.

Amazon’s pee bottle problem is nothing new. As early as 2019, workers at the company said that they didn’t have time to take proper bathroom breaks. Drivers started posting about their situation on social media in March 2021, which caught some politicians’ attention—specifically, Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, who tweeted, “Paying workers $15/hr doesn’t make you a ‘progressive workplace’ when you union-bust & make workers urinate in water bottles.” 

Amazon responded to Pocan’s tweet with, “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us.” Immediately after that, Motherboard published an article with photos from drivers showing that they do, indeed, have to pee in bottles because they don’t have enough time to stop at public restrooms.

After being confronted with the hard evidence by Motherboard and The Intercept, which obtained internal documentation showing that Amazon knew about the problem, Amazon apologized to Pocan, but not its workers. “We know that drivers can and do have trouble finding restrooms because of traffic or sometimes rural routes, and this has been especially the case during Covid when many public restrooms have been closed,” the company said in a statement. “This is a long-standing, industry-wide issue and is not specific to Amazon. Regardless of the fact that this is industry-wide, we would like to solve it. We don’t yet know how, but will look for solutions.”

A year and a half later, though, drivers say Amazon hasn’t fixed the problem.

“Amazon has done nothing in terms of drivers peeing in bottles,” another driver wrote to Motherboard in an email. “They just continue to claim that we have plenty of time to stop and use the bathroom when we in fact don’t and some of the routes are out in rural areas for 10+ hrs a day.”

Are you an Amazon delivery driver? We’d love to hear from you. From a non-work phone or email, you can contact Jules Roscoe at jules.roscoe@vice.com or on Signal at 415-763-7705.

Amazon spokesperson Maria Boschetti said in a statement that a typical shift should last 10.5 hours, with nine of those hours spent on the road, and that delivery drivers are entitled to breaks. 

“We actively communicate and remind drivers that it’s important for them to take their breaks,” Boschetti wrote in an email to Motherboard. “Delivery drivers have two 15-minute breaks and one 30-minute break each day, and they also receive in-app notifications every two hours if they have not taken a break. Drivers can also conveniently see locations of available restrooms on the map in the app.”

She did not say whether Amazon has taken any steps to specifically address the pee bottle problem. 

Social media posts from Amazon drivers show that they are still peeing in bottles and encountering other drivers’ pee bottles at work while making an extreme number of deliveries in a single day.

One photo, posted to r/AmazonDSPDrivers in mid-October, shows three pee bottles in a row, ranging in color from clear to dark yellow, with the caption “stay hydrated.” In the comment section, people argued back and forth on whether they themselves would pee in bottles or try to find the nearest gas station. The original poster wrote in response, “I don’t really have the time to stop at a gas station every time I have to pee. Especially during summer where you have 190+ stops and have to drink 8 bottles to stay hydrated.”

Another poster asked whether fulfillment centers besides theirs had “piss bottle graveyards,” and added two photos of various bottles and beverage containers littering a railroad track. 

If a driver leaves a pee bottle in the van after their shift, it constitutes grounds for “immediate offboarding,” The Intercept reported last year. 

In one post on the drivers’ subreddit, a user describes discovering a pee bottle “in between the panels” in the back of the delivery truck on a hot day. The bottle “EXPLODED all over me my hair my clothes my glasses and the windshield of the truck because of the heat,” the poster said

Some drivers have posted in the subreddit saying they refuse to pee in bottles because it’s degrading, and that they would rather just find somewhere to pull over for a few minutes. One poster wrote, “Seriously just stop at a gas station. If you’re in the middle of nowhere just open the door and piss behind that. Don’t belittle yourself.” But many replies said that they simply did not have the time. 

“If I stopped at a gas station for each time I piss I would never finish my route,” one person wrote in the comment section. “There’s nothing belittling about it…if anything stopping your route to go out your way to go to a gas station just cause the company doesn’t want you pissing in their trucks is belittling.” 

Another wrote, “I either piss in a bottle and save time OR I could drive 8 to 10 blocks OUT OF MY WAY to wait in line for a bathroom at one of the 3 busy gas stations in my area and then drive BACK 8 to 10 BLOCKS to pick-up where I left off at?” 

Drivers say that because of their package loads, which often have them running around 200 stops and around 350 packages a shift according to posts in the subreddit, they don’t have time to go find actual bathrooms. Not including any loading or break time, which posters say would likely take around two hours, that would require 20 stops an hour—leaving about three minutes per stop. 

“In my 4 years delivering I’ve only stopped and used the restroom 3 times,” one driver told Motherboard. “We’re told by our dispatchers that Amazon adjusts routes to include our lunch, two 15 minute, and restroom breaks. But the volume is so high on most routes (300-350 packages) we don’t have time to stop so we end up peeing in Gatorade bottles and most drivers don’t take their 15 minute breaks because the volume of packages is so high they don’t want to be delivering at night.” 

“Personally I used to skip my lunch along with my 15 minute breaks but they updated the app so it would force us to take a lunch,” they continued.

Another driver said: “As far as peeing in a bottle, This is a daily occurrence! Absolutely nothing has changed in that area. As a female driver it’s very frustrating. 

They explained that the Amazon standard is 20 stops an hour and that the Department of Transportation mandates 10-hour days—so they should have 200 stops a day at the maximum. But, the driver continued, those ten hours include van inspection, loading up, and traveling to and from the warehouse and gas stations, which can take up to two hours. 

“So basically if you want the luxury of using an actual toilet, you better be doing 35-45 stops an hour!” they wrote in an email to Motherboard. 

Boschetti, the Amazon spokesperson, said Amazon works with its delivery service partners to not overwork its drivers, and has continuously updated its planning technology to include “adequate time for breaks” and help drivers finish early. Amazon, she said, has invested over $7 billion worldwide to improve safety and driver training, as well as to increase the rates the company pays its delivery service partners over the past four years. 

Jason Koebler contributed reporting.

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