Amazon And The Transformative Power Of Shame

Some Amazon warehouses provide a unique backdrop to their workers’ shifts: presenting them with stories of other Amazon warehouse workers who got fired for stealing.

A recent report in Bloomberg shares how the eCommerce giant, at a number of warehouse locations, utilizes flatscreen TVs to display graphical and text-accompanied accounts (keeping specific identities anonymous) of former co-workers who attempted to rob the joint while on the job — including details of their (always failed) methods — and results of their efforts — always terminated from employment, sometimes additionally arrested — as a sort of workplace motivation for current employees to not follow in those others’ footsteps.

Although Amazon did not comment to Bloomberg for its story, the outlet notes that the digital bulletin boards do not exclusively regale warehouse workers with fear-inducing tales of crime and punishment; they also provide informative updates about more pleasant — or, at least, innocuous — goings-on at the company.

As for dissuading attempted theft at warehouses that do not contain flatscreen displays, Bloomberg reports that some Amazon workers told it that, in some of those cases, the company is in the practice of simply sharing stories of fired co-workers in the analog practice of notes taped to the wall.

Pat Murphy, president of LPT Security Consulting, weighed in on the matter for the Bloomberg story, commenting: “There are people who will never steal. There’s a certain percentage of people that will always steal. You’re always trying to influence that middle group by reminding them there is a high probability they will get caught, and if I get caught, these are the consequences.”

Noting that antitheft tactics have advanced with technology (Bloomberg gives older examples, such as subliminal messages piped into retail stores to dissuade customers from stealing, and the more recent methods of warning posters in employee break rooms and anonymous hotlines), Murphy added: “The types of methods used by warehouses and fulfillment centers are only limited by your imagination and whatever the law allows.”


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