This is a real announcement by Amazon. The program began on Dec. 7, 2022, and was being applied to the first 1 million drivers. Amazon has been accused of skimming its drivers' tips in the past, however.
It remained unclear just how effective this program would be, or whether it would result in a significant improvement in working conditions.
Amazon, the gigantic e-commerce company, announced in late 2022 it was thanking drivers for their hard work over the holiday season in a new way. According to a screenshot of a statement sent to us by our readers, anyone who tells Alexa (Amazon's virtual assistant technology) to "Thank my driver" would prompt the company to give the driver $5.
Screenshot via About Amazon
This is a real program from Amazon but will apply only to the first 1 million drivers who received thank-you's from customers. According to Amazon's news release, posted on its website, the program marks a special milestone of 15 billion Amazon packages delivered in the U.S:
Starting December 7, any time a customer says "Alexa, thank my driver," the driver who delivered their most recent package will be notified of the customer's appreciation. And, in celebration of this new feature, with each thank-you received from customers, drivers will also receive an additional $5, at no cost to the customer. We'll be doing this for the first 1 million thank-you's received. And, the five drivers who receive the most customer "thank-you's" during the promotional period, will also be rewarded with $10,000 and an additional $10,000 to their charity of choice.
It was unclear at the time of this writing how impactful the program would be in light of news about alleged poor working conditions at Amazon. Its delivery drivers have long complained that holiday season traffic made their lives "hell," and that they have often sacrificed their own safety to ensure late-night deliveries. According to a recent Vice report, many of them were still peeing in bottles on their routes to keep up with the pace of deliveries.
Additionally, on Dec. 7, 2022, the District of Columbia sued Amazon for allegedly misleading consumers while stealing tips from drivers. According to a news release from D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine's office:
In 2015, Amazon launched its Amazon Flex service, which offers quick deliveries of Amazon products through Amazon delivery drivers. The company currently serves tens of thousands of consumers in the District, filling thousands of orders on a weekly basis. During the checkout process, Amazon encouraged consumers to tip their delivery drivers, offering a default preselected tip amount and assuring consumers that 100% of the tip amount would go to the drivers. In 2016, Amazon changed its driver payment model so that a large portion of these tips did not go towards increasing drivers' compensation but were instead used to pay a portion of what Amazon had already promised to pay the driver. Amazon continued to assure consumers that 100% of tips would go to drivers despite the fact that the company was secretly using these tips to subsidize its own labor costs and increase profits.
Amazon also implemented a widespread campaign, both internally and externally, to hide the truth about their tip policy from both consumers and workers. They repeatedly told consumers, both in advertisements and during the checkout process, that 100% of tips would go to drivers when this was not the case. And instead of informing drivers of the changes to its tip process, Amazon changed the way it displayed tips to drivers in the app so that drivers could no longer see the amount each consumer tipped. When hundreds of drivers caught on and asked Amazon why they were suddenly receiving less money overall for their deliveries, Amazon responded with misleading, boilerplate language that excluded any mention of this change in policy.
In February 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) required Amazon to pay out almost $62 million to its drivers deprived of tips between 2016 and 2019.
In response to the D.C. attorney general's suit, an Amazon spokesperson said, "Nothing is more important to us than customer trust. This lawsuit involves a practice we changed three years ago and is without merit. All of the customer tips at issue were already paid to drivers as part of a settlement last year with the FTC."
So, for consumers, while thanking drivers through Alexa did indeed appear to be a real tipping program at Amazon in late 2022, it was unclear whether drivers were actually getting the money or better working conditions. Until we learn more about the program's implementation, we have thus rated the claim "Mostly True."