In a hectic economy, Amazon drivers in some parts of the U.S. have discovered a bizarre way to get ahead of their competition.
In Chicago, smartphones have been sighted dangling from tree branches near Amazon stations and Whole Foods locations. No, it doesn’t mean tech products are now literally growing on trees — rather, it’s a method Amazon drivers to snag order assignments by seeming to be closer to key points.
Drivers sync up these dangling phones with the ones they carry at all times. With a digital presence near delivery stations, Amazon’s system for assigning orders might give these drivers an assignment over another driver it reads as being further away.
Working for such a fast-paced business in tense economic times, a fraction of a second can make all the difference between these drivers getting a lucrative order and being ignored. Workers not willing to dupe the system have begun complaining to Amazon about this manipulation tactic. The company reportedly told these workers that it would look into the matter, but would not be discussing the outcome of this investigation, Bloomberg reported.
The scheme revolves around Amazon’s Instant Orders system, which assigns jobs that take 15-45 minutes to complete and are given by an automated system based on proximity. Drivers typically have a few minutes to respond to these offers before they are snapped up.
The phones in the trees are described as “master phones” with numerous drivers synced with them in order to get Instant Order alerts. Drivers that have observed the situation believe that a middle-man entity is involved, charging drivers to take part in the scheme. The use of multiple phones is also believed to be a means of avoiding detection by spreading the work among multiple accounts.
“They’re gaming the system in a way that makes it harder for Amazon to figure it out,” Chetan Sharma, a wireless industry consultant, explained to Bloomberg. “They’re just a step ahead of Amazon’s algorithm and its developers.”