Photo (cc) by Aurelijus Valeiša
Amazon’s newest one-hour delivery service is taking a page from Uber — paying on-demand drivers to deliver packages to customers.
Amazon Flex is currently available in Seattle, but the e-commerce giant has plans to expand the service to other cities where its Prime Now one-hour delivery service is available, including New York, Baltimore, Miami, Dallas, Chicago, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon.
According to the e-commerce giant, drivers are paid $18 to $25 an hour to use their own vehicles and smartphones to deliver Amazon Prime Now packages. Drivers are considered independent contractors and choose their own work hours. Amazon said deliveries via bike or foot may be available in the future.
Although the service offers convenience to shoppers and a flexible job opportunity for drivers, some people question the viability of the service.
Forrester Research e-commerce analyst Sucharita Mulpuru told The Washington Post that she’s not convinced that Flex will be successful because shoppers typically don’t like to pay for shipping, no matter how quick it is, and merchants are also likely to reject extra delivery fees.
“That leaves Amazon subsidizing it, similar to what Instacart and the other delivery startups are doing,” Mulpuru said in an e-mail to the Post. “That doesn’t make for profitable transactions or loyal customers.”
Uber is facing wage and policy debates and legal battles across the United States. Amazon Flex could become entangled in the same debates about whether its drivers should be considered employees instead of independent contractors.
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