For many consumers, online shopping is about as good as shopping gets. From the comfort of your home, you can browse a seemingly infinite number of products on your phone or computer until you find the exact thing you are looking for, and then you can have it delivered to your home, often within the period of a few days.
Even though online shopping can be gratifying, the convenience may come with a cost that is much higher than shoppers expect.
In recent years, many journalists have researched how large online retailers are influencing our lives, the areas in which we live, how we order our food, how we move around our cities, etc.
Many journalists have also focused on the negative societal consequences of these companies. In terms of delivery infrastructure, increased numbers of delivery vehicles mean:
Over the past five years, delivery vehicles have been involved in hundreds of vehicles accidents. Amazon, arguably the single largest employer of delivery vehicles and delivery services, is a defendant in over a hundred lawsuits regarding delivery vehicle accidents, although determining liability for those accidents is not always a simple task.
If a driver who works for a traditional courier, e.g., UPS, USPS, FedEx, etc., causes an accident, the driver and the courier will probably be legally accountable for the damages. However, liability is often less clear with online retailers.
According to several sources, online retailers often pressure their delivery drivers to fulfill orders faster, resulting in labor disputes and tragic accidents. Many driver have reported being pressured into skipping meals, bathroom breaks, or any breaks at all.
Drivers have also reported that they have been forced to work overtime to deliver every package they are given —sometimes hundreds of packages— without being given overtime pay. This constant pressure and fast pace are believed to have been the cause of dozens of delivery accidents.
Amazon hires small, independent companies, independent contractors, and traditional companies like UPS and USPS to deliver its orders.
Many contractors have alleged that Amazon's level of involvement with their day-to-day deliveries makes Amazon the driver's employer, but Amazon has worked extremely hard to maintain its legal separation from independent delivery companies and contractors.
If an independent delivery contractor causes an accident — even if they claim it is because Amazon is pressuring them to deliver packages faster — the driver and/or the independent company for which they work are general held legally liable. Moreover, Amazon's employment contracts sometimes require contractors to cover any legal fees, even if the contractor ends up defending Amazon in court.
Even though online shopping can create all kinds of opportunities for individuals and businesses, those opportunities come at a cost. A significant decision consumers may have to make in the coming years is whether or not that cost is worth paying.