“They don’t give you tips anymore.”

Logistics looks like a well-oiled machine. It appears to be efficient enough from a distance but that’s in part because many of the components in the logistical chain are invisible and often also invisibilised. Especially the human ones. One of the 2 groups from the Logistical Noir workshop decided to go and meet the ones who are visible, yet overlooked: the delivery drivers, the owners of shops and cafés who keep our parcels until we are ready to collect them…

It soon appeared that you and I are also playing a role in the e-commerce organisation because each of us, willingly or unwillingly, are part of the last mile delivery team. We sign for the absent neighbour, we cram the plastic bubble wraps inside trash bags (while feeling guilty about all that plastic), we flatten the cardboard boxes, we can’t park in our street because the delivery van has taken our favourite spot again, we write down notes with instructions for the delivery when we know we might not be home when they ring the bell, we have to deal with more inner-city traffic (and thus pollution), etc. The alternative to some of that hassle might one day be in-home delivery but are we ready for that kind of hassle?

Most drivers typically have to deliver some 200 parcels per day. Hence, the urge to be ultra fast and parasite public space, park where they shouldn’t and drop parcels in the middle of the street…

Part One: Photo Evidence

An urban landscape of wild parking and forlorn parcels

DHL and UPS delivery trucks. Photo: Tanja Krone
Delivery truck. Photos: Tanja Krone. Collage: Mathana
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Truck-in-bike-lane-3.jpg
Delivery van in the bike lane
Lonely parcel. Photo by Kat Hone
Lonely parcel. Photo by Kat Hone

Photos on Logistic Vehicles jamming the streets/neighbourhoods. DHL: Illegal parking as part of the business model? and Car-centric city.

Articles about how next-day delivery is transforming urban experience:

Amazon’s Next-Day Delivery Has Brought Chaos And Carnage To America’s Streets — But The World’s Biggest Retailer Has A System To Escape The Blame.

How our home delivery habit reshaped the world.

15 million packages a day: The internet brings chaos to the city streets.

The everything town in the middle of nowhere. How the tiny town of Roundup, Montana, became a hub in Amazon’s supply chain.

Daily domestic annoyances:

Lonely box. Photo by Mathana
Notes for neighbours and delivery drivers. Photos by Mathana and Kat Hone
Photo by Mathana
Backdoor logistics. Photo by Kat Hone

Customers fight back

Paket Da!, a platform only geared towards controlling / dealing w/ delivery problems: https://www.paketda.de/ – including hacks to retaliate against non-/fake delivery.

Part Two: The Interviews

What are the general physical, intellectual and moral conditions of life of the working men and women employed in your trade? (Works of Karl Marx 1880 A Workers’ Inquiry)

We tracked down some of the actors involved in next-day delivery:

Image: a collaboration between Tanja Krone, Mathana and Neal Stephenson

Extracts from interviews with delivery drivers by Tanja Krone:

“I have zero minutes.”

“No one gives you tips anymore” (Hermes delivery driver)

DHL delivery driver describing how, since the pandemic, he works one extra hour because he needs to wait for customers to come down the stairs and pick up the parcel. He can’t bring the parcel directly to their flats anymore

Transcript: Before I would have said it is climbing the stairs when you must go up on the last floor and maybe with heavy packages. But at this moment I don’t find the work very exhausting. The advantage is that you don’t have to climb stairs. The disadvantage is that the clients are not as fast as the deliverers, which means until they are downstairs or get dress, put on shoes… And if you count this together throughout the whole day – it takes an hour. so, you need one hour more, definitely.

Experiences of delivery drivers on Youtube

My Hermes Courier Diary Hell – The life of a courier for Hermes.

Inside Edition Producer Goes Undercover to Deliver Amazon Packages

A documentary available in french and german: Le chaos des colis/Lieferwahnsinn Wege aus dem Zustellchaos.

Kevin livreur pour Amazon pendant la pandémie (Kevin delivers for Amazon during lockdown)

“It’s the worst job in the world!” (in french.)

Une journée dans l’enfer d’un livreur Chronopost (A day in the inferno of a Chronopost delivery driver): The driver explains how he is expected to work 6 days per week, for up to 70 hours per week (when he is paid for only 35 h x week, which means that he gets 4,50 euros x hour), he has 200 parcels to deliver every day and no time to eat.

How Amazon Delivers On One-Day Shipping

What It’s Like To Be An Amazon Flex Delivery

The Amazon section from labournet.tv, an online archive for films from the workers’ movement – old and new – from all over the world. The focus is on the situation of wage workers, their self-organization, historical and current labor disputes and alternative social models.

Articles

How I Get By: A Week in the Life of an Amazon Delivery Driver. What it’s really like to deliver hundreds of packages a day to Prime customers.

Interview with a delivery driver: Ein Paketfahrer packt aus.

Work by Kat Hone
A bracelet made from the plastic wrapping the parcel. Photo by Kat Hone
Spoken poem by Mathana

Part Three: Bibliography and Resources

Books

The Cost of Free Shipping. Amazon in the Global Economy, edited by Jake Alimahomed-Wilson and Ellen Reese, 2020

Uberworked and Underpaid: How Workers Are Disrupting the Digital Economy, by Trebor Scholz, 2016 (free download)

Artistic and cultural works

Sebastian Schmieg, Gallery. Delivery

!Mediengruppe Bitnik, Delivery for Mr. Assange

Ken Loach, Sorry We Missed You – Film, 2019

CloudPunk, “a game where you play a delivery driver who works shady jobs in a massive cyberpunk city”


This project was conceived at the Berliner Gazette’s annual conference 2020 entitled SILENT WORKS.

Workshop moderators: Niccolò Cuppini and Ela Kagel.

Participants: Juliane Rettschlag, Katharina Höne, Mathana, Oliver Lerone Schultz, Régine Debatty and Tanja Krone.

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