Some Amazon Ring Customers Demand Drivers Dance, Then Post Videos Online

Some Amazon customers are now explicitly asking the company’s drivers to deliver a performance along with the package. They are posting signs to their front doors or tapping unusual delivery instructions into the Amazon app in the hopes of capturing a spectacle on their surveillance feeds…. [T]hese customers proceed to shamelessly post the evidence to social media. Sometimes the videos are spun into an online sleuthing opportunity, as the TikToker asks viewers to hunt for the dancing driver’s identity. And they represent just a slice of the “Amazon driver approaches the door” genre of internet video… But whether the video is pitched as heartwarming or sadistic, the customer is enlisting the driver into a nonconsensual pageant that doubles as a performance review. As Jackson reported, Amazon drivers who fail to fulfill customer requests risk demerits.

Amazon encourages customers to publicize their Ring videos on its safety-minded social network, Neighbors, and makes it easy to share them more widely, too. One of Ring’s marketing lines is “A lot happens at your front door,” and this is meant as both a warning and an invitation — though it suggests it is too dangerous to venture outside, it also implies that a whole world of entertainment is to be found through eyeing your surveillance feed. The official Ring YouTube channel is filled with user-generated videos that help inject its growing spy network with warmth and surprise, as the cameras catch spontaneous footage of good Samaritans, grazing cows and, of course, the company’s drivers caught in kooky scenarios, like in this entry from December: “Even a Giant Bear Will Not Stop This Amazon Driver From Making His Delivery.”

Amazon obsessively surveils its workers through dashcams, smartphone monitors and machine-generated report cards, and these videos implicate the customer in that exercise, making the violation of driver privacy into a kind of internet-wide contest. The caption for Amazon’s bear video focuses on the heroic actions of a Ring user named Josh, who supposedly aided the delivery driver’s safety by “watching his exit the whole time” on the security camera…. Its routes are often serviced by precarious gig workers, its quotas are too punishing to allow for socializing, and all potential human interactions have been replaced by one-way surveillance. In many of these TikTok videos, Amazon workers literally run in and out of the frame. If delivery drivers were once lightly teased or frequently ogled, now they are simply dehumanized, plugged into machine-run networks and expected to move product with robotic efficiency. The compulsory dance trend on TikTok suggests that customers, too, have come to see drivers as programmable….

On an even more depressing corner of Amazon TikTok, customers post videos not to backwardly celebrate drivers but just to shame them for delivering the package with less than the customer’s expected level of service.

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