Amazon officially launched its new Amazon Flex package delivery option on Tuesday, taking a page out of Uber’s book by using everyday drivers to deliver packages in their own cars.
The company advertises drivers can make $18 to $25 per hour, set their own schedule and make as many or few deliveries they want seven days a week. You have to be at least 21-years-old and have a car, driver’s license, a clean background check and an Android phone.
GeekWire first reported on the service last month, when we stumbled across the new logo at a Prime Now distribution center in Kirkland. No one was quite sure what Flex would be, but signs around the building led us to believe it would be some new way for customers to get their packages.
Sure enough, Amazon Flex launched in Seattle on Tuesday and is now recruiting drivers to handle Prime Now’s one- and two-hour deliveries. The service will soon launch in eight other cities, including Portland and New York.
It seems like nothing will change for the customers served by Amazon Flex. Instead, it’s a new tool the e-commerce giant is adding to its growing rapid delivery network, which now includes full-time drivers, bicycle riders and Uber-like drivers.
Amazon tells the Wall Street Journal it will continue to use the courier companies it has previously relied on for these same-day deliveries, but it will now also have the ability to route some orders through Flex.
Of course, this also means Amazon just became the most recent tech giant to wander into the controversial world of independent contractors. Uber popularized the on-demand business model years ago, where workers aren’t classified as employees and therefore aren’t entitled to rights such as health benefits. The practice has been widely adopted across the tech industry, but has come under fire recently. Several lawsuits have already been filed hoping to force companies to reclassify their independent contractors as full employees.
But Amazon senior vice president of world-wide operations Dave Clark tells the Wall Street Journal the company is confident in its approach. Amazon’s driver recruiting website points to the perks these new jobs offer that traditional employees don’t enjoy, namely schedule flexibility.
“There is a tremendous population of people who want to work in an on-demand fashion,” Clark told the WSJ. “This is another opportunity for people to work with the company.”