Amazon drivers have to endure many indignities on the job. From getting stuck in the snow in their unwieldy vans, to sacrificing their safety to deliver packages during the holiday rush, to being threatened with being fired for not making Amazon’s route quotas during a labor shortage and not having places or time to pee, these drivers face pressure on all sides to get your packages to you. Now, on top of all of that, some TikTok users have been asking them to dance for their Ring camera so they can post it to social media.
These TikTok users leave a sign on their door or leave a note in their instructions for the driver on the Amazon app asking that their drivers dance for the camera. Then, they put it online for the enjoyment of strangers. The implications here are horrifying on a number of levels. Because of Amazon’s “customer obsession,” some drivers feel pressured to do whatever a customer says to avoid receiving a bad review or complaint. These workers—who aren’t paid to perform—are also being turned into social media celebrities by people who film them with surveillance cameras and feel entitled to leverage them into content.
One such user has an entire playlist of driver dances.
Amazon drivers told Motherboard that they do see these requests through the Amazon app, and sometimes just ignore them. One driver in Wisconsin told Motherboard that a customer requested that they do the chicken chance through the app, but ignored it.
“I’ve seen them ask me to do a twirl or a dance. It’s mostly Ring cameras. Every house has a Ring camera these days,” a driver from upstate New York told Motherboard. “I’ve only seen these requests in the app. If they said it in person, I would probably smack the shit out of them.”
“Yeah I've seen that and all kinds of other requests,” a delivery company owner from the midwest told Motherboard. “Technically if the delivery associate doesn’t follow the instructions they can get dinged on their metrics for not doing so.”
Watching these videos is disturbing, even when the drivers seem to be enjoying themselves. Ring cameras in and of themselves are dangerous products that civil rights and advocacy groups have asked the FTC to ban. Seeing them used to create content for TikTok is not much different from the other ways that these cameras enforce a surveillance state. Turning real human beings, ones who endure precarious conditions in order to make enough money to live, into content is dehumanizing. It’s still a panopticon even if you’re dancing.
Still, some Amazon drivers say they have other stuff to worry about.
“There’s way more shit that’s a problem than that stuff,” the driver from upstate New York told Motherboard. “My sideview mirror has been broken for the past six months. On the highway, I don’t have a passenger mirror.”
Lauren K. Gurley contributed reporting to this article.