In the mid 1960s, Tom Monaghan did some informal research among customers of his three-location pizza restaurant. He concluded that enough people wanted their order delivered and wouldn’t much care whether the pizza was any good, he changed the emphasis of his operation. Domino’s Pizza promised delivery within thirty minutes of taking the order or the pizza was free. He also began franchising and in less than a decade had two-hundred locations.
The thirty-minute delivery guarantee resulted in multitudes of lawsuits and multi-million-dollar judgements resulting from people injured or killed by Domino’s drivers under pressure to meet the deadline. Domino’s eventually dropped its thirty-minute guarantee because of, as Monaghan put it: “public perception of reckless driving and irresponsibility.” (The guarantee still applies in Mexico, Colombia Vietnam, China and India, countries with fewer lawyers and presumably looser legal systems.) Finding a company to insure pizza delivery became difficult in the extreme for any pizza restaurant.
Amazon.com isn’t giving in so easily. The world’s largest retailer promises fast delivery and has built its own delivery system. Well, its own except when it comes to taking responsibility for the carnage resulting from the time pressures drivers operate under. The drivers are contractors, not employees. They operate independently and Amazon says the damage they do isn’t Amazon’s fault.
The drivers have an Amazon app telling them the order of deliveries and the route to each destination. They track the driver’s progress and the driver can expect to hear from a dispatcher if he or she falls behind.
Even so, Amazon asserts it bears no accountability. In the contract with Amazon the delivery contractors assume liability for legal costs and “all loss or damage to personal property or bodily harm including death.”
The New York Times, in conjunction with ProPublica reports on the death and destruction caused by Amazon — err, its independent contractors — on our streets and highways.