I was invited to look inside Rugby's Amazon warehouse - here's what I saw

Amazon is not without controversy – national newspapers have previously reported on concerns over working conditions and on the amount of corporation tax the company pays in the UK.

Wednesday, 20th November 2019, 4:31 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th November 2019, 4:33 pm
The view from the 'bottle library'.

But the Advertiser was invited to have a look inside Rugby’s Amazon warehouse to see for ourselves what goes on.

The warehouse opened in August this year – it is more than three football pitches in size, but, despite its impressive scale, I am told it is considered one of the smaller sites.

Site manager David Tindal was keen to chat when I arrived.

The warehouse specialises in alcohol - but some other goods are housed there.

He spoke about how the Rugby site – which specialises in the supply of beer, wines and spirits – is a pioneering endeavour for the company.

Things have gone very well so far, he said, but the real test will be the huge increase in demand that will come when people across the country begin searching for a Christmas tipple.

One of the first things shown to me in the site is the spacious canteen.

Mr Tindal said that when Amazon acquired the building the canteen was made larger to meet their standards.

Site manager David Tindal.

The 'library' of bottles

Walking into the main space is strange – the warehouse is so big that it feels a little unworldly, as if your brain is giving up on trying to make sense of the size of it.

Its scale could probably induce dizziness if it were not broken up by what looks to be a huge, caged library of bottles of spirits.

This caged structure goes up several stories, and workers can be seen walking from aisle to aisle with trolleys as they collect bottles.

Having a go at packing an order.

Those partial to a drink (or two) would marvel at the range of bottles.

Everything was there – aged single malts, craft gins and even a certain ‘tonic wine’ that comes from Devon and, in this reporter’s experience, is liable to convince people that they can sing.

Interestingly, there were bottles being stocked on behalf of small-scale suppliers.

Mr Tindal was keen to explain that, through Amazon, these small suppliers have chance to reach a huge market.

Part of the huge network of conveyor belts that runs through the building.

The workers did not look stressed or unhappy

Some views presented by the public towards Amazon might have you expect that the workers were running around, frantically trying to keep up with quota in some sort of Victorian workhouse nightmare.

But the workers I saw looked to be going about their business at a comfortable pace - and they did not look stressed or unhappy.

Some years ago I worked as a Christmas temp in a stockroom at a well-known retail outlet.

I won't name the company, but Status Quo wrote a disgracefully catchy song which that retailer used for adverts.

The environment and the atmosphere in the Amazon site felt slightly familiar because of this.

And as far as I could tell, a key difference between my old employer and Amazon is that I suspect Amazon makes more use of technology to monitor the performance of staff.

Workers share their concerns with management

Near the entrance to the warehouse is a whiteboard where workers can write their concerns for Mr Tindal to see.

A number of these are what you would expect, people making requests about music - where it is played and at what volume.

One of the requests is a worker asking to work five 12-hour shifts instead of six 10-hour shifts over Christmas.

Later on Mr Tindal said he understood that the company had bad press in the past – but he said cared deeply about the safety of his workers, and would not allow someone to work those hours.

I was given a chance to make myself useful by trying to package six bottles of wine for delivery.

Two supervisors were very tolerant of my clumsiness as I tried to put together an ingeniously designed box with separate compartments for each bottle.

This is not an exposé​

As a reporter granted a visit to an Amazon site, I think some people wondered if I this write-up was going to be a huge exposé. It’s not.

I’m no expert, but I can say I saw nothing that made me think workers were not treated with respect.

Mr Tindal asked me to relay to readers that he is looking for Rugbeians to work over Christmas. If you’re interested, you can learn more at by visiting sforce.co/37k4Yj0.