Amazon Recruiting Rural SMBs as Couriers

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Amazon has quietly been recruiting local businesses in rural areas across 10 states to be part of its fulfillment network, earning them cash on the side for making deliveries of ecommerce orders in hard-to-reach places for its contract couriers, according to Recode.

The company is paying $2.50 to $3 per package delivered, and the orders have been going out seven days a week since last summer, Recode reported. The 10 states are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota, according to a web page used to recruit participants. Those referring a new participant can net a $500 bonus.

While Amazon has contracted with more than 300 delivery service providers (DSPs) whose drivers use Amazon-branded sprinters and stepvans, wear its gear and operate out of its delivery hubs, this strategy has not penetrated into more rural areas.

Participants agree to delivery seven days a week, with five days off per year, handling between 50 and 500 small packages a day. Companies can earn between $1,500 to $2,000 per week, based on volume of 600-800 packages delivered.

“All of our partners operate primary businesses and this program provides opportunity to help supplement their income,” Amazon spokesperson Lauren Samaha told Recode.

The Delivery Partner program is another step toward the ecommerce giant owning ever more of its own delivery to millions of domestic Prime customers. FedEx parted ways with Amazon in 2019, and the latter has cut back its reliance on the U.S. Postal Service to about 13.5% of its volume, according to Marc Wulfraat of MWPVL International, a logistics consultancy that follows it closely. And the USPS continues to have struggles of its own. UPS reports that Amazon represented 11.7% of its 2021 revenues, mostly from parcels, down from 13.3% in 2020.

According to Pitney Bowes, Amazon surpassed FedEx in terms of domestic parcel volume in 2020. Overall, Amazon handled 72% of its packages in 2021, Wulfraat said.

One important aspect of the new program: The participating businesses assume risk through their own liability insurance, with Amazon at a remove. A participating business in Alabama told Recode Amazon stipulated that as a prerequisite in explaining how the program works. The company has reportedly tested out this kind of program in other markets, including India.