What is it Like to Drive for Amazon Flex in San Jose, CA?

Harry here.  There’s no shortage of companies to work for in the on-demand economy, but one big name that has been gaining a lot of popularity lately is Amazon Flex.  Today, RSG guest poster Laura M shares what it’s been like for her to work for Amazon Flex and compares it to her Uber, Lyft and DoorDash driving experience.

I started in the gig economy in February 2016 with Uber and Lyft.  But for a change of pace, I decided to deliver a little food with DoorDash. Many of the articles I read on this blog suggested diversifying, so I decided to try Amazon Flex after reading about it right here.

It seems like during the winter months, people don’t go out as much, so they use Uber less right now.  Uber has also slowly decreased earnings boosts out here as well as Power Driving Rewards. They did increase the rates, but UberPool is killing us in this area and you really can’t make a lot of money with Lyft out here (most people have never heard of it) unless you drive to San Francisco (an hour away).

I’ve also noticed that DoorDash has over-hired drivers, and when school lets out they really don’t offer as many incentives.  When they do, you often have to jump through hoops to get them, and you still may not get them anyway.  You sometimes get one order an hour (that’s $6 out here) and even with tips, it’s an incredibly low wage. So I decided I needed something more profitable.

Have you ever wondered what it's like driving for Amazon Flex? Laura tells us what it's like driving for Flex in San Jose, CA. Have you driven for Flex yet?

What’s it like to Work for Amazon Flex?

I was instantly struck by the differences in Amazon Flex.  I signed up for it, and it took them some time to get back to me because they actually do an EXTENSIVE background check. For me, this is a positive because it denotes a professional company.  I was later mailed pages and pages of all the checks they did on me.

Once I went through the checks, I was asked to download the app and watch some videos (there are a lot of them) on how to do the job and was given the opportunity to sign up for shifts. In our area we do Prime Now deliveries and have 2- to 4-hour blocks (sometimes more).  The closest warehouse is about 20 minutes away. Additionally, we can sign up for restaurant delivery in a couple of different areas.

Fun and Friendly Warehouse

One thing crucial with Amazon is that you are at the location and checked in on time!  They will literally lock you out of a 4-hour shift if you are 5 minutes late!  Do not forget to hit the button on the app that says check in after you get there.  At my warehouse, you also sign in on a sheet of paper so the warehouse staff knows you are there.

Related Book: Navigating Amazon Flex by Jason Strauss

As other writers have pointed out, after you check in, you wait. The good news is you are getting paid between $18 to $25 an hour (this may vary per region) to check your email, Facebook, or play Candy Crush.  Out here they generally pay $20 an hour.

I found the warehouse staff to be fun and friendly.  They got my supplies (heat bags in case you get a food order) quickly and were willing to answer my newbie questions with a smile.  I met some of my fellow drivers and we were often entertained by how the warehouse staff would try to read our illegible handwriting on the sign in sheet.

They called my name, I got my packages, scanned them in through the app and I was on my way.  They put you on a route of about 4 to 6 stops in a 2 hour period.  Often you can complete these early and because you are on a route it means less gas!

Most of the routes make sense.  They have already figured out travel time and stop time.  Beware of the routes at the end of the night though (like 10 pm to midnight – yes they deliver this late).  They are usually trying to cram it all in.  I gave them 30 minutes of my time for free the other night because I didn’t carefully check how long the route would take.  However, they also paid me to sit on my butt for an hour that night so it balanced out.

One note on delivering package: most of the packages are light (in bags) but some can be a little heavy.  I would strongly recommend an open cart (not an enclosed one) to carry the cases of water or the odd box you might have to lug up 6 flights of stairs to someone’s apartment.

Amazon Flex Support Has a Phone Line!

If you have questions or run into any difficulty, you can call support.  Yes, I said CALL support, not email, not chat, and you get a REAL live helpful, friendly human on the phone.  After almost a  year of dealing with Uber support (the worst on the planet) and DoorDash (only moderately better), this was a refreshing change.

After you finish your route you go back to the warehouse and you might deliver a pizza, do another route or they send you home depending on the time of day and when you finish.

For the restaurant deliveries this is a pretty easy gig right now in our area because most people don’t know Amazon delivers food. You may be sitting in your car or at a Starbucks for a couple of hours waiting for an order.  The good news is you are still getting paid for it.  The first night I did this I worked from 8:30 to 11:30 pm.  I delivered one pizza and the rest of the time I was sitting downtown using free Wi-Fi and watching shows on Hulu.

Some Negatives About Amazon Flex

As others have pointed out, the navigation on the app really isn’t great.  I fire up Waze in the background for a “second opinion”.  Be aware that the app is a HUGE battery drain.  I would recommend at minimum a car charger and run it all the time.  You may want to consider other charging options so that when you are sitting at the warehouse or in your car, etc. you won’t run out of juice.

It’s also hard to get shifts.  You have to be persistent and quick!  If you sign up on the calendar in the app, they will reserve some blocks for you on Fridays for the next week.  You usually have about 5 to 10 minutes to accept these shifts before they send them out to others.  Most shifts will be picked up that day.  Because of this, I would recommend filling up your gas tank the night before and packing a lunch as well.  You might only have 1 hour’s notice for a shift and then pick up additional back-to-back shifts throughout the day, so be prepared. They also aren’t on DailyPay like DoorDash is and don’t have an Instant Pay feature, so you can’t use it for the quick bucks.

Don’t forget (Editor’s note): For more on how to make the most out of the Amazon Flex program, I highly recommend checking out Navigating Amazon Flex by Jason Strauss. It’s full of great tips – not only on how to snag shifts, but also how to navigate efficiently, optimize your car for delivery, and more. Check it out here!

Tips and Tricks I Wish I Knew Beforehand

The app has an offers screen that you go through several menus to get to.  If there are no shifts it will be solid white. A lot of people waste time going back and forth from this screen back to the menus screen and back.  You don’t need to do this.  To refresh, just pull down or tap the screen and you will see a circle.  I once sat in the warehouse when they sent out a shift and because I used this method, I got the shift and the others never saw it come across their screen.  Here are some others:

  • Listen to your warehouse guys.  They will sometimes give you a heads up when they send out a shift.
  • Never ever drop a shift to pick up a longer one! I made this mistake once. I lost the shift.
  • If you choose to stay in the car for restaurant delivery, bring a blanket (in cold weather) and things to do until you get those orders.
  • Eat before you leave the house on the first shift and bring food and water in case you are out all day.

Amazon is strict in their scheduling policies.  Never cancel a shift less than 45 minutes beforehand or be more than 4 minutes late.  It will be noted and you could be deactivated for too many of these. Also, if you are late to deliver to a customer, you will get a “nag email” from Amazon.  If it was due to circumstances beyond your control, write back to them and they will adjust your rating accordingly.

You will get customers who want you to leave refrigerated items on their doorstep.  This is a health code violation. Don’t do it.  Try calling them, then call support. They will advise you to take it back to the warehouse.

Personally, I’ve driven for four different platforms and at this point I find Amazon Flex to be far superior to the rest because:

  • The staff is friendly and respectful to the drivers.
  • Amazon respects the drivers’ time. You won’t get a restaurant order at 8:45 when you get off at 9.
  • You can talk to trained support staff live if there is an issue.
  • The money! As of this writing, for the week of December 28 to January 3 (after Christmas) I made $427 for only 16 hours of work. Amazon customers tip big, even for package delivery.

I cannot say enough good things about this company and I run into lots of Uber drivers and Door Dashers who are pretty happy with it too.

Bio: Laura M quit her “real job” in the admissions department of an alcohol and drug rehab to become an on-demand entrepreneur in San Jose, CA.  Her former rehab experience has helped her tremendously as an Uber and Lyft driver. She also works for Amazon Flex when she can get shifts and DoorDash only when they are offering huge incentives.

Drivers, what do you think about Laura’s experience with Amazon Flex?  Does it sound like something you’d be interested in trying?

-Harry @ RSG