WTF?! Amazon has hit back at a documentary in which a drink containing urine allegedly from the company's delivery drivers was listed for sale on the platform. 'Release' even managed to achieve the number one bestseller award in the Bitter Lemon category.
As part of a documentary for the UK's Channel 4, journalist, filmmaker, and prankster Oobah Butler got a job at an Amazon distribution center in Coventry. Using a hidden camera, he recorded employees complaining about working conditions, physical ailments caused by the demands, and the almost constant surveillance.
Oobah was identified after just three days at the warehouse, leading him to interview delivery drivers. They told him that because they're penalized for slow deliveries, drivers are forced to urinate in bottles as they don't have time to stop for bathroom breaks.
This certainly isn't the first time we've heard of Amazon drivers resorting to this practice. It was highlighted in a spat between Congressman Mark Pocan and an Amazon exec in 2021, with several current and former workers confirming it does happen. Amazon previously denied its workers urinated in bottles, but later claimed it was talking about warehouse workers and admitted some drivers do it.
Paying workers $15/hr doesn't make you a "progressive workplace" when you union-bust & make workers urinate in water bottles. https://t.co/CnFTtTKA9q– Rep. Mark Pocan (@RepMarkPocan) March 25, 2021
Oobah was told that drivers are penalized for returning their trucks to the warehouse with urine-filled bottles still inside, though Amazon denies this. To avoid the penalties, drivers discard the bottles by the side of the road. Butler searched near Amazon warehouses and found some of these pee-filled bottles.
Butler then decided to create Release, a drink filled with Amazon drivers' urine, and sell it on the Amazon store. He told Wired that the process was surprisingly easy. "I thought that the food and drinks licensing would stop me from listing it, so I started it out in this Refillable Pump Dispenser category. Then the algorithm moved it into drinks," he said.
"At the heart of Release Energy's story lies a dedication to empowering Amazon delivery drivers, unsung heroes who face immense pressures navigating impossibly demanding schedules," states Release's production description. "Tasked with impossibly tight deadlines, these drivers find themselves in a relentless race against time, often sacrificing their own needs to ensure packages reach their destinations. Release Energy was born from the desperation and determination of those Amazon delivery drivers who dared to have bodily movements over the course of their grueling shifts, who found themselves faced with a choice between fulfilling their contractual obligations and finding a bathroom. Each Release Energy drink is entirely composed of their urine, as it was found decanted into bottles and discarded by the side of the road."
Butler said he got a group of friends to buy Release, pushing it to the top of the Bitter Lemon category. While he never sold any to real customers, Butler told Insider there were about ten genuine customers who had tried to buy a bottle. Release is no longer available to buy.
The documentary aims to bring attention to the working conditions of Amazon staff and the impact the company has on society. Unsurprisingly, Amazon wasn't too impressed with the pee-selling stunt, calling it "crude" while emphasizing that it has "industry-leading tools to prevent genuinely unsafe products being listed."
Elsewhere in the documentary, Butler gets his nieces, aged 4 and 6, to purchase knives, saws, and rat poison and have them delivered to their front door (and Amazon lockers) using Alexa voice controls. There's also a section on Amazon's reduced tax payments.