NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s 4:15 p.m. and Tonya Edmond is just starting her shift.
Her office is a 2010 Honda Civic, which she loads with 35 cardboard boxes. That’s the easy part.
“Yeah, that was a workout,” Edmond laughed. “I hate I didn’t bring my Fitbit.”
Edmond works for Amazon Flex. The service belongs to the growing list of companies in the “gig” business, jobs for independent contractors that offer flexibility and quick cash.
Workers are in the throes of the busiest time of year.
“I would say the holiday time coming up is going to be the biggest challenge,” said Edmond, referring to the increasing volume of deliveries.
Edmond’s goal is to deliver no fewer than 30 packages by 9:30 p.m.
Through an app, drivers can contact a support team 24/7. But drivers said for the most part, they’re on their own in the field, troubleshooting everything from wrong orders to confusing directions.
“This map doesn’t give you enough information to be able to see all the streets,” said Reggie Owens, who started driving Flex in 2015.
He said he’s encountered difficulty using Amazon’s GPS system that generates the route delivery.
Amazon said 75 percent of drivers meet the 9:30 p.m. deadline. But miss the deadline enough times, and Amazon could boot you from the platform, drivers said.
Owens said meeting the 9:30 p.m. deadline is generally easy. The hard part is staying safe.
“I had a guy very early on pull an AR-15,” Owens said. “As I was walking up to the door, he opened the door and pointed the gun. He legitimately thought I was stealing packages.”
The homeowner calmed down once he realized he was receiving an Amazon package, Owens said.
Drivers said they often get mistaken for thieves. After all, they make deliveries in their own cars while wearing their own clothes.
Amazon does not provide uniforms, so Owens bought his own gear.
“Not driving a vehicle with a big Amazon log means you pull in the wrong person’s yard, you might get shot,” Owens said.
In dangerous situations, the company encourages drivers to return packages to a warehouse and to call law enforcement. But oftentimes it is difficult for drivers to discern a situation is dangerous until they are already on the property.
Drivers have access to a virtual badge through the Flex app, according to an Amazon spokesman. Customers can also track packages ten stops in advance so they know when drivers arrive.
But Edmond said Amazon should be taking more initiative by sending the driver’s name and photo to customers beforehand.
“I’ll always ring the door bell, or if I see that they have the RING or the security cameras around I’ll try to make myself seen holding up the package,” Edmond said.
She said prefers wearing her own cleaning to avoid package thieves who might be tipped off to a car filled with expensive packages.
Flex drivers get paid twice a week via direct deposit. The extra cash is just one reason Owens and Edmond work for Flex. Both individuals have full-time day jobs.
Amazon’s website states Flex drivers can earn between $18 and $25 per hour. A spokesman noted that the average driver earns $20 per hour.
But that figure does not include money for gas, car insurance or vehicle maintenance.
“I think that’s the hard part because if you’re being realistic with yourself, [you’re making] maybe about $12 per hour,” Edmond said.
“You’ll burn up the hourly rate just in fuel costs,” Owens said.
This year Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour for employees. The rule excludes Flex drivers, who are considered independent contractors.
Amazon sells Flex as the chance to be your own boss and create your own hours. Edmond said while the money comes easy, the work does not.
“It is not an easy job,” Edmond said.
CBS 11 sent Amazon several questions about the program.
In response, spokesman Ernesto Apreza sent this statement:
“Amazon Flex offers competitive earnings, flexible hours and the opportunity to be your own boss. Drivers love earning $18 to $25 per hour delivering to Amazon customers and we’ve received overwhelmingly positive response from drivers participating in the program. Safety continues to be our number one priority and we are constantly learning and seeking feedback from our delivery partners to make their experience even better.”
To become a driver, applicants must have a valid driver’s license, pass a background check and watch 19 training videos on their phone.
In 2016, several Flex workers in Washington sued Amazon over wage issues.
Plaintiffs claimed they did not receive overtime pay even after they worked 40 hours a week, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court.
A spokesman said Amazon does not comment on pending litigation.