Dinner, disrupted. On Sunday morning, we woke up to two articles about meal kit poster child Blue Apron: Recode reported that the unicorn startup is on track to surpass $1 billion in sales in the next twelve months, while Buzzfeed’s investigaton paints a much less flattering picture. For Buzzfeed, reporter Caroline O’Donovan lays out a laundry list of issues at the company’s Richmond, CA fulfillment warehouse—bomb threats, safety violations, and accusations of sexual assault. All three stemmed from just a single day last year.
The article comes almost exactly a year after the Huffington Post’s chilling “Life and Death of an Amazon Warehouse Temp,” a piece that chronicled an employee’s death on the job at an Amazon fulfillment center in Virginia. The stories have many parallels: cold, hurried work environments; workforces that depend on temporary labor; billion-dollar tech companies struggling to manage the physical and emotional limitations of actual humans.
Blue Apron’s marketing is heavy on the feel-good jargon (if anyone’s buying produce that isn’t farm-sourced, please let us know where it comes from), and much of its brand is built on a sustainability ethos seemingly at odds with the high-stress “Black Friday” environment described at the Richmond facility. In April 2015, an employee was injured when the forklift she was driving rolled; a subsequent investigation found that the machine’s tires were bald, and the company had failed to repair a divot in the floor. Perhaps most damning: the employee had never received training on the vehicle. Though Blue Apron made its name by helping home cooks cut corners, it’ll have to shape up its own practices if it hopes to keep delivering. – Claire Brown